When fat disrupts hormonal balance
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels.
Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones. This hormone imbalance causes their body to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant.
PCOS also causes hair growth on the face and body and baldness. And it can contribute to long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
Birth control pills and diabetes drugs (which combat insulin resistance, a PCOS symptom) can help fix the hormone imbalance and improve symptoms. However, PCOS is more than what meets the eye.
What is PCOS?
The cause of polycystic ovary syndrome isn’t well understood but may involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Symptoms include menstrual irregularity, excess hair growth, acne and obesity.
PCOS is a problem with hormones that affects women during their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44). Between 2.2 and 26.7 per cent of women in this age group have PCOS. Many women have PCOS but don’t know it. In one study, up to 70 percent of women with PCOS hadn’t been diagnosed.
PCOS and weight gain
Most women at some point have to contend with weight gain. But for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), losing weight can become a constant struggle. Many are overweight or obese. As a result, these women can be at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and uterine cancer.
Why does polycystic ovary syndrome cause weight gain?
PCOS makes it more difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This condition, called insulin resistance, can cause insulin and sugar – glucose – to build up in the bloodstream.
High insulin levels increase the production of male hormones called androgens. High androgen levels lead to symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods – and weight gain.
Because the weight gain is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen. That is where men tend to carry weight. So, instead of having a pear shape, women with PCOS have more of an apple shape.
Abdominal fat is the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s because it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
What can I do to lose weight if I have polycystic ovary syndrome?
Losing weight not only cuts your risk for many diseases, but it can also make you feel better.
When you have PCOS, shedding just 10% of your body weight can bring your periods back to normal. It can also help relieve some of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Weight loss can also improve insulin sensitivity. That will reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other PCOS complications.
To lose weight, start with a visit to your doctor. The doctor will weigh you and check your waist size and body mass index. Body mass index is also called BMI, and it is the ratio of your height to your weight. Your doctor may also prescribe medication.
Several medications are approved for PCOS, including birth control pills, anti-androgen medications and Metformin (Glucophage). The anti-androgen medications block the effects of male hormones. Metformin is a diabetes drug that helps the body use insulin more efficiently.
At Melbourne Gastro Surgery – Centre for Weight Loss we have specialist Bariatric Medical Practitioners who can assist you with an initial assessment and developing a management plan for your PCOS.
Book an appointment with our patient advisor here to arrange a complimentary 15-minute chat.
Helping You Discover, Empower & Prosper
Dr Arun Dhir | GI Surgeon, Health Reformist & Passionate Educator.
About Dr Arun:
Besides having a busy private practice at Melbourne Gastro Surgery – Centre for Weight Loss, Dr Arun is an active member of the ANZ Association of Gastro-Oesophageal surgeons (ANZGOSA), ANZ Society of Metabolic and Obesity Surgery (OSSANZ) and Australian College of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM).
Dr Arun is also a senior lecturer (University of Melbourne) and yoga and meditation teacher, with a strong interest in the mind-body-gut connection. He regularly writes and speaks about gut health, gut microbiome, obesity, gastrointestinal surgery and healing. Arun’s published works include Happy Gut Healthy Weight (Balboa Press 2018), Creating a New You – Health Journal (Metagenics 2019), and Your Mess Has a Message (2021).