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Decoding PCOS: Understanding and Managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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Nutrition Specialist, Esra

Written and fact checked by Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan on November 16, 2023.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects many women worldwide. It’s characterized by a range of symptoms and can have a significant impact on a woman's reproductive health and overall well-being.

In this blog, let’s delve into what PCOS is, and learn about its symptoms, diagnosis, causes, effects on fertility, treatment options, the role of diet and exercise, triggers, and the possibility of at-home testing.

a person holding their tummy

What is PCOS and what are the symptoms?

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that leads to the development of small cysts on the ovaries. PCOS comes with a number of symptoms, including:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Hirsutism
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty in losing weight

Other symptoms may include mood swings, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

How is PCOS diagnosed and what tests are involved?

Diagnosing PCOS involves being assessed by a healthcare provider who will perform a physical examination and conduct other tests to determine whether you have PCOS. These tests may include blood tests to measure hormone levels, a pelvic ultrasound to examine the ovaries, and sometimes a glucose and insulin test to assess your insulin resistance.

What causes PCOS and is there a cure?

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but several factors contribute to its development. These include insulin resistance, high levels of androgens (male hormones), and a genetic predisposition to getting PCOS. While there is no cure for PCOS, it’s possible to manage the symptoms that come with it by making modifications in your lifestyle, taking certain meds, and undergoing other forms of treatments.

How does PCOS affect fertility and what are the treatment options for infertility?

PCOS can significantly impact fertility because it can make you have irregular ovulation or result in lack of ovulation altogether, which means that women with PCOS might experience difficulties in getting pregnant. However, various treatment options are available to improve fertility, such as ovulation induction medication, assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF), and lifestyle changes.

What is the role of diet and exercise in managing PCOS symptoms?

Diet and exercise both can play a crucial role in helping manage PCOS symptoms. A balanced and nutritious diet, as well as focusing on eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods can help you regulate your hormone levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and help you manage your weight. Regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercises and strength training, can also help reduce your PCOS symptoms.

If you are looking to develop a PCOS diet, initiating healthy habits by incorporating regular, diverse, and well-balanced meals or snacks can be an excellent starting point.

a woman looking at an apple in her hand

What triggers PCOS?

While the exact triggers for PCOS are not fully understood, certain factors can contribute to its development and exacerbation. It is important to note that every individual may have different triggers for PCOS, and understanding how PCOS is triggered for you can help you better manage your symptoms. But there are a couple of factors that can contribute to PCOS, including: 

Poor diet: A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy fats can contribute to insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances, which are both associated with PCOS. 

Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of regular physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle may result in weight gain, which are risk factors for PCOS. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and hormone regulation, so a lack of exercise can potentially worsen PCOS symptoms.

Obesity: Excess body weight, particularly abdominal obesity, is strongly associated with PCOS. Obesity can exacerbate insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and inflammation and can thus potentially worsen PCOS symptoms.

Stress: Chronic stress can disrupt hormone levels and contribute to hormonal imbalances. It may also indirectly affect lifestyle habits such as sleep, exercise, and diet, which can impact PCOS symptoms.

How Can I test for PCOS At-Home?

While it is not possible to test for PCOS at home definitively, you can monitor your symptoms and track changes in your menstrual cycle, weight, and other associated symptoms. This information can be valuable when discussing your concerns with a healthcare professional, who can then perform the necessary tests so that they can properly diagnose you for PCOS.

In summary, PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects women and can have a significant impact on their reproductive health. While there is no cure for PCOS, its symptoms can be effectively managed through certain kinds of medication and treatment as well as by making modifications in your lifestyle. By understanding the symptoms, triggers, and available treatment options, you can take a proactive step towards improving your PCOS symptoms and your overall well-being and fertility. 

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img author
Nutrition Specialist, Esra

Written and fact checked by Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan on November 16, 2023.

Table of Contents

What is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)?

What are the Symptoms of PCOS?

What Causes PCOS?

How Does PCOS Progress? 

How is PCOS Diagnosed?

How is PCOS Treated?

How Does PCOS Affect Fertility?

What are the Treatment Options for Infertility?

Can PCOS Patients Get Pregnant When They Lose Weight?

What To Eat When You Have PCOS? 

How to Lose Weight With PCOS?

How Can I test for PCOS At-Home?


What does a “PCOS belly” look like?

A belly affected by PCOS often looks bloated and may have excess fat, particularly in the abdominal region. This is often because of insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and high levels of androgens. However, it's important to remember that the way a PCOS belly looks can differ from person to person.

What is the shape of the breasts with PCOS?

The shape of breasts is not linked to PCOS. It is mostly determined by genetics, body fat distribution, and hormonal factors. While PCOS can cause hormonal imbalances that affect breast tissue, it is not a defining feature of the condition.

What type of exercise is good for PCOS?

It is recommended that individuals with PCOS engage in a combination of aerobic exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or dancing, can be particularly beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity and managing weight. Strength training can also play an important role in stabilizing blood sugar levels and boosting metabolism by building muscle. 

Flexibility exercises, like yoga or stretching, can reduce stress and improve overall well-being. It's important to find an exercise routine that you enjoy and can commit to consistently. However, before starting any exercise program, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to tailor it to your specific needs.

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