Taking a Holistic Approach to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

With the influx of additives, hormones, and chemicals hidden in our food along with a sedentary lifestyle, polycystic ovarian syndrome is now becoming increasingly common, even in younger women. For a different approach, Khadija Kapasi, clinical dietitian/lifestyle expert instead focuses on mind-body medicine and lifestyle to manage PCOS.

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PCOS defined

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work, explains Kapasi. She elaborates, “If you have at least two of the following symptoms, you may be diagnosed with PCOS: irregular periods – which means your ovaries do not regularly release eggs (ovulation).” Also, excess androgen (male hormones) which is high levels of male hormones in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair. “Or polycystic ovaries, when the ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs,” she explains.

The approach

Maintain a healthy weight: maintaining a healthy weight can help decrease insulin resistance, regulate your period, and reduce your risk of conditions associated with PCOS. If you’re lean then weight gain or meeting the ideal body weight will be helpful here.

Balance your exercise

Exercise is important for maintaining a healthy weight, says Kapasi. “But too much exercise can disrupt your hormones; best are gentle, low impact exercises like yoga or Pilates which can be practiced for longer durations.” Swimming and light aerobics are also recommended.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Sleep affects your stress levels and helps regulate cortisol to balance your hormones, tells Kapasi. “But sleep disturbances are twice as common for women with PCOS.” To up your sleep hygiene, she advises to aim for 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, establish a regular bedtime routine, avoid stimulants and rich, fatty foods before bedtime.

Reduce stress

Reducing stress can regulate cortisol. “Many of the aforementioned strategies mentioned above, such as yoga, getting enough sleep, and cutting caffeine, can contribute to lower stress levels,” she advises. “Taking walks outside and creating space in your life for relaxation and self-care can also reduce levels of personal stress.”

Limit or avoid endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals or ingredients that interfere with or block your body’s natural hormonal reactions. Some endocrine disruptors mimic female and male sex hormones, confusing your reproductive system. This, she says, can increase your risk of PCOS symptoms. They’re often found in canned foods, soaps, and makeup. Common endocrine disruptors include: dioxins, phthalates, pesticides, BPA, and glycol ethers. H

A holistic approach

Contraceptive pills and diabetes medications (which combat insulin resistance, a PCOS symptom) can help rectify the hormone imbalance and improve symptoms, reveals Kapasi. She prefers to understand the root cause of the condition with the help of a qualified professional and treat it accordingly. “What we need to ensure is that we have the four verticals of health kept together as they are interrelated and can nourish and flourish women’s health,” she tells. These are your diet, exercise, sleep, and mental health. A good balance of these four verticals can help regulate the hormones and menstrual cycle.

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