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Understanding PCOS Belly: What Does It Look Like?

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Written by

Science & Humans

Medically approved by

Medically approved by

Maria Jacob

Last updated

Monday, June 26, 2023

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a hormonal condition that affects women who are of reproductive age (1). Weight gain, especially around the midsection, is one of the typical symptoms of PCOS. This may cause a distinctive look that is occasionally referred to as a "PCOS belly."

PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that manifests as irregular menstrual cycles, insulin resistance, and a sex hormone imbalance.

Multiple ovarian cysts, which are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that can lead to hormonal imbalances and a variety of symptoms in women with PCOS, are common.

Depending on the study and diagnostic standards used, different studies have different prevalence rates for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

According to a systematic review, between 4% and 20% of women of reproductive age worldwide are thought to have PCOS (2).

Although it can happen later in life, it is frequently diagnosed in adolescence or the early 20s.

Although the precise cause of PCOS is unknown, it is thought to be a result of a mix of genetic and environmental factors (2). High levels of androgens in women with PCOS can interfere with normal ovarian function and throw off the menstrual cycle.

These androgens include testosterone. Hormone imbalances in women, such as PCOS, have also been linked to chronic stress, diet, heavy metals, birth control pills, and personal care products.

Another element that has been linked to PCOS is inflammation, which can encourage the ovaries to produce more androgens than necessary.

What is a PCOS Belly?

The excess fat that accumulates in the abdominal area in women with PCOS can be challenging to get rid of, as it is often resistant to diet and exercise.

This is because the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS can make it difficult for the body to regulate its metabolism and use insulin effectively (1).

PCOS belly can also increase the risk of other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease (3).It is essential for women with PCOS to address their abdominal fat to manage their symptoms and reduce their risk of developing these health problems.

It can be difficult to lose the extra fat that builds up in the abdomen in women with PCOS because it frequently defies diet and exercise. This is due to the possibility that the body may struggle to effectively regulate its metabolism and use insulin due to the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS.

Symptoms of PCOS Belly

 

Symptoms of PCOS Belly include (3):

Greater waist circumference: Women with PCOS belly typically have a larger waist, which is frequently greater than their hip circumference.

Insulin resistance:: A common sign of PCOS, insulin resistance can cause weight gain and the PCOS belly. When the body stops responding to insulin, it develops insulin resistance, which raises blood glucose levels.

High levels of androgens: Women who have PCOS frequently have levels of androgens like testosterone that are higher than average, which can cause belly fat to accumulate.

Period irregularities: Women with PCOS frequently experience irregular or nonexistent menstrual cycles. This is brought on by hormonal imbalances that prevent the ovaries from operating normally.

Acne and other skin issues: Insulin resistance and high androgen levels are frequently linked to skin issues like acne, oily skin, and dark patches on the skin, which are all brought on by PCOS.

Weight loss challenges: Women with PCOS belly frequently experience weight loss challenges despite diet and exercise. This results from hormonal imbalances that have an impact on the body's metabolism and ability to store fat.

Fatigue: The hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance brought on by PCOS belly can cause fatigue and low energy levels in women.

Mood swings: PCOS-related hormonal imbalances can cause mood swings like depression, anxiety, and irritability.

 

Causes of PCOS Belly

PCOS belly is characterized by an accumulation of belly fat, which causes the belly to protrude. One or more of the signs of PCOS belly include (3):

Insulin Resistance: Women who have PCOS frequently have insulin resistance, which means that their cells don't react well to insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. Gaining weight is possible, especially in the abdomen, when insulin levels are high.

Hormonal Imbalance: PCOS-affected women have an imbalance of hormones, including higher levels of androgens (male hormones) and lower levels of estrogen. Weight gain, particularly around the middle, can result from this hormonal imbalance.

Genetics: PCOS is a condition that runs in some women's families, and some of these women may also be predisposed to gaining too much belly fat.

Poor Diet: An excessive intake of processed foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates can cause weight gain and extra belly fat.

 

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What Does a PCOS Belly Shape Look Like?

The PCOS belly typically manifests as a round, protruding belly and a wider waistline than usual (1). A more apple-shaped body type is produced by PCOS in women by extra weight carried in the hips, thighs, and buttocks.

Because of the buildup of visceral fat around the organs in the abdominal cavity, the belly may feel firm to the touch. In some cases, inflammation or hormonal imbalances may also cause the belly to feel tender or painful.

It's crucial to understand that not all PCOS sufferers will experience PCOS belly development, and that each person will experience this symptom differently in terms of appearance and severity. Additionally, a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and other medical conditions, can contribute to weight gain and the buildup of belly fat.

 

Things to Consider if You Have a PCOS Belly

One of the common symptoms of PCOS is belly fat, which can be difficult to get rid of. However, there are ways to manage PCOS belly fat through a combination of lifestyle changes, diet, and exercise.

Here are some tips on how to get rid of PCOS belly fat:

Treatments of PCOS Belly

Focus on a healthy diet: Eating healthily is one of the best ways to lose belly fat. To lose belly fat, eat a diet high in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. It's important to stay away from processed foods, sweet beverages, and foods high in fat (3).

Regular exercise: is essential for losing belly fat. You can start with moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling. Strength training can also be incorporated into your routine to help you gain muscle, which aids in calorie burning.

Control your stress: Stress can cause weight gain, particularly in the midsection. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and other relaxation methods are effective ways to manage stress.

Get enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for overall health and weight loss. In order to help you lose belly fat, try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night

Medical care: In some circumstances, medical intervention may be required to treat PCOS belly fat. This may involve taking drugs like metformin, which can lower belly fat and help to regulate insulin levels. GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic have also been demonstrated to support weight loss in people with PCOS.

Water consumption is crucial for overall health and can aid in the reduction of belly fat. Aim for 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, minimum.

Think about supplements: Certain supplements, including chromium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help to increase insulin sensitivity.

 

Gut Health and Hormones

Hormones and gut health are intertwined and can both have a big impact on PCOS belly development. How do they impact the PCOS belly (3)?

Gut Health: Our metabolism and immune system are significantly influenced by the trillions of microorganisms that reside in our digestive tract and make up our gut microbiome.

Maintaining a healthy weight and lowering inflammation, which can contribute to PCOS belly, require a healthy gut microbiome. Studies have revealed that compared to women without PCOS, women with PCOS have a less varied and unbalanced gut microbiome.

Gut-Brain Axis: The gut-brain axis is the link between the gut and the brain, allowing for communication between the two. Serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that can influence mood and appetite, can be produced by the gut microbiome.

These neurotransmitters can become dysregulated as a result of an imbalance in the gut flora, which can contribute to overeating and weight gain.

Inflammation: A common aspect of PCOS is chronic inflammation, which can lead to insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and weight gain. While an unhealthy gut microbiome can contribute to chronic inflammation, a healthy gut microbiome can aid in reducing inflammation in the body.

It's crucial to make lifestyle changes that support both gut health and hormonal balance in order to address the hormonal imbalances and PCOS belly that may be present.

This might entail consuming more fibre, cutting back on sugar, and consuming a diet high in whole, unprocessed foods. Hormone balance and gut health can both be enhanced by regular exercise.

To support a healthy gut microbiome, some women may benefit from taking probiotic supplements or eating prebiotic foods.

Medical procedures might be required to treat PCOS belly. In addition to regulating menstrual cycles and lowering androgen levels, hormonal contraceptives can also improve insulin sensitivity. In addition, GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic have been shown to help women with PCOS lose weight, especially when combined with a change in lifestyle. Medical professionals should be consulted when considering any of the above treatments. Our experts at scienceandhumans.com have experience treating many different patients and can tailor a solution to you.

References

1. Hormonal belly: Causes and treatment. Hormonal belly: Causes and treatment, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hormonal-belly

2. Deswal R, Narwal V, Dang A, Pundir CS. The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome: a brief systematic review. Journal of human reproductive sciences. 2020 Oct;13(4):261. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7879843/

3. Gilbert EW, Tay CT, Hiam DS, Teede HJ, Moran LJ. Comorbidities and complications of polycystic ovary syndrome: an overview of systematic reviews. Clinical endocrinology. 2018 Dec;89(6):683-99. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cen.13828

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