'How I managed PCOS bloating (and IBS) with this healthy living plan'
PCOS stands for Polycystic ovarian syndrome and it will affect one in five of your female friends. It could even be affecting you right now, without you even knowing.
Because an estimated 70% of all PCOS cases are missed, with many women thinking their PCOS symptoms, which include PCOS bloating, cramping, irregular periods, chin acne and excessive facial or bodily hair, are normal.
For those living with these debilitating symptoms - it can be a challenge to complete even the most simple daily tasks (fret not, lifestyle changes such as doing the correct exercise for PCOS can work wonders).
Firstly, what is PCOS?
It’s believed PCOS can be caused by a number of things, including hormone imbalances [high levels of androgens, the 'male' hormones in your body, including testosterone], a resistance to insulin or genetics. Sometimes PCOS is joined by other conditions such as: IBS, insulin resistance, depression.
'PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a condition which can affect the female reproductive organs,' explains Mr Sachchidananda Maiti, a Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at Pall Mall Medical, when discussing the symptoms of PCOS.
'A women’s ovaries contain immature eggs surrounded by a follicle. For women with a healthy menstrual cycle, each month an egg and its follicle matures and is released into the fallopian tube around mid-cycle, after competing with other few follicles, where it remains in the hopes of becoming fertilised.
'For women with PCOS, the eggs with multiple follicles remain underdeveloped, and none are able to be released. Instead, the follicles remain in the ovary as small cysts.'
PCOS bloating: why does it happen?
Whilst bloating from PCOS is totally natural, if it is playing with your confidence, there are ways to help. But what is bloating and why does it happen?
PCOS bloating (when your stomach feels swollen and painful after eating) can often be aggravated by certain foods. Whilst everyone digests foods differently, there are certain culprits that can often lead to bloating.
Foods that contains the carbohydrate called raffinose often lead to increased gas production in many people. These include foods such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, whole grains and cauliflower.
Our top tip? Keep a diary of all food and drink you eat, this an help identify the ones that are consistently making you bloat.
PCOS bloating: lifestyle tweaks to make
Many women are finding that simple lifestyle changes, such as doing effective exercise for PCOS, can make a massive difference in the severity and how regular the symptoms come - particularly PCOS bloating.
One such woman - Maeve Madden - is wanting to share her years of trial and error experiences (along with the knowledge amassed from her PT and nutritional qualification) with others, so they can benefit, too.
'I haven't always eaten the way I do today,' says Madden, referring to the dishes in her debut book Beat Your Bloat. 'When I was at uni, I followed every the faddy diet going from only eating strawberries and prawns like Victoria Beckham, to living off juices. All those eating plans that aren't sustainable. I didn't understand nutrition and the impact what I ate could have on my body. That's why I think Instagram is amazing - it's given us this giant encyclopedia of knowledge and access to what real women - not solely celebrities - around the world are doing. And that's really inspiring.'
'When I was diagnosed with PCOS in my final year of uni, it was a real shock for me. Having put up with cramping, PCOS bloating, adult acne and irregular/no periods, I realised my fertility could be at risk. So I decided to research nutrition more and find out how I could heal myself - or at least manage my symptoms - through food, as opposed to relying on medication.'
But Madden's 'bloating bible' isn't solely for those experiencing PCOS bloating. It's a useful resource for anyone with hormonal imbalances, conditions such as IBS and fibroid growth, or just wanting a sustainable approach to healthy living.
'This is definitely not a diet book,' says Madden. 'I want to show people that they can have their fish n' chips, pizza, avo toast and fajitas - and eat it, in a way that will could reduce their symptoms. As I also have IBS, I've had to take that into account, too. I still have flare ups but, by eating well most of the time, I am more in control. From feeling like there was no hope, I've been given a new life.'
And Madden is all about sharing. Read on as she shares her top tips for eating well, exercising right, and fixing PCOS bloating when it does occur.
PCOS Bloating: Maeve Madden's daily diet
'I usually have an egg-white omelette with spinach and avocado. I always include protein and a good fat with every single meal.'
'This might be something like a Mexican-style grilled chicken with a jalapeno dressing, veggies and flaxseeds. When you have PCOS, you’re more prone to insulin resistance; eating larger amounts of protein and fat than carbs can help to control that.'
'I like to have a lighter protein in the evening, so this meal is usually centred around fish. If I’m eating out, I might go for sushi, or if I’m in, I might make fish tacos with guacamole, salsa and a side salad. I’ve experienced symptoms of IBS since childhood and was diagnosed with PCOS at uni but for me, following a low fodmaps diet has really helped. Ingredients such as onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cheese and anything containing gluten make me bloat and give me painful cramping.'
'I love Kind bars – I’m particularly into the dark chocolate and mint ones at the moment. I also make a delicious smoothie/ice cream sort of thing by blitzing together frozen berries, avocado, nut milk, chocolate vegan protein powder and ice. Dairy triggers my IBS so this helps to satisfy those cravings.'
Read this for more inspiration on what a PCOS diet looks like.
How to work out with PCOS
1/ Exercise every day
'It doesn’t have to be a full-on HIIT class; a 30-minute walk around the park will suffice.'
Read why strength training is good for PCOS weight loss.
2/ Reduce the intensity
'This year, I’ve been exploring different forms of exercise and doing more Barre classes, Pilates and swimming, as opposed to repeatedly lifting weights at the gym. My body doesn’t feel under as much pressure, as a result, and, thanks to focusing on more functional movements, I feel more mobile – especially first thing in the morning.'
3/ Choose workouts that challenge the body and mind
'PCOS can cause major adrenal fatigue and leave you feeling constantly tired. By doing more yoga and Pilates, which are both mentally and physically challenging, I find myself more balanced and, because they help me sleep better, more energised.'
What to do when PCOS bloating strikes: your tool kit
Beat the bloat tonic
'Even though I know some things will trigger a bloat, I’ll still have them every now and then – like if I’m eating out or celebrating (life's all about balance). This drink never fails me. Mix together 2 tbsp apple organic, raw cider vinegar, juice of a lemon, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 3-4 ice cubes – then drink. It’s amazing for aiding digestive stress and PCOS bloating.'
'I have go-to yoga moves that help to alleviate stress, which is another trigger of PCOS bloating, such as the seated twist, cat cow and child’s pose. I’ll practice them before bed to help me sleep and speed things up overnights.'
You could also try these 8 gym moves that reduce bloating and self-massage tips for beating the bloat.
A decent sleep
'A good night’s sleep cures everything.'
If you think you might have PCOS, or have any other health concerns, seek expert advice from your GP.
Wondering whether your symptoms relate to endometriosis vs PCOS?
And check out these PCOS supplements - especially if you're considering conceiving.
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