Why Is It So Hard To Lose Weight With PCOS?

Many women with polycystic ovary syndrome PCOS find it hard to lose weight. More than half of all women with PCOS are in a unhealthy BMI range and even on the lowest calorie restricted diets, still can’t lose weight. This is because they are weight loss resistant.

One of the most frustrating parts is to receive advice from health care providers to lose weight, but those with this syndrome know it’s not that easy. Many factors can affect your ability to lose weight with PCOS, including certain health conditions, your dieting and weight loss history, age-related changes and your mother’s diet and weight changes during pregnancy.

Treatment options for PCOS are typically aimed at reducing insulin levels and involve diet modifications, exercise, and medications or supplements. But what do you do and where do you go from here if nothing seems to be working?

The good news is, there ways to lose weight with PCOS, but it’s not something you can buy in a box or over the counter. Losing weight with PCOS needs a targeted, tailored approach that incorporates modern science, whole foods and a little help from mother nature.

Here are some reasons why it’s so much harder for women with PCOS to lose weight.

PCOS is linked to loss resistance. High insulin promotes fat storage. This fat can be difficult to lose or resistant to traditional methods such as calorie counting, low carb diets or exercise.GIT #microbiome is a hidden trigger for #PCOS

Elevated insulin levels can be triggered by several factors such as stress, other hormones, health conditions or environmental pollutants.

Researchers have also identified an individuals microbiome or flora also contributes to elevated insulin. This is why some people can literally gain weight eating foods that are healthy for others. Tomatoes are a good example of this! If you have PCOS and want to lose weight, the first place to start is a metabolic assessment. What have you got to lose?

Insulin promotes hunger

As part of promoting fat storage, insulin acts as an appetite-stimulating hormone. High levels of insulin can be why some women with PCOS experience more hunger. Left unmanaged, these cravings can sabotage even the best eating habits, leading to weight gain.

Eating often, including sufficient protein with meals, and avoiding sugary foods are all helpful ways to reduce cravings.

Appetite regulating hormones

Weight loss and weight maintenance can be difficult for women with PCOS due to abnormal levels of appetite-regulating hormones ghrelin, cholecystokinin, and leptin. These hormones may stimulate hunger in women with PCOS, resulting in increased food intake and difficulty managing weight.

Sleep disturbances and insomnia

Women with PCOS are at a risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is a blockage of the upper airway that causes a lack of oxygen during sleep. This results in daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, weight gain and resistant weight loss.

Excess body weight is a cause of sleep apnea and elevated levels of androgens (male hormones such as testosterone) seen in PCOS, can play a role in affecting sleep receptors. Lack of sleep is associated with insulin resistance and weight gain.

When clients ask me ‘Can I lose weight with PCOS? My answer is yes. Losing weight with PCOS needs a targeted, tailored approach that incorporates modern science, whole foods and a little help from mother nature.

My IVF specialist told me to lose weight if I wanted to have a baby. I lost 7kg with PCOS and conceived within 3 months of working with Narelle

Tina Lucas – melbourne

Vegetable Curry

  • Vegetable Curry (serves 4)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons medium-hot curry powder
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and cut into thin sticks
  • 250g green beans, trimmed
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup low-fat natural yoghurt salt and pepper
  • ½ cup fresh coriander leaves fresh chilli, sliced

Heat a large saucepan, add oil and onion, and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until onion is softened. Add curry powder, turn up the heat to medium and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to toast spices. Add stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips to the pan and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add beans and broccoli, and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

The vegetables should be tender and the liquid reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in yoghurt and season with salt and pepper to taste. Once yoghurt has been added, do not allow mixture to boil, or it will curdle. To serve, scatter with coriander and place sliced fresh chilli on the side, if desired. Serve with 2 tablespoons of steamed fragrant wild, basmati or jasmine rice.

Are Your Microbes Making You Fat?

For years you’ve probably tried diet after diet, eat less, exercise more, count carbs, drink shakes and yet no matter what you do the scales just keep creeping up.

Ironically, most people come to me for weight loss who already eat healthy and exercise, yet they struggle for years to maintain a healthy body weight.

Statistics show a dramatic increase in rates of type 2 diabetes, yet we are investing in weight loss more than ever before. This means, we need to get to the biological causes of why our cells are becoming insulin resistant and develop new late life-interventions to slow the process down (4,7,9).

If you are gaining lots of weight or can’t lose weight even with significant changes in diet or exercise routines, fat loss resistance triggered by microbiome may be the culprit

Passionate about helping people maintain a healthy body weight, I developed MassAttack 20 years ago to determine the biomarkers of what causes weight gain and provide 100% natural strategies to stop, reverse and prevent insulin resistance.

After 20 years of researching, the results are better than what I hoped and everyone who wants to maintain a healthy body weight needs to know this information!

The Facts on Flora

Our guts contain around 100 trillion microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiota. No two people’s microbiomes look exactly the same, and they are a product of what we inherit from our mothers during birth, our diets, environment and lifestyle.

In a pilot study, 26 participants went on a lower-calorie diet high in fruit and vegetables, and some didn’t lose as much weight as others. Analysis of their gut bacteria found participants had different levels of two particular types of bacteria, and one, Dialister, that hindered weight loss.

Many factors can affect your ability to lose weight, including certain health conditions, your dieting and weight loss history, age-related changes and your mother’s diet during pregnancy.

What researchers also found was that some for some people, eating tomatoes can make them fat! This is because tomatoes are one food that spikes insulin levels quite a lot for some people and they need to control the amount they eat. What this means is, the key to long term weight maintenance is to know your microbiome DNA. This is why I’m so excited – these insulin spikes trigger other hormonal problems linked to weight gain it’s a compounded effect and no matter what you do to try to lose weight, your body will fight you all the way. The good news is, you have access to the technology to find out if this is you!

The 3 key steps to turn back the scales are:

  1. Remove the stimulating factors
  2. Identify genetic causes
  3. Inhibit biological changes

1. Remove stimulating factors

Accelerated weight gain in both men and women is triggered by over 120 hidden factors that are modifiable – BUT the current structure for managing weight currently does not screen for these!

Having just one hidden factor can increase body weight by a steady 5kg per year and 1 in 5 people have at least one hidden factor.

This is why I developed the MassAttack assessment screen – an affordable, accessible way to put the stops on hidden factors accelerating biological weight gain.

2. Identify genetic causes

Getting assessed is the first step to take. Knowing how to fix these problems is next and DNA testing provides answers.

Perhaps you’ve already had some genetic testing done through your specialist for genetic mutations like MTHFR or thyroid conditions. What you are unlikely to have been tested for is the interaction between your genes, your diet and how this affects your biological metabolic age.

Microbiome health influences metabolic health in both men and women. It is also implicated in foetal development and impaired diversity is linked to autism spectrum disorder (16).  For starters it influences over 30 genes involved in the uptake and metabolism of nutrients needed for the prevention of conditions linked to weight gain like PCOS, endometriosis and thyroid disorders (1).  This includes the metabolism of vitamins A, C, D and B12 as well as folate, glutathione and coenzyme Q10 (5).  

Other genes play a role in how rapidly your metabolism ages primarily due to their influence on conditions that influence energy conversion like inflammation, mitochondrial function, digestive problems, hormone related conditions and autoimmunity.

In addition, exciting new microbiome DNA testing identifies the influence of specific digestive flora on estrogen production, insulin regulation and thyroid health – all key triggers for accelerated metabolic aging. This means, depending on your microbiome balance, taking an over the counter probiotic or eating more fermented foods could potentially be making things worse.

It also means, whatever you do to improve your metabolism, including dietary choices, taking vitamins or managing your health, can become more effective if you match it to your DNA.

DNA testing is an exciting NEW strategy for rapidly reversing the rate of metabolic decline. Tailoring your diet to your DNA can literally shed around 5 kg per year without trying.

3. Inhibit cellular changes damaging your metabolism

Finally, (this is new information that can make a big difference to conceiving) an amazing researcher at Princeton University – Coleen Murphy discovered cathepsin B proteases increase metabolic aging.

The super exciting part is, advances in genomic herbal therapeutics means you can inhibit, reverse and slow this process.

If you have been trying to lose weight, it’s time to take a new approach. My 3 new and exciting discoveries means you can not only slow metabolic aging but turn back time! It’s exciting. It’s new. People struggling to lose weight should know this!

Remember, the approaches currently promoted to people are eat less, exercise more and decrease carbohydrate intake. It’s far too simplistic and collectively we need to stop thinking this way. Simply waiting for it to happen naturally, following a healthy lifestyle or taking over the counter herbs or vitamins is in some cases helpful, but only skimming the surface and in some cases potentially making things worse.

This approach to improving metabolic outcomes is an absolute game changer. It’s a 100% natural way to stop, reverse and restore the effects of accelerated metabolic aging and if you apply these steps you really can change your path to maintaining a healthy body weight. It’s time to start believing it really is your time to be slim!

Narelle Stegehuis MHSc HM.

Narelle Stegehuis is a leading natural health provider.  Helping people be healthy for over 20 years, Narelle is passionate about natural accelerated age reversal and environmental metabolic health. Narelle provides specialised content for Torrens University and media publications such as New Idea, Woman’s Day and Women’s Fitness magazines. Narelle strives to create community awareness and affordable programs for the management of complex health disorders.

  1. Dadachanji, R., Shaikh, N., & Mukherjee, S. (2018). Genetic Variants Associated with Hyperandrogenemia in PCOS Pathophysiology. Genetics research international, 2018, 7624932. doi:10.1155/2018/7624932
  2. Enciso M, Sarasa J, Xanthopoulou L, et al. Polymorphisms in the MTHFR gene influence embryo viability and the incidence of aneuploidy. Hum Genet 2016; 135(5):555-568
  3. Kollerová J, Koller T, Hlavatý T, Payer J. Vnitr Lek. Hormonal changes in inflammatory bowel disease 2015 Dec;61(12 Suppl 5):5S35-9. Slovak. PMID:27124970
  4. Lauretta, R., Sansone, A., Sansone, M., Romanelli, F., & Appetecchia, M. (2019). Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: Effects on Endocrine Glands. Frontiers in endocrinology, 10, 178. doi:10.3389/fendo.2019.00178
  5. Nazki FH, Sameer AS, Ganaie BA. Folate: metabolism, genes, polymorphisms and the associated diseases. Gene 2014; 533(1):11-20
  6. Poppe K, Velkeniers B, Glinoer D. Thyroid disease and female reproduction. Clinical Endocrinology [serial online]. March 2007;66(3):309-321. Accessed July 19, 2017
  7. Shah S, Leffler D. Celiac disease: An underappreciated issue in women’s health. Womens Health (Lond Engl) 2010;6:753-766.
  8. Templeman N, Lou S, Kaletsky R, Ashraf J, Keyes W, Murphy C. Insulin Signalling Regulates Oocyte Quality maintenance with Age via Cathepsin B Activity. Current Biology March, 2018.
  9. Baker JM, Al-Nakkash L, Herbst-Kralovetz MM. Estrogen-gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas. 2017 Sep;103:45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.06.025. Epub 2017 Jun 23. Review.
  10. Lee CJ, Sears CL, Maruthur N. Ann N Y  Gut microbiome and its role in obesity and insulin resistance. Acad Sci. 2019 May 14. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14107. [Epub ahead of print] Review.
  11. Jin Y, Wu S, Zeng Z, Fu Z. Effects of environmental pollutants on gut microbiota. Environ Pollut. 2017 Mar;222:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2016.11.045. Epub 2017 Jan 11. Review.

The effect of antibiotics on weight gain

Antibiotics are a very important part of current medical treatment, but science is discovering the overuse can have unintended consequences that can impact gut health and trigger weight gain in some people.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives by reducing or removing pathogenic bacteria. However, we are now learning that overuse of antibiotics can have the unintended consequence of also reducing or removing resident bacteria, important for gut health, metabolic functioning and the way we metabolize our food. This can lead to resistant weight gain, – meaning you just keep gaining weight.

35 percent of people give up on their #weightlossgoal before the month ends – not due to a lack of time or willpower – they are weight loss resistant. With the right help they can beat it.

Antibiotic effects on the gut microbiome and resistant fat

Antibiotics come in many different forms, some targeting a wide range of bacteria (broad-spectrum), while others targeting only a few types of bacteria (narrow-spectrum). Broad-spectrum antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed and their use has been observed to have several impacts on gut health, and resistant fat including:

  • reducing microbial diversity in the gut1–5 involved in glucose metabolism
  • reducing protective species such as Bifidobacterium spp.1,2,6 triggering inflammatory cell release associated with fat cell production.
  • promoting the colonisation of opportunistic pathogens such as Clostridium difficile that can cause antibiotic-associated diarrhea7–9

In infants and young children, antibiotic use can be linked to an increased risk of asthma and weight gain1,10.

In a healthy gut microbiome, the resident microorganisms help protect against invasion by opportunistic pathogens through a process called colonisation resistance. This involves different methods to inhibit pathogens, such as:

  • producing anti-microbial compounds
  • outcompeting pathogens for space in the gut
  • maintaining the mucus layer so pathogens cannot reach intestinal cells
  • training the immune system to respond to pathogens11,12

When the resident gut microorganisms are reduced during antibiotic use, these protective functions may stop occurring and provide an opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to colonise which triggers a cascade of metabolic problems linked to weight gain.

Recovery of the gut microbiome

After an antibiotic course, recovery of the gut microbiome can take some time 2,3,13–16. However, these studies have also shown that even after two to four years, some bacterial groups do not recover completely and antibacterial resistance genes can also persist at increased levels for at least one to two years following antibiotic use13,14,16,17 creating metabolic changes that cause weight gain. Therefore, even a short course of antibiotics can have long-term effects on the gut microbiome and make maintaining a healthy body weight challenging.

Improving gut health after antibiotics to fix your metabolism

A good general strategy to improve gut health is to make sure you feed your gut microbiome foods that will allow your beneficial resident microbiota to grow back. This means eating a wide variety of foods that are high in fibre and plant polyphenols such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains22.

If you have gained weight after taking antibiotics or struggle to #loseweight you need a targeted approach to accelerate weight loss

Most people who struggle relentlessly with their weight are dealing with a systemic imbalance that is physiologically blocking weight loss. This is known as weight loss resistance, which urges your body to hang on to extra weight – no matter what diet or exercise measures you take. We know this situation is extremely frustrating, and while there is good reason for it, there are also effective solutions.

I became ill with a chest infection on my holiday and needed antibiotics. They did their job which was great. However, I gained 20kg in 12 months and couldn’t get it off. It was frightening. Working with Narelle was the only way I could get back on track again. I’m back to my 72kg, healthy and happy.

Marina Stogianis – Melbourne

References

  1. Katri Korpela, Anne Salonen, Lauri J. Virta, Riina A. Kekkonen, Kristoffer Forslund, Peer Bork & Willem M. de Vos Intestinal microbiome is related to lifetime antibiotic use in Finnish pre-school children Nature Communications volume 7, Article number: 10410 (2016)
  2. Mamun-Ur Rashid, Egijia Zaura, Mark J. Buijs, Bart J. F. Keijser, Wim ard, Carl Erik Nord, Andrej Weintraub Determining the Long-term Effect of Antibiotic Administration on the Human Normal Intestinal Microbiota Using Culture and Pyrosequencing Methods Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 60, Issue suppl_2, 15 May 2015, Pages S77–S84, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/civ137
  3. Egija Zaura, Bernd W. Brandt, M. Joost Teixeira de Mattos, Mark J. Buijs, Martien P. M. Caspers, Mamun-Ur Rashid, Andrej Weintraub, Carl Erik Nord, Ann Savell, Yanmin Hu, Antony R. Coates, Mike Hubank, David A. Spratt, Michael Wilson, Bart J. F. Keijser, Wim Crielaard Same Exposure but Two Radically Different Responses to Antibiotics: Resilience of the Salivary Microbiome versus Long-Term Microbial Shifts in Feces Amarican Society for Microbiology 10th November, 2015 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01693-15

Probiotics Weigh In Against Obesity

Obesity – The Struggle Is Real. If you have trouble maintaining a healthy weight and the number on the scales keeps inching up, you are not alone. In fact, as many as 63% of Australians (1) and over 65% of New Zealanders (2) are overweight or obese. Not just a cosmetic concern, obesity is associated with a wide range of health and metabolic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood sugar imbalances, diabetes and early onset dementia. The potential economic burden to the Australian government is catastrophic.

Almost 2 in 3 Australian adults (63%) were overweight in 2014–15, similar to 2011–12. Why is this so? Exciting new research proves we are metabolically diverse – for some even the humble tomato can tip the scales. #loseweight

The Magnificent Microbiome

Over the last decade or so there has been enormous interest in the microbiome – the billions of microbes that live on and in the body. Researchers continue to discover how the microbiome influences numerous aspects of our existence, including the risk of becoming obese, developing metabolic imbalances and triggering hormonal problems. For some even the humble tomato can trigger weight gain or inhibit weight loss. The good news is, we have the technology to test microbiome diversity and tailor your diet to match. This means you stop making the wrong dietary choices and start to maintain a healthy body weight

Over 1 in 3 Australian adults (34%) had high blood pressure in 2014–15—a slight rise from 32% in 2011–12 Maintaining a healthy weight reduces cardiovascular disease risk. #Microbiome strains trigger weight gain and CVD risk

Bacterial Balance Influences Weight

Of the many microbes resident in the gut, some are able to extract more energy from food than others. However, if you have too many of these bacteria (known as Firmicutes), then the body tends to store away this extra energy as fat, contributing to weight gain. If on the other hand, you have more of a different type of bacteria (called Bacteriodetes) then less energy is extracted from food, less fat is stored, and you are likely to be leaner. Restoring balance in the microbiome can help support healthy weight maintenance.

Probiotics to The Rescue

Probiotics (specific strains of beneficial bacteria) can positively influence the gut microbiome and health. Two strains in particular have been found useful in helping to control weight gain: Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (B-420™): As well as reducing fat mass (particularly belly fat and waist circumference), B-420™ has also been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels and to reduce the ‘yo-yo’ weight regain often experienced after weight loss. Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (HN019™): This probiotic strain can reduce fat storage, body mass index (BMI), and lower levels of unhealthy cholesterol. HN019™ is particularly beneficial for those with metabolic conditions.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of the population aged 18 and over are overweight or obese (36% overweight, 28% obese) [1]. Only one-third (35%) of Australian adults have a healthy body weight. Stop weight gain, restore health and live a longer, healthier life.

Daily Steps Towards a Healthier Weight

What you do daily matters! Incorporate healthy habits into your life to support healthy weight: Choose wholefoods and protein (e.g. meat, fish, tofu) with main meals, while minimising sweet, fatty, fried and fast foods. Move more. Go for a walk at lunchtime, take the stairs, spring clean the house, get into gardening, or walk the dog. There are millions of ways to move – whatever the way, just do it! Ensure you get a good night’s sleep, ideally 7 to 8 hours. Being well rested will ensure you are not looking for extra energy from food.Set yourself up for success by setting specific, measurable and achievable goals and meet them!

Part of a Bigger Plan

While probiotics can be purchased over the counter and including prebiotic foods into your diet are good for many, in some individuals this approach may may make things worse. If you are struggling to lose weight, you have weight loss resistance and it’s important to get to the cause.

Maintaining my weight was always a battle – ever since childhood. Over the years I think I’d spent enough to buy a small apartment on shakes, diets and gyms – yet to lose just 5kg was a battle. Working with Narelle was an absolute game changer.

Mandy Johns – melbourne

1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Risk factors to health [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Government; 2017 [updated 2017 Aug 7; cited 2017 Sept 21]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/biomedical-risk-factors/risk-factors-to-health/contents/risk-factors-and-disease-burden

2 Ministry of Health. Understanding excess body weight: New Zealand health survey [Internet]. Wellington: Ministry of Health; 2015 [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/understanding-excess-body-weight-new-zealand-health-survey

Is Bloating A Hidden Cause of Weight Gain?

Many women link digestive bloating to their hormonal cycle and come to accept it as being ‘normal for them’. However, did you know that feeling bloated can be a key clue to why you are struggling to maintain a healthy body weight?

Your bowel contains both good and bad bacteria, and research shows that the good kind plays a crucial role in your overall health by reducing inflammation and keeping your weight in check. For starters, this means bloating can lead to higher levels of inflammation which in turn can cause your body to store more fat.

However, this aside, the second problem occurs when the amount of bacteria increases, or when the type of bacteria gets thrown off-balance. (For optimal health, it’s best to think of it like a seesaw – best when the good and bad is totally balanced.) When that happens, what’s known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can occur, and it can cause weight gain in two ways.

Small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) is linked to weight gain and resistant weight loss. You can beat weight gain with the right support.

SIBO & Weight Gain

First of all, the bacteria could produce methane gas, which “slows down the overall function of the small intestine, allowing the intestinal villi – small, finger-like projections in the lining of your intestine – to absorb more calories per bite.  In other words, the exact opposite of what you want to happen.

Second, SIBO can slow down metabolism and affect your insulin and leptin resistance, both of which help regulate hunger and satiety. As a result, you’re likely to crave carbs and probably won’t feel full after eating, even if it’s a fully satisfying meal.

How To Get Relief

When someone experiences SIBO, it’s generally presumed the problem is related to candida or can be fixed with a general probiotic. However, in a small percentage of women, other factors come into play and these are not tested for in routine pathology testing. This means the problem is never treated and women often resort to giving up on having a healthy body weight or taking laxative to ‘get them through’.

What’s important to remember, is the cause of SIBO is complex and won’t go away with just probiotics. Effective relief is achieved once you get to the hidden cause.

What’s important to remember, is the cause of SIBO is complex and won’t go away with just probiotics. Effective relief is achieved once you get to the hidden cause. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Poor gall bladder function
  • Food sensitivities.
  • Digestive dysbiosis caused by bacteria or parasites
  • Stealth pathogens or chronic infections
  • Stress hormone over or under production

What’s interesting is all of the above factors are also linked to weight gain, bloating and fluid retention, which means you may experience rapid weight gain or find it extremely difficult to lose weight.

If this is happening to you or someone you know, it’s important to get to the cause and not just ignore it. Leaving it unchecked will lead to more weight gain and potentially increase the risk of other complex health concerns.