Health and fitness tips to manage PCOS

All Woman

Dear Donovan,
I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and it has been an issue, especially with my weight and fertility. I would like some health and fitness ideas to help me manage my life and my condition, especially for the weight around my midsection and arms. I barely exercise — I work at a call centre and have no option for exercise apart from the 30-minute walk I do every morning to get a taxi.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects roughly one in 10 women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS have an imbalance in their reproductive hormones, as well as metabolic problems which may affect their general appearance, in addition to their health. Women with PCOS have higher levels of male hormones (androgens) which creates problem in the ovaries.

The ovaries are responsible for the making and releasing of eggs each month. For women with PCOS the eggs might not be developed properly, or they may not be released as a part of the menstrual cycle. This can result in sacs or follicles each containing an immature egg. Usually the eggs are never mature enough to set off ovulation. Hence a woman with PCOS usually shows three main defining features — there are cysts in the ovaries, a high level of male hormones, and irregular or no monthly periods. The high level of male hormones disrupt the menstrual cycle so women with PCOS get fewer periods and are less likely to get pregnant. In addition, PCOS can also cause hair growth on the face and body. PCOS has also been associated with long-term medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension.

From a medical standpoint, PCOS is usually controlled with birth control pills and diabetes drugs. These usually fix the hormone imbalance and improve symptoms. The treatment for PCOS usually starts with lifestyle changes involving diet and exercise. It has been shown that losing five to 10 per cent of body weight can help to normalise the menstrual cycle and improve the symptoms of PCOS.

Most women with PCOS find it hard to lose weight. In your situation you will have to be serious and go on a weight loss programme. However, I see where you have a sitting job and you are not getting much exercise.

I would suggest that you look at all the healthy foods available to you at work. It might even be better to pack your own lunches and the other foods you might need throughout the day.

Again, as I have said so often in this column, if you want to lose weight you will have to cut your calories. In addition, you will also want to eat foods which will not spike your blood sugar level too high. It is best that you consume more fruits, vegetables, vegetable juices and whole grains. It is also important to have a rough idea of how many calories you are consuming on a daily basis.

Overall, it is important to consume a low carbohydrate and low fat diet. It might also be a good idea to do a four to five day detox programme. In addition, I want you to make an effort to do at least 30 minutes of structured exercise at least three to four days per week. Studies have shown that this will help greatly with the symptoms of PCOS and diabetes. Diet and exercise are powerful tools to help you with PCOS. Use them.

Good luck.

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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