Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Not-So-Secret Life of PCOS

You might have experienced irregular periods at some point in your life. But have you ever found them extra painful? Were you stressed throughout the cycle? If you aren’t aware of what causes these irregular bouts of periods, then it’s time take a closer look and figure out the reason.

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where there is an imbalance in the level of sex hormones in women. This leads to the growth of cysts in the ovaries, which disturbs the entire hormonal axis and in turn aggravates the condition by forming more cysts. PCOS can take a toll on a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function, and appearance.

What causes them?
As the exact cause of this disease is unknown, it is said that hormonal imbalances and genetics play an important role. And in most cases, the hormones that are impacted are:

  • Increase in androgen levels (male hormone)
  • Decrease in progesterone levels
  • Resistance in the production of insulin (poor sugar control)

Women suffering from PCOS often produce higher-than-normal levels of androgen that can affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.

It is seen that the symptoms typically start right after the woman begins to menstruate. Due to the disturbance in the hormonal levels, the symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular menstruation 
  • Excessive hair on the face and body 
  • Male pattern of baldness
  • Weight gain/obesity
  • Anovulation
  • Inability to conceive or a higher likelihood for miscarriages
  • Irregular and painful periods
  • High cholesterol and blood pressure

Women with PCOS tend to gain weight and find it difficult to lose that weight. And because it forms a vicious cycle, it is important and significant for them to lose weight, as it helps in bringing the hormonal level under control. Weight loss is so important that even losing 10% of the weight brings down the severity of PCOS.

It is important to remember that the serious nature of these symptoms makes it very important to get treated in a holistic way and at the earliest possible.

Diet and guidelines to control PCOS
If you’re suffering from PCOS, it is vital that you get yourself diagnosed by the doctor at the earliest possible. It is even more important to follow guidelines and maintain a diet to control PCOS.

  • Cut down to simple sugar, as complex sugars bring about a surge in the blood sugar levels, leading to poor control of blood sugar and weight gain 
  • Include complex carbs in your diet such as whole wheat products, barley-natural diuretics, oats, fruits and vegetables, pulses and legumes, and lean meat
  • Regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels by eating certain fruits such as apple, jamun, grapefruit and vegetables such as bitter gourd, fenugreek and herbs (cinnamon
  • Limit yourself to monounsaturated foods (olive oil, almonds and walnut), polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils), and omega 3 fats (salmon and flaxseeds) as they help correct the lipid profile
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water in a day. Regular intake of water will help with detoxification, avoid water retention, keeps you hydrated throughout and helps you lost unnecessary fat in the body
    • Exercise regularly as it will help in: 
    • Maintaining your metabolic rate
    • Reducing weight
    • Bringing down stress levels with the release of hormones like serotonin and dopamine. 
  • Quit smoking as it stimulates the androgen hormone production and is the main cause of PCOS
  • Avoid alcohol as it affects the liver and is responsible for the entire body metabolism

Women suffering from PCOS have a good prognosis for conception. All it requires is a little patience, dedication, time, and the will to modify your lifestyle. Along with the regular check-ups with the doctor, it will help in enhancing your fertility naturally. With the proper treatment, PCOS can be managed in the long run and the patient can live a relatively symptom free life.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Healthy Holiday Hogfest

It’s vacation season and during this time of the year we tend to indulge a little more than usual. In fact, holidays are incomplete without gorging on a few delicacies. It’s time to avoid bringing back a few extra pounds and a paunch as your souvenir. Here are some tips to eat healthy without restricting yourself on your vacation.
  1. Always carry healthy snacks such as dry fruits, instead of adding on calories on a bag of potato chips. This will let you enjoy something a little extravagant for dinner/dessert.
  2. Eat a healthy breakfast that constitutes a combination of both protein and complex carbohydrate food. It is strongly recommended that you include more proteins than carbohydrates, as proteins take longer to digest and make you feel full. For a healthy start to the day, break the fast with cereals, milk, eggs, yoghurt, and oats. 
  3. Don’t limit yourself to salads the whole time, but share your meals with someone you’re vacationing with. By doing so, you cut down the amount of fat in the meal, and both of you will be more satisfied. 
  4. Monitor liquid calories and keep an eye on what you’re drinking. Limit yourself to one drink a day and switch from cocktails to wine or light beer. Alternate a high-calorie drink or cocktail with a glass of water throughout the night. In addition, drinking plenty of water helps you stay hydrated and curb your cravings. 
  5. Split and share the desserts amongst the other members of the group. Also, you can indulge in these desserts during lunchtime or carry a dark chocolate that will fortify your dessert. 
While on vacation, eating out and indulging is part of the experience, making it hard for us to strike a balance between going overboard and eating extremely healthy. All you have to do is follow the right guidelines, let go off the restriction, eat healthy, and have tons of fun with family and friends!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Ward off the Water Weight

You might have heard people complain about the extra layered fat, irrespective of the number of hours they put to work out. Well, that ‘accumulated fat’ or the ‘muscle-masking mess’ is what is termed as ‘Water Retention’ or ‘Fluid Retention’.

Water Retention, also known as Edema, is an abnormal build up of fluid in the body. Most commonly seen in pregnant women and older adults, in this condition the ankles, feet, and legs get bloated up. Water Retention is broadly categorised into two main causes: General and Pathological.

While General causes involve: gravity, pregnancy, menstrual cycle, burns, and dietary factors, Pathological causes include conditions like heart diseases, kidney failure, and allergic reactions that have been associated with water retention in arms and legs. Such factors of water retention result in the accumulation of fluids in spaces between cells and tissues by changing the process that normally clears the extra fluid. Pregnant women, who are mostly affected by this, undergo a wide variety of changes in the body and the hormonal levels. The different also seasons have a great impact on water retention, especially summers. Summers are when you sweat a lot, don’t consume enough water, and are copped up in air conditioned rooms, all of which can lead to water retention. However, water retention, without any underlying diseases, can be easily treated with home remedies.

You can try these at home:
  • Place a pillow below the legs while lying down. It helps revive the bloodstream from these areas 
  • Limit your intake of salt, as it is quite beneficial 
  • Drink lots of water and cut down on natural dehydrators such as tea and coffee 
  • Exercise regularly and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. It will supply the required nutrients that improve blood circulation and also prevent water retention. 

Thus, depending on how deeply it is affected, one has to undergo appropriate, prompt diagnosis and treatment of the underlying condition that will resolve the water retention in the body.

After all, it’s better late than never.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Have a nutritious Navratri!

Navratri means nine nights, where we devote three nights to worship Durga, the Goddess of Valour, three nights to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, and three nights to Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. Celebrated twice a year, this festival is a time of celebrations, fasting, and feasting. While a small amount of indulgence is good, you can go overboard easily. Thus, giving into your cravings during these nine days can adversely affect your health.

All you have to do is follow some simple steps that will help you enjoy the festivities, without neglecting your diet.

Guidelines during Navratri:

1. Eat small meals at regular intervals every 1 and ½ to 2 hours. By eating at least 7-8 meals in a day, you can maintain a high metabolic rate. This will also help keep your portions under control and control your cravings.

2. Substitute certain ingredients and cooking methods that will make the food more nutritious while retaining the taste and flavour.
  • Shallow fry certain food items instead of deep-frying. E.g. Instead of making kuttu atta (buck wheat) puris and pakodas, make kuttu rotis 
  • Substitute whole milk with skimmed milk or double toned milk 
  • Use boiled potato or sweet potato instead of fried potato 
  • Replace sugar with low calorie sweeteners, brown sugar, or jaggery 
  • Use rajgira flour (Amaranth flour) to make chapattis instead of kuttu atta, as it is lighter and lower in calories 
3. Ensure you keep yourself hydrated at all times. Drink enough liquids such as coconut water, lemonade (without sugar), buttermilk, low fat smoothies, and milk shakes. You can also eat juicy fruits and vegetables like oranges, sweet lime, cucumber, watermelon etc.

4. Include dry fruits in your diet such as almonds, walnut, and pistachio. Dry fruits serve as an excellent snack between the three main meals.

5. Make sure you eat your heaviest meal in the mornings and lightest meals during dinner.

Following a healthy diet during these nine days of Navratri will help you detox, while you take in the celebrations. So enjoy the first Navratri of the year in a healthy way!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Dieting, dieting, dieting..

Atkin’s diet, 12-week Body for Life diet, Hacker’s diet, Cookie diet, Weight Watchers diet… the list is endless.

Dieting has been around since the 18th Century, spurred by one man’s need to regain the health he had lost due to obesity. But it only gained momentum in the 19th Century, with the introduction of the ‘Banting’ diet, a role model for some of our current diets.

The biggest myth with regard to dieting is that ‘Dieting means skipping meals, eating 1000 kcal or lesser in a day, or simply starving’. The truth is that by skipping meals or starving yourself, your body will be unable to meet the bare minimum calorie requirement of the day. This in turn slows down your metabolism rate and also hampers the functioning of all vital organs. Also, your weight may dip temporarily as you will jump to your original weight the minute you switch back to your original eating pattern.

Dieting should mean eating right and balancing your nutrients intake, instead of starvation. Try and understand your body, especially your metabolism rate, as it can help you tailor a diet to help you lose weight in the right manner. Here are some simple steps you can follow:

1. Eat a heavy breakfast, a light lunch, and a frugal dinner
2. Increase the frequency of your meals. Include three small meals between your main meals
3. Concentrate on low glycemic index foods and ensure that you incorporate sufficient protein in the diet
4. Increase your water intake, as low glycemic index foods require more water to digest well
5. Avoid tea and coffee, as they dehydrators the body

As you would have noticed, the underlying message here is to ‘Not Starve’. When you eat healthy, you lose weight easily while remaining fit.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Time to break it down

Did you know that in India, one in seven individuals is a diabetic or a pre-diabetic?

90 to 95% of all diabetic patients suffer from Type II Diabetes. Once called the non-insulin-dependent diabetes, Type II Diabetes, today, is the most common form of diabetes. In this form of diabetes, the pancreas either produces less insulin or the body cannot use the insulin well enough.

Insulin is the body’s primary energy-generating hormone, and when there isn't enough insulin or it’s not used appropriately, sugar is not broken down into energy and does not reach the cells. As a result, sugar in the blood increases, leaving the body cells hungry for energy. Over time, high sugar levels in the blood can damage nerves and small blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, and heart.

Who all have a higher risk of getting Type II Diabetes?
  • People over the age of 30-35 years 
  • People who suffer from obesity problems 
  • People who have an history of Gestational Diabetes 
  • People who have a strong family history of type 2 diabetes 
  • People who have been pre-diabetic for a long time 
  • People who lead a sedentary life style 
  • People who have erratic food patterns 
  • People who suffer from high blood pressure or high lipid profiling 

If not controlled, diabetes can become a silent killer. However, there are some simple tips to help keep your blood sugar levels in check. They are:
  • Avoid high GI foods like rice and substitute it with roti 
  • Avoid foods high on fat like red meat, cheese, cream, butter etc. 
  • Eat small portions of food frequently 
  • Eat insulin-sensitive fruits like apple, grape fruit or jamun fruit 
  • Reduce intake of salt and processed foods 
  • Keep your weight under check 
  • Exercise regularly 

Being diagnosed with diabetes is not the end of the world because with a few simple precautionary measures and much-needed lifestyle changes, you can continue to lead a normal life.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Who moved my BMR?

Losing weight is easy, balancing that weight loss and health – not so much!

In today’s sedentary lifestyle, people are easily piling on the pounds and as a result, need to consciously try to lose weight and become fit. The most obvious choices are either going to the gym or dieting. But guess what? You need both! Yes, unless you find the right balance between maintaining a regular workout routine and following a good diet, your success will be very limited.

A key step in losing those pounds and staying healthy is to understand your body. And one of the most important parameters to help you to understand your body is the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Basal Metabolic Rate is the bare minimum amount of calories the body requires to perform vital functions while at rest.

A high metabolic rate means the ability to burn excess calories more efficiently, because muscles burn calories faster than fat. The more muscle you have in relation to your body fat, the higher your metabolism will be. In simple words, metabolic rate is the reason behind your friend’s ability to eat anything while remaining slim and trim.

There are many reasons behind the slowdown of your metabolic rate, the most important one being age. In women, the metabolic rate begins to slow down by the age of 30, while for men it’s 40. In addition, for women, certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism and hormonal imbalance (PCOD/PCOS) can also slow down the metabolic rate. But there’s no need to start shaking your head in dismay yet, because, for every con, there’s a pro. High fibre foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, wheat, ragi, jowar, bajra, meat, milk, etc., help sustain your metabolism rate along with providing good nutrition. Most importantly, exercise will help you maintain your metabolism and aid in losing or maintaining weight.