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Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD) Or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common health condition which affects women in the age group of 12 to 45 years. PCOD is one of the most overdiagnosed, misunderstood and insufficiently treated conditions. The condition, as such, implies a mix of various signs and symptoms, and it's possible to manage the symptoms. Treatment options can differ as women with PCOD may experience a range of symptoms and not merely just one of it.
Founder of Nuvovivo, Mr Rajiv Ambat, gives an account of what they do for their clients. The video gives you an idea of how Nuvovivo helps manage lifestyle conditions such as PCOD/PCOS with a combination of a healthy diet, exercise and support.
It is a condition in which the ovaries release a number of partially mature or immature eggs that eventually become cysts. In most cases, this is atributed to an imbalance in the male-female sex hormone - estrogen and testosterone.
Such an imbalance often occurs due to the insulin resistance of the body. Insulin is like the KEY that opens the cell walls, to store glucose inside it. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, the blood glucose levels increase which inturn makes our body (pancreas) produce more insulin to bring the blood glucose within the range.
As the insulin levels increase, ovaries produce more testosterone, there by leading to an imbalance in the sex hormones, leading to irregular menstrual cycle, hyperandrogenism, facial hair growth and acne.
Ovulation is regulated by a complex interplay of many hormones and a PCOD profile test would often include analysing the levels of various hormones viz - Luteinising Hormone (LH), Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Prolactin, Testosteron etc.
PCOD treatment can aid you control the symptoms of PCOD and reduce your risk for long-term health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. PCOD meddles with the menstrual cycle and makes it difficult for young couples to conceive. PCOD treatment is often centred around reducing the symptoms like hair growth, making the menstrual cycle regular etc. If you want to get rid of PCOD related acne, then your treatment would be geared towards skin problems.
One of the great ways to manage PCOD is to exercise daily and eat well to reduce the. Many women with this condition are either obese, has a bad body composition and most often both!.
A bad body composition is when your muscle weight (lean mass) is lesser than the ideal range, while the fat mass is higher. One can be very well within the BMI range and prescribed weight, but with a bad body composition. In such cases, while the person is not visibly obese, the metabolic conditions of the person will be that of an obese person and problems like PCOD, Diabetes are more common.
Losing merely 5%-10% of your weight may relieve certain PCOD problem symptoms and make your menstruation more regular. Losing weight may also aid control difficulties with ovulation and blood glucose levels.
As women with this condition are often found to have higher blood sugar, you may want to limit sugary and starchy foods. Alternatively, prefer foods with fibre in abundance, which slows down the release of blood glucose levels. Remaining active also aids you manage insulin and blood glucose as well. And daily exercise will aid you with your body weight.
As losing weight aids to lower the high insulin level which occurs in PCOD, it has a knock-on effect on lessening testosterone, a male sex hormone. This improves the chance of ovulation and fertility, and can also reduce pimples and hair loss.
However, losing weight can be hard. Going on a crash diet or skipping your dinner and having a salad etc are recipes for disaster. It is extremely important to lose weight in a healthy manner if you are diagnosed with PCOD. If you lose muscle mass during your weight loss journey, your body composition will worsen further, leading to lesser energy levels, hormone imbalances, hair loss, wrinkled skin etc.
A mix of exercising and a calorie restricted, yet a well balanced diet is always preferred for PCOD. Guidance from a dietician or nutrition expert will help you in losing weight in a health manner - ie. lose body fat without losing lean muscle mass. The best food for women with PCOD is food which is gradually absorbed, keeping glucose levels steady, i.e., low glycemic food. This does not mean avoiding rice, or your favourite food, rather it means being sensible. You may have rice, but have it with a decent amount of vegetables (fiber) and protein. That said, it is also important to eat within your calorie limit - and most probably even maintain a calorie deficit, based on your current weight and body composition. That said, it's better to avoid or reduce the intake of sugary drinks and other sweets. Including fiber and protein alongside carbs will reduce the glycemic load of the food, which will increase the time it takes to release glucose into the blood, thereby preventing insulin spike.
Medications for PCOD: A series of medications are prescribed for PCOD by the doctor after diagnosis. Since insulin resistance is the prime reason for increased testosterone levels, diabetes medications to lower blood glucose like Metformin are often prescribed by the doctors. Birth control pills are also suggested to reduce the chances of endometrial cancer and also to reduce the excessive hair growth, regulate the cycle and improve the hormonal balance. Progestin (synthetic progesterone) tablet is yet another medication prescribed by the doctors for 10-14 days during the cycle to regulate the hormone levels and menstruation.
Medicines are prescribed by the gynaecologist based on their evaluation and assessment. Along with these medicines, the long term management of PCOD always include losing weight in a healthy manner, ie - without losing muscle mass and also improving the insulin sensitivity
Some of them start experiencing PCOD symptoms around the time of their first menstruation during puberty. Others only find out that they have this condition when they have trouble conceiving or have gained much weight. Below are a few common PCOD symptoms:
Irregular or no menstruation at all: As there is a lack of ovulation, it hinders the shedding of the uterine lining (endometrium) each month. Some women with this condition have less than eight periods a year.
Heavy bleeding: The endometrium (lining of the uterus) builds up for a longer time, so your menstruation can be heavier than usual.
Excessive Hair growth: Over 70% of women with PCOD experience excessive hair growth on their body, face, belly, back and chest. This condition is known as Hirsutism.
Acne: Male hormones can bring about breakouts on the upper back, chest, and face and make the skin oilier than normal.
Weight gain: About 80% of women with PCOD condition are obese.
Hair Loss: Hair on the scalp area becomes thinner and falls off.
Skin darkening: Dark patches of skin can appear in body creases such as those below the chest, the groin and neck.
Headache: Change in hormones can cause headache in some women.
Trouble falling asleep or feeling tired every time: Another PCOD symptom is that you might have a sleep disorder called sleep apnea or could have problem sleeping. This implies that even when you sleep, you won't feel well-rested after waking up.
If you notice symptoms of PCOD, it will typically become evident in your early 20s or the late teens. However, not all women with this condition experience all of these symptoms and every sign can differ from mild to severe. Some of them merely have menstrual disorders or are not able to become pregnant, or even both.
Research shows that the diet has a tremendous effect on PCOD. That being said, there is no standard PCOD diet at present. But there is a general agreement regarding what foods are helpful and would help women control PCOD and what they should avoid. A few inputs in controlling the symptoms of PCOD -
A low GI Diet - GI (Glycemic Index) indicates the time it takes to release carbs into the blood as glucose. Foods with a high GI value are released as glucose much faster than those with low GI value. In other words, your body digests low glycemic foods more gradually, which implies that they won't cause insulin levels to increase as rapidly or as much as other foods. Including protein and fiber in the diet will bring down the GI of the whole food and hence it is advised to include ample vegetables and protein in the diet. Avoid or restrict processed carbs, sugary drinks, sweets etc
An anti-inflammatory diet - Anti-inflammatory foods, like leaf vegetables, fatty fishes, extra virgin olive oil and fatty fish might lower symptoms related to inflammation like chills, fever, etc. Omega 3 (Fish oil) is helpful in reducing inflammation in the body.
Women often stop taking dietary fat as they are scared of gaining further weight. This should not be done as it can create more hormonal imbalances. Fat is much more dense in calories, as compared to other macronutrients, however, dietary fat plays an important role in hormonal balance and it also aids absorption of many micronutrients like - Vit A, D, E, K etc which are important.
The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone are infact based of steroid (type of fat / lipid) and hence dramatically reducing the fat intake can have a detrimental impact on the hormonal balance. That said, it is very important to note that not all fat is good for the body. Reduce the intake of trans fat and saturated fat, while increasing the intake of unsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat is suggested for those with PCOD
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