Each individual is unique and so is their PCOS! Not all women with PCOS have weight issues. PCOS can affect both thin as well as obese women. Not all women with PCOS have menstrual irregularity. Also, while some may have delayed or scanty periods due to PCOS, other suffer form heavy bleeding and prolonged period in PCOS. Although insulin resistance triggers the hormonal imbalances in PCOS, not all women show high levels of insulin or high blood sugar in their blood work!
Although, many women suffer from facial hair/ hirsutism, not all have high levels of testosterone. Just the way we manage all these varied presentation of PCOS differently for every patient, planning meal plans also needs customization!
Creating your own meal plan for PCOS is very simple and a great DIY activity. Here are 5 simple rules that you can follow to design your own PCOS meal plan.
- Identify your problem areas: Understanding your PCOS is the first step to designing
any meal plan. Which of the following is affecting you:
- Weight gain/ difficulty in loosing weight
- Hunger pangs, food cravings , binging or lack of appetite
- IBS, constipation, acidity or stomach bloating and gases
- Body aches, pains, muscle spasms
- Menstrual irregularity- heavy bleeding/scanty bleeding, delayed periods/periods occur too often
- Stress, moods swings, PMS, depression/anxiety, sleep disturbances\
- Lack of energy, exhaustion
- Hair loss
- Facial hair
- Pre-diabetic changes (HbA1C- 5.7-6.4%, Blood Sugar higher than normal)
Shortlist which of the above areas affect you. Based on your list you can start working out a meal plan. You may need the guidance of a professional in case you are not able to understand this area on your own.
2. 5 meals a day:
To ensure hormonal balance in PCOS, eating every 3-4 hours is a must. This eating pattern helps in regularizing insulin functions and ensures steady blood glucose levels- which are a must! Giving long gaps between two meals or skipping meals fuels hormonal imbalances and weight gain in PCOS.
5 points to remember are:
- Have your breakfast within 45 minutes of getting up. This ensures optimum insulin functions. This habit also helps get rid of lethargy and exhaustion, which are triggered by insulin resistance.
- Portion of every meal should be eat 3/4 of your capacity. This helps in regularizing hunger and intake. Also, it helps in preventing overeating.
- Have your dinner as early as possible. Metabolism and digestion slow down after sunset. Hence, in PCOS where metabolism and digestion are already at their rock bottom, early dinner is a must.
3. Keep it simple:
Keeping your PCOS meal plan as simple as possible, is the key to make it a sustainable and doable meal plan. PCOS meal plan needs to be deigned based on your ethnic eating habits which are familiar with.You can include super foods which are not a part of your ethnic eating habits. However, major portion of your meals should be foods which you and your body is familiar with. This make sure that you don’t have to learn special or complex skills or recipes. If you have to start learning too many new skills in kitchen, this is where most people give up on meal plans. Also, designing a meal plan which is way out your comfort zone in also makes it less sustainable and less mentally acceptable to many women.
- Choose recipes which have less than five ingredients and take no more than 20 minutes of cooking time
- Choose one pot meals that are loaded with whole grains and veggies
- Keep it economical! You don’t have to go broke in order to manage your PCOS. Budget your monthly grocery and food expenses to keep your meal plans economical. Use those coupons, in store offers and sales to get value for money while you shop for groceries
4. Wholesome is the rule:
Every meal, be it breakfast, snack , lunch, evening snack or dinner; make sure to include wholesome ingredients. Organic, locally grown foods, super foods, whole foods and seasonal foods are the once which will help you get rid of PCOS.
5. Final steps for designing PCOS meal plan:
- Make a grocery shopping list with with all the healthy food that are available in your area.
- List down 7-8 each of breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner and healthy desert ideas. Find recipes which are easy and print them. Make a binder book of these recipes and keep them in your kitchen for easy reference.
- No meal plans work without planning! Every Saturday plan your next week meals based on your recipe book and your grocery list and stick to it.
These are some pointers that can help you get organized with your PCOS management. Remember it takes at least 90 days to form any good habit. Do not give up on your PCOS meal plan unless you have tried it word to word for three to four months.
To make your PCOS meal plan work , include a healthy exercise and Yoga routine to go with it. Also, see your doctor regularly in case your require medications and regular check ups.
Most of the times – a patient and doctor relationship is very limited to the discussion around the patients current health issues.
Once the issue is resolved, the patient nor the doctor find enough time and inclination in pursuing the discussion and getting meaningful feedback.
This could be primarily due to the doctor not having enough time to spend on the “person” who is no longer a “patient”.
A busy doctor has to deal with a lot of people on any given day.
Also, the relationship aspect becomes difficult to handle as most people are not keen to share details in an ongoing basis as they do not see – it’s necessary.
For a doctor, regular feedback and updates from a patient is very important to monitor and measure the success of his treatment. Also, it provides good insight and information to a doctor when the patient provides a feedback. It not only feels good for the doctor but also helps in planning and providing good care to other patients with similar issues on : How to approach a new patient and provide better care and cure.
Personally, due to the nature of issues that I encounter especially around PCOD, Weight gain, Skin problems, Pregnancy, Lifestyle and hair care issues etc. in person visit in a clinical setting is indeed easier to cure and handle. Also the amount of time and effort it involves in providing care and on-going monitoring is much more efficient in a clinical setting.
However, with a lot of people approaching for online consultations and advice, providing good care and consultation to patients online via channels like Phone, email, chat and video consultations has become a growing trend. Its easier and convenient for a patient to book an appointment and also consult a doctor due to the advancement of technologies and communication tools. Additionally, the stress and cost related to physical commute to a clinic can be avoided and saves time and money to the patients.
For a doctor, this provides a new challenge as well as opportunities to handle different types of issues and people.
Interestingly, a few of the challenges related to remote patient management and cure can be addressed with good and effective feedback especially if the disease is a long standing one and needs prolonged period of treatment and care.
I have seen this work effectively in my medical practice since a few years now. Most of my patients who have communicated and provided insights into their health and feedback on a regular basis has immensely benefited me in my practice and providing better care to other patients. Also, this benefits the patient on their return visits as I have had their case history details and been in regular touch.
Sharing a few details of some of my recent paitent testimonials below as a sample.
Also, I must congratulate the patients too for their trust in my work, belief that they will get cure and the disciplined and persistent approach to dealing with the disease. Their committment and trust in Ayurveda and me, has immensely helped in my practice and passion for medicine !
PS: Patient details will not be disclosed for privacy reasons.
Management of PCOD or PCOS with Ayurveda is very individualistic and highly customized based on each woman’s specific health needs.Ayurveda pays attention to specific aspects of your overall health, which forms the basis of customizing the treatment.
Following are some of the aspects to consider and focus on, while being treated for PCOS/PCOD –
Ayurvedic body type or Prakriti-
This analysis done by a trained Ayurvedic physician allows us to understand the fine make-up of your body and mind. Choosing specific diet and lifestyle for PCOS is based on this analysis. Also, it helps us understand why one women’s PCOD or PCOS is different than others.
Appetite and digestion-
Ayurveda pays great attention to the status of your digestion, elimination and overall metabolism. PCOD and PCOS being metabolic disorders are deeply connected with past history of poor digestion. Moreover, a link has been seen between poor gut flora and inflammation leading to PCOS.
While deciding the course of Ayurvedic management of PCOS, assessing patient’s current lifestyle is crucial. Sedentary habits can be the reason behind failure of some of the most powerful Ayurvedic therapies employed for treating PCOS. Also, haphazard and poorly planned exercise routines which do not complement one’s body type, may not be useful at all or may lead to complications. Ayurvedic therapy includes a detailed guidance on type of work out or Yoga that suits the patient.
An account of past eating habits usually inquired by Ayurvedic physician helps to understand the probable dietary causes behind the development or worsening of PCOS.
Based on the above points, Ayurvedic management of PCOS/PCOD has the following components:
- Ayurvedic Panchakarma: Highly specialized Ayurvedic detoxification therapies are used to rectify dosha imbalance, improve digestion and enhance a patient’s response to Ayurvedic therapies. These therapies are very advanced and need to be performed by a skilled and experienced Ayurvedic physician.
- Ayurvedic Medications: Many Ayurvedic herbs have individual effects on PCOD. However, Ayurvedic therapy involves use of compound Ayurvedic formulations based on each patient’s specific requirements. A skilled Ayurvedic physician seldom prescribes same medicines for two different PCOS cases.
- Ayurvedic Diet Modifications: A detailed guideline on modifying diet according to patient’s body type and severity of PCOS is an integral part of managing PCOS according to Ayurveda !
- Ayurvedic Lifestyle Modifications: Instructions for Yoga, exercises and a wholesome daily routine are suggested to make therapy effective and the results sustainable.
Unlike conventional medicine Ayurveda never adopts the ‘one size fits all’ approach. This is the reason behind success of Ayurvedic therapies in PCOD and PCOS.
PCOS is a leading cause for obesity, menstrual irregularity, sub-fertility and infertility in women across the world. Persistent acne, hair loss, unwanted facial hair and dark pigmentation of skin especially around the neck i.e. acanthosis nigricans, add to the woes of women with PCOS.
Underlying insulin resistance, high level of male hormone testosterone i.e. Hyperandrogenism; imbalance of LH- Luteinizing hormone and FSH- follicle stimulating hormone, make PCOS a very complex metabolic disorder.
Ayurvedic treatment has a holistic approach towards management of PCOS. Each patient is given a unique therapy based on her specific health needs due to PCOS, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Such personalized approach helps in re-balancing the hormones naturally. Ayurvedic therapy focuses on balancing tissue nutrition, rectifying the imbalance of dosha-bio-energies that govern the body and boosting metabolism. Ayurvedic therapies also help in gradual and wholesome weight loss, reduce hair, facial hair growth and reduces acne.
Thus, Ayurvedic therapy not only helps in controlling PCOS; it also helps in restoring health and well-being.
The main aim of Ayurvedic therapy in women with PCOS are:
- Detoxification of body
- Strengthening and revitalizing the female reproductive system and regularizing menstrual cycles.
- Rectifying hormonal imbalance
Five common Ayurvedic medicines that help in the management of PCOS:
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari helps in promoting normal development of ovarian follicles, regulates menstrual cycle and revitalizes the female reproductive system. Shatavari also helps in combating the hyperinsulinemia- i.e. high levels of insulin, mainly due to its phytoestrogen (natural plant based estrogen).1
- Guduchi (Tinospora Cordifolia)
Guduchi is a powerful anti- inflammatory herb. Chronic inflammation in tissues is the root cause for insulin imbalance and ovarian cysts. Guduchi helps in revitalizing all the body tissues and boosts metabolism naturally. It also helps in lowering insulin resistance.
- Shatapushpa (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel seeds also known as shatapushpa in Sanskrit are a good supplement for PCOS. They are rich source of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens in fennel, helps in reducing insulin resistance and in bringing down the inflammation in PCOS. Phytoestrogens are also believed to help reduce the cellular imbalance which leads to metabolic disturbances in PCOS.2
A mixture of three fruits- Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellerica) blended in it; Triphala is one of the most popular Ayurvedic classical formulations! It is a rich source of vitamin C- a powerful natural antioxidant that helps in reducing inflammation by scavenging free radicals. Triphala helps in cleansing and detoxifying your system and hence is best taken prior to taking any other Ayurvedic medicines.
- Aloe Vera- Kumari (Aloe barbadensis)
Aloe vera is yet another Ayurvedic herb that is extremely beneficial in treating PCOS. It helps in regularizing the menstrual cycles, promotes normal mestruation and normalizes ovarian hormonal imbalance.3
Note : The prescription of the above medications should be administered by a trained Ayurvedic doctor. The above recommendations should not be taken without proper consultation from a Ayurvedic doctor. My experience has been that – proper diet , lifestyle , yoga combined with Ayurveda has very high chances of managing the condition.
For consultations on PCOS and other women’s health condition, please refer to my services section.
- Hannan, J. M. A., et al. “Antihyperglycaemic activity of Asparagus racemosus roots is partly mediated by inhibition of carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and enhancement of cellular insulin action.” British Journal of Nutrition 107.09 (2012): 1316-1323
- Jungbauer, Alois, and Svjetlana Medjakovic. “Phytoestrogens and the metabolic syndrome.” The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 139 (2014): 277-289
- Maharjan, Radha, Padamnabhi S. Nagar, and Laxmipriya Nampoothiri. “Effect of Aloe barbadensis Mill. formulation on Letrozole induced polycystic ovarian syndrome rat model.” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine 1.4 (2010): 273.