Can weight loss cure PCOS?
This article is based on discussions with our naturopathy doctor during the treatment of a family member. And she has fully recovered from PCOS.
One could say PCOS/PCOD is a lifestyle disorder, it is a hormonal disorder which is getting common day by day, it may involves both genetic and environmental factors, there is no proven medication to cure this condition,
What is it
It seems to be the second pandemic and fast becoming everybody’s favorite condition to blame weight gain. Let’s get its name right. PCOD—Polycystic ovary(or ovarian) disease and PCOS—polycystic ovary syndrome, both conditions are the same but different
PCOD means only ovaries are getting affected and are reeling under the pressure and feeling burnt of the disturbances in the body and generally not functioning at their peak efficiency.
PCOS means that these disturbances are now no longer limited to ovaries and are manifesting in other parts of the body as acne, facial hairs, “Syndrome” is actually like a set or “package” of symptoms like irregular periods, obesity, insulin insensitivity, high amount of Male hormones, high blood pressure, oily skin, thinning hair, to name a few
Medicines are given to treat symptoms, not the root cause, like birth control pills to regularize periods, medicines to prevent diabetes, statins to control high cholesterol, and hormone-loaded pills to increase fertility.
To cure PCOS one must understand that just one organ/hormone/muscle/bone/nerve/cell is not causing this problem, the human body is interlinked when one cell goes haywire everything gets disturbed,
In fact, our way of life is causing this problem, and it is simply getting manifested in one of the already overworked body parts which is the Thyroid.
The name ‘Thyroid’ is derived from Greek, and it means shield, the Thyroid gland has shielded us from growth and developmental abnormalities since the human form takes shape in the womb. Even after birth, it shields us from lifestyle problems, stress, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, long working hours, etc.
How thyroid exposes to PCOS
Leave thyroid without support long enough and it will lead to problems in many other areas, the most susceptible ones are high triglyceride levels (circulating fat) which at high level puts you at risk of developing heart diseases, diabetes, sleeplessness, painful cramps, constant fatigue, low bone density and of course weight gain, which sometimes lead to PCOD.
More women than men suffer from thyroid-related diseases, and the reason is the big hormonal events that a woman go through in life mainly during pregnancy and menopause,
During pregnancy, the hormonal balance shifts and the thyroid works very hard to support and provide the fetus with the thyroid hormone, typically post-pregnancy, if one takes care of eating right, proper sleep and exercise the thyroid gland bounces back to its normal stage,
But it’s easier said than done cause newborns barely sleep through nights and young mothers are in a state of confusion about what is really good for them.
Menopause is another time when there is a huge shift in hormones, hormonally this phase is a phase when women go into estrogen dominance, which means the normal level of estrogen and lower level of progesterone, this is the phase when thyroid production gets blocked leading to symptoms like weakness, fatigue, irritability, hair loss, weight gain, then, of course, there are lifestyle and social issues.
One of the most common pieces of advice given by the doctors is to lose fat, weight loose and PCOS are correlated because all that fat around your belly is sitting right on top of your ovaries, suffocating them, making it difficult for them to breathe.
So we have the links PCOS is related to weight or fat gain and fat gain is related to thyroid, lets tap into the root cause and its treatment.
How to take care of thyroid
First, take sufficient intake of iodine, a lot of our natural foods that we avoid eating because we think its fattening is actually rich in iodine, some of them are bananas, Carrots, Strawberries, milk, and whole grains. It’s common to think that these are fattening foods because they are high in calories, but besides their numerous nutrients, they’ve got iodine and can help pump it into your thyroid cells, and of course if one is pregnant, lactating, or nearing menopause it’s needed more than ever.
It’s time to think of our food as a nutrient supply instead of calories. Consume all the nutrients that need to support a healthy thyroid function.
Whole grains which is the other food group that dieticians restrict when we are on a weight loss diet are again an iodine-rich source, include rice, wheat, corn, and don’t forget lentils, they help in completing the amino acid profile, tyrosine and phenylamine are the essential amino acids to make tyrosine
Now that brings us to a good complete source of protein: cheese, whey protein shakes, milk, curd, lentils eaten with whole grain and eggs, fresh seafood, and chicken if you are not vegan if you are a non-meat eater make sure to use high quality, high bioavailable of protein.
In order to support thyroid functioning one must increase the calorie intake by consuming more wholesome meals, Reassure and support the thyroid with essential amino acids, good quality carbs(unprocessed) Iodine, and start taking vitamin B, C, and E.
But remember increase calories but not at the cost of increasing salt and processed food.
Make workout a non-negotiable aspect of life, understand why exercise is important, it’s not to lose weight, exercise is crucial for improved delivery and uptake of oxygen by cells, which will ultimately lead to fat loss.
Make sure to not overdo exercise, remember sleeping peacefully, eating right and structured exercise will ensure that you reap the benefits of exercise without overburdening your body.
Cardio and stamina-building exercise are a must to improve mobility of fatty acids in the system, Try and perform cardio exercises that will not stress your weight-bearing joint like knee, ankle, lower back, and hips.
The thyroid gland secrets T4 and T3 and another most important hormone called calcitonin, calcitonin works at putting calcium back into the bones. When the thyroid function slows down, it also slows down production of calcitonin, putting your joints, tendons, ligaments at risk as well as increasing risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Spend at least one day a week weight- training, because when the body moves with excess weight, the musculoskeletal system needs some serious strengthening to keep you injury-free. Strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments protects weight-bearing joints and provide stimuli for bones to store more calcium.
Poor thyroid functioning is a sign of poor recovery, so sleeping well and waking up fresh are the cornerstone of supporting thyroid function.
One of the characteristics of poor functioning thyroid is feeling sluggish and sleepy throughout the day
IGF-I or ‘Insulin-like growth factor’ is another hormone that gets secreted by our body when it falls into restorative sleep, this hormone is responsible for a person’s ability to recover, grow and allow cells to absorb nutrients.
Sleep is also crucial because the thyroid is also gets affected by Cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone, which gets released due to hormonal or lifestyle-related stress.
Also without good sleep, there will be Zero results of exercises.
And remember If you can, then don’t wake up every morning with an irritating alarm; instead allow the body to wake up naturally. It’s a sign of good sleep and excellent recovery.
How to know if its working
Once you start waking up fresh, your sleep is sound and deep, you are feeling strong in your joints, seeing improvements in stamina, your skin is getting and feeling better, then these are the signs of supported thyroid.
Just keep practicing lifestyle changes day in and day out.
After supporting the thyroid next step is to support our hormones, and start working to influence the unknown i.e., hormones to which we have little to no direct access.
So, everything you will read below is the way to use what is within your control to influence the unknown
One thing one must keep in mind is that nobody knows the exact cause of PCOS; it is largely agreed, though, that dropping body fat helps the ovaries function better and therefore overcome PCOS
Traditional methods of treatment are like overriding the ovaries, or trying to bring natural balance by using pills have many issues, not the least of which is the side effects of these drugs.
The main problem with PCOS is not the fear that it may prevent you from getting and staying pregnant, but the fact that its stressing your ovaries and affecting the delicate hormonal balance in the body.
Problems if things get out of control
Type 2 Diabetes for one, long term effects include high blood pressure, leading to heart disease, high body fat taking a toll on bones & joints, depression and not to forget, difficulty in conceiving,
The biggest issue then this is you don’t get to know about it till you find it difficult to get pregnant, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of a women’s life
Know that periods have to be regular and painless, if that’s not the case, then you need to support the ovaries better and not silence them with pain killers.
What to do
Before you go further r know that effortless and regular periods are natural consequences of optimum body fat, health, and fitness level, feeling comfortable during and before periods is normal,
Feeling uncomfortable, irritable, cramping is abnormal.
Note that around menopause where your periods may naturally get irregular, scanty, or heavy, it may also happen at menarche (first period). PCOS is something you may develop at any point of your reproductive age. So, make sure to differentiate between naturally irregular periods and uncomfortable or unnatural irregular periods.
Let us start with nutrition.
First things first, make time to eat, really. And if you have no time to eat, spare yourself the effort of reading further,
Eating fresh food, wholesome foods, and eating in peace- you need to do all these three things together, the most important thing is nutrients and nutrient delivery always remember what you eat and whatever it’s reaching your ovaries
Avoid hot soups: basically, avoid anything that’s overheated, or plain reheated or microwaved food, instead buy your vegies fresh and prepare them at home
Don’t go with the diet dictum of avoiding carbs, With PCOS you need carbs more than ever, and that one too unprocessed ones like wheat, rice, corn, ragi, and barley. Wholegrain carbs gives much-needed slow releasing carbs which leads to a slow and steady rise in blood sugar(low GI). Just eat wholesomely, not half-hearted
Hormones and enzymes that affect the ovaries are all protein based, so eating complete protein is a must, which means that one cant be fussy and eat only salads: you will need to have lentils, milk, milk products, and meats with high bioavailability of proteins like fish and chicken.
To make things simple start adding protein before and after the most active part of the day.
Stay away from everything that sys Fat-Free or Low-fat.
Cut the fat from your upper abdomen and waist, not from your plate. Essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and omega-6, which you can find in clarified butter, cottage cheese, and oils like Sunflower oil, Olive oil, rice bran oil, etc. along with nuts, helps in decreasing the glycemic index of the food, you what’s music to the ears- eating fat will slow down the conversion of food to fat.
Micro minerals like selenium, zinc, and chromium improve our body’s insulin sensitivity, in simple words, it helps our pancreases secret insulin in proportion to a rise in blood sugar, these are found in whole grains so seriously don’t get swayed by the low-carb/low-fat diets because you will only be compromising on essential nutrients.
Calcium is required more than normal:
In case you are experiencing PCOS, the cramps, headaches, and general fatigue, that you feel during periods or PMS will greatly reduce if one keeps the calcium supply in abundance.
The worst thing for irregular periods is irregular workout’s, now its important to not just structure your workout plan but to structure the workout, consistency is important, even seven days of workouts in a month done regularly over four to five months is much more helpful than twenty-five to thirty days of workout in one month and then zero days in the next month. The point is not to be Over-enthusiast but REGULAR.
Weight training workouts are a must for two reasons
1. They help in strengthening all organs, stronger organs mean better efficiency. A stronger pancreas means a better response of insulin, and stable blood sugar levels lead to more intelligent use of fat as fuel by your body.
2. After Burn. Understand this when doing a high-intensity workout, we also burn calories at a higher rate than our basal or resting metabolic state. Body fat is a major source of fuel for our resting metabolism, so in order to optimize fat burning, one must maximize BMR or resting metabolic rate.
Now afterburn means that your body is burning fat at a higher rate to support high BMR due to exercise, the good news is that post-weight training your body experience afterburn for the next thirty-six to forty hours.
Do the math: Invest forty to sixty minutes in weight training (burn calories during workout) and then burn fat at a higher rate than normal for the next thirty-six to forty hours. More after-burn means lower body fat levels.
Cardio is another best way to burn fat especially if it’s associated with yoga movements try kickboxing, yoga, dance class, I mean if you are going to burn calories learn new skills also( optimize time), this can also help in keeping you motivated to show up next day.
Sleep at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every day if you are keen to stay hormonally vibrant.
Restorative and peaceful sleep is also crucial for the absorption of minerals like calcium and iron, both of which run low in case of hormonal imbalances or disturbed sleeping cycles,
Regular bedtime hours prepare the body for deep sleep and bring a calming effect on the body and mind, which leads to a sense of harmony for the hormones. An irregular bedtime has the exact opposite effects for the hormones.
Late nights also mean a bloated body and sugar craving the next morning, and just like workouts, it’s not like having those eight hours of sleep once in a while, but the regularity of that eight-hour sleep that matters.