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The strong bond between PCOS and diabetes

PCOS is an endocrinal disorder that affects many women around the world and these women have serious hormonal imbalances in their bodies which lead to an irregular menstrual cycle, symptoms like abdominal weight gain, excess hair in unwanted areas, thinning of scalp hair along with causing infertility. PCOS happens to nearly 10% of women which indicates how common it is and therefore problems like difficulty conceiving, pregnancy loss, etc are becoming more and more common these days.

What happens inĀ  PCOS?

Normally, what happens is that the ovaries secrete hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and a tiny amount of androgens that is essential for the processes in the ovaries such as ovulation. But in PCOS, the ovaries secrete more amount of androgens than what is required for the body which interferes in the ovulation process that is eggs do not get mature and are thus not released for the entire cycle to occur. Since the ovulation does not take place, the eggs are not fertilized if given the right conditions, or in other cases, periods do not occur to prepare the ovaries for the next ovulation cycle. This might lead to the formation of cysts in the ovaries that are follicles filled with fluid.

These high levels of androgens that are produced not only interfere in the normal functioning of the ovaries but also cause imbalances in the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands and the levels of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps regulate the blood sugar levels, but if the androgens are in excess, certain cells become numb to the effect of insulin, and the pancreas release more and more insulin in confusion so that the cells receive the message this is called insulin resistance that your body develops. Since your body develops this condition, it becomes harder to control blood sugar levels and you are now at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Relation between PCOS and type 2 diabetes

According to various studies conducted around the world, women with PCOS are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women without PCOS and are also at the risk of developing this condition earlier than other women. Obesity and insulin resistance are common factors that link PCOS with diabetes. The studies also suggest that 40% of the women who have PCOS can develop prediabetes and 10% can develop diabetes with PCOS and if you are obese, the chances are even higher.

It is also found that high levels of insulin are not only an effect of PCOS but also play a critical role in developing and maintaining PCOS in women. High levels of insulin also contribute to stimulating the ovaries to produce more androgens. A detailed explanation of this is that the ovaries contain special theca cells for the formation of androgens and insulin triggers the increase in the number of these theca cells and therefore more insulin, more theca cells, and more androgens. These would further lead to problems such as abdominal weight gain, excess hair, irregular menstrual cycle, problems that I already mentioned.

PCOS does not only lead to type 2 diabetes but also gestational diabetes which is a root cause of various other problems during pregnancy. If you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy you also are likely to suffer from birth complications such as premature birth, breathing issues, jaundice, and many more. Pregnant women should regularly get screened for diabetes and plan their diet during pregnancy keeping this in mind. 

How to deal with PCOS and diabetes

PCOS and diabetes are clearly linked and so are the ways to control them. Exercising and a well-balanced diet are the key contributors to making you feel healthy and control your hormonal imbalances. Exercising not only helps you to burn excess fat but also the excess blood sugar in your body. Since exercising would bring your weight closer to the normal weight according to your Body Mass Index (BMI), the cells will start becoming more sensitive to the insulin secreted and thus there will be no need to secrete more insulin from your pancreas. Since no excess insulin will be secreted, it will not affect the testosterone levels in your body thus, there are chances your ovulation would be back to normal and thus your menstrual cycles will become regular. It will also help you in dealing with obesity and bringing down your blood sugar levels. Thus, exercising is the first step you should take in dealing with both diabetes and PCOS.

A well-balanced diet incorporated with foods with a low glycemic index and anti-inflammatory foods will help you the most since it will be the most effective in controlling your hormone levels. You should avoid unhealthy foods such as your favorite junk foods made out of refined flour, excess sugar, sugary and mass-produced desserts, carbonated drinks, etc. You should also look out for substances like gluten and dairy because these might be aggravating your problems.

When it comes to diet you should incorporate foods with low glycemic index and high fiber foods because they take longer to break down and thus the blood sugar level does not shoot up abruptly. This helps your body to process the glucose in your blood slowly without requiring to secret more and more insulin which would have happened had your body not been able to control the sudden and sharp increase in blood sugar level like when you eat things made out of refined flour.

Normally a ketogenic diet has also helped many women but since each woman is built differently they have different dietary requirements and there can be numerous diet plans that can work out for you.

Another thing that is common between PCOS and diabetes is that metformin is both the first-line medication for type 2 diabetes and also a common drug given to women with PCOS to control their insulin resistance.

So the bottom line is that PCOS and diabetes are interlinked and need to be taken care of right from the time that you get diagnosed with it. If you ignore PCOS just because you do not need to think about it since you are not planning your pregnancy any time soon, it can lead to many other serious complications and diabetes is one of them. It is like seeing these things coming your way and still not doing anything about it. Plan a healthy and balanced diet with the help of your dietician and discuss all the problems that you face and the problems that run in your family with your ob-gyn. Also plan an exercise schedule with the help of your trainer which does not overstrain your body but just to the point when you can lose weight and get your hormones in control.

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