Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is a hormonal imbalance, symptoms of which are believed to get better if you lose weight. Know if weight loss can cure PCOS.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal imbalance problem that affects many women worldwide. The hormonal changes associated with PCOS are more than just an imbalance of reproductive hormones. Insulin, the body’s sugar-regulating hormone, is also affected. This causes significant weight gain, making it more difficult for women with PCOS to maintain a healthy weight. While losing weight is often recommended as a first step of the treatment, can weight loss cure PCOS?

What is Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that affects many women of reproductive age. Here are the key features of PCOS, as found in a 2022 study published in the StatsPearl Journal.

1. Irregular menstrual cycles

Women with PCOS often experience irregular, or prolonged menstrual periods. This can make it difficult to predict ovulation and conceive naturally.

Can weight loss cure PCOS?
Irregular periods is the most prominent sign of PCOS. Image courtesy: Freepik

2. Hyperandrogenism

Elevated levels of male hormones (androgens) can lead to physical signs such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), severe acne, and male-pattern baldness.

3. Polycystic ovaries

The ovaries may become enlarged and contain numerous small fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs. However, not all women with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries.

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What causes PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but several factors may contribute to its development, as found in a 2023 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

  • Genetics: PCOS tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component.
    Insulin resistance: Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which can lead to higher insulin levels and increased androgen production.
  • Hormonal imbalance: Imbalances in hormones such as luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) can interfere with normal ovarian function.
  • Inflammation: Low-grade inflammation is commonly seen in women with PCOS, which can stimulate androgen production.

Can weight loss cure PCOS?

Losing weight can significantly help manage PCOS by addressing several underlying factors associated with the condition. A study published in the Dubai Medical Journal found that people following an appropriate care plan by a combination of lifestyle modifications and metformin was effective in achieving successful weight loss, which significantly improved PCOS symptoms. Here is how weight loss can benefit women with PCOS.

1. Improves insulin sensitivity

Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, where the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin. This leads to higher insulin levels in the blood, which can stimulate the ovaries to produce more androgens (male hormones). Weight loss, especially through exercise and a healthy diet, can improve insulin sensitivity, allowing insulin to work more effectively and lowering insulin levels, as per a study published in the Frontiers Endocrinology Journal.

2. Reduces androgen levels

“Insulin resistance is closely linked to elevated androgen levels (such as testosterone) in women with PCOS. Low levels of insulin due to weight loss can help reduce the production of androgens by the ovaries and adrenal glands, leading to a more balanced hormone profile,” says gynaecologist Dr Ritambhara Bhalla.

3. Regularises menstrual cycles

“Weight loss can help restore regular menstrual cycles by reducing insulin resistance and normalising hormone levels. This can improve ovulation frequency and increase the chances of conception for women trying to get pregnant,” explains the expert.

4. Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease

Women with PCOS are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease due to insulin resistance, obesity, and dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid levels). Weight loss can improve lipid profiles (for example, lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides) and reduce other cardiovascular risk factors, as found in a study published in the Frontiers Endocrinology Journal.

5. Improves fertility

By promoting regular ovulation and improving hormonal balance, weight loss can increase fertility and improve the chances of natural conception for women with PCOS. However, more research is needed to prove the claim.

6. Improves hirsutism and acne

Excess androgens in PCOS can cause unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) and acne. Weight loss can help reduce androgen levels and alleviate these symptoms. However, more research is needed to prove the claim.

7. Enhances psychological well-being

“Managing symptoms through weight loss can lead to improved self-esteem, reduced anxiety related to fertility concerns, and overall better quality of life for women with PCOS,” explains the expert.

While weight loss can help manage the symptoms of PCOS, it is not proved to cure PCOS completely. It is better to talk to your healthcare provider to avoid any complications and lose weight effectively.

How to lose weight with PCOS: 7 helpful tips

Here are some easy tips to help you lose weight naturally and manage PCOS, as suggested by the expert.

1. Eat a balanced diet

Focus on a balanced diet rich in fruits(red grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and cherries), vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli), whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado). Limit intake of refined carbohydrates (mass-produced pastries and white bread), fried foods, such as fast food, sugars, and processed foods.

2. Regular exercise

Incorporating cardio exercises such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming can help burn calories and improve heart health. Also, lifting weights or bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups can increase muscle mass, boost metabolism, and improve insulin sensitivity. Last but not least high-intensity interval training (HIIT) short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest periods can be effective for burning fat and improving metabolic health. Also, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

Also Read: 10 yoga asanas you must do while dealing with PCOS

3. Monitor portion sizes

Be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. Consider using smaller plates and measuring portions. This will help you to overeat and aid in losing weight effectively.

4. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Aim for at least 2-3 litres in a day to help you keep hydrated. Limit sugary drinks such as carbonated drinks and excessive caffeine.

5. Manage stress

Practice stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises which will help you keep stress at bay. Also, ensure to get a night of adequate sleep, and aim for 7-9 hours per night.

6. Consistent meal timing

Eat at regular intervals to keep blood sugar levels stable. Avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast.

A woman enjoying several small meals instead of big meals
Plan your meals smartly to manage PCOS symptoms. Image courtesy: Freepik

7. Track progress

Keep a food and exercise journal to monitor your habits and progress. Adjust strategies as needed based on what works best for your body.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. Is losing weight difficult with PCOS?

People with PCOS may struggle to lose weight due to hormonal imbalances induced by the disorder. While this can make it difficult to achieve and maintain a reasonable weight, lifestyle modifications such as nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep can assist.

2. What does the PCOS belly look like?

PCOS belly might differ from normal weight gain. It sometimes resembles a bulging stomach, and you may notice that the majority of your weight gain occurs in this location.

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