PCOS and Weight Loss

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can be a hard condition to deal with. PCOS is a condition where women have more androgens (male hormones) and tend to be resistant to insulin. The condition can lead to complications such as infertility, blood sugar problems, sleep apnea, and heart disease. There is also weight gain with PCOS and the condition makes excess weight harder to lose. PCOS and weight loss go hand in hand to keep the condition under control. Losing excess weight can reduce the complications and increase chances of fertility. This article contains helpful tips on how to lose weight with PCOS.

Why Is It Difficult to Lose Weight with PCOS?

Losing weight with PCOS isn’t easy and there is a reason. With this condition your body is less sensitive to insulin. Insulin is the hormone in the body that helps turn carbohydrates and sugars into usable energy for the body. When your body is less sensitive to insulin, you have a condition known as insulin resistance. Your body cannot use glucose for energy and it stays in the bloodstream causing high blood sugar levels. Insulin that is not used by the body also stays in the bloodstream unused.

If you have higher levels of insulin in the blood, your body tends to produce more androgens (male hormones). In PCOS, it is the higher androgen levels that lead to increased weight. This extra body fat tends to accumulate in the middle and PCOS sufferers tend to be apple shaped. The fat accumulation in the middle can lead to increased health risks like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Other symptoms include excess hair on the body and irregular menstrual periods.

Aside from high blood sugar, high insulin levels, and high androgens there is another factor that makes losing weight with PCOS difficult. With this condition, the metabolism tends to be slower. In order to maintain a healthy weight, you need to be able to burn the same amount of calories as you take in. Studies show that women who have PCOS need to eat about 1445 calories per day, when the average normal intake is more like 1800 calories per day.

How to Lose Weight with PCOS

PCOS weight loss can be difficult, but it is one of the best ways to manage the condition. It will help you feel your best and help lower the risk of complications. Experts say that losing at least 10% of your weight helps stabilize menstrual cycles and bring relief of symptoms. Losing just a few pounds helps increase your body’s response to insulin, which helps you use glucose better.

PCOS and weight loss begins by seeing your doctor for a full physical examination. You will be weighed and your body mass index (BMI) will be calculated. This checks to see if your weight is in proportion to your height.

The doctor may check some labs including:

  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone
  • Androgens (Free Testosterone, Androstenedione)
  • DHEA
  • Sex Hormone Binding Globulin
  • Thyroid Function

The doctor may also check your blood sugar levels, insulin levels, and cholesterol.

Medications to Manage PCOS

Once you have a confirmed PCOS diagnosis, the doctor may put you on some medication that helps with increasing response to insulin and balancing hormone levels. Some oral anti-diabetic medications help treat PCOS and weight loss at the same time. The following can be helpful:

  • Metformin (Glucophage) – This is often the first-line of therapy for PCOS because is improves insulin sensitivity, lowers testosterone levels and may help increase weight loss.
  • Thiazolidinediones/Pioglitazone (Actos) or Rosiglitazone (Avandia) – These medications improve the body’s response to insulin, but they have not been proven to help with weight loss. These drugs have some risks to the cardiovascular system and contraception must be used while taking these medications.
  • Flutamide (Eulexin) – This is an “anti-androgen” medication that can help with weight loss, and blood sugar levels.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage PCOS

In order to manage PCOS, you need to make a few lifestyle changes to improve your overall health and reduce the impact the condition has on your body. These include:

  • Protein. PCOS weight loss plans should be high in lean protein. Studies have shown that women who eat more protein with PCOS lose more weight and faster!
  • Fiber. Eat less refined carbohydrates and sugar and increase the fiber in your diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and get your carbohydrates from whole grains. Reduce fat and processed food in your diet.
  • Spread out meals. It is easier on your body and blood sugar to eat several small meals rather than 3 times a day. Try eating 4 to 6 times a day and eat less at each meal. This helps increase insulin sensitivity.
  • Exercise. With PCOS weight loss plans, you need to add at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Start out with something easy and try to increase cardio as you can tolerate.
  • Try Inositol. Inositol is thought to be from the vitamin B family and is converted by the body from glucose. In PCOS, your body may not be able to convert enough inositol from glucose in the kidneys. Some studies show improvement in PCOS patients with taking just 4 grams daily. Added benefits come from taking 400mcg Folic acid with Inositol.
  • 1800 calories a day. Keep your diet somewhere between 1200 and 1800 calories per day to lose weight.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes can increase your testosterone and insulin levels. This will only stall weight loss and getting the condition under control.
  • Reduce stress. High levels of stress means high levels of insulin in your body. Do anything you can to reduce stress in your life. Try meditation, yoga, and taking time for yourself each day.
  • Follow-up. Keep in touch with your doctor to track your progress, check your weight, and monitor blood pressure. You should also have your cholesterol re-checked often. 

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