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AYURVEDIC APPROACH TO THE MANAGEMENT OF PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic condition where the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of male sex hormones (androgens) that are usually present in women but in small amounts. The name PCOS refers to numerous small cysts that form in the ovaries. It should be noted that that not all women who are diagnosed with PCOS have cysts, and some women may have cysts (Polycystc ovaries), but do not have the PCOS.

Ovulation occurs when a mature egg is released from an ovary down the fallopian tubes to the uterus. If the egg is not fertilised, it is sent out of the body during menses. In some cases, a female doesn’t make enough of the hormones required for ovulation, which can then lead to the development of many small cysts in the ovaries. These cysts make male hormones (androgens). Women with PCOS often have high levels of androgens, which can lead to other problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle, and subsequent PCOS symptoms.

The cause of the condition is unknown. However, many diagnosed with PCOIS often have insulin resistance, and the body is unable to use insulin properly, leading to insulin build up in the body and may cause an further increase androgen levels. Obesity can also increase insulin levels and also aggravate PCOS symptoms.

It can be common for mother and daughter(s) to have PCOS.

Symptoms can include:

  • Missed periods, irregular, or very light periods
  • Ovaries that are large or have many cysts
  • Excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, and back (hirsutism)
  • Weight gain, especially around the abdomen
  • Acne or oily skin
  • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
  • Infertility 
  • Skin tags on the neck or armpits
  • Dark/thick skin patches on the back of the neck, armpits, and under the breasts

To be diagnosed with PCOS women need to have two of the following: 1) Polycystic ovaries appearing on an ultrasound; 2) Irregular periods; 3) Increased male hormone in the blood test, or associated symptoms such as extra hair growth or acne. It should be noted that these symptoms can be related to other conditions, such as thyroid or pituitary disfunction, so these first need to be ruled out.

Those with PCOS have a higher likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, problems with the heart and blood vessels, and uterine cancer, and infertility.


Conventional Treatments:
Treatment for PCOS is dependent on a number of factors, including age, the severity of the symptoms, overall health, and if an individual plans to become pregnant into the future.

For those planning for pregnancy, treatment plans may include:

  • Diet and lifestyle modifications: A healthy diet, more physical activity to help balance/reduce weight and reduce symptoms, which can also work towards improvements in insulin efficiently, lower blood glucose levels, and ovulation.
  • Medications to help ovulation: Medications to assist the ovaries to release eggs normally. These medications also carry potential side effects, including increasing the chance for a multiple birth, cause ovarian hyperstimulation, high cholesterol levels, and symptoms such as abdominal bloating and pelvic pain.

For those not planning for pregnancy, treatment plans may include:

  • Birth control pills: For controlling the control menstrual cycle, lower androgen levels, and reduce acne.
  • Diabetes medication: To reduce insulin resistance, and may also help reduce androgen levels, slow hair growth, and improve regularity of ovulation.
  • Diet and lifestyle modifications: A healthy diet, more physical activity to help balance/reduce weight and reduce symptoms, which can also work towards improvements in insulin efficiently, lower blood glucose levels, and ovulation.
  • Medications: Some medications can help in reducing hair growth or acne.


Ayurvedic Approach to PCOS (Aarthava Kshaya):
While PCOS is not specifically identified as a single condition in the classical Ayurvedic texts, the symptoms correlate with Ayurvedic doshic (body humor) imbalances that then affects the reproductive tissues.

Ayurveda classifies PCOS as a tridoshic disorder (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha involvement), and the condition can manifest with one or more doshas being dominant.

Vata dominant PCOS: Vata vitiation results in irregular menstruation, scanty periods, and pain.

Pitta dominant PCOS:  Pitta vitiation can result in hirsutism, acne, clotting, cardiovascular and heart problems.

Kapha Treatment dominant PCOS: results in weight gain, the growth of cysts, subfertility and depression.

According to Ayurveda, improper diet and lifestyle, including mental stress and lack of physical exercise, as well as prolonged and excessive consumption of hormonal contraceptive pills form the major causes of PCOS.

Due to causative factors, Kapha in the GI tract affects to Jataragni (digestive fire). This then leads to the production of toxins in the GI tract. These are then circulated through the body tissues and over time will push Vata and Pitta doshas out of balance and settle in the reproductive channels.  When Vata becomes vitiated in the reproductive tissues, it subsequently manifests as an irregular menstrual cycle. Pitta vitiation involvement leads to acne, hirsutism, and hormonal imbalances including excess circulating testosterone in the body. Kapha vitiation leads to symptoms associated with cysts, and weight gain.


BENEFICIAL AYURVEDIC HERBS FOR PCOS:
Vata Pitta Balancing: guduchi, turneric, triphala, punarnava, bilwa, shatavari, kutki, aloe vera juice, fennel
Vata Kapha Balancing: guduchi, turneric, triphala, punarnava, bilwa, pippali, agnimantha, chitraka, ginger, ashwaganda, aloe vera juice, fennel
Pitta Vata Balancing: guduchi, turneric, triphala, punarnava, bilwa, shatavari, aloe vera juice, fennel
Pitta Kapha Balancing: guduchi, turneric, triphala, punarnava, bilwa, ashoka, aloe vera juice, fennel
Kapha Vata Balancing: guduchi, turneric, triphala, punarnava, bilwa, pippali, agnimantha, chitraka, ginger, ashwaganda, aloe vera juice, fennel
Kapha Pitta Balancing: guduchi, turneric, triphala, punarnava, bilwa, Ashoka, kutki, aloe vera juice


Traditional Ayurvedic Treatment(s) for PCOS:
Ayurvedic treatment approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual, the current imbalances, their age, strength, severity of the condition, and if other conditions are also present. Treatment approaches can include:


General Ayurvedic Nutritional Guidelines for PCOS:
Ayurvedic nutritional approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. One should eat compatible foods, and in accordance to one's imbalances. Some additional general guidelines include:

  • One should eat the foods that one does not react to.
  • One should eat according to the digestive capacity, keeping meals light, cooked, warm moist and easy to digest. As a guide, eat to fill the stomach 1/3 with solid food, 1/3 with liquid and leaving 1/3 empty to allow room for digestive secretions in the stomach.
  • One should eat at regular times/intervals.
  • One should eat wholegrains and non-processed foods.
  • Foods to avoid: Cold foods, raw foods, leftover foods (24 hours), frozen foods, cold water, processed and packaged foods, soft drinks, high fat foods, greasy foods. Minimise the intake of sour and hot chilli type foods. Avoid rice, potatoes, sugary foods, milk products (except buttermilk), jaggery and fish. Minimise salt intake.
  • One should avoid overeating. Allow 6 hours between meals and snack 3 hours after a meal and eat only if hungry. If digestion is poor, then 4 light meals per day is advisable in place of three regular meals.
  • Breakfast should be easy to digest, lunch the main meal, and dinner should be lighter than lunch.
  • A small amount of buttermilk consumed after meals is advisable.
  • Eat home cooked meals, preferably made on the same day as being prepared.
  • Water should be drunk warm in the cooler months and room temperature in the summer months. Avoid chilled water.
  • Use all of the five senses at mealtimes. Savour the food that you are eating.
  • Eat in a pleasant environment. Eat seated and try to avoid TV and electronic devices whilst eating.
  • Eat slowly, eat with respect/reverence for what you are eating, chew thoroughly. 


General Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for PCOS:
Ayurvedic lifestyle approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. Some general guidelines include:


]If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.

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Disclaimer:
The above information is for information and educational purposes. As such we are not, diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before taking any form of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

 

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