Shilpa (name changed), my 22-year-old patient has experienced irregular periods since the age of 16. The problem appeared when she was in her second PUC and took a turn for worse when she started her engineering course. She gained almost 10 kg in a year which severely affected her self-image and confidence. Persistent acne on the face, coarse hair on the upper lip and chin along with unmanageable hair loss intensified her distress.
Shilpa, desperate to see some results, tried a lot of things but would not get her periods unless she took medicines prescribed by her doctor. She even took pills for 21 days for 3 months as she was told by her doctor that this would help regularize her periods.
Many of her aunts joked that everything will be fine after her marriage! Family doctors convinced her mother that this is normal, she will be absolutely normal after she is 18 years old and that she just needs to lose weight! Some friends laughed it off with comments, 'don't bother about your periods! It's just one thing less for you to worry about!' However, Shilpa kept looking for answers as now things were affecting her deeper than just her periods!
Shilpa’s story is an example I chose to represent almost every case of PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) that I have come across in my 15 years of practice! For some reason, it always starts this way at least for most of my patients. By the time they realize that their period irregularity, weight gain, acne, and facial hair are indicative of PCOS, much of the important time window is lost and the damage is more profound.
The first step is to get a correct diagnosis for your PCOS. Remember that a correct diagnosis is the backbone of any successful treatment whether in Ayurveda or conventional medicine! Here are the tests that should be done initially for diagnosing PCOS (There are many more tests that need to be done for detailed assessment based on your age, marital status, etc.)
- Pelvic Ultrasonography
- Serum Insulin (Fasting)
- Serum testosterone
Once your diagnosis is confirmed, according to Ayurveda here are five things to do:
1. Focus on Nutrition: I heard a very senior Gynecologist tell once, “ we are all well fed but undernourished! Understanding your diet and the nutrition that you get from it is pivotal to the management of PCOS. Many women think that it is eating food which is making their weight gain and PCOS worse! In fact, it is the lack of proper food and unstructured erratic fasting which makes PCOS complicated.
Introspect about the following things in your diet:
- Breakfast: Are you skipping your breakfast or eating it too late? Is your breakfast packed with nutritious foods or are you eating less or eating foods which are sold as ‘low fat’, ‘high protein’, ‘high fiber’, ‘weight loss’ etc. foods! Are you guzzling down weight loss shakes instead of eating real food? It is easy to get sucked into many marketing gimmicks that do more harm than help!
- Snacks: Are you planning your snacks for when you feel hungry in between two meals? Do you make it a point to eat fruits for snacks? How often do you reach out for junk when you are hungry? Or do you tolerate hunger and not eat anything, because you think eating food is what is making you gain weight?
- Lunch: Do you eat homemade food or you rely on food delivery options? What kind of foods do you prefer for lunch? Are you trying different crash diets like Keto without a doctor’s or clinical nutritionist’s advice? Do you eat only chapati with subji/curry or only white rice and daal/sambar or only raw vegetables every day?
- Dinner: What time do you eat your dinner? When do you go to bed after dinner? Do you skip your dinner even if you are hungry?
These questions need to be answered and pondered upon as the key to finding out what diet helps you is in these questions! Based on your body type, an Ayurveda Physician can help you plan a unique, sustainable, and easy to follow diet and lifestyle plan which can be up to 60% of your PCOS management.
2. Simple home remedies: Home remedies are often underrated when it comes to PCOS. Many home remedies are circulated on social media and your feeds as effective in PCOS, remember that not all work! Understanding effective home remedies that actually work for PCOS can make a huge difference to your treatment. Five spices - Cumin, Coriander, Fennel, Fenugreek, and Black seed are very effective in PCOS. Watch the video below for more details about using these spices.
3. Long-term goals matter: Many women focus on the presence or absence of periods as a measure of whether their PCOS is getting any better. Taking pills to get periods will only make your hormonal imbalance worse. However, gradually helping your body regain its balance with prescription Ayurveda medicines, Panchakarma treatments and diet will help you manage PCOS effectively and also sustain the results. Watch the following video to understand how Panchakarma therapies help PCOS.
If you are diagnosed with PCOS, do not panic! Understand and seek the right help. I believe that metabolic disorders like PCOS are like knots, we have to unravel and undo them slowly and in the right manner. Any haste in doing so, the knots become tighter and your health suffers. However, being patient and helping your body undo the changes that the disease has caused can help you regain the balance!