Monday, June 30, 2008

Big Girls Can Lose It – beat the PCOS battle & turn your life around!

“The struggle with my weight began when I was 12. By the time I was 18, I weighed 82kg. It was when I weighed in at 120kg on my 21st birthday that I decided to look harder for an answer. PCOS has been a hard thing in my life, but knowing there is actually a reason for all the symptoms makes feeling ‘different’ a bit easier. I am now taking control of my life & know that I am the one who can turn my life around! ” - Kim

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is a serious hormonal imbalance that affects one in eight women of child bearing age. It has been recognized as one of the leading causes of infertility and with its influences on cardiovascular health, it also contributes to one of the largest causes of deaths within Australia.

Symptoms can be embarrassing

irregular periods
infrequent or absent ovulation
low libido
excess hair on the face and body
male pattern balding
high blood pressure
high cholesterol
insulin resistance/ type 2 diabetes
sugar/carbohydrate cravings
darkened skin patches
weight gain
mood changes

PCOS is often hereditary – although many women in the past may not have been diagnosed making it difficult to ascertain a hereditary link.

Usually women with the condition will begin to experience menstrual irregularities within one to three years after her first period. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. In the past, it was thought that PCOS was caused entirely by excess production of the hormone androgen. More recent research has shown that Metabolic Syndrome associated with insulin resistance and high levels of insulin play key roles in PCOS.

Metabolic Syndrome may be the condition which best illustrates the long-term effects of our Western lifestyle habits. The usual suspects are responsible: high calorie, high carbohydrate diets, lack of exercise, hormonal imbalances and chronic stress are a few of the major causes of metabolic dysfunction.

Although genetic and environmental factors contribute to metabolic syndrome, obesity and physical in-activity are the most important. Often women with PCOS try hard to lose the weight only to find they can’t lose it – or it rebounds.

So how does Insulin affect PCOS?

Both insulin resistance and high male hormone levels lead to disturbances in the production of the female hormones that control a woman's menstrual cycle. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia appear to cause the overproduction of androgens associated with PCOS.
So how do you lose weight when you have PCOS?

Whether obesity is a cause of PCOS or obesity is a result of PCOS is unclear. A greater distribution of fat in the center of the body (sometimes called an "apple" type of fat distribution), is associated with PCOS.

The symptoms of PCOS may be lessened by weight loss, or increased by weight gain, but the syndrome is not caused solely by weight or body mass. One of the most important things to remember is that we are all different – what foods to eat vary according to what your individual hormonal influences are. The best approach is to adopt a lifestyle that improves hormonal balance resulting in metabolic health, allowing you to lose fat, keep it off & improve overall metabolic health.

It is important for you to:

Identify hormonal imbalances
Implement a diet that reflects your hormonal needs
Exercise regularly
Implement nutritional & herbal support

Supportive nutrition is important to assist in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. Magnesium has been shown to improve glucose & insulin balance. Chromium, taurine & zinc deficiency can also lead to metabolism imbalances.

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can switch on the enzymes specifically involved in oxidising or burning of fat.

It’s not fair – my body responds to exercise differently

Exercising with PCOS is different. Since your body is over secreting excess male hormones, the use of heavy weights will promote excessive muscle bulk and so should be avoided. Exercise that maintains muscle mass (for example resistance exercise with light weights) & cardio activities such as cycling & running are better choices for burning weight.

Knowing is healing. So don't give up when you can’t find answers. Listen to your symptoms – they are your body’s way of telling you something is not quite right. The choices you make from this day forward will have a direct effect on your future well-being.

Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of MassAttack, is a practising naturopath specialising in the research and development of natural treatment programs for women with hormonal imbalances, which have contributed to such symptoms as weight gain, cravings, anxiety & mood swings. She is both an accomplished writer and the recent recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award 2006.

Monday, June 23, 2008

“What’s wrong with me?”

I’d never heard of Post Partum Thyroiditis until it was revealed as the culprit behind why I felt so unwell after the birth of my beautiful daughter.

For me, having a baby was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. It was also one of the most exhausting! For years I was a size 10-12. I maintained my weight by exercising once a week & eating a healthy diet. I fitted nicely into the simplistic formula “eat right & exercise” to look great.

But suddenly, after birth my health changed. Almost overnight I had changed from an intelligent active woman; to a fatigued, brainless forgetful sloth. I was tired, teary & gaining weight at a rapid rate. Even increasing my exercise & eating a well balanced calorie controlled diet didn’t work!

One year later I felt dreadful & what was going on inside my body was troubling. It was as though my brain had ‘stopped working’. I knew motherhood was going to be challenging, but I also knew that something was wrong – clearly, I was unwell. Finally, after months of searching I found the answer - Post Partum thyroiditis!

So what is Postpartum thyroiditis?

Postpartum thyroiditis is a temporary, painless inflammation of the thyroid gland that occurs within a year after 5 – 10% of pregnancies.

The cause of this condition isn't known, although it is linked with immune system disorders, traumatic births or excessive blood loss during labor.

Initial stage: rapid heartbeat, sudden and unexplained weight loss, nervousness, fatigue and increased sensitivity to heat, recurrent miscarriage.

Later stages: fatigue, weight gain, mood changes, aches & pains, feeling the cold easily, fluid retention, recurrent miscarriage.

In most cases, thyroid function returns to normal within 12 to 18 months however, some women develop long-term hypothyroidism and need lifelong hormone support.

Achieving a formal diagnosis can take time, but the important thing to remember is that if you feel unwell & not yourself, it’s time to begin searching for answers.

1. Take a pro active approach to your health. Keep a diary & rate on a day to day basis from 1 – 5 of how you are feeling. List your signs and symptoms that you experienced that day.

2. Ask your Dr to do some blood tests. It is often pointless to just check T4 levels when testing for Post Partum thyroiditis. It is better to check, T3, T4, TSH & Autoimmune antibodies. Review the tests as whole rather just as one or two elements.

Remember though, it is not unusual for blood tests to be performed with the best of intentions, only to be incorrectly interpreted or completed in part. Unfortunately the ‘reference ranges’ applied to blood tests can also mislead a correct symptomatic diagnosis. So the most accurate diagnosis is achieved when your history is looked at in entirety.

3. Summarise your diary & take it to your GP. This will make it easier for them to make a more accurate diagnosis.

Most importantly though, remember you are not alone and with the right advice, you can ‘feel yourself again’.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Introduction : Weight loss queen, what we are

This is an introduction to a new addition to the blogsphere. Weightloss Queen is a place for discussion, reviews, news, opinions and suggestions on all things to do with weightloss. The focus will be mainly on women’s health, we know a lot about it here! We are based in Australia, as is our parent company, MassAttack, but thought has no geographical restrictions. The western world is in the grip of a terrible sickness that just one hundred years ago would seem unimaginable; thousands of solutions have been suggested but for many people none of them work. We want to shake some of them out and give them some air. You’ll see the whole range on this blog, everything from interesting theories to yummy recipes to hard facts. Everything to answer the question, “what makes people overweight and what can be done about it?”

Updating will be weekly, a new post every Monday.