1 in every 10 women of childbearing age suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. Since the syndrome may manifest differently in different women – with most signs and symptoms being non-specific – this estimate is most certainly lower than the real number of people suffering from PCOS. Despite popular belief, PCOS is much more prevalent than we might care to believe.
There is a strong relation between diet and PCOS, as is the relation between weight gain and the severity of the condition. And we all know the established relationship between food and weight. So while there are foods to ease PCOS symptoms and enhance fertility, there most certainly are foods to avoid for fertility. Let us understand the interrelatedness of these aspects and how you can boost your chances to conceive.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
While PCOS sufferers may experience no, minimal, or unrelated symptoms, there are certain manifestations that help determine the condition. Menstruating women should be aware of and watch out for a few subjective but visible signs like,
- inconsistent menstrual cycles,
- dysmenorrhea or painful periods,
- menstrual cycles that last longer than the normal (clinically healthy) duration,
- inability to get periods,
- extremely heavy bleeding during periods,
- high circulating testosterone levels that are greater than normal,
- painful breakout of acne
- difficulty getting pregnant,
- thinning of hair, abnormal hair loss and appearance of male pattern baldness
- hirsutism or development of new or undesired hair on the face, chest and back.
When it comes to specific clinical diagnostic techniques, PCOS can be identified in a patient if they exhibit two or more of the following symptoms,
1. If the Patient Struggles with Irregular Menstrual Cycles
PCOS is usually marked by inconsistent or sporadic menstrual cycles. Other menstrual problems like longer periods, painful periods, less than normal number of periods a year and so on. Furthermore, since cycles of different lengths do not follow a strictly delineated fertile phase, intervals that are longer than 35 days (the standard is 28-30) can make it very challenging for the woman to become pregnant.
2. A Clinically Tested Excess of Androgen in the Blood
This can cause hirsutism and male pattern baldness. Such patients occasionally also experience severe breakouts or acne. Such a hormonal imbalance can also cause infertility and indicate the presence of PCOS.
3. Ovaries Containing Multiple “Cysts”
Polycystic ovaries in ultrasound appear larger or more inflamed than healthy ovaries. Cysts are fluid-filled structures that are visible on the external edges of the ovary. Such polycystic ovaries do not release eggs, leading to infertility.
What is the Significance of Weight Gain, PCOS and Infertility?
The relationship between weight gain and PCOS is cyclical – obese women are more likely to develop PCOS and women that suffer from the disorder are at a great likelihood of becoming obese. If a woman’s BMI is between 19 and 24, it is regarded as normal. Underweight refers to a female with a BMI less than 19. Women with a BMI of 25 to 29 are regarded as overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or higher are regarded as obese.
A woman’s monthly likelihood of becoming pregnant drops by roughly 12 percent for every BMI number over 30. These figures demonstrate just how much weight can affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
Unfortunately, a high BMI entails many risks for the unborn child (besides the obvious challenges in getting pregnant and manifesting as other health conditions in the woman), like:
- premature or early birth
- high weight at birth
- obesity, and diabetes later in life.
How does Weight Loss Help in Enhancing Fertility in PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that increases a person’s risk of becoming infertile due to an increase in androgen levels (a hormone called testosterone that mainly develops and matures primary and secondary sexual characteristics in men). The ovarian hormones progesterone and estrogen, which follicles require to mature, are repressed as a result of the greater amounts of male androgen (testosterone) in the system.
The major reason why PCOS patients have trouble losing weight is because of insulin resistance. To metabolize the sugar that has been consumed, insulin production is increased by insulin resistance, which results in a delayed reaction. Therefore, a rise in insulin resistance in our body encourages the accumulation of fat and an increase in body weight.
There are several different PCOS treatments and fertility diet plans, like the Mediterranean diet, that you can follow. If you are overweight, decreasing weight can help your PCOS symptoms. PCOS may be impacted by weight loss in the following ways,
- regularizing menstrual cycles
- reducing insulin resistance and increasing insulin response
- helping with reducing stress and avoiding depression
- promoting ovulation
Maintaining a healthy weight during childbearing years helps improve PCOS symptoms and readily improves the woman’s overall reproductive health.
How to Lose Weight When You Have PCOS?
PCOS is known as an endocrine condition since hormone levels are affected. Many processes in our bodies are regulated by hormones, including our body weight. With PCOS, losing weight might be challenging. To help us reach our health goals, consider the following.
1. Watching your Diet
Since diet, weight gain, PCOS and fertility are intricately linked, it is advisable to eat foods that help maintain a healthy weight, lessen the symptoms of PCOS and also enhance the overall health of your reproductive system. Since many foods have multiple actions inside our body that lead to an overall positive impact, it should not be difficult to eat the right foods in a healthy diet and avoid those that harm our bodies.
Reduce your Carb Intake
Since carbs affect insulin levels, reducing your carbohydrate consumption may assist in managing PCOS. Insulin resistance, which occurs when your cells fail to respond appropriately to the action of insulin, affects about 70% of women with PCOS. While a high-carb diet may put you at a higher risk of insulin resistance, a low-GI, limited carbohydrate diet may lower insulin levels in PCOS-affected women. This might therefore facilitate weight loss.
Consume more Fiber
Eating a diet rich in fiber may help lower insulin resistance, body weight, and extra body fat. Consuming whole grains will not only give you fiber but will also provide you with carbs that digest slowly and do not spike blood sugar and blood insulin levels. Adding fruits and green leafy vegetables to the diet not only gives you enough fiber but also provides antioxidants and minerals like calcium along with vitamins which enhance fertility and also support a healthy pregnancy.
Consume Enough Protein
Protein enhances feelings of satiety after meals and helps to normalize blood sugar levels. It indirectly helps promote weight loss by lowering cravings, increasing calories burned, and controlling hunger and appetite. One can supplement their fertility diet with nutritious, high-protein foods like eggs, almonds, pulses, lentils and seafood.
Eat Fermented Foods
Gut health may affect metabolism and weight management. Eating probiotic-rich foods help in the development of a healthy gut microflora that has many positive outcomes.
Don’t Restrict Calories Excessively
Extreme diets and rigorous workout regimens may seem like a quick fix. First, restricting your daily calorie intake too much can put you at an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies that could consequently affect your entire body’s health.
Avoid these Foods
Foods to avoid for fertility, especially when you are struggling with PCOS include red and processed meats (beef, bacon, sausages), highly processed carbs like white breads, white crackers, pasta, and baked foods. Baked foods like pastries, cakes, and donuts contain trans fats that are associated with decreased fertility. Also in the list of foods to avoid are sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and energy drinks that are known to be associated with low fertility outcomes. When you are trying to boost fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant, choose full-fat dairy products since they can reduce the chances of ovulatory infertility. Dairy affects male fertility differently than female fertility – low fat dairy helps support male fertility aspects like sperm count, sperm motility and overall sperm quality.
2. Exercising Consistently
Daily physical activity (for roughly 30 minutes) enhances general wellness and weight management. Although losing weight with PCOS is difficult, it has a good impact on many of the symptoms.
- Include activities that you enjoy doing like cycling, cardio, walking, jogging, dance, yoga, swimming, or aerobics in your exercise regimen.
- Don’t ignore exercise; make it a priority in your everyday routine
- Never omit a day of workout.
Avoid overdoing it since it can potentially cause you harm.
3. Set Moderately Easy and Attainable Goals
Make the lifestyle modifications very modest, to begin with, and focus on the aspects that are the simplest to alter, including dietary changes. Have a good nutritious diet every day instead of skipping breakfast, for instance. Instead of getting a chocolate bar, bring yourself a healthy snack to work. It will be far simpler to adhere to a specific plan of action than a general notion that you’ll start getting healthier.
4. Have Patience
With PCOS, it can be difficult to shed a few pounds off your waistline. A hormonal imbalance can lengthen the weight loss process. Therefore, hold onto hope despite delayed development because it can improve your reproductive and general health.
PCOS can make getting pregnant challenging. However, making small, well-directed lifestyle changes that include following a healthy diet, exercising, and being in a good mental space go a long way in not only easing the symptoms of the disorder but also helping you conceive.
At Reproductive Health and Wellness Center, we use a holistic approach to treat infertility. While we use state-of-the-art assisted reproductive technologies and medical protocols to create a customized treatment strategy for fertility treatment, we also harp on the importance of healthy eating and following an active lifestyle to prepare the body to embark on the fertility journey.
To experience the best fertility services in a boutique setting, contact our fertility specialist today.