Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

A couple of days ago, actress Daisy Ridley of Star Wars fame declared on Instagram that like her onscreen persona, Rey, she too was fighting a prolonged battle of her own. She spoke about her struggle with PCOS, a condition she has been living with since the age of 15 when she was first diagnosed. In her own words, “I’ve tried everything: products, antibiotics, more products, more antibiotics) and all that did was left my body in a bit of a mess. Finally found out I have polycystic ovaries and that’s why it’s bad.” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BGcShMNlE7m/?taken-by=daisyridley&hl=en)

So what is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and why should you be concerned about it at all?

PCOS is a common endocrine system disorder among women of reproductive age. It is a condition in which a woman has enlarged ovaries that contain small fluid-filled cysts — called follicles — located in each ovary.

According to the PCOS foundation:

  1. PCOS is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women who have difficulty ovulating.
  2. 5-10% of women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS.
  3. Less than 50% of women diagnosed, which means millions of women are left undiagnosed.
  4. Some studies have found that if a mother has PCOS, there is a 50% chance that her daughter will have PCOS.
  5. Post menopausal women can also suffer from PCOS

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of PCOS may vary from person to person. On a personal level, persistent adult acne or aggravated acne in teens and/or excessive facial hair growth could be caused by hormonal imbalances in the body which in turn could be a sign of PCOS. Sleep apnoea (a sleep disorder where there are abnormal pauses of breathing during sleep) and mood swings or depression and anxiety could also be tell-tale signs.

For a medical diagnosis, your doctor looks for at least two of the following:

Irregular periods:  This is the most common characteristic. Either of the conditions of prolonged periods or fewer menstrual cycles in a year, or excessively heavy or scant periods could fall under the radar of PCOS symptoms.

Hormonal imbalances: PCOS often causes an elevated level of male hormones (androgens) in women that are physically manifested as aggravated acne, excess facial and body hair (hirsutism) and male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia).

Polycystic ovaries: Polycystic ovaries are enlarged ovaries that are surrounded with numerous small fluid-filled sacs or cysts as seen during an ultrasound exam.

What causes PCOS?

The causes of PCOS are largely unknown, but certain factors have been said to play a major role. Excessive insulin, the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use sugar (glucose), is one of them. Excess insulin might affect the ovaries by increasing androgen production. PCOS is also a hereditary condition and there are 50% chances of a woman affected by it to pass it on to the offspring.

Treatment: Weight and Nutrition

There is no actual cure for PCOS, rather it is something that needs to be managed. Therefore, treatment is more likely to be focused on the symptoms or effects of PCOS, like treatment of acne, infertility issues and a guarded supervision over risks of diabetes and heart diseases.

Weight management is especially important in keeping PCOS in check. Overweight worsens insulin resistance and the symptoms of PCOS. In this wake, a proper nutrition plan monitored by an expert nutritionist comes in handy. Daisy Ridley confesses to have drastically cut down on dairy and sugar intakes (“except for spontaneous ice creams”) which is beneficial in keeping the acne away. Adding more whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to your diet also helps lower blood glucose levels, improve the body’s use of insulin, and normalize hormone levels.

As less as 5-10% of weight loss can be instrumental in restoring normal period and making your cycle more regular. It really is a very small price to pay for a much greater benefit. Like Ridley says, “From your head to the tips of your toes we only have one body, let us all make sure ours our working in tip top condition, and take help if it’s needed.”

Glycemic Index

Glycemic Index is the numerical index given to a carbohydrate-rich food that is based on the average increase in blood glucose level occurring in blood after the food is eaten. The higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response.

The Glycemic Index tells us how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar.

Some factors that affect GI: 

Processing (puffed cereals have a much higher GI than the grain they came from), ripeness of fruit (unripe bananas can have a GI of 43, where overripe ones have been clocked at 74), protein content (soy beans have a lower GI than other beans), fat content (peanuts have a very low GI), fiber (orange juice has a higher GI than oranges), and how small the particles are (whole grains have a relatively low GI, but grinding them into flour shoots up the GI).

Glycemic index is the scale that was created on a standard amount of carbohydrate per food (50 grams), it doesn’t give people information about the amount of food they are actually eating. This information too is important if we want to assess the true impact of carbohydrate consumption. For this reason, the concept of the glycemic load was created, which takes serving size into account.

The glycemic load of a food is the glycemic index divided by hundred and multiplied by its available carbohydrate content (i.e. carbohydrate minus fibre) in grams.

For example, if we consider watermelon. Water melon has a high glycemic Index (about 72). However, a serving of 120g of watermelon has only about 6g of available carbohydrate per serving. So its glycemic load is pretty low i.e. 72/100 x 6 = 4.32.

Following is the list of some common food with their glycemic index.

Photo credit : myhealthandliving.com
Hello there
Get health tips, recipes and front seats to our free health talks and online events delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to our newsletter!
Hello there
Get health tips, recipes and front seats to our free health talks and online events delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to our newsletter!
Get more of the goodness delivered to your inbox. No Spam - No Ads
Subscribe