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PCOS and Weight Gain

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

Although most women have to deal with weight gain at some point in their lives, it is a constant struggle for PCOS patients. Unfortunately, there is a direct link between weight gain and PCOS due to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body has difficulty pulling glucose from the bloodstream and converting it to energy, thus causing the production of more insulin in an attempt to maintain a normal blood sugar level. This leads to a build-up of insulin in the blood which can cause a myriad of other health complications such as diabetes.

When there is an increase in the level of insulin in the blood, this triggers excessive production of the male hormone androgen, which is associated with acne, hirsutism, irregular periods, male-pattern baldness and weight gain typically around the abdomen area as seen in males. As such, women with PCOS tend to have an apple-shaped body instead of pear-shaped. Abdominal fat is the most dangerous kind of fat as it is naturally linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health conditions.

Some risks associated with PCOS-related weight gain are:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • High cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Sleep apnea

  • Infertility

  • Endometrial cancer

Tips for PCOS-related weight loss

In women with PCOS, shedding just 10% of the total body weight can regulate periods and help relieve some of the symptoms of PCOS. Weight loss can also help with insulin resistance; thereby reducing the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Before starting with weight loss, it is imperative to start with a visit to a doctor. A doctor will check your waist size and BMI (body mass index), and may prescribe medication(s), supplements and recommend an appropriate diet plan.

Medications commonly given for PCOS include birth control pills, anti-androgen medications, bio-identical hormones and Metformin. While anti-androgen medications block the effects of male hormones, Metformin is a diabetes drug that helps the body utilize insulin more efficiently and reduce testosterone production. Research has also found that it can help with weight management in women with PCOS.

In addition to taking medication, adding healthy habits into your lifestyle can help you keep your weight under control:

  • Reduce carbohydrate intake.

  • Have a high-fiber and protein diet.

  • Reduce processed food and sugar.

  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day rather than 3 big meals. This helps in controlling blood sugar levels.

  • Exercise regularly. Not only does this aid with weight loss, it also reduces insulin sensitivity.

  • Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep. Sleeping less than 7 hours each night can create imbalance in hormones that control hunger like ghrelin and cortisol. An increase in the amount of these hormones causes increased appetite which then leads to weight gain.

  • Manage those stress levels! This is extremely vital as stress increases the amount of the hormone cortisol in the body which can increase insulin resistance and thus result in weight gain.

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