What Is PCOS Belly And How To Reduce Its Appearance

While underdiagnosis has led many people to believe that polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is uncommon, it's estimated that the condition affects as many as 10% of women of childbearing age and is the leading cause of infertility in women (per Endocrine Society). Characterized as a hormonal disorder, PCOS is distinguished by the ovaries' overproduction of androgen — a male sex hormone.

Presently, the medical community has yet to identify a principal cause for this androgen excess, however it's believed that genetics, insulin resistance, elevated insulin levels, an overactive pituitary gland, and environmental factors can all play a role.

PCOS is marked by a slew of notable symptoms including irregular periods, ovarian cysts, excess body and facial hair, male-pattern baldness, skin tags, and acne. It's also responsible for a symptom commonly referred to as PCOS belly. Let's take a closer look at what PCOS belly is, why it happens, and what you can do to improve it.

Why PCOS belly happens

As a result of hormonal changes and insulin resistance, many people with PCOS experience weight gain (per Insider). Insulin is a hormone that serves to control the amount of glucose in the blood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that when cells are met with a large supply of insulin, they have the potential of becoming insulin resistant. This results in an excess of glucose in the blood, increasing blood sugar levels and elevating the risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

The term "PCOS belly" is used to describe the abdominal weight gain and bloating that affects many women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Little Angel IVF points out that weight gain as a result of PCOS typically accumulates around the midsection. According to Insider, that's because insulin resistance contributes to the aggregation of body fat — which, for most people, begins in the abdomen. What's more, insulin resistance contributes to the overproduction of androgen — a hormone that encourages the growth of belly fat — and more fat leads to the further increase of insulin resistance. As you can imagine, it's a vicious cycle that makes losing the excess weight particularly difficult.

How to address PCOS belly

Aside from the mental hurdles and body image issues women with PCOS have to jump to come to terms with their changing bodies, PCOS belly can also elevate the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease (per Little Angel IVF). As such, women with PCOS may be in search of a solution for the accumulation of abdominal fat. Insider reports that because PCOS belly is not a condition, but rather a symptom of a condition, PCOS belly cannot be addressed without addressing PCOS as a whole. That can be done through the use of medication, as well as diet and exercise.

For people looking to lose weight associated with PCOS belly, Little Angel IVF recommends a high-fiber diet that is rich in healthy fats and proteins. Processed foods, sugar, and those tempting carbs should all be avoided. Exercising just 30 minutes a day can also improve insulin sensitivity, which can decrease the amount of glucose in the blood — a main cause of PCOS belly. Excess fat associated with PCOS belly is particularly hard to lose. If changes to your diet and exercise routine aren't producing results, your doctor may prescribe an insulin sensitizer or weight loss medication to help you shed the extra pounds (per Insider).