If you're living with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), you likely know just how hard it can be to manage the symptoms – many of which can be debilitating. You might be surprised to learn that one of the most common household staples is making your condition worse – we’re talking about added sugar here. We’re sharing 3 reasons why the sweet stuff isn’t so sweet for your PCOS.
PCOS involves the overproduction of androgens like testosterone, along with lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin – to explain it simply, this stuff is important for androgen regulation. Irregular menstrual cycles are one of the common symptoms of POCS. Excess hair growth and hair loss are also associated with the condition, along with weight gain and acne – but there’s not just one kind of PCOS, there are actually four. Insulin-resistant PCOS is the most common type of PCOS and it involves high levels of insulin in the body, while post-pill PCOS often occurs after coming off birth control, as many experience hormonal changes as androgens suddenly resurge after being repressed for so long. Inflammatory PCOS involves chronic inflammation, which can lead to excess androgen production, and therefore PCOS. Then we’ve got adrenal PCOS, which is characterised by excess cortisol or androstenolone production, with the former also known as the “stress” hormone and the latter a common steroid found in the body. Affecting nearly 10% of women of menstrual age around the globe, POCS is a hormonal disorder which causes enlarged ovaries and the development of cysts. There are a number of debilitating symptoms associated with the condition, take a look at some of the most common signs of the disease:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy and/or painful periods
- Unexplained weight gain
- Thinning hair or excess hair
Here are a few of the ways added sugar could be making your PCOS symptoms worse.
#1: Increased insulin resistance
One of the main drivers of PCOS is insulin resistance, which leads to high levels of insulin in the blood and can cause a range of symptoms. As we know, added sugar can exacerbate insulin resistance, making it harder for your body to regulate its blood-sugar levels. When you consume foods that are high in sugar like confectionery, fast food and even some commercial breads, your body has to produce more insulin to deal with the glucose, which can have a chain reaction as it worsens PCOS symptoms. This is especially dangerous for those dealing with insulin-resistant PCOS, as it’s already one of the major problems patients struggle with. If left untreated, the path may lead to type 2 diabetes.
Another way that added sugar can worsen PCOS is by increasing inflammation in the body. How, you ask? Well, when you live on a high-sugar diet, your body experiences an inflammatory response – this means your gut health takes a hit, and this can affect everything from your digestion to your mental health to your reproductive health. Plus, inflammation can worsen PCOS symptoms like acne and weight gain, making it harder to manage the condition. It’s important to limit your intake of added sugars and focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods to fight inflammation – this means opting for whole fruits and veggies, fermented foods, nuts and seeds, herbal tea and legumes.
#3: Increased weight gain
Another major concern is the ways in which sugar contribute to weight gain, another common symptom of PCOS. When you consume a lot of sugar, it can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and crash, leading to cravings and overeating – but that’s not the only issue; we also know that fructose is metabolised by the liver, and when this organ gets overwhelmed, we end up with visceral fat. This is the dangerous kind – unlike subcutaneous fat – and it increases our risk for fatty liver disease and obesity. To make matters worse, sugary foods are often high in calories and low in nutrients, which can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. By limiting your intake of added sugars, you can avoid worsening your PCOS symptoms.
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