PCOD: Healing with your plate

Strap : Dr Vibha Kaul, senior endocrine dietician, says you can control the commonest of gynaecological problems with the right diet

Seventeen-year-old Sneha is overweight. She has delayed and irregular periods and from the last two cycles she has been bleeding heavily. Aashima is married for three years but is unable to conceive. After consulting the doctor, they were  diagnosed with PCOS and PCOD, something that was normalised  in the discussion space by candid actress Sara Ali Khan.

What is PCOS/PCOD?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, widely known as PCOS, is an endocrine system disorder that affects women in their reproductive years. Small fluid-filled sacs develop in the ovaries. In India every 1 out of 10 women suffers from this condition. Along with obstructing pregnancy, PCOD also causes other problems like skin issues, sudden weight gain, hair loss or growth of extra hair on the face and body. When neglected, it can lead to heart diseases and diabetes. A person with PCOD develops cysts on the ovaries, hence the name. This condition also leads to extreme imbalance in hormones. Consultant gynecologist Dr Nidhi Gupta explains, “A normal women’s ovaries release one or two healthy eggs every cycle but women suffering from PCOS release multiple eggs. PCOD is a condition where these immature eggs get converted in to cyst. It creates havoc with body’s hormonal balance. The body produces more estrogen which results into abnormal hair growth, change in voice and mood swings. With this, insulin resistance also develops. This means that the body is unable to use insulin, increasing the chances of diabetes. There is no treatment for PCOS. If the cyst gets bigger, we have to remove it surgically. Other than this we can only do hormone replacement therapy and treat other symptoms. Good exercise and a dedicated PCOD diet plan to lose weight can reduce most symptoms.”

Symptoms of PCOD

The earliest symptoms of this condition are irregular periods. If it is hereditary, women should get themselves checked if there is any irregularity in overall health.

Some of the most common symptoms are

  • Irregular and painful periods
  • Hair growth on face, neck and back
  • Obesity, difficulty in losing weight
  • High stress levels.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Infertility.
  • Acne, oily skin, and dandruff.

 Causes

Currently, there is no known cause of PCOS. However, there are associations with excess insulin, low-grade inflammation, and genetics.

Associated health risks

There are several health risks associated with PCOS, These include:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • infertility
  • high cholesterol
  • elevated lipids
  • sleep apnea
  • liver disease
  • abnormal uterine bleeding
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity possibly leading to issues with low self-esteem and depression
  • metabolic syndrome

Treatment

PCOD can be under check only with a lifestyle change. A healthy diet combined with an exercise regime Is the key.

What to eat?

Obesity is one of the most annoying symptoms of PCOS and suffering women get caught in a vicious cycle of disease. Dr Viveka Kaul, consultant endocrine specialist with  Apollo Hospital,  Delhi, explains “women with PCOD develop Insulin resistance. This creates metabolic disorders and pushes up weight. It’s difficult to lose weight but it can be achieved through a dedicated diet plan and will power.” She suggests how women with PCOD should follow a diabetic diet. “No sugar, no fried food, no fats, no processed food. Food with high glycemic index should be avoided completely.” Here are some suggestions:

 

  1. Following a native diet is always more beneficial. For most women with PCOS, weight loss is the primary target. That makes them follow diets that can actually aggravate PCOS.
  2. A good PCOS diet plan will give the body the nutrients that are needed to help control the hormonal imbalance. It also ensures that enough nutrients are available to help reduce the symptoms of PCOS. Along with diet, the portion size is also very important. You should take small portions multiple times.

Foods you should include

Before you start your PCOD diet plan, you need to know what role different kinds of food play. You should know what to keep in your kitchen and what to throw out. Once you are clear on these. you can create your own PCOS diet plan recipes. Here is what you should include in your diet:

Green leafy vegetables: These vegetables have always been known for their role in weight loss diets. In addition to that they are rich in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins K, C, E and B. Vitamin B in particular is very useful if you suffer from PCOS. It helps improve the function of your thyroid, the fat metabolism, better hormone balance and also improve fertility. The calcium in veggies helps the ovaries. Potassium helps with Follicle Stimulation Hormone and other minerals help treat glucose intolerance.

Colored vegetables: These vegetables have very strong antioxidants which reduce the oxidative stress in those suffering from PCOS.

Fruits: These have several minerals, vitamins, poly-nutrients and fibres. Choose fruits with a low glycemic index like kiwi, lime. strawberries, cantaloupe, guava, pear, oranges, watermelons apples and apricot. You can also have a handful of nuts to neutralize any sugar spike caused by fruit.

Healthy fats: It is a myth that PCOS and fats don’t go hand in hand. You need to eat healthy fats that provide essential fatty acids. This includes seeds, olive oil, oily fish, avocado and nuts. They also provide vitamin D and B that are very important to relieve symptoms of PCOS.

Organic meat: Managing your body weight is important for PCOS. That is why you should include lean meats in your diet. Proteins spike metabolism which can help control your weight to quite an extent.

Low GI carbs: Avoiding carbs entirely might seem impossible with the PCOS diet plan to get pregnant. However, it is not true. Any carb with a low glycemic index will not break down immediately to cause a sudden surge of sugar. They digest slowly and will give you the energy that you need. Non starchy vegetables, lentils and beans are the best sources.

Include herbs and seeds: Some common Indian herbs and spices has proven records of managing PCOD. Add cinnamon, fenugreek seed, flaxseed, basil leaf and seeds in your diet.

Foods you should avoid

  • High GI foods like pasta, white rice and starchy vegetables. These foods cause a sudden spike in blood sugar causing insulin release. These foods also affect ovulation.
  • Dairy products should be avoided although they are important for a balanced diet. Dairy products tend to cause an increase in testosterone levels. This is because of a certain protein found in these foods. This will aggravate symptoms of PCOS.
  • Soy products lead to delayed ovulation. This can be very harmful for women with PCOS. They should be avoided especially if you are looking for a good PCOS Indian diet plan to get pregnant.
  • Unhealthy fats, namely saturated fats, trans-fats and hydrogenated fats cause increased estrogen production. This promotes weight gain in women with PCOS. They can also hinder nutrient absorption.
  • Caffeine in general affects fertility in women. It increases the levels of estradiol which is an estrogen hormone. This affects the menstrual cycle and ovulation.
  • Alcohol consumption puts women at a higher risk of developing PCOS. This is because alcohol puts a lot of pressure on the liver, the main organ when it comes to removing excess estrogen in the body. When the liver works on keeping the alcohol level in check, estrogen levels increase abnormally.
  • Any processed food contains preservatives, chemicals and added flavors. This releases certain hormones in the body that in turn increase insulin levels.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • Reduce salt intake
  • Increase fibre intake
  • Eat at regular intervals
  • Drink at least two litres of water
  • Stay physically active
  • Make sure you get good sleep  • Make sure your calories do not increase. Instead, reduce 500 calories per day from your current intake to stimulate weight loss.
  • Do not overlook your menstrual cycle. Any gap that is more than 40 days should be notified to and checked by your gynecologist.
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