PCOD/PCOS stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Almost 1 in every 10 women is suffering from PCOD. PCOS has become a gynecological pandemic. The same was not the situation a few decades back. Around 30 years back, there was hardly any mention of PCOD. 20 years back, the cases started raising. And now in the current time, gynecologists come across at least 8-10 cases of PCOS every day. These numbers are alarming. PCO, PCOS, and PCOD are the same. Unfortunately, 50% of patients with PCOS are undiagnosed. It is therefore very important to understand the cause, symptoms, and treatment of PCOS.
Common symptoms include:
Worldwide there is a criterion called Rotterdam criteria that is used to diagnose PCOD. It has three components:
Biochemical: certain tests that prove the excess of male pattern hormone in the body
If there is one woman in the family who is diabetic, prediabetic, or obese, the other women may also suffer from PCOD
Sedentary activity, wrong diet, stress, poor quality of sleep
Patients suffering from PCOD have high insulin levels which result in making the ovaries bulkier. The latest research also says that PCOD could be caused due to chronic low-grade inflammation
Inflammation is a stress response in the body. Whenever we get injured, our body goes into an inflammation mode to heal that part of the body. A low-grade inflammation rate could be because of lack of sleep, chronic stress physical or mental, lack of physical activity, wrong diet, etc.
Chemical pollutants in the body:
Another important cause of PCOD is the presence of chemical pollutants in our daily life. Use of plastic/aluminium foil for packing food, room freshers, floor cleaners, talcum powders, all of these contain chemical components that can play a havoc with the hormones. PCOD was not widely popular 20-30 years back. What was it that was absent in their lifestyle and diet? What did they include?
Consuming a healthy diet
There are a lot of different kinds of diets that are recommended for people with PCOS. Some suggest reducing the intake of carbohydrates, some advise a diet rich in protein, and some ask for the inclusion of seeds and other organic foods. It is recommended for women with PCOS to follow a diet as advised after Type 2 diabetes.
This diet is high in fiber and low in refined carbohydrates. A diet with decreased trans and saturated fats and high in omega 3 and omega 9 fatty acids must be followed. Foods that contain anti-inflammatory compounds should be included in the diet. It is proved that such kinds of dietary changes have a positive impact on the androgen profile.
Foods like Salmons, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds contain omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 9 fats are present in various vegetable and seed oils (olive, cashew nut, almond, avocado, peanut), nuts, and seeds.
However, everybody is different and responds differently to dietary changes. It is important to focus on inclusions rather than restrictions. The words dietary changes and restrictions may sound intimidating. Hence we must understand the value of including the right nutrients in our meals. Aim at consuming balanced meals. Our moms and grand-moms never switched to a special diet? So, does that mean that we are we a weaker generation? Probably. Mostly because we are overfed but undernourished. We need to ask ourselves the following questions:
What do we eat?
How much do we eat?
How do we cook and store food?
We must consume food that is capable of giving life to us. Always buy organic. Try to avoid supermarkets. Seasonal, local, and easily available food is what works best for us. Our body will not react to it negatively. Packaged, refined, processed food is incapable of giving life to us. A plant-based diet is always a good idea. It is easy on the gut. One must also go slow on dairy. It is best if one avoids nutrient less calories for eg: alcohol
It is very important practice mindful eating. Listen to the body. Our body has a way of communicating with us, giving us signals. We will be able to understand those signals only if we are conscious while eating. Only if all our senses are active. Since childhood, we have been instructed to eat slowly and without distraction. Another important aspect associated with eating right is guilt. We are humans and are bound to fall prey to temptations. It is okay to indulge once in a while. We must never eat our food with guilt. Eating while worrying about calories is disrespectful to the food. We must, however, learn to differentiate between temptation and hunger.
Intermittent Fasting has shown positive results in people who are trying to lose weight but if we look back this method was followed during primitive times. Our ancestors went to bed early and left for hunting in the morning. They wouldn’t eat until early afternoon. Consequently, they were fitter and active. No specific restriction works well for everyone. Every person needs to have a diet to suit their lifestyle, choices, tailored to work on their deficiencies.
Similarly switching to a Gluten-free diet may not work for everyone. A person should restrict gluten in their diet (wheat, breads, etc.) only if they are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive. Gluten in fact is supposed to have a mood-boosting effect on the mind. Eliminating or restricting gluten may result in mood swings and depression.
There is no single fancy food/diet that will help in regulating hormones. It is the entire philosophy. We need to replace guilt with gratitude. Let food work for us and not against us. Before making any changes or inclusions in the diet we must consult a dietician/gynecologist. They will be able to identify what is lacking in our diets and what is required to be incorporated.
Food should be cooked without causing any damage. One should try and avoid overcooking, over-frying.
Food must not be stored in plastic containers. One must store all their snacks in either steel, copper, or glass containers. Plastic creates havoc with hormones. Likewise covering/wrapping the food using aluminum foil should be avoided.
We as human beings are designed to be mobile. We were not meant to lead a sedentary lifestyle and stay in one place for unreasonably long hours. With time, the way we work has changed. We are expected to sit in front of a screen for long durations. However, it is certainly possible to dedicate some time to physical movement regularly.
Exercise has multiple benefits. When one exercises it keeps ratio of fat and muscle in the body right which is crucial in insulin sensitivity. It reduces cortisol that helps us keep stress at bay. An increase in dopamine and serotonin is also observed if one exercises daily. The right balance of all these hormones is crucial for both physical and mental well-being.
A typical exercise routine should consist of a good mix of cardio, strength training, and mobility. This can include walking, running, dancing, sports, squats, lunges, and core exercises. Yoga in particular has shown to have very positive results in helping reduce stress and anxiety. In many cases, yoga has proven to be much more effective than physical exercise. Practicing yoga is a holistic approach to not just maintaining body weight but also an overall healthy lifestyle.
The asanas and pranayama performed while doing yoga rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul. As a result, there is a balance between the internal and external well-being. Losing weight does not just involve cosmetic changes. It requires accepting, struggling, and fighting with concerns relating to the body. Yoga does not mandate the person to have a specific fitness level. It does not require any special equipment. It is simple, effective and can be practiced regularly under proper guidance. Yoga can be used as a therapy to other conditions stemming from PCOS like hypertension, depression, anxiety etc.
Yoga leads to better awareness of the self, better posture and mindful breathing.
A minimum of 150 mins per week should be allotted to exercise. This means at least 30 minutes every day. One must also take care to not go overboard with exercise. A high intensity workout is great but one needs to take it slow. Do not overdo. Do not push and injure yourself. We must make exercise a part of our daily routine. Consider it to be a marathon, not a sprint.
A complete naturopathic approach:
In totality, if one intends to heal themselves slowly yet gradually a complete naturopathic approach could be considered. This includes focus on nutrition, herbal medicine, massage, homeopathy, etc. It is specific to each person. It helps in achieving better metabolism, hormonal balance, regulates menstruation, and manages natural fertility. The treatment is both realistic and practical thereby making it sustainable and easy to follow.
A naturopathic treatment could typically include consumption of whole foods; eating at frequent and short intervals to maintain blood sugar levels; a balanced diet including vegetables as well as sufficient sources of protein and fats; inclusion of stress-busters like yoga, meditation in daily routine; and a healthy sleep cycle.
PCOS is a syndrome that is mainly caused due to poor lifestyle, wrong diet, and unhealthy sleeping patterns. While hormonal imbalance can lead to a horde of other problems one must understand PCOS is not a disease. With proper diagnosis, the inclusion of healthy practices, and mindful living the same can be tackled effectively. One must not fear but fight the syndrome.