Facts on PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and Tips on Dealing With it
What is PCOS?
In very simple terms, PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a genetic problem with various hormonal manifestations. It presents with a rainbow of symptoms, including:
- difficulty losing weight,
- a tendency to gain weight around the waist,
- irregular or sometimes grossly delayed periods,
- excess facial hair,
- difficulty in conceiving,
- and/or recurrent miscarriages.
PCOS sufferers don't necessarily have all these symptoms or problems together. While some patients may have recurrent miscarriages, others have children easily but battle delayed periods and weight gain.
PCOS is the most common cause of menstrual irregularities in women aged 15 to 45 years. In women suffering from either infertility, recurrent miscarriage, or weight gain, PCOS is responsible for 50% of the problems.
This syndrome did not evolve recently; it has been there for years. Nevertheless, its incidence has increased, maybe because of our food habits, lifestyle changes, or rising environmental pollution. Our ability to diagnose this problem has also improved with the coming of transvaginal ultrasound (although ultrasound done with a full bladder may miss the diagnosis in most cases of PCOS).
The ultrasound expression of PCOS will remain from "womb to tomb," that is, from the time you are born till the time you die. PCOS may not show all its features in the initial stages. That is why some patients can have children (after having had regular periods until then), but then with an increase in weight start having delayed periods.
Drawings and Ultrasound: Polycystic Ovaries
PCOS and Diabetes
Doctors say that women who have PCOS have a high risk of getting diabetes, and they suggest these women take medicine daily. It is true that women with PCOS are more susceptible to diabetes, because they have an increased risk of being glucose-intolerant. They can develop diabetes early in life, or develop diabetes when pregnant (known as gestational diabetes in medical terminology). They have a 50% chance of developing diabetes after the age of 40. Thus, these women should begin preventive measures like weight loss and diet modification at an early age.
Treatment of PCOS with Allopathy or Modern Medicine
Allopathy (modern medicine) treats PCOS as a hormonal imbalance. The main treatment includes HRT (hormone replacement therapy) where hormones are administered after evaluation of the patient. Diet and exercise may also be recommended. There is a growing belief that PCOS occurs due to a malfunction related to the hormone insulin, and so the doctor may prescribe diabetic drugs like metformin. Surgery is also an option for addressing infertiilty and hormone imbalance; it may involve puncturing follicles in the ovary or removing tissue from the ovary. However, all these treatments have their own aftereffects and you must evaluate all options by talking with your gynecologist and personally researching the choices on the net. This rule not only applies to allopathy but also to other systems of medicine, as, after all, it is your body.
So which one would you prefer for treating PCOS?
Discussion of Ayurveda and Menstrual Disorders by Dr. Partap Chauhan
Natural or Ayurvedic Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may give you good results in the short term, but is not recommended in the long run as it can cause other problems. Taking hormones depletes your endocrine system and puts it to sleep. Delivering a substance by artificial means that the body ought to be naturally releasing puts the body into a lazy mode.
Here is an alternative evaluation and treatment modality for PCOS.
1. Eat at regular intervals. For example, if you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner between 8 to 9, 12 to 2 and 8 to 9 respectively, see to it that you follow these timings, as the thyroid gland becomes trained to secrete juices at these times. Any variation puts pressure on the glands. Maintain your schedule even if you only gulp down a glass of milk.
2. Salt restriction is also important. Prepare food without salt. Put a helping on the plate, then add salt to taste, preferably saindhav salt (Himalayan crystal salt).
3. Have a papaya for breakfast or dinner at least two to three times a week until your cycles regularize. You should also eat porridge prepared from Ragi extract (nachini, millet, Eleusine coracana). Use crystal sugar (Khadisakhar, Mishri) to taste instead of ordinary sugar. Crystal sugar is very safe, though weight watchers may prefer sugar substitutes.
4. Avoid sleeping after lunch. Have a glass of buttermilk (prepared without salt).
5. Stay away from direct or indirect use of the following foods; brinjals (eggplant), peas, peanuts, cauliflower, seafood, pickles, curds (buttermilk is okay), green chilies, mustard,or bakery products (though pastries are okay).
Finally I am listing some simple herbal decoctions, which if taken over a period of two to three months will definitely help:
1. Buy Ashwagandha roots (Withania somnifera; entire about 150 grams) and Arjun bark (Terminalia arjuna; about 70 grams) from a local herb shop. Divide both of these into 30 equal parts. Now boil one part every morning in three cups of water (approximately 150 ml) and reduce to 1 cup. Filter this mixture and add 1 cup of cow's milk to it. Boil the mixture again over a low flame until milk remains. Add 2 cardamoms while boiling. Consume this milk in the early morning on an empty stomach. A little sugar can be added for taste. The remaining filtrate of Ashwagandha and Arjun can be used similarly in the evening. During summer months, Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus var. javanica) can be substituted for Ashwagandha.
2. After 30-35 days, if periods do not resume, use the following mixture for three days:
- 10 grams Nagkeshar (Mesua ferra flower stamens),
- 10 gms crystal sugar (Khadisakhar, Mishri)
- 10 gms cow's ghee (clarified butter from cow).
These amounts are for one day. Mix together and consume with milk once a day. If the periods do not resume even after this medicine, do not worry. Keep taking the above medicine. Eventually they will come, along with proper ovulation.
The above simple remedy coupled with diet will definitely help and let you lead a normal menstrual life with kids and no infertility.
In case you feel you need to evaluate this option more, try and consult a good Ayurvedic physician. Having customized and specialized treatments will help you gain more. For example:
1. Generic preparations like Ashwagandharishta, Ashokarishta, Kumaryasava, Chandraprabha Vati, Pushyanug churna, Phal Ghrita, Raupya Bhasma, Vang Bhasma, Abrakh Bhasma, etc. may be recommended by your Ayurveda doctor. You can see how these medicines are prepared, along with their contents, at the National Library of Ayurveda Medicine.
2. Panchakarma techniques like Basti, Uttar Basti, Vaman, Virechana, Nasya can also be undertaken.
3. Certain yogic exercises like Simhasan, Vajrasan, Shalabhasan, and Sarvangasan are also helpful and may be coupled with the above medicines.
Ayurveda Says To Do This Check Before Trying to Conceive
Besides the above remedies, the simple Ayurveda method to check if the periods are normal and associated with proper hormonal function is to take a few drops of menstrual blood on a clean white cloth and wait for a few seconds. Now wash the cloth with plain warm water (no soap or detergents) and observe if the blood leaves a pickle-like stain on the cloth. According to Ayurveda, clean periods will not leave a stain on the cloth. Once you achieve that, you can then try for conception.
Contributions: We thank the honorable Dr. Sumit for contributing major parts of this article. See the article "Ayurveda for Women," published in 2011 by Dr. Sumit, who is also the owner of the website National Library of Ayurveda Medicine.