PCOS: A Quick Guide To A Common Challenge
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is very common among women who have irregular periods, excess facial and body hair but thinning hair on the head, acne, fatigue, depression, and weight gain. Many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance which can cause the ovaries to produce more testosterone than normal which can inhibit ovulation so that it is harder to get pregnant. A main challenge for women with PCOS is the insulin resistance. Let me explain what happens. You eat some form of carbs (breads, pastas, sugars, fruits, milk products) and the body makes insulin to help process those carbs. However, women with PCOS are not producing the right amount of insulin, so their bodies work overtime and then there’s a spike in their blood sugars which makes it easier to gain weight.
How to get tested for PCOS:
To get tested for PCOS, visit your doctor and get your blood sampled.
Request for the following labs:
• luteinizing hormone (LH)
• follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
• fasting blood glucose
• thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
• fasting lipid profile (your cholesterol labs)
By learning what your hormone levels are, your doctor can determine whether or not you have PCOS. Not all women with the above symptoms have PCOS and some women who don’t have all of those symptoms can have PCOS.
What to do if you have PCOS:
If you do have PCOS, your life is not over. Here are some tips to learn how to manage your blood sugars and cope with anxiety or depression.
• Exercise helps to increase those happy hormones and decrease depressive moods. Recommended amount of exercise varies, but an average goal would be to perform some form of resistance or weight training for 1.5 hours per week (3 times a week for 30 minutes) and 2.5 hours of cardio per week (maybe try a 45 minute spin class or a boot camp or just go for a jog about 3-4 times per week)
• Eat protein at every meal and snack. Eating protein with your carbs will actually assist with balancing out any spikes in your blood sugars. At every meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) make sure to have some form of protein: egg whites, chicken, fish, beef, pork, tofu, reduced-fat cheese, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, beans, etc. Your snacks should also consist of some form of protein: greek yogurt with a fruit, light string cheese with 6 almonds, hummus (there’s protein in those beans) with cucumber.
• Fiber Friendly! Women should get at least 25 grams of fiber a day. Start your day off well with a high-fiber breakfast to really regulate your blood sugars, your appetite, and your cravings. Easy way to add some fiber: 1 cup cooked oatmeal (whole grains = fiber), 1 cup berries (fruit = fiber), 2 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed (fiber), 2 egg whites (protein).
• Get your Omega-3s on. Omega-3s are heart-healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado, salmon, olive oils. Omega-3s are great brain foods to increase your moods. In addition, the Omega-3s can assist with increasing your good cholesterol. I recommend consuming flaxseed every day in the AM to really get that fiber fix and your heart-healthy fat. It’s one of the PCOS superfoods.
• Take a multivitamin daily + 1,000 – 1,500mg of calcium to supplement.
Remember: You can live a normal life with PCOS. It’s just a matter of taking control of your situation and rocking it by prioritizing yourself and your health needs.
By Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN
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