In her latest online article, Ms Neelima Dixit offers her expert insight into polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). She explains how symptoms are managed, when to see a specialist and the role exercise and diet play in the treatment of PCOS.
How can I manage my PCOS symptoms?
Management options for PCOS, apart from diet and exercise include the use of oral contraceptive pill, insulin-sensitising agents (Metformin), fertility treatment and laparoscopic ovarian drilling.
Myo-inositol supplements have been demonstrated to alleviate several problems, such as irregular menstruation, decreased growth of undesired hair, and aiding in weight loss.
A nutritional supplement called Inofolic Alpha is intended specifically for women who have PCOS (fertilityandgynaecologyclinic.com).
Treatment must be individualised and monitored carefully. Several medications can be used to manage PCOS, but this will need to be individualised for each patient. It is important to address psychological problems like depression and anxiety.
For certain women, a referral to a dietitian or another specialist (dermatologist or endocrinologist) may be necessary.
When should your GP consider referral to a specialist?
Seeing a specialist is recommended if you have any of the following symptoms:
- No periods
- Rapid onset Hirsutism/excessive hair growth
- Glucose intolerance/Diabetes
- Serum Testosterone>5nmol/l to r/o other causes of androgen excess
- Symptoms not being controlled
What lifestyle changes can I make to help manage my PCOS?
Lifestyle changes are the key to managing PCOS and its symptoms.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables, whole meals (such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, and brown rice), lean meat, fish, and poultry should all be included in your diet. You should cut down on the amount of sugar, salt and caffeine that you eat and drink. There are certain foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as ginger, cinnamon, pineapple, papaya and turmeric.
- Eat meals regularly, especially breakfast.
- Make sure to exercise for 30 minutes at least three times a week. Exercise is one of the core recommendations for managing symptoms of PCOS. It can help regulate periods by assisting with weight control.
You can speak to your GP or practice nurse to get more information on the best diet for you.
You should aim to keep your weight at a normal level. BMI is the measurement of weight in relation to height and in general, it is recommended to have a BMI between 19 and 25.
What role does exercise play in managing PCOS?
It is recommended to exercise regularly (30 minutes at least three times a week).
Exercise is especially important for those with PCOS as they have a higher risk of obesity and diabetes, due to insulin resistance and it can be harder to lose weight.
Another specific benefit is that exercise will also help to regulate your hormones and lower your testosterone levels. This will ease PCOS symptoms such as excess hair growth and acne.
The benefits for PCOS sufferers include:
- Weight loss- It is often tricky to lose weight when you have PCOS. Daily exercise that you enjoy alongside a healthy eating plan will help you lose weight.
- Reducing your risk of diabetes- Exercise such as cardio can improve your response to insulin
- Lowering risk of heart diseases- You are more likely to have high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Exercise will improve your cardiovascular health.
- High cholesterol - Women with PCOS are more likely to have high cholesterol: exercising with a healthy diet can help to lower it.
- Sleep quality and improving mood - PCOS patients are more prone to depression as a result of hormone imbalance and related PCOS symptoms. Regular exercise can release endorphins (happy hormones) There is also a high risk of sleep apnoea and snoring in patients with PCOS. Exercise can help you sleep better.
- Hormone balance- Exercise will help lower oestrogen and insulin.
What can I do to reduce my risk of developing long-term complications of PCOS?
The main ways to reduce your overall risk of long-term health problems are to:
Eat a healthy balanced diet - Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains (including brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-meal bread, and cereals), lean meat, fish, and poultry, as well as other nutritious meals. You should cut down on the amount of sugar, salt and caffeine that you eat and drink. Eat meals regularly, especially breakfast.
Take exercise regularly (30 minutes at least three times a week).
Your GP or practice nurse can provide you with full information on eating a healthy diet and exercise.
You should aim to keep your weight to a level that is normal. BMI is the measurement of weight in relation to height and you should aim to keep your BMI between 19 and 25
Have regular health checks - Once you have a diagnosis of PCOS, you should be monitored to check for any early signs of health problems:
- Diabetes: Depending on your risk factors, you may be offered testing for diabetes every 1-3 years.
- Cancer of the uterus: It is important to have a period every 3-4 months to reduce the risk of excessive thickening of the lining of the uterus. If you have not had a period for over 4 months, you may need hormone tablets to make you have a period. You may also be offered further tests such as an ultrasound scan of your uterus.
- High blood pressure: Discuss with your doctor how often you should have your blood pressure checked and whether you should have blood tests to check your cholesterol levels.
- Depression and psychological problems: You can be referred to a counsellor or trained specialist if necessary.
How can I find support for managing my PCOS?
Your GP or your gynaecologist can provide support in managing your symptoms and preventing long-term complications. Verity is a UK charity for women whose lives are affected by PCOS: http://www.verity-pcos.org.uk/