PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is the most common disorder of hormonal imbalance affecting about 7% of women of childbearing age. While they predispose women to a host of health issues, one of them is difficulty conceiving. However, losing weight can boost the chances of conceiving in women with PCOS. Not only that, losing weight can help in resolving many other health issues associated with PCOS.
Why does PCOS Cause Fertility Issues?
Around 95% of women who visit a fertility clinic with fertility issues arising out of anovulation (inability to ovulate normally) have been found to suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (or disorder).
One of the hallmarks of PCOS (or PCOD) is the presence of higher-than-normal levels of androgens in the female body. Due to an imbalance in the hormone production processes, the body of the woman is also unable to convert this androgen into estrogen, the female hormone. This imbalance creates problems with regular ovulation, leading to infertility.
Another hallmark of PCOS is insulin resistance. This means that body cells are not sensitive to the effects of the hormone insulin in regulating glucose metabolism. This eventually leads to diabetes. This, apart from other factors – like physical inactivity, higher fat production due to higher androgen levels, and changes in the way the body uses energy – leads to weight gain. High insulin levels in the blood also lead to high androgen production.
Weight gain and obesity and other problems associated with PCOS seem to have a cyclical relationship – obesity has been found to lead to PCOS, and once PCOS is established, it can also lead to further weight gain and obesity.
PCOS and Weight Loss: Losing Weight can Increase the Chances of a Successful Pregnancy
Not only does a woman with PCOS find it extremely difficult to conceive, but there are also a lot of complications during pregnancy if she is able to conceive. There are high chances of miscarriages and preterm births, pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure) and preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes mellitus.
Apart from pregnancy-related issues, weight gain in PCOS is also known to cause health issues like severe acne, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease, and endometrial cancer.
However, studies have found that even a 5-10% reduction in body weight can dramatically increase a woman’s chances of conceiving. An analysis of two NIH-funded studies showed that women participants who underwent a weight loss program before being given an ovulation-inducing agent to support conception had better results than women who were directly given the medication. The live birth rate in both groups was also significantly different.
There have been many studies to indicate that moderate weight loss is capable of reducing circulating insulin, correcting the hormonal imbalance, and reducing blood lipids. This eventually leads to establishing menstrual regularity and enhances the chances of conceiving.
Losing Weight with PCOS
With PCOS, losing weight can be a big challenge, but it is not impossible. Insulin resistance leads to diabetes and high levels of androgen in the body contribute to fat accumulation, making losing weight difficult. However, following a regimented lifestyle has been shown to help lose weight. Remember, only a 5-10% weight loss will give your body a new lease of life, making further weight loss that much easier. It is thus the initial effort that looks like climbing a mountain. At RISE Fertility, we have witnessed many weight loss and PCOS success stories that have ended in baby steps.
As noted earlier, for someone with PCOS, losing weight may be much more difficult than for someone without any hormonal imbalances. But just starting and sticking to healthy lifestyle changes – eating well, exercising regularly, and keeping a healthy mental state – can have long-term positive effects on your body by reducing the risks of further health complications.
Eat a Well-balanced and Healthy Diet
Various studies have shown that a healthy diet not only helps in losing weight but also helps in resolving many of the health issues associated with PCOS. Here are a few tips to follow.
Cut Down on Carbs
Because insulin resistance is a major issue in most women with PCOS, cutting down on your carbohydrate intake can have a huge impact on your insulin as well as blood sugar levels.
A high-fiber diet not only helps with increasing satiety (feeling of fullness) but also decreases insulin sensitivity and reduces body fat. Eat more whole grains, which will not only provide enough fiber but also provide complex carbs that won’t spike blood sugar levels.
Eat More Protein
A high-protein diet helps reduce cravings and helps burn more calories that will boost your weight loss.
Switch to Healthy Fats
Healthy fats include nut butters and oils from olives, avocados, and coconut. These fats are calorie-dense and can help in satiety.
Try Fermented Foods
Adding fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc. to your diet will help create a healthy gut flora. Healthy and balanced gut flora has been shown to support a healthy metabolism and weight loss.
Cut down on Processed and Sugary Foods
Processed foods and those with added sugars and rich in simple carbs with not enough nutritive value. Consumption of these will lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and make losing weight even more difficult than it already is.
Exercising is the best way to lose weight. While exercising will result in slower body fat loss in women with PCOS than in normal women, it does show positive effects and further improvements in other health parameters associated with PCOS. Both cardio and strength training has been shown to aid weight loss in PCOS.
Many of us underestimate the health benefits of good sleep. Sleep is the time your body utilizes to repair itself. It is a time when our body balances itself and rests. If you don’t get enough sleep, it will result in health complications.
Sleeping well is a challenge for women with PCOS since they may experience sleep disturbances like sleep apnea, sleepiness during the daytime, and insomnia at night. But nevertheless, good sleep is vital for losing weight as insufficient sleep is associated with an increased risk of weight gain and obesity.
Manage Your Stress
Stress increases your body’s cortisol levels, which in turn increases insulin resistance, eventually leading to weight gain. Chronic stress increases the development of belly fat, which in turn increases inflammation. Chronic inflammation may lead to a host of health complications, including diabetes and heart diseases. Practice stress management through meditation, mindfulness, gratitude thinking and journaling, and being in the midst of nature as much as possible. This will help reduce cortisol levels.
Several supplements have been found to be effective in helping lose weight in PCOS. Myo-inositol, for instance, is helpful in improving insulin sensitivity. Carnitine, an amino acid usually found in meat, has been found to help lose weight.
Have PCOS-related Fertility Issues? Let RISE Help You
At RISE Fertility, we have helped hundreds of women with PCOS achieve pregnancy. We understand the challenges that PCOS poses to our patients. But we use a holistic method to address those challenges and using the latest assisted reproductive technologies, we help our patients conceive and carry their pregnancy successfully to term.
We offer customized strategies for patients with PCOS – right from creating a healthy regimen that includes a dietitian-recommended and designed diet, exercise program, and lifestyle changes that help in weight management and in controlling the condition. Then through medication, we help you regulate your menstrual cycle and also help you ovulate.
To experience the RISE difference, schedule a consult today with our fertility expert, and let us help you end your fertility journey in baby steps.
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