We’ve all adapted to the new normal and working from home. While work from home comes with its own benefits, lack of physical activity and stress can exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS. Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is a common disorder in women of reproductive age group, and affects 5-10 percent of women. It’s associated with hormone imbalance and problems in metabolism. Though PCOS may cause irregular periods, there is a likelihood that women suffering from this condition may face fertility or related issues as well.
How can PCOS worsen during the pandemic?
- Lack of physical mobility has led to a spike in complaints of irregular menstrual cycles during the pandemic. While the exact causes of PCOS are unknown, certain factors that may play a role include excess insulin, low-grade inflammation, heredity issues and excess androgen.
- While working from home, PCOS is also adversely affected by diet, lifestyle and exposure to certain environmental toxins. We all tend to binge on unhealthy foods, fried foods and all this has a direct implication on PCOS.
- Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, and is needed to convert glucose to energy and to control cell growth. It has a key role to play in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. But unfortunately, this time has increased cases of insulin resistance.
- Low-grade inflammation: White blood cells induce an inflammatory response and produce substances to fight infection. In some women, eating certain foods, or exposure to certain environmental factors may trigger an inflammatory response. When an inflammatory response is triggered, white blood cells secrete mediators that may lead to insulin resistance and atherosclerosis.
All the above factors contribute to:
- Irregular /absent menstrual periods
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Excessive facial and body hair
- Weight gain and obesity
- Patches of thick, darkened skin (acanthosis nigricans), particularly on the neck, groin, or underneath the breasts
- Oily skin and/or acne
- Insulin resistance and type II diabetes
- Infertility due to irregular or absent ovulation
How to manage PCOS while working from home
Often, simple lifestyle changes help to improve fertility in PCOS patients. These include:
- Daily exercise: Regular exercise has many benefits in treating PCOS. Exercise helps by burning calories, lowering cholesterol levels and building muscle mass, which decreases insulin resistance.
- Eating a healthy diet: The ideal diet consists of different kinds of foods from various food groups, be it good carbohydrates, such as vegetables and fruits; lean meats, such as poultry; fish; and high fiber grains. It is advisable to eat foods that are low in sugar and fat and with a low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods cause the body to release insulin slowly, making it easier for the body to use food as energy rather than store it as fat. Foods rich in fiber also help control blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, hence they are best eaten in limited amounts. It is better to avoid refined carbs, especially those found in processed foods, especially white flour, rice, potatoes, and sugar. Sugary drinks, including soda and sweetened juices should be avoided.
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- Increase your exposure to sunlight by at least sitting and working under the sun for some time.
- Weight Loss: This may help to control some of the symptoms of PCOS and increase fertility. Insulin resistance improves with weight loss
In light of the ongoing pandemic, one would assume that women having PCOS would not face issues, but it is important to stay on track. That means you must continue to maintain a healthy and a balanced diet. Lockdown should be used as an opportunity to lose weight by shunning high-calorie foods and going for foods that are low in calorie and glycaemic index like oats, dalia, and poha. This time should be used as an opportunity to maintain your physical and emotional health. Discipline and lifestyle management will help in PCOS management at home and should not be a stumbling block.