The Ayurvedic way of treating PCOS

A study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, last month, revealed that Acupuncture and physical exercise go a long way in improving hormone levels in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a very common disorder affecting majority of women of child-bearing age, and is the leading cause of infertility in women. Women suffering from PCOS, experience irregular menstruation, due to presence of small immature egg follicles in the ovaries. This could lead to irregular menstrual cycles, increased testosterone levels, hair growth, acne, obesity, and insulin resistance.

The study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, said that, acupuncture treatment with needles being stimulated both manually and through a weak electric current at low frequency, was given to a group of women volunteers diagnosed with PCOS. A second group was recommended exercise at least thrice a week, while the third group acted as controls.

Women in all three groups were advised the benefits and importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet pattern for this condition. The study showed that acupuncture, together with a good exercise regimen, reduced high testosterone levels and led to regular menstruation.

The Associate Professor, Elisabet Stener-Victorin, said that among the two treatments, acupuncture proved more beneficial. He explained that although PCOS is a common disorder, researchers are yet to find out the exact cause of the disorder. But women with PCOS have a sympathetic nervous system (the part controlled by our will). Both acupuncture and regular exercise actually reduced activity levels in this system, in comparison with the control group, which could be the reason for good results from acupuncture.

Apart from Acupuncture, let us take a look at other alternatives that Ayurveda recommends for this disorder.

Two different women diagnosed with PCOS can have entirely different symptom patterns. Ayurveda refers to the symptom pattern as ˜kapha if there is weight gain, high blood sugar, hair growth in the body, cold hands and feet, associated with infertility. The symptom pattern may be referred to as ˜pitta, if the patient experiences menstrual cramps, high blood pressure, acne and heart ailments, while the ˜vata type of pattern may be associated with weight loss, untimely menstruation, extremely painful menstruation, associated with infertility problems.

While diet is advised for the kapha pattern, exercise and meditation may be required for the pitta, and hormone-stimulating herbal preparations could be required for the vata type.

However, choosing the right herbs, exercise pattern and meditation practice should be done only after consultation with a practitioner, with strong background of natural Ayurvedic healing.

Here are some general lifestyle changes and modifications that Ayurveda recommends.

Recommended Diet

The treatment option includes choosing food with low glycemic index, as such foods, slow down the rise in blood sugar levels. Foods with low glycemic index are also rich in fiber content, such as whole grains, breads and cereals that are least unprocessed. This is because a diet low in refined sugars and carbohydrates can help in reversing the glucose imbalance in the body that can increase the PCOS symptoms.

Limit intake of foods high in saturated and trans-fat such as red meat, chicken skin, fried foods, rich dessert, etc. Instead, go for mono-unsaturated fats like omega 3 fats (salmon, flaxseed, nuts) and opt for olive oil, or canola oil that are heart healthy.

Include at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet every day.

Drink at least 8 glasses of non-caffeinated fluids in a day.

Exercise

Make sure to fit in atleast 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walk into your daily routine. Else, try other forms of exercise, including yoga or Pilates, which can boost metabolism and burn calories, to control insulin levels, resulting in weight loss.

Get examined

Women with PCOS need to be examined regularly, as they are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular ailments, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Therefore, to remain healthy, get an annual check up done.

Remain stress-free

It is said that women with PCOS are prone to experience depression and mood swings, especially when under stress. Therefore, it would be good to set aside few minutes a day for meditation and to pursue activities that you really enjoy, such as reading, watching a good movie, listening to your favorite music, or joining a hobby class. The point here is to choose an activity that is really enjoyable to you.

Herbs that help

Ayurveda offers a range of phytosterols that can help strengthen the functioning of ovaries. Several formulations made from herbs and cow ghee can help balance out hormones. Few such herbs are cinnamon, fenugreek, aloe vera, shilajit, aswagandha, amlakki, honey, vidarikand, kauncha, ashoka, and salam. These herbs are aimed to reduce circulating androgens and improve ovarian and endocrinal functioning.

It may be ideal to include ½ to 3/4th tsp. of cinnamon into every meal, as it helps control blood sugar levels. Also, flax seed oil, and borage oil, black currant oil, evening primrose oil, fish oil are also recommended. Sesame oil, cow butter and ghee are also used by Ayurvedic practitioners when treating this condition.

A paste made of neem, bail and tulsi leaves (about 20 leaves each) can also be taken once in the morning to reduce insulin resistance. Else, soak a tsp. of fenugreek seeds in water at bed time, and drink it up first thing in the morning.

Some other herbal decoctions that could be taken for a longer period (2 to 3 months) are:

Purchase Ashwagandha roots (150gms), Arjun bark (70gms), and divide them into 30 equal parts. Boil one part every morning in 3 cups of water (150ml), and reduce the quantity to 1 cup. Filter the resulting mixture and add a cup of cows milk to it. Boil this mixture again adding 2 cardamoms to it. Drink this early morning on empty stomach. The remaining filtrate can be used in evening.

Other generic preparations like Ashokarishta, Ashwagandharishta, Chandraprabha Vati, Kumaryasava, Phal Ghrita, Pushyanug churna, Abrakh Bhasma, Vang Bhasma, Raupya Bhasma, Phal Ghrita, are also sometimes advised by practitioners.

Ayurveda also includes Panchakarma techniques such as Vaman, Virechana, Basti, Uttar Basti, and Nasya.

Some specific yoga techniques including Vajrasan, Simhasan, Sarvangasan and Shalabhasan may also prove helpful for the condition.

On consulting a good Ayurvedic physician, and following the diet and lifestyle modifications recommended, you can get back to a normal menstrual life, as PCOS is not a disease by itself. It is a reversible condition, when treatment is taken on time, based on individual symptoms.