PCOS – What you need to know?

Are you suffering from PCOS?

12.6% of females in Malaysia face problems with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, as known as PCOS. (1)

Your weight goes up even though you are just eating normally. 

Try to reduce the amount of food but your weight doesn’t go down but gain!

Always feel tired and depressed during the day.

Do you feel them cysters? 

PCOS does not only affect your life but can cause infertility if you are a mom trying to get pregnant. However, it is not your enemy. Treat it as your friend, be nice to it, and it will do the same to you. 

Wonder what lifestyle changes you can make to improve the condition?

If so, keep reading! 

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a metabolic disorder that affects women’s ovaries in their reproductive years. The symptoms include:

  • Irregular period
    Unlike the usual period cycle which is around 28 days, your cycle might be longer than that. For example, it only comes once in 6 months. Or, having a period that lasts longer than 7 days and heavy bleeding. 
  • Hormone imbalance
    A high level of androgen (or what we called a “male” hormone) may cause excessive body or facial hair growth. Sometimes, it causes acne and hair drop too.
  • Polycystic ovaries
    Your ovaries may contain many cysts(sacs of fluid)  which contain immature eggs. When the eggs are unable to be released, ovulation (menstruation) does not happen. This may cause infertility (unable to conceive).

The root cause remains unknown, but it is strongly suggested that PCOS can be triggered by genetic and environmental factors, such as lifestyle and diet. (2)

Complication of PCOS

PCOS is not merely an endocrine disorder, in long term, it may bring some complications. (3, 4)

1. Infertility

Women with PCOS are hard to get pregnant. Besides, they face a higher risk of pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and giving birth to a macrosomia baby (a baby who’s larger than average). 

2. Insulin resistance & Type 2 Diabetes

Most of the cysters have insulin resistance, where your body cannot respond to sugar well. In long term, you may develop type 2 diabetes.

3. Overweight and obesity

Compare to non-PCOS, the prevalence of overweight is higher among women with PCOS. Besides, they are more likely to have abdominal obesity, where there are excess fat deposits in the stomach area. This is worrying because it can be the root cause of many chronic diseases.

4. Cardiovascular risk

Cyster also has a higher risk of developing the heart-related disease. This is due to other complications like metabolic disorders, overweight, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and so on.

5. Endometrial and breast cancer

Since PCOS is a multisystem and hormone-related disorder, it increases the risk of the development of hormonal cancers such as endometrial, ovarian and breast cancers. 

6. Depression

Women with PCOS are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and reduced quality of life. In severe cases, it may lead to psychiatric disorders.

Oh no…being a cyster, does this means I am hopeless? Absolutely not! You can improve your condition by modifying your lifestyle. Here I share 4 broad tips to help you with your PCOS.

Approximately 75% of women with PCOS are founded to be insulin resistant.5

It can be the root cause of many things, like weight gain, hormonal imbalance and diabetes. Thus, the first thing to do is to restore insulin sensitivity.

4 lifestyle modifications to help PCOS

1. Weight management

Weight loss remains the most effective strategy for improving insulin sensitivity.
According to research, weight loss of 5% to 10% of the initial body weight has been shown to improve many of the features of PCOS. (6)

However, it is like a “chicken and egg” situation. Insulin resistance is a big contributor to weight gain, and you need to lose weight to reduce insulin resistance.
Thus, a proper diet approach plays an important role in this situation. 

2. A proper diet 

Keto Diet? Mediterranean Diet? Intermittent fasting? Low Carbs diet? Low Calories Diet? Which is the most suitable diet for PCOS?
Studies have shown that these diets show effective in reducing weight, reducing levels of insulin, and free testosterone. Choose what is best for you. (7)
The important keys are, to choose low glycemic carbohydrates, include more fibre, an adequate amount of protein and avoid inflammatory food.
Do not try to lose weight by not eating as this do more harm than good. It will slow down your metabolism and your weight is most likely to bounce back once you start eating normally. 

3. Exercise

Uhh…sounds like a broken record, right?

A moderate amount of exercise has proved not only to help in losing weight but improve blood lipid, fasting insulin, and also ovulation. (8
So if you ask if you can skip exercise and just eat healthily? I would suggest including diet and exercise in your approach as these two proved to have different benefits.
Women with PCOS are advised to engage in at least 90 minutes of aerobic activity per week, at moderate intensity, to improve reproductive and metabolic outcomes.
(This means that doing house chores is not counted in the 90 minutes of exercise)

4. Sleep

Sleep is probably the most neglected aspect of all. Long-term sleep deprivation can increase insulin resistance, which means your body has to produce more insulin to control blood sugar. (9

Lack of sleep can increase the production of ghrelin, a “hunger hormone” that increases appetite. Not getting enough sleep also makes you crave high-sugar food, and causes inflammation in your body. These make it harder for the body to reduce adipose (a.k.a fat) stores. (10

Getting good quality 7-9 hours of sleep definitely helps in managing PCOS. 

Lifestyle modifications are the first line and most sustainable treatment for PCOS. Sometimes, medications like metformin and other hormone medications are used in PCOS treatment, make sure to consult your physician before you use them. 

Do supplements help with PCOS?

Do you need supplements for your PCOS? Supplements such as inositol, vitamin D, and omega 3 are widely consumed by cysters in western countries if not Malaysia. Studies have also shown supplements do bring improvement in some PCOS patients. (11

However, like diet, supplement is not one size fits all. Each woman with PCOS requires different supplements depending on their symptoms and needs. For example, some take it to increase fertility while others consume it for a better mood.

Be sure to check with your dietitian and physician before taking any supplements.

Can PCOS be cured?

You probably heard “there is no cure for PCOS” and felt depressed about it. But hey, “no cure” does not mean “hopeless”. Symptoms of PCOS are definitely manageable and can be reversed.

Treating the main roots like insulin resistance, chronic inflammation and weight management can greatly help with the symptoms. 


PCOS management is a broad topic as it affects many in many ways like hormonal, emotional and physical aspects. It is not one size fits all.

Sadly, many PCOS cases are still underdiagnosed due to the unawareness of doctors or patients themselves.

It is advised to book a physical examination with your doctor if you are doubtful about it. 

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