Women’s Health – How Ayurveda Can Help Manage PCOS Effectively
PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a common endocrine disorder that affects almost 6-12 % of reproductive age women across the world. A serious condition that requires immediate medical attention to avoid further complications, PCOS is linked to hormonal imbalance which affects proper functioning of the ovaries and can lead to fertility problems.
What is PCOS?
Ayurveda and PCOS
- Anartava or lack of menstrual blood
- Alpa artava or light menstruation
- Asrik dosha or excessive menstruation
- Granthi Vikara or cyst disease
Hetu (causes) & Samprapti ghatak (pathogenesis factors)
- Mithya ahara – eating oily, spicy & junk food
- Mithya vihar – improper lifestyle including Mansikbhawa/mental characteristics, divaswapna /daydreaming and ratrijagrana/night wakefulness
- Bijadosha – genetic abnormalities
- Pradushtartava – abnormalities in androgen system & hyperandrogenism
- Artava Dushti – menstrual disorder
- Rasa Dhatu Dushti – abnormalities in lymph and plasma
- Meda Dhatu Dushti – abnormal aggravation of fat & lipids
- Strotas Dushti – blockage in Aartava Vaha Strotas or channel that carries reproductive fluid
- Abhojana – nutritional deficiency, causes vata prakopa/aggravation and diminishes pitta which can lead to ksheena artava/low menstrual bleeding
- Atichinta – extra stress or anxiety, which causes hormonal changes/Rasvahastroto Dushi which can result in Ayathakala Artava Darshana/irregular menstrual cycle
- Mootra Vegadharana – suppression of urge of urination, causes weakening of Apana vata (subtype of vata dosha that moves downwards in the body, governs the pelvic cavity region, the reproductive organs, uterus, urinary tract, and bladder) which can lead to Ayathakala Artava Darshana or irregular menstrual cycle
- Avyayama (lack of exercise) & Divaswapna (afternoon nap), causes kapha dosha aggravation and weakens Snigdhatva/oiliness that provides lubrication which can lead to sthoulya/excess weight
Chikitsa – Ayurvedic treatment for PCOS
- strengthening the digestive fire/agni to boost metabolism and nutrient absorption
- balancing kapha & vata dosha
- correcting Aartava Dhatu Dushti or menstrual irregularities
- remedying Meda Dhatu Dushti to reduce excessive fats
- removing ama/toxins to clear the Strotas Dushti or blockages in the channel that carries the reproductive fluid
Nidanaparivarjana or removing the factors that can lead to PCOS symptoms
- Avoid mithya ahara & vihar
- Rajaswala paricharya – a specific code of conduct during the menstrual cycle such as eating havisya bhojan (made of ghee, shali rice and milk) and yava Pradhan foods or food items that constitute barley. These foods are agnivardhaka ahara or foods that strengthen the agni. Also, yava has Guru/heavy, Shita/cold, Madhura/sweet and Sara/laxative gunas or characteristics that increase vata and faeces. A menstruating woman should avoid tikshna/pungent, katu/spicy and lavana/salty foods as it increases the menstrual flow and can result in Vata Prakopa
Ayurvedic Herbs for PCOS
- Varunadi Kashaya & Varunadi Kwatha – helps reduce the stored fat, improve the insulin balance, clear the srotas, and reduce the size of the cyst
- Shatavari Gulam – known to pacify menstrual problems such as painful and very heavy or prolonged periods
- Triphala Guggulu – useful in reducing excess weight
- Chitrakadi Vati – promotes proper digestion
- Punarvadi Kashaya – stimulates the production of reproductive hormones in women and corrects hormonal issues
Removing blockages of Aartvavaha Strotas
- Samshodhana or detoxification that removes waste matter from the body and also helps better functioning of the strotas or channels
- Shodhana including Adhomarga (rectal route) or Urdhwamarga (mouth) to clear obstruction of artavavaha srota. Vaman (therapeutic vomiting for hormonal balance), Virechana (controlled purgation to eliminate excess pitta/ama and regulate menstrual cycle) and Basti (infusing herbal decoctions and medicated oils into the colon through the rectum to nourish reproductive organs) which are part of Panchkarma are also suggested for management of PCOS
- Improving Ksheena Artava or low menstrual bleeding Agneya Dravya (ushna/hot properties) are also used in management of PCOS as they pacify vata and kapha dosha, improve the functioning of the digestive system and the quality of aartav/menstrual blood to prevent menstrual abnormalities. Til/sesame and kulith/horse gram are recommended to increase artava
PCOS Ayurvedic Diet
- Drink herbal tea or honey water in the morning to help balance the vata & kapha dosha
- Eat ragi, barley/yava, nuts, whole wheat, and also fermented foods such as idli, dosa
- Include more fresh vegetables and fruits and less carbohydrates (to reduce insulin resistance) in the daily diet
- Eat fresh vegetables such as spinach, carrots, beet (these help purify the blood and reverse uterus damage). Organic vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, radish, sweet potatoes help increase immunity
- Lentils (toor, moong, masoor dal), chickpeas (chana) help in reducing estrogen level
- Sesame (til) seeds, pumpkin (kaddu) seeds, flax (aalsi) seeds, sunflower (surajmukhi) seeds are excellent source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids
- Include cumin (jeera) seeds and fennel (saunf) seeds in meal preparation as they help prevent UTI (urinary tract infection)
- Dhania (coriander seeds) and cardamom (elaichi) are good for controlling period cramps
- Fresh fruits such as pomegranate and black grapes help in blood purification, cherries, plums, black berries, oranges and apples are also beneficial for PCOS
- Include bitter gourd/karela (either as a vegetable or juice) as it helps control blood sugar levels
- Amla or Indian gooseberry helps flush out toxins/ama, regulates menstrual cycle, and promotes hormonal balance
- Methi leaves (fenugreek) maintain insulin levels and helps control blood sugar levels
- Low-fat milk, homemade ghee (in small quantity) are also advised
- Buttermilk with ginger is helpful for PCOS, it improves gut health
- Avoid white sugar, coffee, and aerated drinks. Instead opt for water and fresh fruit juices
PCOS Ayurvedic home remedies and tips
- Have a regular exercise routine. Walking, running, jogging, swimming are all good physical activities that help maintain healthy weight and also keeps insulin levels in check (problems that PCOS patients face). Especially do lower abdomen exercises to reduce belly fat
- Yoga and Pranayama are excellent forms of holistic medicine that calm both the mind and body. Yoga can provide relief from abdominal pain (period cramps), help regulate menstrual cycles and hormones. Suryanamaskars, Dhanurasana, Uttanpadasana, Badhakonasana, Ushtrasana, vrikshasana, and Vajrasana are some of the yoga asanas that are ideal for developing a regular and healthy menstrual cycle. Pranayama/breathing exercises, especially anulom vilom & kapalbhati (which requires rapid breathing) are useful for managing PCOS
Modern science says that although the exact reason why women are affected with PCOS remains unclear, it is related to genetics and family history. PCOS occurs when a hormonal imbalance (testosterone and androstenedione, Luteinizing hormone (LH), Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), Estrogen, Progesterone and Insulin are the hormones that play a role in PCOS) affects follicular growth during ovulation, so instead of bursting and releasing the egg and fluid in the abdominal cavity, the affected ovarian follicle remains in the ovary where it forms into a cyst. Several cysts can form during each subsequent ovarian cycle, thus giving it the name Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (Poly means many).
Common symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstrual cycles, excessive facial or body hair, acne, scalp hair loss, obesity, mood swings, anxiety & depression and insulin resistance.
Ayurveda has always given a lot of importance to women’s health and gynecological disorders and described many therapeutic methods for their management and treatment, including PCOS.
Similar to the modern reference of ovarian cyst, Ayurveda terms PCOS as Beejakosha Granthi and says that PCOS symptoms arise when rakta (blood) and mamsa (muscles) are vitiated. Ayurveda classifies PCOS as Kapha dosha disorder where a vitiated vata dosha also plays a role in its pathogenesis.
As per Ayurveda PCOS falls under the category of Artava dushti (menstrual disorder) & Yoni vyapadas (utero vaginal disorders) where hormonal imbalance and dhatu dushti (rasa dhatu/lymph and plasma, medo dhatu/fat tissue, artava dhatu/female reproductive system) lead to cysts formation in the ovaries and obstruct the normal functioning of the female reproductive system.
Ayurvedic symptoms of PCOS
According to Ayurveda, the causative factor for PCOS is blockage of the natural flow of artavavaha srota (artava dhatu is responsible for reproduction in women), the channel that carries the reproductive fluid. This happens when excess kapha blocks the artavavaha srota, obstructing movement and suppressing the metabolism.
Ayurveda terms PCOS a lifestyle disorder resulting from hormonal imbalance, genetic factor, long term use of contraceptive pills, improper daily routine etc. PCOS (formation of cysts in the ovary) is a pathological disease that can result in irregular menstrual cycle, fertility issues and other gynecological problems.
Nidana and Samprapti Ghatak of symptoms of PCOS as per Ayurveda
Other factors that contribute to PCOS symptoms
Is there a permanent cure for PCOS in Ayurveda? The answer is yes, PCOS can be treated by using ayurvedic medicine that suggests a multi-pronged approach including
Ayurvedic herbs such as Ashoka, Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Eranda, Shatavari, Haritaki,, Varuna, Pippali, Bilva, Agni mantha, Punarvana, Guduchi, Chitraka, Shunthi, turmeric, neem are recommended as they are very effective in balancing the tridoshas and dhatus in a woman’s body and correcting hormonal imbalances to help manage PCOS.
In addition Ayurvedic herbal preparations are also used in treating PCOS
Ayurvedic medicine for PCOS are mainly natural herbs and their preparations. Whether caught at an early stage or even in advanced condition, Ayurvedic treatments are available for PCOS. As Ayurveda considers PCOS as a lifestyle disorder, adopting healthy ahara, vihara and holistic & spiritual approach to life can help fight against the disorder.
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