26-year-old Priya had gained five kilos in two months and her periods had become irregular. She was visiting the parlour more often to get her facial hair threaded and—horror of horrors—her hair dresser commented that her hair had started thinning. What was happening, she wondered.
She visited her family doctor who suggested some tests and thereafter nonchalantly announced the diagnosis: polycystic ovarian disease or PCOD.
Like Priya, PCOD creates havoc for one in every five women and this statistic has been rising at a frightening pace since the past two decades.
At a glance: Symptoms of PCOD
- Irregular, heavy, light or absent periods; spotting between periods
- Difficulty conceiving
- Hair fall and thinning hair
- Excess facial and body hair
- Darkened skin patches
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
Conventionally, PCOD is treated symptomatically, which means every symptom is treated separately. There are different medicines, each given for the acne, irregular periods, weight loss, insulin resistance, hair fall and so on. While these treatments do help to control the symptoms, they don’t treat the underlying cause. For that, you need to approach this condition holistically.
Here are a few things you can do that will not only address the symptoms but even help in reversing PCOD altogether.
Manage insulin resistance
A woman with PCOD is surprised when she discovers that her doctor has prescribed to her medicine that is generally given to diabetics even though her sugar levels are normal. This is because PCOD and insulin resistance go hand in hand. Lack of exercise and unhealthy food habits makes your body resistant to using the available insulin. To compensate, your cells start producing more insulin. It is insulin resistance that makes it difficult for women with PCOD to lose weight. This extra insulin may also cause your ovaries to produce more male hormones such as testosterone, which explains facial hair in some. To make your body sensitive to insulin requires some big changes in your diet and lifestyle, as advised in the next point.
Say no to processed foods
As much as possible, eat foods that are in, or close to, their original form. Avoid processed foods. E.g., have fruits instead of drinking packaged juices or eating jams. Eat vegetables as a salad, soup or sabji; avoid ready-to-cook packet or soup packet. Avoid ketchups, sauces, bakery items, biscuits, refined flour, cakes, pastries, vanaspati and sugar. You can eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dates and raisins. Desserts can be home-made, prepared with organic jaggery or dates.
If you want to bid farewell to PCOD forever, you have to fall in love with moving more. That could be walking, running, swimming, cycling, yoga, weight training, zumba, dancing, climbing stairs, doing more house chores or anything that requires your body to move. If you have a sitting job, get up and walk around after every 60 – 90 minutes. Most importantly, always include some form of strength training in your workout regime. If you can spare only 20 – 30 minutes a day to exercise, spend that time doing some form of resistance training rather than walking/running.
Get enough sleep
Regular sleep is important to maintain hormone health. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep daily and keep a regular sleep schedule. Ideally, go to bed by 10pm and avoid seeing any screens at least an hour before bedtime. Sleeping and waking up at a regular time helps to regulate your body clock, which in turn harmonises your hormones. If you can, also take a 30 minute power nap at mid-day. Sleep will also speed up your weight loss efforts.
Keep away from hormone disruptors
Certain foods, such as dairy, can disturb the hormone balance in your body and hence, should be completely avoided. The milk available these days is produced using a lot of hormones and chemicals that are entering our body through the milk. Avoid using plastic containers for storing or heating food and water. Plastic contains certain chemicals that are released in the food and water when it is heated. Instead, use glass or steel containers and bottles. Avoid using the microwave for cooking or reheating food.
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