PCOD or polycystic ovarian syndrome or disorder is a metabolic and hormonal imbalance in the body. It is not a disease. It is a disorder that can be managed well with a good lifestyle. The symptoms of PCOD can be reversed, or their efficacy can be made low.
It has now become a very common metabolic disorder experienced by almost 10 per cent of the female population in their childbearing age. PCOD is not just a hormonal or reproductive issue. It is a metabolic issue that affects the gut, liver, mood, mental stability, blood sugar levels and heart health.
It leads to high male hormones called testosterone that result in hair thinning, balding, weight gain, fertility issues, missing periods and male pattern hair growth that are thick and coarse. If PCOD is not managed well, it can lead to severe problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, mental imbalances, cardiovascular issues and uterine cancers.
Listed below are three criteria basis which one can ascertain whether they should evaluate themselves for PCOD. An individual should qualify at least two or all three criteria to go for further evaluation through blood tests and ultrasounds .
1. Excess male androgens or male hormones:
Females have the male hormone "testosterone" in minimal quantities that help with their muscle mass, bone health, hair growth. But excess of this hormone leads to acne on the face, jawline, chin and back. It also causes hair thinning and male pattern balding especially on the front of the head, and hair growth on unwanted parts of the body such as the face, chin, upper arms, thighs, nipples. These hairs are thick and coarse .
2. Irregular periods:
Because there are excess male hormones, there is a lack of ovulation. Menstrual cycles that come less than ten times in one year or come later than 35 days can mean irregular periods .
3. Cysts on ovaries in an ultrasound:
Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of harmless follicles. These cysts are not the liquid-filled painful cysts. These are the follicles that did not reach ovulation and remain immature. The follicles are under-developed sacs in which eggs develop. In PCOS, these sacs are often unable to release an egg, which means ovulation does not take place. These appear to be the string of pearls or the bunch of grapes when you see an ultrasound of the ovary .
These symptoms need to be evaluated alongside blood reports for a comprehensive examination like lipid profile, Thyroid panel, fasting insulin, hormonal studies and more.
We are all a house of numerous hormones that enable normal body functioning. Some of these hormones are related to the menstrual cycle and play a role in PCOD.
Causes Of PCOD
There is no one cause of PCOD. There are a lot of factors that need to be looked at when an individual suffers from PCOD.
One might inherit the genes from the family and develop male hormones while in the womb. But genes play a small role. PCOD is triggered only when we do not take care of our lifestyle or abuse our daily routine. One who inherits the genes is more susceptible to PCOD. Still, if the lifestyle is managed well, the symptoms do not manifest into a disorder .
Chronic inflammation leads to the production of the excess hormones in the body that again leads to more inflammation. The ovaries produce more testosterone (male hormone) that lead to PCOD .
3. Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a cause of PCOD and a symptom as well. When the cells are not able to accept the blood sugars, the pancreas makes more insulin to enable the blood sugars to get absorbed in the cells. This leads to high insulin production by the pancreas. High insulin impairs the ovary function and leads it to produce more testosterone (male hormone) .
This is the most under-rated trigger of PCOD. With excessive chronic stress, the body only operates on those functions that are necessary for basic survival and shuts down all others like reproduction, immunity, digestion and more. The hormone cortisol is at an all-time high leading to the production of male hormones, which indirectly leads to PCOD.
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Diet plays a major role in managing the symptoms of PCOD. It improves insulin resistance and thus helps in weight management.
Along with diet, it is extremely important to be physically active and manage stress levels.
Food groups to help manage PCOD
- Complex carbs like whole grains, whole-wheat slices of bread and millets
- Proteins like pulses, dairy products, eggs and chicken
- Good fats in the form of nuts and seeds
- No refined cooking oils like mustard, sesame, coconut and ghee
- At least 400 gms of vegetables and fruits every day
- Follow the healthy plate method of filling half the plate with vegetables, ¼ with protein and ¼ with complex carbs.
- Include fruits, nuts and seeds as mid-meal snacks.
On A Final Note…
Starving yourself or excluding any one food group is not a sustainable way to manage PCOD. Eating freshly cooked food in portion control goes a long way to heal you internally and ensure you stay active and healthy.