Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an increasingly common ailment that affects 1 in every 5 women in India, with a greater concentration in metropolitan cities. Understood as a condition causing hormonal imbalance, it has several symptoms including weight gain, acne, facial hair growth, loss of hair on the scalp, bloating, irregular cycles, depression, and might even lead to ovarian cysts and infertility in the long run. In India, PCOS is one of the problems that gets dismissed simply because it is seen as a low-grade, lifestyle disease. What can we learn from Ayurveda about it?
Ayurveda on PCOS
Ayurveda’s Ashtanga Hridayam talks about several reproductive problems which are primarily caused by intake of the wrong kind of food. Since ahaara (food) and niyama (routine) are core to good health, the disturbance in the former leads to problems like PCOS. In Ayurveda, the body is seen as a living organism, in which the three doshas- vatta, pitta, and kapha must be balanced. PCOS is fundamentally a kapha disorder. Cysts are called “medha granthi”, i.e. created out of excess of kapha tissue in the body (remember, all fat is not harmful according to Ayurveda, but disproportionate quantities consumed are not encouraged). Ayurvedic treatment has a holistic approach towards management of PCOS. Each patient is given a unique therapy based on her specific health needs due to PCOS, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. However, techniques in modern medicine often go with hormonal treatment to treat PCOS, but those have side-effects and are harmful in the long run.
This is a chemical-free, DIY guide to addressing early stages of PCOS. Here goes:
Routine and exercise are key
One of the main reasons as well as symptoms of PCOS is weight gain. Increase in consumption of foods that contain complex sugars are harmful for the body. The best way to address PCOS is to exercise regularly and immediately fix a strict routine that involves waking up early and not staying up late. This oft repeated, boring advice is the best remedy for PCOS. Why? Cause remember, this is a lifestyle disorder, caused fundamentally due to us upsetting the body’s natural rhythm that keeps it in balance. To bring back that balance, routine is key. Weave in at least 20 minutes of exercise in your everyday.
Cut out caffeine
PCOS increases the insulin levels in the blood, making it conducive for weight gain and digestion impairment. Studies show that caffeine leads to changes in oestrogen levels and messes up hormone behaviour. Coffee is also a stimulant that increases pitta unnaturally high. Try using a decaf beverage like herbal tea that is soothing. For a strong boost, try green tea that is known for its balancing properties. It will also help with the weight management needed in PCOS.
Eat less spice, oil and sugar
While PCOS is primarily a kapha induced problem, the reproductive system remains in balance because of all three doshas that serve specific functions in the ovarian and the menstrual cycle. Vaata is responsible for movement, pitta is responsible for hormonal secretions and kapha is responsible for tissue and muscle strength, and nourishment of the system. In PCOS, kapha imbalance causes the jatra agni (the digestive fire) to be slower, leading to weight gain. This means that a balanced diet with less aggravating substances that could cause pitta to rise or fatty items that increase kapha should be avoided. Cut out spicy, oily and sucrose high food from your diet.
Try an Herbal Supplement
Along with increased insulin, PCOS also causes inflammation in the body. Ayurvedic herbs that are readily available and are low-cost alternatives to pills, are turmeric and ashwagandha. Turmeric decreases both insulin and inflammation and is known as a medicinal herb. Ashwagandha is a stress reliever, along with properties that balance kapha and pitta. Try using fresh turmeric in your food instead of packaged powder, and give Ashwagandha tea a shot.
Throw out your chemicals
Along with containing high amounts of artificial agents and preservatives, canned food and packaged sweets affect your endocrine system. Since the art is to restore a healthy hormonal balance in the body, food items that create high secretions (like white sugar, candies or anything that gives you a sugar rush, really) should be avoided. Soaps and make-up also contain chemicals that seep in through our skin with regular use and cause endocrine imbalances. Switch to more natural, chemical-free make up products that help you keep your glow.
Actively de-stress your life
To fix PCOS is to fix your entire body, and de-stress your life. A majority of PCOS disorders among young women are caused due to stressful lifestyles that keep us on our toes and do not allow our bodies to relax and heal. Take active measures to de-stress. Meditate, or join a yoga class with your pals. Carve hours and days off in your week which are just for yourself and treat yourself with good food, massages and work laptop-off treats.
Say yes to Whole foods
Whole foods are free from artificial sugars, hormones, and preservatives. Taking these out of your life will be a little straining, but an absolute must to fix your hormones. Whole foods are as close to their natural, unprocessed state as possible. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are whole foods that you can add to your diet. Try getting your grocery from a local produce, which helps your body and a local farmer too!