Posted on September 04 2022
It is a commonly known fact that the drastic shift in the lifestyles of human beings globally has given rise to several health conditions in recent years.
One such chronic health condition affecting women of reproductive age is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD).
PCOS is not a disease by itself, but represents a group of hormonal disorders put together. The body could produce excess male hormone called ‘testosterone’, exhibiting symptoms such as irregular or absence of periods (menstrual cycles), weight gain, excess facial hair growth and acne, insulin resistance, and certain metabolic and psychological disorders.
I have written a detailed blog on PCOS management and even reversal, with a sample meal plan that recently got a lot of traction. I insist you read the same too here:
How is PCOS diagnosed?
The medical fraternity is yet to get a thorough grasp of this condition but research is continuously evolving.
Although PCOS has been around for a while, there is no specific test or procedure to confirm its diagnosis. In some cases, a patient may need to see a doctor more than once or even multiple doctors to confirm diagnosis.
As per the Rotterdam criteria, which is the gold stone when it comes to diagnosiscs, if a patient has any two of the following symtom's then they could be classified as having PCOS:
- An ultrasound confirming polycystic ovaries (cyst formations in the ovaries).
- Irregular or absence of periods.
- High levels of testosterone (hyperandrogenism).
How common is PCOS in India?
In many cases, PCOS goes undetected for years because generally there might not be any pain associated with it. Moreover, a patient may not necessarily show all the symtoms.
1 in every 10 women go through PCOS and the concerning part is, in India, around 65% women are unaware of the PCOS symptoms. This makes diagnosing PCOS diffcult and late diagnosis could mean serious consequences.
What happens when PCOS goes untreated?
There are some long-term risks associated with PCOS. Let’s take a look at them:
Women with PCOS may suffer from infertility because irregular periods prevent the release of eggs, leading to pregancy. Women with PCOS may also struggle with low egg quality and an-ovulation, putting the health of the foetus at risk even of they do conceive.
Going the IVF route might be emotionally challenging and physically painful. Besides, even if they do conceive there are always risks such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, children born of low birth weight or even miscarriages.
It is highly suggested to reverse PCOS symptoms before you choose to plan fertility.
A large section of women suffering from PCOS are obese and obesity can drive insulin resistance. As per statistics, middle-aged women with PCOS, even the ones that are not obese, have a higher chance of developing type 2 Diabetes.
Insulin resistance (lack of the ability of the body to optimise calories) also makes it harder for women to lose weight. It is thus of absolute importance to work with a certified holistic nutritionist who will help you reverse insulin resistance first before trying to lose weight.
I have curated a six week holistic healing protocol for PCOS management to help you understand insulin resistance and get to the root cause. Here are the details for the same:
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD):
Statistics point out that angiographies conducted for a pool of women with PCOS showed more cholesterol build-up in the blood vessels than average women. This makes one more susceptible to hypertension and even heart diseases.
Given that both PCOS and CVD are lifestyle driven, it is but obvious that working on lifestyle changes, not nutritional alone is of utmost importance to manage POCS. Lifestyle changes could mean working on stress management, improving gut health, working on your circadian cycle etc. I discuss each one of this and many more in- depth in my Holistic Healing Protocol for PCOS management and give a step- by- step solution on improvement.
Conclusive data on direct links between PCOS and chances of cancer are still limited. However, PCOS symptoms and certain drugs used for treatment could put women at risk for ovarian, endometrial, and breast cancer.
This is because PCOS is characterised by a specific condition called estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance means elevated levels of the female sex hormone estrogen flowing through your body. Excess oestrogen can be toxic if not flushed out and is a direct cause of ovarian and breast cancers.
Does PCOS effect women in urban or rural population?
As mentioned earlier, PCOS is a lifestyle disorder, which means that an array of dietary and environmental factor can aggravate the condition. This compels us to compare the medical disorder in rural VS urban women.
We are aware that the rural areas in India are yet to be completely flooded with junk food brands or exposed to chemical toxins found in beauty products, water and even vegetables/ fruits.
For example, most beauty products contain parabens. And parabens are known hormone disrupters and even carcinogenic (cancer causing)
India’s rural population comparatively consumes cleaner diet and breathes fresher air. A study concluded that there are higher cases of PCOS in adolescent Indian females from urban areas compared to rural.
Another study conducted in rural and urban areas of Hyderabad, India, highlights that PCOS is more prevalent in the urban regions. This further emphasises the need to make lifestyle changes and stay away from hormone disrupting chemicals.
An alarming statistic - 16% Indian women between the age-group of 20-29 suffer from PCOS. The same study concluded that 3.8% cases were seen in teenagers, 11.58% in the age-group of 30-44, whereas 1.44% in the 45-59 group.
The awareness of this condition is still very low because 25% women tested did not even know of it. There is a also a sizable proportion of women who ignore or are unable to discuss or seek help for this condition, especially in the rural areas.
Indian women can no longer ignore this disorder and need to educate themselves with as much information to regularly monitor their hormonal health or seek timely intervention.
How to cure pcos naturally india?
Just like treating any other lifestyle disorder, PCOS requires dedicated efforts and patience. There is no short-term or a single drug cure for it. Beware of anyone of who claims that a specific pill or herb could cure PCOS because the chances of relapse is guaranteed.
Since PCOS is a lifestyle disorder, it can only be cured by working on one’s lifestyle.
There is a 3-dimensional approach to managing and even reversing PCOS and they are all inter-dependant:
When working with PCOS management, a low- age diet is often suggested. AGE'S are Advanced Glycation End products in the food we eat are increasingly causing chronic disorders such as PCOS. These are endotoxins that you might be consuming, causing a hormonal havoc in the body.
AGEs are largely found in animal products such as dairy, egg's, and meat. Women with PCOS need to consciously reduce the intake of foods with high-AGE and increase the intake of low-AGE foods such as brown rice and mushroom. But wait, even Ghee? Yes! Watch this:
A plant-based diet, low in fat is effective to bring down excess body weight and subsequently lower insulin resistance. Whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables must fill majority of the plate during meals.
AGEs are also prevalent in the cigarette smoke. This calls for an immediate cut down on smoking, hooks and sheesha's. Furthermore, patients need to avoid being in the vicity of cigarette smoke.
2) Lifestyle Modification:
List of lifestyle changes that help with PCOS management could be in 100s. But let's discuss one here for example. Are you working on developing a healthy circadian rhythm?
As human beings evolved, their bodily functions have adapted to a natural internal rhythm according to the 24-hour clock known as the ‘Circadian Rhythm’.
These functions include digestion, sleep cycle, detox, renal, and cardiac. A human body performs optimally when all functions are in sync with the circadian rhythm. However, it is found that in the PCOS patients this rhythm is disrupted leading to insulin resistance, dysfunction of melatonin activity, and several other symtoms.
When a PCOS patient is working on their lifestyle modication, they need to bring about changes in their daily habits and schedule. They need to fix any erratic sleeping pattern or irregular meal timings.
Since obesity is an important symtom to most PCOS cases, an effort to include even a basic exercise regime in the day-to-day life is known to have a positive effect on the overall health.
Every fat cell in the body acts like a hormone making machine. This means, the more fat cells you have, the more hormonal imbalance you struggle with.
Studies show that simply weight loss has kickstarted the journey to reversal in a lot of women. However, unhealthy weight loss by following over training or fad diet can do more harm than good to a woman’s body and it is extremely crucial to work on a sustainable fitness regime.
Patients working simply on one of the above aspects may not be able to see results soon or maintain them, that’s why it’s important to focus on all three.
Is pcos a pre existing condition india?
Considering the nature of PCOS disorder, women in India must meticuolusly compare health insurance plans before making the purchase. PCOS is considered a ‘pre-existing condition’ by many health and life insurers and it best to discuss the details with the insurer.
Is pcos covered by insurance in india?
Although, a serious work on the three aspects discussed above can heal PCOS to a larger extent, the initial diagnosis could involve doctor’s consultations and lab tests.
Verify that your insurance plan will cover all these expenses and whether there is a waiting period involved.
As of today, there aren’t any specialized health insurance plans in the market for PCOS but you can choose one that covers expenses such as gynecologist consultations, blood tests, ultrasound (sonography), and medications.
On average, sonography cost in India is INR 1,000 and a woman will have to undergo multiple scans depending on the case severity.
PCOS exposes middle-aged women to long-term risks such as infertility, diabetes, heart, and cancer diseases. Here are some insurance plans that cover the risks:
- Aditya Birla Activ Health Platinum Enhanced Plan covers diabetes and high blood pressure.
- ICICI Lombard Complete Health Insurance Policy covers OPD, doctor consultation charges, and pharmacy bills.
- HDFC ERGO My Health Women Suraksha covers uterus, fallopian tubes, breast, cervix, ovary, and vulva cancer.
- Nirbhaya by Bharatiya Mahila Bank, Magma HDI OneHealth Insurance Policy, and Digit Health Care Plus Policy covers In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments.
- Bajaj Allianz Women Specific Critical Illness Plan covers breast, vaginal, cervical, ovarian, fallopian tube, and uterine cancer.
- Star Women Care Insurance Plan covers cancer optionally.
Serious work on the 3-dimensional approach discussed earlier can cure PCOS to a larger extent, however, it is best to stay insured and secure oneself.
Which race is mostly prone to PCOS in india?
While PCOS is driven by genetics, there really is no race more prone to getting more PCOS symptoms than other. PCOS definitely is driven by environmental factors and women living in urban populations present with higher cases than women living in rural areas.
Either ways, treatment for PCOS management remains the same as discussed above, no matter what race one descends from.
What food to avoid in PCOS in India?
We have established earlier in the article that animal-derived foods worsen PCOS symptoms. Let’s find out specifically which foods one must avoid. But before that, watch this video to understand more:
Here are my top three recommendations of foods to avoid:
- Dairy products
Women with PCOS must try to eliminate dairy products such as milk, butter, ghee, cheese, paneer, curd, and mayonnaise from their meals because they are known to increase cholesterol and saturated fats in the body.
Furthermore, the estrogen from the products causes hormonal fluctuations. Dairy derivatives (such as ghee, curds and cheese) are also the highest source of AGEs (toxins leading to PCOS symptoms) in the body.
Meat products of all kinds are the leading cause of most chronic diseases and one must stay away from them regardless of PCOS condition. Meat increases inflammation in the body and puts women at high risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases.
Animals raised for food are also pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones, all of which can cause a hormonal havoc to the one consuming them. Instead switch to plant- based protein sources such as legumes, pulses and soy.
The most commonly and falsely promoted nutritious product is eggs. They too are high in cholesterol and saturated fats and regular consumption will affect the cardiovascular functions of the body.
Eggs also trigger the production of TMAO in the body, disrupting gut health and giving rise to inflammatory gut microbiome that produce more sex hormones, particularly androgens. Read this for more information:
Also read in detail about the five typical Indian food habits that are causing PCOS.
What are some causes of PCOS in Indian Women?
- Bad nutrition:
Modern fad diets are flooded with excessive cheese, butter, mayo, and meat. Deep-fried food items or sweets which were once relished only during festivals are now part of our daily diet.
Moreover, Indians generally consider quick nutrition tips given by doctors at the end of their consultation as sacrosanct. Read in detail why that may be a bad idea.
We are also living in a 'convenient' culture. Most people are too busy to cook at home and having a take- away for atleast one meal per day is a norm.
- Lack of fiber intake:
Dairy, meat, and sugar does not contain any fiber but the body needs it to maintain digestive health.
But more than anything, fiber helps the body flush out excess sex hormones. In the absence of fibre, the body holds onto excess androgens and estrogence, making your symptoms worse.
Now think of your last meal and figure out whether it was fiber-rich? How many fruits did you have today (juices do not count!) and when was the last time you ate raw vegetables?
The presence of fiber-dense foods such as variety of fruits and veggies is miniscule in PCOS patients.
- Bad circadian health:
How many times have you skipped a meal because of something at home or a family member needed urgent attention?
How many times have your meetings dragged for longer hours? How many times did you have to meet deadlines by giving up on your sleep?
Bad circadian health means more stress hormones and excess stress hormones are converted to sex hormones by your gut microbiome. Working on a healthy sleep and wake up routine is crucial for any disease management.
- Lack of physical activity:
The lifestyles of women living in urban areas are leading to obesity because a little over 23% of them are overweight. Obese women from rural areas were only 7%.
This statistic can be attributed to the lack of physical activity and sedentary jobs in cities and towns. How many women complete something as basic as 10,000 steps a day? We no longer play sports or walk to places, thanks to our luxuries lifestyle.
5. Exposure to hormone disruptors:
Women unknowingly are exposed to many environmental toxins that cause havoc to their hormonal health. Something as harmless as an air fresher many contain endocrin disruptors.
Some other products that you must evaluate for their ingredients or minimize the use of are plastic kitchenware, cosmetics, inks, and cleaning products.
Women in Indian societies are known to put the needs of their families before them. The stressors on their mind and body are not doing any good to their overall health. But as they are faced with the bleak side of health disorders, it is crucial to take stock of lifestyle choices and habits so that they improve the quality of their lives.
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