PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a complicated health issue that affects almost 22.5% of women of reproductive age in India.
According to researchers, the origins of PCOS are complex, but hereditary factors, faulty lifestyle, insulin resistance and hormone irregularities are significant contributors.
So, women often end up making multiple visits to the healthcare centres, doctors/ hospitals etc in order to control their symptoms & reverse the PCOS features. Have you ever wished that there was something that you could do to manage PCOS without medicines or costly treatments?
Well, we have good news for you here today. It is possible to manage PCOS to a large extent by natural remedies, lifestyle changes and dietary modifications. And while there is no one-stop solution, a combination of non-medical home remedies can help and they are certainly worth a try if you wish to achieve long-term control over your PCOS.
It may be possible to manage your symptoms by eating the right foods and avoiding particular ingredients.
- Avoid processed/packaged food- Inflammation and insulin resistance can be exacerbated by eating processed, heavily preserved foods.
- Eliminate simple carbohydrates and sugar from the diet – This can help with blood sugar stabilization and insulin control. This means that you should avoid products like cookies, chips, white bread, soda, white pasta, etc. Sorry to say, but while these products may satisfy your heart, it's not good for your body—time to bid them farewell!
- Include complex carbohydrates- Complex carbs contain fiber and other nutrients and do not cause a sudden spike in blood sugar. They are digested at a slow pace & hence release glucose very slowly into your bloodstream, thus maintaining a healthy range of blood sugar & insulin levels. Complex carbohydrates can be found in a variety of food items. These include whole grains, nuts, beans, cereals, peas, oats etc.
- A combination of Complex carbohydrates, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins make up the optimal PCOS diet.
2. Exercise & Weight Loss
Controlling PCOS symptoms requires maintaining a healthy weight with moderate-intensity physical exercise along with dietary control.
Studies claim that about 61% of women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight or obese. This raises their risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and other metabolic syndrome-related problems.
Weight loss of even 5-10% of the existing body weight has been shown to improve ovulation, insulin resistance & various symptoms of PCOS.
You can opt for a complete exercise program under expert guidance or do simple exercises at home to maintain a healthy balance. The exercise regime needs to include a mix of the following
- Cardio - This includes moderate-intensity exercises that improve your cardiovascular function, help in improving insulin resistance, ovulation & decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease over the years. You can opt for 30 minutes of jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming or a variety of other cardio exercises
- Strength training- These help in reducing fat tissue, building muscle mass & improve metabolism. Healthy muscle tissue helps in weight loss by burning calories not just while you are exercising, but also at rest. These include exercises like squats, push-ups, exercises with resistance bands, lunges etc
- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)- This includes short, intense bouts of exercise for sometime followed by a period of rest or less intense activity for the same amount of time. Studies show that HIIT is more effective in weight loss as compared to simple cardio exercises. This includes squats, jumping jacks, sid run, burpees etc.
- Core strengthening- Core strengthening is extremely important for you to build a sustainable exercise routine. Remember, your back, pelvis & core abdominal muscles bear the impact of all exercise routines, so it is important for them to be strong. You can opt for push-ups, planks, side planks and other core strengthening exercises.
Exercise is beneficial for both overweight & lean women with PCOS as it helps improve the muscle: fat ratio & improves metabolic function.
Remember that the most effective exercise is the one that you can sustain & continue over weeks, months & years. You can device your own exercise routine & improvise with time. Yoga and Pilates, for example, are gentle, low-impact workouts that can be done for longer periods of time.
3. Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is an essential function that helps your body and mind to replenish & recharge, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and alert.
A good night's sleep also helps to promote the body's wellness and prevent illness.
Cortisol hormones can rise when you don't get enough sleep, which isn't healthy. Maintaining a strict, regular sleep schedule can help you control your hormonal shifts to a large extent. Try to sleep for at least six to eight hours every night. Yes, the adage of "early to bed, early to wise" needs to be applied here.
Also, make sure that you sleep at the same time every night.
Switch off your mobile phones, I-pads, and computer screens for at least an hour before you go to sleep.
Read a good book or practice something that soothes your mind before you go to sleep.
A good night’s sleep is the most important factor that helps to maintain the circadian rhythm of the hormones in your body. For more information, you can read our article on the benefits of sleep in curing PCOS.
4. Health Supplements
Some essential vitamins and minerals, many of which affect fertility and insulin resistance, have been found to be deficient in women with PCOS. Although the role of artificial supplements & medications is controversial, they sometimes help to plug the deficiency & help in improving the symptoms of PCOS if taken judiciously, after expert advice.
Some of the supplements that can help with PCOS include
- Inositol: It is a vitamin that can assist in the reduction of insulin resistance. In some cases of PCOS, it has also been reported to help with fertility.
- Chromium: Supplementing with chromium (in the form of chromium picolinate) may help your body metabolize sugar, which may assist to reduce insulin resistance.
- Evening primrose oil: Over the centuries, period pain and irregular menstruation have been managed with evening primrose oil. It may also help lower cholesterol and reduce oxidative stress- two factors connected to PCOS.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: They are well known for their importance in overall health and well-being. In addition, according to new research, omega-3 supplementation may help with a variety of PCOS issues.
- Zinc: Zinc is a trace element that can help you become more fertile and strengthen your immune system. These supplements can help with excessive or undesired hair growth as well as alopecia.
Many supplements are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, all the supplements mentioned above should only be taken after consulting with your doctor.
5. Stress management
Stress plays a very important part in controlling your hormonal cycles and in turn, adversely influences the function of ovaries as well as insulin resistance. Thus, decreasing the amount of stress in your daily life has been shown to improve the hormonal balance & overall features of PCOS. A good sleep hygiene, meditation or other calming exercises that soothe & quieten the brain can be practiced to manage your stress levels & improve the PCOS features.
6. Home Remedies
What if we tell you that certain home treatments can help you stay on top of the PCOS situation? We've compiled a list of tried-and-true kitchen ingredients that can help you manage PCOS.
- Cinnamon and honey: Cinnamon has been shown in studies to aid in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and to be an effective treatment for PCOS. Mix 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp honey, and swallow. This should be consumed once a day.
- Bitter Gourd: This vegetable helps to keep insulin and glucose levels in balance. Bitter Gourd, commonly known as Karela, also aids in weight loss. You can either have it as a curry with chapati or drink it as a juice.
- Amla: This fruit is high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, which help women's fertility as well as manage blood sugar levels. Either have it along with some yoghurt or drink it as a juice.
- Flaxseeds: These seeds are high in fiber, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, as well as lignans, a protein that aids in testosterone reduction in women. Drink it with water or mix it in with your breakfast.
- Fenugreek or methi dana: Fenugreek possesses characteristics that can help women with PCOS reduce cyst size and maintain a normal menstrual cycle. Methi dana should be soaked overnight or for 5-6 hours in water and consumed three times a day. If not, cooked methi leaves can be used instead.
Using these simple home treatments, you may effectively control the effects of PCOS on your body. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, meet a gynaecologist, follow your doctor's advice and make the required lifestyle modifications to restore balance.
PCOS is a complex disorder and the causes are not completely understood yet. However, it is very well managed with the help of basic lifestyle modifications & there is always hope for a reversal of the symptoms if you work consistently. So do not lose hope.
Despite its name, not all women with PCOS have cysts in their ovaries! Some of them may actually have normal looking ovaries on ultrasound.
According to CDC, more than half of women with PCOS may develop type 2 Diabetes by the age of 40 years.
For more information on PCOS, please check our other videos:
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