Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a lifestyle disorder that affects almost 1 in 5 women in India. PCOS cannot be treated clinically, whereas, with the help of some simple lifestyle changes like yoga, a well balanced diet, it can be effectively managed.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder due to hormonal imbalance. It is common in women in childbearing age that causes them to produce a higher amount of male hormones called androgen. This imbalance results in the failure of dominant follicle selection. The ovaries may also develop numerous small follicles giving the appearance of polycystic ovaries (PCO), which causes women with PCOS to have irregular / missed periods.
What happens during Normal Menstrual Cycles?
Hypothalamus is a gland in your brain that controls your hormone system. It releases hormones to the other part of the brain called the pituitary gland which is a part of the endocrine system. The pituitary gland releases Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH) that stimulate the growth and maturation of ovarian follicles. This in turn stimulates estrogen secretion (Female Hormones) which helps in the development and maintenance of the reproductive system.
Estrogen helps to increase the size of the uterine tissue. Between (13 to15) days the pituitary gland releases Luteinizing Hormone(LH) which controls the menstrual cycles and also triggers the release of the eggs from the ovaries. It further stimulates Progesterone, from day 15 till 28. Progesterone is a birth hormone that helps create a suitable environment in case the conception happens i.e., increases the mucous secretion, the endometrium line size, prepares to receive and nourish the implanted eggs.
Menstruation is a cyclic process in which the ovary releases an egg, and waits for the conception to happen. In case it doesn’t happen, the egg that is present in the uterus along with the endometrium line moves out. This cycle repeats itself almost after 28-30 days.
What happens during PCOS?
There is an increase in the male hormones Androgens, LH and altered levels of FSH. This imbalance results in the failure of dominant follicle selection that leads to the accumulation of small follicles giving the appearance of polycystic ovaries. In the case of females suffering from PCOS, after the normal follicular growth up to mid-stage, the maturation ceases. This results in progressive accumulation of follicular fluid due to which follicle size enlarges and appears like a thin-walled cyst. This multiple cyst formation in the ovaries leads to polycystic ovary syndrome.
Causes/ Triggering Factors for PCOS
- Obesity: Being overweight can increase one’s chance of developing PCOS.
- Insulin Resistance: Pancreas produce Insulin to control the blood sugar level. It allows the cell to use glucose, which is the major source of energy supply. If your body becomes resistant to the action of insulin, the blood sugar level rises which leads to excess sugar, due to which there is an increase in androgen production.
- Hormonal Imbalance: The ovaries produce abnormally high levels of androgens, resulting in the prevention of ovaries from releasing an egg during the menstrual cycle.
- Hereditary: PCOS can be transferred from generation to generation.
- Chronic Stress: When the cortisol hormone i.e., the stress hormone increases, that increases the glucose in the bloodstream.
- Gut health: If the gut health is not good which causes constipation that can also lead to androgen dominance.
Symptoms of PCOS
- Weight Gain- This is the most common symptom of PCOS. Generally 80% of the women who have PCOS are overweight.
- Irregular periods or No periods- The androgen prevents the ovaries from releasing egg i.e there is a lack of ovulation.
- Acne- Male hormones secrete excess oil which results as acne on the face or upper back.
- Excess hair growth/ Hirsutism – It is an unwanted male pattern hair growth on either face or body due to increase androgen (Male hormone)
- Male pattern Baldness /Thinning- Partial Baldness can be seen, mostly thinning of hair due to high levels of Androgen.
- Mood Swings – Hormonal imbalance leading to mood swings.
- Heavy or less bleeding at the time of mensuration.
- Manly Voice
Changes in Lifestyle for PCOS
Healthy food habits – Ditch the processed food and switch to home-cooked food
Fiber-rich food – To maintain good gut health, because if you are not taking care of your gut health, it leads to constipation which can cause androgen dominance.
Add fruits like apples, berries, green leafy vegetables, sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and beans to the diet plan.
Food that helps to reduce inflammation– Foods such as tomatoes, spinach, kale, berries and strawberries help to reduce inflammation-related symptoms such as fatigue.
Vitamin D-rich foods – Vitamin D helps in the formation of hormones. Add foods such as flaxseeds, Desi ghee, mushrooms to the diet plan.
Food to be Avoided- Refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed food like biscuits, bread, pastries, muffins made of white flour. These foods tend to store more glucose in the body in the form of fat. Excess fat again leads to increase androgen levels.
2015 research dash diet was really helpful when followed for 8 weeks, saw a reduction in insulin resistance and belly fat comparatively
- Natural Unprocessed foods
- High fiber foods
- Kale, spinach and dark leafy vegetables
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Dried beans lentils
- Raisins soaked overnight
- Pinenuts , walnuts, almonds, avocados and coconuts.
- Mukha Dhouli, Agni Sara, Nauli Kriyas– Practice to manage the weight as they help to solve the digestive issues.
- Shanka prakshalana and Vamana Dhauti– Kriyas that can help to solve digestion related issues and also insulin-related issues.
- Surya Namaskar, Vinyasa A, B can help manage weight which is the major triggering factor of PCOS, also helps them reduce insulin resistance.
- Padangusthasana and padahastasana
- Trikonasana helps reduce the waist fat
- Prasarita Padottanasana helps balance the endocrine system
- Bhujangasan, Shalabhasana, Dhanurasana helps strengthen the core muscles, reproductive organs and help in mensuration related problems.
- Balasana, Adho Mukha veerasana helps in relaxing the mind and body.
- Paschimottanasana, Ardhapadma paschimottanasana strongly works on the female reproductive organs with the regular practice one can reduce menstrual disorders.
- Baddhakonasana,Supta Baddhakonasana, Upavistha Konasana, Suptakonasana, Navasana,Tolasana strengthens the reproductive organs, pelvis muscles.
- Sirsasana, Sarvangasana helps balance the endocrine system, which helps in hormonal balance.
- Savasana relaxes the mind and body, deep relaxation can help manage chronic stress.
- Nadi shuddhi pranayama, balances all the systems in the body including the endocrine system which helps in hormonal balance. It also relieves stress and anxiety.
- Kapalbhati pranayama helps to overcome symptoms like fatigue, reduced constipation, indigestion
- Bramari pranayama is very helpful for reducing stress.
- Vipareeta Karani mudra, helps in correcting irregular cycles and strengthens the reproductive system.
- Sahajoli mudra helps in strengthening reproductive organs and also helps in relieving stress.
- Yoni Mudra It balances Apana pranas, it gives you balance, helps release menstrual problems.
Quality of sleep
Sleep quality helps in the better functioning of the body. During this sleep cycle, the body releases many hormones, if a person is not sleeping well then this hinders the release of many hormones.
When plastic comes in contact with food, it leaches chemicals like Xenoestrogens which is similar to the hormone estrogen produced by the human body and disturbes the hormonal balance of the body.
Include meditation practice in your daily routine, as it can help you to manage chronic stress, mood swings helps you to bring balance of mind and body.
- Miscarriage or premature birth
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy induced high blood pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Endometrial cancer (cancer of uterine lining)
Yoga Asana Sequence
- Mukhadhouti, Agni Sara
- Surya Namaskar, Vinyasa A,B
- Padangusthasana and padahastasana
- Prasarita padottanasana
- Bhujangasana, Salabhasana, Dhanurasana
- Adho Mukha Virasana
- Ardha Padma Paschimottanasana
- Navasana, Tolasana
- Baddhakonasana, Supta Baddhakonasana
- Upavistha Konasana, Supta konasana
Watch the video below to learn how Yoga can help in managing PCOS
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Polycystic ovary Syndrome cannot be cured; however, you can reverse its symptoms by making a few changes in your lifestyle. Yoga not only addresses the problems of PCOS but is likely to prevent the long-term complications such as Cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, etc. Furthermore, yoga, being holistic in its approach, is potentially more cost-effective and enduring. Hence yoga may be recommended as both a primary intervention or as an adjunct to standard medical care for the management of PCOS.
This blog was originally written by Palvi Gulati, Level 2 Indea Yoga Teacher and edited by Team Indea Yoga. This was a part of her dissertation work during her Level 2 Teacher Training Course.