Coping with PCOS
Never-say-die Naini Setalvad comes to the aid of young girls distressed by the vexing symptoms of PCOS
This month, we celebrate International Women’s Day. Although I believe women need to be celebrated every day, this month; let’s bask in the limelight. I’m sure all you intelligent, hardworking women do not want anything pulling you down, especially a hormonal disorder like PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome). This slowly creeping lifestyle disease is wreaking havoc for young girls. Many symptoms manifest with this disorder, but irregular periods are a noteworthy indication of cysts in the ovaries.
Testing reproductive hormones, insulin, and thyroid parameters, and getting an ultrasound is the best way for one to diagnose PCOS. Mood swings, acne, pigmentation, obesity, depression, anxiety, and infertility are additional woes for PCOS sufferers. But do not worry; with regular exercise and simple dietary changes, they can be overcome.
The insulin issue
One of the hallmarks of PCOS is insulin resistance. This blood sugar- controlling hormone is linked to reproductive hormones in our body. Insulin levels rise with the intake of sugar and highly processed carbohydrates that lack fibre. This increase causes a domino effect on hormones, resulting in cyst development in the ovaries. I’m sure you are tired of hearing “Cut the carbohydrates,”, and “Ditch the bread, roti, and rice,” but I say, “Please continue having them.” Just see that the grains are whole, organic, and local. Be smart and combine them with vegetables as well as proteins and fats.
The quality of carbohydrates is not the only thing you need to pay attention to for reducing blood sugar but also the quality of protein. When a grain is combined with dals and vegetables, it will help you formulate a balanced meal that will control sugar levels.
Fat is where it ’s at
Do not be fooled into skipping out on your fat. Healthy fats like desi cow ghee (pure ghee) or coconut oil are preferred choices. Omega-3 provided by walnuts and flax seeds is known to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation, further helping you. Fats like nuts and seeds provide the anti-oxidant vitamin E, which benefits your skin too. I would have them as a snack if I were you.
Add on the anti-oxidants
I have seen many of my clients suffer physiological and mental duress due to PCOS. 50 per cent of your plate should be fresh, seasonal vegetables. Opting for local greens ensures that there is a lesser chance of them being doused with fertilisers and pesticides, known aggravators of PCOS. With the temperatures going up, you need to add in the gourd family, (e.g., pumpkins), onions, lemons, capsicums, and drumsticks to get your fill of anti-oxidants.
Spice it up
Our spice box may be the answer to PCOS. So do not forget to add on the spices like cumin, mustard seeds, coriander, and turmeric to your food, and condiments like ginger and a piece of cinnamon to your beverages.
If you ladies are frustrated with PMS and periods, add PCOS to the mix and it is a different ball game. The flatulence, irritability, and disturbed sleep can be curbed by adding on magnesium. The Betel leaf is one of the highest sources of magnesium. Have it with raw cocoa beans and fennel seeds daily. Even nuts like almonds and cashews can give you your magnesium dose. Magnesium will also help control sugar levels, so it’s a double win!
I’m tired of telling all these young girls who come to my clinic to not disregard the importance of Vitamin D. It is actually a hormone and hence plays an important role in balancing other hormones. It is observed that those with lower vitamin D levels are more susceptible to PCOS symptoms. Another vitamin of importance is foliate. This vitamin has shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in women with PCOS. So add on your cluster beans, ladies’ fingers, sorghum millet, sesame seeds, and French beans to get your daily dose.
Watch out for the toxins
PCOS genes are a loaded gun, and the environment is the trigger. It is best to beware of environmental toxins that can find their way into your food. Eat organic, as much as possible. Limit animal products including dairy to prevent the transfer of injected hormones. Even the utensils you use can be carriers of toxins. I avoid using plastic containers and aluminium vessels due to the toxins released. I make it a point only to use toxin- free nail paint to prevent transmission of chemicals into my food.
With the myriad symptoms and complications that come along with PCOS, the treatments are also equally varied, but the one thing that universally works is a healthy, balanced diet. So, this women’s month, take a pledge to give PCOS the punch.
100 g tomato, thick slices
100 g cucumber, thick slices
50 g onion, finely chopped
50 g raw mango, finely chopped
¼ tsp roasted cumin (jeera) powder
2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
2 tbsp green chutney
2 tsp roasted and crushed peanuts
Rock salt and lemon to taste
• Place the sliced cucumber in a plate, put tomato slices on top of it, add a bit of raw mango and chopped onions.
• Put the green chutney, sprinkle jeera powder and lemon.
• Sprinkle roasted and crushed peanuts over it.
• Garnish with coriander and serve.
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