For women with PCOS, chronic stress is a critically important issue.
A stressor is something that stimulates your body to respond in some way. Stress can be good, neutral, or bad. Stress is bad when you have too much of it, too often.
A stress response include a release of a variety of stress hormones (primarily cortisol), an increase in blood sugar, muscle tightening, a rise in blood pressure, increased pulse rate, and rapid, shallow breathing. This is your "fight or flight" response to a situation you're presented with.
Stress hormones may contribute to ovarian cysts, anxiety, depression, excessive eating, weight gain (especially in your mid-section), infertility, chronic inflammation, miscarriage, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, premature birth or lower birth weight, and more.
Effective management of stress is critically important to women with polycystic ovary syndrome because research from the University Hospital of Essen in Germany has shown that you are more sensitive to stress than other women are.
In this study, 32 women with polycystic ovary syndrome and 32 non-PCOS women had to complete a public speaking assignment. Biochemical measurements showed the women with this disease had a more stressful public speaking experience compared to the other women.
So it's more important for you than for the average woman to implement methods for reducing chronic stress.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have a higher risk of an unsuccessful pregnancy than normal women do.
A medical study from the University of Michigan has revealed a possible connection between miscarriage and the mother's cortisol level during the first 3 weeks after conception. Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted when you are under stress.
Since women with polycystic ovarian disease already have an increased risk of miscarriage to begin with, and since they are more sensitive to stress, and since stress increases miscarriage, it make a great deal of sense to reduce your stress level if you intend to become pregnant, and while you're pregnant.
There are lots of ways to manage and reduce chronic stress. We've listed below a couple of ideas.
When you're feeling stressed out, do you unconsciously start to eat foods or beverages that make you feel better, at least temporarily?
Afterwards, you may feel guilty and wonder why you ate a pint of ice cream instead of a garden salad. You know the ice cream was not a good idea but you did it anyway.
The reason for this behavior when you're under stress is that a pleasure center in your brain called the "nucleus Accumbens" stimulates your desire to consume something that you perceive as comforting. These foods usually have a sweet or fat component.
After eating these foods, your nucleus Accumbens calms down and your perceived stress level is reduced.
But consuming junk foods as a way to deal with stress has disastrous consequences for your health, causes you to gain weight around your middle, and worsens all of your PCOS symptoms.
Eating disorders are more common in women with PCOS than in the general population. Stress control is a great way to deal with this problem if you are afflicted with polycystic ovary syndrome.
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Dr. Amy Day: How to Manage It
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Dallman ME et al, Chronic stress and comfort foods: self-medication and abdominal obesity, Brain Behav Immun. 2005 Jul;19(4):275-80.
Pecoraro N et al, Glucocorticoids dose-dependently remodel energy stores and amplify incentive relativity effects, Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005 Oct;30(9):815-25.
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