Understanding PCOS and what it does to the body | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

In PCOS, the menstruation cycle is disrupted; follicles carrying the eggs do not mature and ovulation does not occur.
In PCOS, the menstruation cycle is disrupted; follicles carrying the eggs do not mature and ovulation does not occur.

I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but was not aware of it until I had difficulty getting pregnant. Menstruation would come on time. No abdominal cramps, no acne. I was asymptomatic. However, in my entire career, I was exposed to an environment of free meals that were fat-laden, with large food portions and minimal intake of vitamins and minerals.

PCOS is an imbalance of female sex hormones. Ovaries contain a lifetime supply of eggs, which are immature and stored in tiny fluid structures called follicles. The pituitary gland (PG) secretes the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) every month into the blood stream, and when they reach the ovaries, several eggs start to mature, expanding the follicle-releasing female sex hormone (estrogen).

Once it reaches a certain level, the PG releases LH to the ovaries, causing the most mature follicle to open and release its egg in a process called ovulation. The egg travels through the fallopian tube and waits for fertilization as it is embedded in the walls of the uterus. The remaining follicles and eggs are dissolved. If the egg is not fertilized, it is sloughed off as menstruation.

Reducing risks

In PCOS, the PG releases high levels of LH into bloodstream, disrupting the menstruation cycle; follicles do not mature and ovulation does not occur, and this can lead to infertility. Some of the immature follicles do not dissolve and remain as fluid-filled sacs or cysts.Blood may have high levels of insulin produced by the pancreas; plus, high levels of LH can produce too much of the male hormone (testosterone), which can prevent ovulation.

PCOS also increases the risk of diabetes due to high insulin levels, heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol abnormalities and endometrial cancer.

PCOS can be managed in different ways, but lifestyle changes can also help reduce the risks. For the general population, dietary recommendations vary, from low-calorie diets with fat modifications, the Mediterranean diet and a ketogenic diet, to reduction in the dietary glycemic index and total calorie reduction to induce weight loss.

Increased physical exercise coupled with good diet plan can be very helpful. However, there are both lean and obese women with PCOS, so lifestyle changes must be customized to the needs of the woman.

To summarize, make food your medicine for nutritional healing. Do not abuse any dietary prescription such as the ketogenic diet or engage in nonhealthy food choices. Lifestyle changes will always prove to be beneficial at any stage of life that we are in. —Contributed INQThe author is a licensed nutritionist-dietitian and an academician at the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.


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