Navigating PCOS: An expert home-based guide to combat the ovarian disorder

05 December,2023 09:26 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Ainie Rizvi

The undigested oestrogen in a female body goes on to pile up which leads to PCOS, PCOD, infertility, gynaecological disorders, fibroids and more. In this feature, a Mumbai-based health coach outlines a home-based guide to combat PCOS

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

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As someone who deals with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), the challenge to maintain optimal weight is real. Addressing the issue, many Bollywood celebrities like Masaba Gupta, Sara Ali Khan, Shruti Hassan and Sonam Kapoor opened up about their battle with PCOS, shedding light on how it affected their mental and physical wellness.

PCOS mars four out of seven women worldwide - reveals Dimple Jangda, a Mumbai-based gut health coach who has guided several women out of this hormonal dysfunction. With six years of experience in Ayurveda and naturopathy, Jangda's body of work has expanded from identifying the root cause of PCOS to solving it with the right approach involving healthful food and lifestyle choices.

While Masaba revealed on Instagram how fitness helped her combat the disorder, PCOS continues to be a major issue that affects fertility, appearance, physical and mental wellness. To gain a thorough understanding of this condition, visited Jangda's clinic in Bandra and learnt home-based remedies on tackling PCOS.

Dimple Jangda is a TEDx speaker, ayurvedic health coach and founder of Prana Healthcare Center in Bandra

A rollercoaster of emotions

First things first - stress levels go off the roof when you're dealing with PCOS. It is an underlying side effect that impacts moods leaving women jittery and strained. Asna Azhar, a 29-year-old digital marketer from Andheri began to notice how her mood swings worsened as her ovarian dysfunction got more pronounced.

"I'll be fine one moment and then suddenly be incredibly frustrated with no control over the situation. The next minute - I'll be fine again as if nothing happened! Sometimes if I'm planning the errands I need to run the next day, I feel very optimistic about getting out to get things done, but then I'll wake up and be in a horrible mood and not even want to step one foot out of the house," Asna recounts her mood oscillations while dealing with PCOS.

Temper tumult just becomes a part of living with PCOS. This brings us to the question - What causes this malfunction in a woman's ovaries, that directly impairs her mood? Dimple lays out the root cause of PCOS.

Undigested oestrogen leads to PCOS

Various endocrine glands are responsible for producing hormones in the human body.

When it comes to a woman's body, it secretes oestrogen during the first 15 days of the period cycle to boost her femininity. During the next 15 days, i.e., the end of the ovulation date to the start of the period, progesterone (a hormone that supports menstruation) is released to prepare the body for pregnancy.

Dimple breaks down this complex phenomenon that enables a woman to conceive.

The first 15 days of the period cycle is when a woman is ready to conceive. If she has not conceived for some reason, the body takes a cue to stop producing oestrogen and produces more progesterone. While the body is producing these chemicals - it requires a process to break them down in order to maintain a hormonal equilibrium.

If this balance is not met - it leads to hormones brimming over the edge. For instance, take the case of pumping fuel in your vehicle. If you constantly keep fueling your car without putting it to use - you will end up with choc-a-block in the fuel tank. Similar is the case of oestrogen in a woman's body. If the body fails to break down oestrogen - it begins to spill all over the place.

The undigested oestrogen goes on to pile up like toxic waste with no proper disposal. Additionally, the body begins to produce more androgen (male sex hormone) which leads to an irregular period cycle. Such pent-up levels of hormones lead to PCOS, PCOD, infertility, gynaecological disorders, explains Dimple.

Not only this, but it also leads to the formation of fibroids (muscular tumours that grow in the wall of the uterus), cysts (abnormal pockets of fluids) and tumours in the uterus. People with excessive oestrogen in their body are often prone to developing fibroids, outlines Dimple. Now that we know the underlying factors that trigger PCOS, we dig into the symptoms that reveal the presence of the disorder.

Hirsutism, mood swings, acne - Signs of PCOS

Not every individual with PCOS will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary. Common symptoms of PCOS include:

1. Women with PCOS often have irregular periods or may experience fewer than eight menstrual cycles in a year.
2. PCOS can lead to problems with ovulation, causing difficulties in conceiving.
3. The ovaries may develop small cysts, which are not harmful but can contribute to hormonal imbalances.
4. Increased levels of androgens (male hormones) may lead to excessive hair growth on the face, chest, back or other areas where men typically grow hair.
5. PCOS can cause male-pattern baldness or thinning of the hair.
6. Elevated androgen levels may contribute to acne and excessively oily skin.
7. Many individuals with PCOS experience weight gain or have difficulty losing weight.
8. Some women may develop dark patches of skin, particularly on the neck, groin, and underneath the breasts. This is known as acanthosis nigricans.
9. PCOS can cause fatigue and low energy levels.
10. Hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS can contribute to mood swings and depression.

How to tackle PCOS with food and fitness?

Switch off the tap

According to Dimple, paying careful attention to your dietary choices can significantly contribute to overcoming the complexities of conditions such as PCOS. "The minute you stop eating the trigger foods and feeding your diseases - your body starts repairing itself."

A woman battling PCOS should curb the consumption of oestrogen from other animal-based food sources. Seafood, meat and eggs inherently carry these hormones which become a menace for those inflicted by PCOS. Dairy products are also another big source of oestrogen, informs Dimple. Additionally, packaged and processed foods should be avoided as they tend to mess up the endocrine glands.

Snacks for women dealing with PCOS: Roasted makhanas, banana chips, chakki, peanut chikki, rajgira chikki.

Fix lifestyle choices

Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial. Incorporating whole foods, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates can help regulate blood sugar levels, which is particularly important for individuals with PCOS as they may be insulin-resistant.

Eating meals at the right time and following intermittent fasting also becomes crucial in PCOS management. The body requires 6 hours to break down the food that we eat - thus, it is important to not overfeed it and stick to eating at regular intervals. Avoiding processed foods and excessive sugar intake is also recommended.

Regular physical activity is another cornerstone in managing PCOS. Engaging in a consistent exercise routine not only aids in weight management but also helps improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the impact of insulin resistance associated with PCOS. A mix of aerobic exercises and strength training can be beneficial.

Keep stress at bay

In addition to dietary and exercise modifications, managing stress is paramount for individuals with PCOS. Chronic stress can exacerbate hormonal imbalances and trigger symptoms. Adopting stress-reducing practices such as mindfulness, yoga or meditation can contribute significantly to overall well-being.

Dimple opines that the sleep cycle plays a major role in the regulation of hormones. Thus, it should be fixed and is not to be fiddled with. Adequate and quality sleep is equally vital, as disrupted sleep patterns can further disrupt hormonal balance. By addressing these lifestyle factors collectively, individuals with PCOS can empower themselves to navigate the challenges posed by the condition.

Do not go by what fellow PCOS patients say or do

Managing PCOS is far from a one-size-fits-all endeavour as it's more like a personalised puzzle-solving journey. Recognising that each individual with PCOS is unique in their symptoms, experiences and needs, a tailored approach becomes imperative. The complexity of this condition demands a nuanced strategy, considering factors such as hormonal fluctuations, metabolic variations and lifestyle disparities.

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