So you’ve been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
You might be sitting there wondering where to go from here? You FINALLY have an explanation for why you’ve been experiencing all those symptoms; hooray! This is good news (even if it doesn’t feel like it) because NOW you can do something about it.
Root cause of PCOS
Managing PCOS enables you to take back control of your life and it starts by finding the root cause driving your symptoms.
PCOS occurs when there is an imbalance of hormones in the body (this is what causes all those annoying symptoms you’ve been experiencing). So it makes sense the aim of managing your PCOS should be to determine what’s causing this imbalance and work towards re-balancing your hormones.
Insulin Resistance & PCOS
This is the most common type of PCOS. Insulin resistance occurs when the body stops responding to insulin, and both sugar and insulin levels in the blood start to rise. High levels of insulin can stimulate androgen production, thus disturbing the normal balance of hormones.
A blood sugar test from your GP can determine whether you have insulin resistance. If insulin resistance is driving your PCOS it’s particularly important to adopt a healthy and nourishing diet, and exercise regularly to manage and improve your blood sugar levels.
Inflammation & PCOS
Inflammation can be present in all types of PCOS. Things such as; stress, food sensitivities, poor gut health can lead to long term inflammation in the body. Long term inflammation can disrupt the body’s normal hormone levels and wreak havoc on both your physical and mental health.
Symptoms of inflammation are things like; fatigue, anxiety, IBS like symptoms, or joint pain (to name a few). If inflammation is the driver of your PCOS: determine your underlying source and start including positive lifestyle behaviours to support your body and manage your symptoms.
Adrenal & PCOS
If you don’t fit the insulin resistant or inflammatory type PCOS you may be one of the few women who have an adrenal form of PCOS. This occurs when the ovaries function as normal but the adrenal glands produce androgens in response to “stress” which can then result in an imbalance of hormone.
A blood hormone test (testing for DHEA/DHEA-S) from your GP would help determine whether adrenal glands are functioning as normal. If your stress response system is driving your PCOS, learning to manage your stress and support your nervous system is vital!
Knowing your root cause can be a game changer when it comes to better managing your PCOS. Now you can work towards re-balancing your hormones, improving your symptoms, and get back to feeling better day to day!
About the Author
PCOS can make you feel like you’re going insane!
Some days are good, some are bad, and then there’s the days you just feel plain awful. It seems like nobody understands how you feel or what you’re going through, heck sometimes you don’t understand what’s going on and life feels out of control. Trust me when I say you’re not alone and trust me when I say there IS something you can do to take back control of your life!
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (or PCOS) occurs when there is an chronic imbalance of hormones in the body. This can cause havoc on the body and possible symptoms are; fatigue, bloating, hair loss or unwanted hair growth, acne, and weight gain.
What YOU can do about your PCOS?
So you may have been told to “lose 5-10% of your body weight” or “take these medications”, or if you have lean PCOS the classic “there’s nothing we can do, so just come back when you’re trying to get pregnant and we’ll help”. But let me tell you… there IS something YOU can do to help get your life back!
Now I’m not talking about going out and flogging yourself at the gym or running until you vomit. I’m talking about the kind of exercise to get your body moving, make you feel better, and improve your PCOS symptoms.
How will exercise help my PCOS?
Exercise can help you manage your PCOS in a number of ways such as;
- Help to balance your hormones,
- Reduce symptoms such as;
- Low moods, anxiety, and/or depression
- Help regulate your periods and hence increase chance of pregnancy,
- Manage your weight either by;
- Reducing body weight by 5-10% (which helps improve symptoms and increase chance of pregnancy), or
- Improve body composition by increasing muscle mass and maintaining a healthy level of fat (very important for ovulation!)
Along with a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, reducing stress, and learning to understand your cycle you can also improve acne, hair loss, unwanted hair, and improve overall well-being, and give you back some control in managing your PCOS.
Exercising for PCOS
So now you know why exercise is good for PCOS, but how should you add it into your life? Here is a bit of a guide…..
- Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week of moderate aerobic exercise
This is important for reducing inflammation in the body, and improving symptoms.
- Add 2-3 strength training days into your week
This is important for improving body composition, increasing metabolic rate for weight loss, and supporting the body through pregnancy.
- Find a form of exercise that you enjoy
This will make it much easier to stick with and reach your health goals, whether that’s gym exercises, pilates, group classes, running, swimming, aqua aerobics, cycling, dancing, hiking, there’s many ways to exercise so think big!
- And most importantly listen to your body!
Move in a way that will leave you feeling good, this may change how you exercise day to day, but it is important for long term recovery of your body.
There you have it, how you can take your health into your own hands and manage your PCOS. If you would like some more information or help in managing your PCOS contact one of our Exercise Physiologists and we will help you through your journey to better health.
About The Author
Hi, I’m Glenn, one of iNform’s clients and a new Whoop user. I’d love to give you a client’s perspective on the Whoop health coach!
By day I’m a desk jockey leading a small team within a big company. I drink way too much coffee, spend too much time in meetings, snack on bowls of cereal, raid the biscuit tin and lunch on whatever is quick and dirty. By night I’m a husband and father of three. Life is busy. Somewhere in there I try to fit in some exercise. The problem: I’m a washed-up age-group triathlete still trying to hit splits from 10 years ago. I just can’t exercise for fun, I need a challenge or a goal. All combined that puts me in a risky category: 95% zero physical activity and 5% full gas, nothing in between. Not surprisingly I became a yo-yo trainer – train, injury, repeat. That’s how I ended up at iNform!
So how does Whoop fit in to all of this? To me, Whoop is like your body’s credit card account balance. Your day to day activities are like withdrawals. Work and home stress, exercise, diet and general activity all drain your account. And just like a credit card you can’t keep withdrawing, you need to make repayments. That’s where sleep and recovery come in. If you keep withdrawing and don’t make enough repayments, the credit card interest catches up with you. Whoop gives you a running account balance to help you manage your life!
What have I learnt about ME so far?
- Sometimes I get to Friday night and I’m simply exhausted, wound-up and seriously cranky – I can see that in my recovery scores. This steady accumulation of work stress and exercise just doesn’t give me the chance to recover. Consecutive days of red zone is my trigger to course correct.
2. Training in the heat (>35C) hurts me big time. My 7km Corporate Cup run around the Torrens in the heat registered an unusually high strain and took much longer to recover from. I even bounced back quicker from the Murray Man triathlon (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run).
3. I get a pretty good and consistent sleep score these days. Interestingly though, more sleep doesn’t seem to be the silver recovery bullet for me. Active recovery, like an easy ride or a hike, seems to be the go.
So far, I’m loving it. It’s so simple yet so insightful – it’s just your heartbeat. While it’s somewhat concerning to see the direct impact that life’s strain has on your heart it’s also satisfying to see how your body responds to recovery. Whoop helps me quantify how my body is coping with life’s strain so I can course correct. After all, you can only manage what you measure!
And finally, one for the triathletes. Glenn’s Triathlon Trip #1: If you struggle to get into your wetsuit, try putting a plastic bag over your hand or foot before you slip it into the arm or leg hole.
Click here for more information on our Whoop health coaching service.
You’d think as an Exercise Physiologist with 17 years experience I wouldn’t need a health coach. In fact I thought I had a pretty good handle on my health. As Max wrote about his experience in a previous blog, we’ve had the opportunity to use a Whoop band. So we thought we’d use the opportunity to learn more about our exercise, sleep and recovery. What I discovered both surprised and motivated me!
Apart from being a great accountability tool to help guide me on my sleep and exercise intensity, what I found most interesting was Whoop’s recovery metric. You see the Whoop band monitors both your heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV). It then gives you a score as to how well you’ve recovered.
HRV is a marker of “internal” stress
Now in a previous blog, not only did I describe what HRV is, but I also explained that it is a biomarker that responds to stress, inflammation and even food! You see, because HRV is a measure of the balance between our fight or flight response and our rest and digest response, anything that our body finds “stressful” or “inflammatory” has the potential to be picked up by a drop in your HRV.
What your body finds stressful is extremely individual. This depends on a multitude of factors including our genetics, immune function and the environment we live in. You see it can be almost impossible to work out, and I’ve spent many years exploring what works for me.
Using HRV as a marker, which is obviously only one of many potential health markers, can be a really useful way to work out what MY body finds stressful and impacts on my recovery.
So within a week with Whoop, I’ve already learnt (or reaffirmed) something about my diet that my body finds stressful.
So what did my 24/7 health coach reveal?
Here’s a screenshot of my recovery levels using the Whoop Dashboard. When your in the “green” zone you’re regarded as fully recovered, while the red zone indicates that you’ve got to tread carefully. This could be an indicator of training too hard, you’re recovering from an injury, or you might be coming down with sickness. For me it was none of these.
You see on the Saturday night I chose to have fried food and a couple of alcoholic drinks. Now I’ve had a few nights where I’ve had similar alcohol consumption and while it definitely affects my recovery it’s usually not enough to push me into the red zone.
So my thoughts are now directed toward the fried, fatty “pub meal” that I chose to eat that Saturday night. In particular how I felt that Saturday (and even Sunday) night! And as I explained in a previous blog, saturated and trans-fats are something has has been shown to affect your HRV.
What a good night’s sleep looks like for me
Just so you can see things a bit more visually I’ve included a graph or my heart rate on a “good” night, as well as my heart rate during the night after that meal.
Now my HRV on this “good” night was around 130, and thus far it is consistently between 100 and 140. This number varies with age, fitness and genetics so the score means very little. However it’s the change that matters.
So what did the bad night’s sleep look like?
On the bad night my HRV had dropped to 36, a very low score. You’ll see in the graph that my recovery score was only 13% as compared to 98% in the previous one.
What you’ll also notice between the two graphs is the difference in the heart rate overnight. You can see that it took most of the night for my heart rate to drop. My average resting HR is normally around 46, that night it was 63. This is 37% higher!
Now subjectively I woke up feeling bloated and very lethargic. This can happen from time to time and I often don’t think about it twice. But in my gut (pun intended), I’ve known that there are certain foods that don’t agree with me and I need to moderate.
Why Whoop is my 24/7 health coach
So now I’m extremely motivated as I now have a tool to help quantify my recovery. I can use this to work out my individual response to the multitude of factors that life throws at all of us! I’m seeing the Whoop band as my 24/7 health coach. Guiding me to make changes to my Food, Exercise, Sleep and Stress which at the end of the day will help make me fitter, healthier and improve my energy!
Click here for more information on our Whoop health coaching service.
About The Author
Now most of us know that our heart rate changes in times of stress. We feel it racing when there’s an impending deadline at work. It’s also well known that regular exercise lowers our resting heart and reduces our risk of many chronic diseases. But did you know that food can also affect heart rate?
Before I explain how food can impact on your heart rate, let me explain in a little more detail the way it does this.
Firstly, it’s important to know that a healthy heart rate does not beat regularly. For example if your resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute, we would not expect your heart to beat once every second. In fact, the variability in your heart rate has been shown to predict risk of premature death in people who have had a heart attack.
What is Heart Rate Variability?
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is not new. In fact, we’ve been measuring (HRV) since the advent of the ECG in the 19th century. What we’ve learnt since then is that when a heart rate is more variable it tends to indicate better health.
Now HRV is a measure of the time difference between successive heart beats in what’s known as the RR interval (see figure below). You’ll notice that the two RR intervals in the figure below have a different RR interval, which is normal. If you have greater variability in the RR interval you are said to have a high HRV.
So while HRV is a measure of heart beats, the signal that creates the variability in the RR interval originates in your nervous system. Therefore our HRV is seen as a measure of the balance between two branches of our nervous system.
The parasympathetic branch controls things like digestion or your fingernails and hair growing. It is often thought of as the “rest and digest” system and it causes a decrease in heart rate.
The sympathetic branch controls our responses to things like stress and exercise. It is our “fight or flight” system and causes an increase in your heart rate.
When our nervous system is balanced it tends to send a lot of mixed messages. Tis result in lots of fluctuation and is highly responsive to change and we then see a high HRV. When one aspect of our nervous system takes over our HRV is less responsive and we get a low HRV.
If you’d like a more detailed explanation on heart rate variability, this article from Whoop makes it nice and clear.
What has HRV got to do with our health?
While HRV is seen as a measure of balance in our nervous system, because this system responds to exercise, psychological stress, inflammation and our underlying physiology it can be also seen as a marker of health.
In fact, changes in HRV correlates with CRP which is an inflammatory marker in your body. It has also been used to predict cardiovascular disease and diabetes (Young & Benton, 2018). Our HRV improves as we get fitter and healthier so it can be a really useful way to track our health.
How does food affect Heart Rate Variability?
You can see that HRV is more than a measure of stress and fitness level. But what we’re starting to learn is that your HRV will even respond to your diet. One well established link is that between our HRV and alcohol (Young & Benton, 2018). Both acute and chronic alcohol consumption causes a lower HRV.
Further to this, there is a growing pool of evidence to show that HRV responds to high blood sugar levels and it decreases as a response to saturated and trans-fats in our diet (Young & Benton, 2018). On the flip side a Mediterranean diet and omega-3 fat consumption tend to improve your HRV. Interestingly all of these food behaviours are all related to your long term health!
So those of you familiar with our FESS questionnaire (Food, Exercise, Stress, Sleep), will notice that changes in HRV respond to most of these behaviours in some way. Perhaps then using this measure could be another way to monitor our long term health?
This is something I’ve been exploring with myself using a “Whoop” band and I plan to share these personal insights in my next blog!
Click here for more information on our Whoop health coaching service.
About The Author
Whilst reading Stephen Lunn’s article in the Weekend Australia this past weekend, ‘How to live well in your final decade’ I couldn’t help but think of many of iNform’s wonderful clients aged 70+.
If you didn’t get a chance to read this article here is a synopsis:
- Australian’s are living longer than we ever have, but the length of our ‘quality years’ is not increasing proportionally.
- This means on average we are spending more years in a state of ill-health, dealing with disease and/or disability.
- To narrow the gap between years lived and quality years the following is recommended: Get fitter and stronger; eat well; keep you mind occupied; be part of a community; remain useful.
Many of the people aged over 70 that I have worked with over the past fifteen years tick all, if not most of those boxes.
I guess that is to be expected. As an Exercise Physiologist I do see a biased sample of Australia’s population.
The only people that access my services are people who are wanting to take control and action over their health and to be brutally honest, have the means to do so.
I never see people who are passive in their health- that are allowing the deterioration of their health to just happen to them. Why would they seek out someone like me?
Unfortunately I also don’t get to see many of those who have the will to take control, but just lack the means (location/transport; finances; awareness etc etc). That is a massive topic for another day- for now I would like to focus only on those I do see.
When I think of the men and women of 70+ years that I have trained, the following things come to mind:
- An unwillingness to write things off as ‘it’s probably just old-age. No, if your knee is sore, there is a reason for it that may well be changeable.
- A desire to travel. And I don’t mean on a Greyhound Bus with an occasional stop at a local ‘famous bakery’. I mean hiking holidays in Peru, Nepal or Switzerland; expeditions to Antarctica by ice-breaker boat; solo driving around Australia in a Camper-van; Ski holidays in Japan; water-skiing on the Murray River. I have helped people of 70+ years achieve all of these things and many more.
- A drive to get stronger. Not just to help bone density or cardiovascular health. But to feel empowered, independent, capable. One of my clients, a woman aged 71 takes great pleasure helping younger women put their bags into overhead lockers on her many flights to far-flung destinations around the world.
- Improving strength and fitness to help them complete their first marathon, or long-distance cycling event.
- A conviction to live independently. Not just exist, or survive. I am talking about hosting parties and other social events; or fixing things or even renovate by themselves.
It is a great privilege to help people achieve these types of things after their 70th birthday. You are never too old to get started, unless you believe you are.
About The Author