Most of the women of reproductive age suffer from the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD). Polycystic Ovary Disease is a condition in women that affects their hormone levels. Women with PCOD produce more than the normal amount of male hormones, and higher insulin levels (a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar). Women suffering from this syndrome lead to hormonal imbalance and various small cysts and fluid filled sacs accumulates inside the ovary. This is one of the most common disorders in women without any exact cure. The term ‘polycystic’ means multiple cysts on the ovary. But, a woman with PCOD doesn’t mean that she has cysts on her ovaries, and having cysts does not mean she has PCOD.
Polycystic Ovary Disease causes various health problems which include menstrual cycle irregularity, type 2 diabetes, infertility, depression, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, endometrial cancer, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), metabolic syndrome, obesity, hair thinning, acne and excessive facial hair growth. These health problems are associated with PCOD that may require specific medical treatment.
Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Disease
PCOD can be a complex condition to diagnose as there are various symptoms. There are very few women with this disease who have the same symptoms. Irregular or no periods, infertility, androgen excess (signs include hair loss, acne, hirsutism) or multiple cystic/follicles ovaries are most common symptoms to identify PCOD.
It also affects the ability to get pregnant. The ovary’s ability to discharge an egg (ovum) to be potentially fertilized for pregnancy is affected by the hormonal disorder. Hence, this condition increases the complications in women to get pregnant. However, women suffering from PCOD can become pregnant after acquiring fertility treatments that improve mensuration and ovulation.
Causes of Polycystic Ovary Disease
There is no exact cause of Polycystic Ovary Disease but experts believe that several factors, including insulin resistance, excess androgens and genetics are the main causes.
High Insulin Levels lead to Hormonal Imbalance:
The pancreas helps regulate blood sugar level through producing hormones i.e. insulin. Insulin resistance makes your body to send less glucose to the cells requiring energy throughout your body. Due to insufficient glucose supply, the pancreas makes excess insulin to maintain sufficient glucose level. The high amount of insulin levels causes the ovaries to produce a higher amount of androgen which affects the production of the follicles (small sacs inside the ovaries where eggs grow) and prevents regular ovulation.
Genetic cause for PCOD: You might be more likely to develop this disease if your mother or sister also has PCOD.
PCOD Diet: Foods to include and avoid
A healthy lifestyle of physical activities and nutritional diet can help to cure this disease and prevent its symptoms. Overweight of women with PCOD make insulin resistance and other symptoms worse. When women with this disease follow a healthy lifestyle and maintain their healthy weight, they do not have other problems such as hirsutism, ovulation and menstrual irregularity. These problems develop only when they become obese or overweight.
Some of the significant methods that diet affects PCOD are insulin production and resistance and weight management. However, insulin level plays a vital role in this disease, so managing insulin levels in the diet is the finest way to control other hazardous conditions.
- Anti-inflammatory diets, such as extra virgin olive oil, leafy greens, fatty fish and berries, may lessen the inflammation related problems like fatigue.
- Your body digests nutrients with a low glycemic index diet slowly. Thus, low GI diets don’t increase insulin levels as compared to other diets like carbohydrates. Starchy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, whole grains, low carbohydrates and other unprocessed foods are low GI diets.
- Add more vegetables and fruit and avoid dairy based diet (as dairy based products increase insulin level) in your everyday food.
- Also, some animal or dairy based foods contain hydrogenated or saturated fats which can increase your cholesterol level, so avoid these kinds of food.
- Many dieticians suggest the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet (DASH) to lessen the effect of heart disease and control PCOD symptoms. This diet is rich in fish, low fat dairy products, whole grain vegetables, fruit, and poultry products.
- Solid fats, processed meats, sugary beverages, fried foods, refined carbohydrates and excess red meat are foods to avoid.
PCOD treatment generally begins with lifestyle changes like exercise, diet and weight loss. A healthy weight can reduce the risks of diabetes and heart disease, improve insulin levels and cholesterol. There is no particular treatment for curing PCOD, however, you can control it by managing its symptoms such as obesity, acne, infertility, and hirsutism.
Birth control or birth control pills are the most common treatment for women with PCOD who do not want to become pregnant. Various medications like weight loss and cholesterol control medications are used to prevent some of the other conditions associated with the polycystic ovary disease.
You can control your PCOD through preventing its main symptoms like infertility, hormonal disorder and insulin resistance.