The CDC estimates that polycystic ovarian disorder (PCOS) affects up to 12% of women in the US. The common PCOS symptoms include irregular periods, weight gain, insulin resistance, hirsutism, and high chances of infertility. Among these, shedding excess weight can help improve the remaining symptoms too. For example, A review study showed that weight loss through lifestyle modifications helps improve metabolic index and positively impacts managing PCOS in obese patients. To understand how weight loss works for PCOS, knowing what happens in your body when you have PCOS is important.

What Is PCOS?

PCOS is a hormonal problem that affects women in the reproductive age bracket. The development of cysts or fluid-filled sacs on the outer edge of the ovaries is the primary cause of PCOS. These cysts contain follicles (immature eggs) that inhibit the regular release of eggs and hamper periods. Increased androgenic activity in the body is also seen in women with PCOS. Generally, women's bodies produce small amounts of testosterone, the male sex hormone. However, testosterone levels go significantly up when you have PCOS. Hyperandrogenism because of PCOS is caused by insulin resistance, which makes losing weight difficult for women with PCOS.

Why Do Women Struggle To Lose Weight With PCOS?

The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to control blood sugar. It helps transfer glucose from blood into cells, which break it down for energy. But when you have insulin resistance, the body tissues reject insulin activity. Therefore, the body produces insulin in excess. High insulin levels raise blood sugar levels, causing weight gain and susceptibility to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. With insulin resistance, the body gets stuck in a vicious cycle of overweight or obesity as the body stores excess blood sugar as fat. The extra fat, in turn, tells the body to produce even more insulin.

Does Weight Loss Improve PCOS?

Though an uphill task, weight loss is the single most effective way to improve the symptoms of PCOS. Weight loss in PCOS can help restore the ovaries' normal function and gradually normalize hormone production. Improved hormonal balance helps with hirsutism, hair loss, acne, menstrual irregularities, and infertility. For many women, it also works as a self-esteem booster and promotes better mental health. Excess weight because of PCOS puts you at risk of diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, getting leaner, especially when you have PCOS, helps lower the risk of these health problems.

How Much Weight To Lose To Improve PCOS Symptoms?

Your ideal weight depends on your height and age. Consult your doctor to know how many pounds you should get rid of for PCOS-related weight loss. However, studies have shown that losing even as little as 5%-10% of excess body weight works effectively for improving PCOS symptoms.

How To Lose Weight When You Have PCOS?

Regular exercise, 7-9 hours of deep sleep daily, and a customized PCOS diet plan for weight loss are the three most effective ways to lose weight to alleviate PCOS symptoms. In addition, supplements like inositol may also support weight loss in women with PCOS.

So, the answer to the often-Googled question, 'if I lose weight, will PCOS go away?' is yes. However, consistency is the key. You might hit a plateau after initial progress or may not see any results for some time after starting your PCOS-induced weight loss journey. But do not give up. If required, seek help from a qualified health coach to make weight loss with PCOS easier.

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