Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome & Rapid Weight Gain
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, affects women of all ages. Women with PCOS often report gaining an unusual amount of weight over a short period of time.
Most of those women carry the extra weight around their waist. This rapid weight gain is especially frustrating since it often occurs despite a diligent diet and exercise routine.
Rapid weight gain in women with PCOS is linked to insulin resistance, a sustained high level of insulin in the bloodstream.
Women with PCOS related weight gain are left wondering what they can do to lose weight or stop further weight gain. Effective solutions to this problem include Diabetes related drug therapy combined with a low carbohydrate diet and exercise program.
PCOS is a health problem that affects a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility, hormone balance and appearance.
Not all women with PCOS share the same symptoms, though many women with PCOS have high levels of male hormones, or androgens, missed or irregular periods and many small cysts on their ovaries.
While a large number of women who seek treatment for PCOS are concerned primarily about their reproductive potential, PCOS can cause numerous other problems unrelated to fertility such as weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Increased weight gain can also lead to other problems such as the increased risk of stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory disease and colon cancer.
Obesity also affects a woman’s self-esteem and may cause depression. For a full list of PCOS symptoms see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health at womenshealth.gov.
Insulin Resistance Can Cause Unexplained Rapid Weight Gain
Many women with PCOS report significant weight gain even with a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is not uncommon for women with PCOS to gain 60 pounds or more in less than a year. This rapid, uncontrollable weight gain is due largely to insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone that controls the production of sugar, starches, and other nutrients into energy that the body can use or store as fat. Insulin resistance is a condition wherein body tissue becomes less responsive to insulin.
This causes sustained high levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Ovaries contain insulin receptors that are believed to collect this extra insulin. The extra insulin, in turn causes the ovaries to produce an excess of male hormones.
The excess male hormones disrupt the regular menstrual cycle and cause the ovaries to produce excessive cysts.
If not treated, insulin resistance can lead to the development of diabetes. Women with insulin resistance are also at an increased risk of other serious health problems such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
How Do I Know If My Weight Gain Is Caused By PCOS?
There is no one test that can diagnose PCOS. PCOS is diagnosed by a medical practitioner based on your medical history, a physical exam, blood tests, a glucose tolerance test and possibly a vaginal ultrasound.
Not all women with PCOS have insulin resistance. It is also important to consider that other medical conditions such as thyroid disease and adrenal disease can produce the same signs and symptoms of PCOS, including weigh gain.
Treatment Options For PCOS Related Obesity: Low-Carbohydrate Diet, Exercise and Metformin
There is no known cure for PCOS. However, women with PCOS related obesity have several treatment options. Women with PCOS related insulin resistance respond well to modifications in their diet and exercise program. In particular, women who cut back on their carbohydrate intake find it easier to control their weight.
Some women who are diagnosed with PCOS will be prescribed birth control pills in order to ensure a regular menses. For a woman with PCOS who is suffering from rapid weight gain, it is important to consider the possible weight gain side affects of some birth control pills.
There are many birth controls available today that are not commonly known to cause weight gain. Keep in mind also that birth control pills will not address insulin resistance.
Many doctors prescribe a drug called Metformin, or Glucophage, to help control the symptoms of PCOS. Metformin is commonly used to treat diabetes. Use of Metformin with a low carbohydrate diet and exercise can help a woman with PCOS control her weight.
Metformin is not approved by the FDA for treatment of PCOS. However, Metformin lowers testosterone production and changes the way insulin processes sugar in the blood. It has been shown to slow abnormal hair growth and restore regular ovulation. It is not unusual for women taking
Metformin to report having normal menstrual cycles once their insulin levels have stabilized. More importantly, Metformin, combined with a healthy diet and exercise program, has been shown to help women with PCOS lose weight. The most common side effect of Metformin is gastric upset.
Once Insulin Levels Are Restored, Women With PCOS Can Lose Weight And Maintain A Healthy Weight
Any woman suffering from a rapid, unexplained increase in weight who also has any number of the other symptoms of PCOS should consult with a medical practitioner to determine if PCOS is the cause.
If PCOS is diagnosed, insulin resistance is a likely cause of the rapid weight gain. If so, weight loss options such as a low carbohydrate diet and a regular exercise routine should be discussed in detail.
Women with PCOS should also consider the use of diabetes related medications such as Metformin which have proven helpful to women with PCOS who are trying to lose weight.
Once normal insulin levels are restored, the ability to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight will be much easier.