by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Debunked: An Expert’s Tips on Managing PCOS Symptoms

Image via @stellasimona

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age, though it isn’t discussed often in everyday life. Besides irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation, weight gain, and thinning hair, one of the most notable symptoms of PCOS is acne.

PCOS-related acne is just like hormonal breakouts; they tend to flare in areas on the lower part of your face, including your cheeks, jawline, chin, and upper neck.

We get PCOS specialist and nutritionist Shahzeen Baig (@the.pcos.nutritionist) to debunk some of the most common misconceptions surrounding the hormonal disorder.

Myth or Fact: If your menstrual cycle is irregular, you have PCOS.

Myth. In order to be diagnosed with it, you actually need two of the following criteria: Cysts on ovaries as confirmed by ultrasound; an irregular menstrual cycle, as well as raised male androgen levels (most commonly testosterone).

What is hormonal weight gain? 

Hormonal weight gain in PCOS is largely driven by insulin resistance, which raises certain hormones such as cortisol. Furthermore, overweight women with PCOS have high leptin. This causes weight gain and excessive hunger. Leptin is nature’s appetite suppressant. When a person has eaten enough to be full, leptin signals your brain to stop eating. When a person is overweight, fat cells produce excess leptin, causing them to retain extra weight.

Myth or Fact: PCOS causes weight gain or prevents weight loss.

Actually a fact! PCOS causes weight gain through insulin resistance, which causes us to have increased cravings and also results in our metabolism leaning towards weight gain instead of weight loss. Weight loss is also harder because of this!

Myth or Fact: There is a connection between our diet and hormonal belly.

Fact! Because PCOS comes with a range of hormonal imbalances, such as elevated levels of testosterone and stress hormone cortisol, alongside insulin resistance, this actually favours fat storage in the lower belly region.

Myth or Fact: Excessive exercising can worsen PCOS. 

Fact! High-intensity workouts (except for High-Intensity Interval Training, which is done in short intervals) are actually harmful to women with PCOS as they raise cortisol levels. Instead, opt for low impact workouts such as strength training and simply walking!

Myth or Fact: Women with PCOS should be gluten-free.

Myth! I get asked this a lot, in actual fact, there is not a single scientific study showing gluten as an inflammatory agent. Only those who have been diagnosed with coeliac disease need to avoid gluten. Otherwise, gluten is completely fine! But I do remember opting for whole grains over refined grains.

What is one delicious and nutritious PCOS-friendly recipe that you’ll recommend?

My favourite would have to be lentil soup; it’s so delicious, yet so versatile and simple to prepare.