PCOD: A modern menace!

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Sujal Torgal Patil

Lifestyle disorders have spread throughout the world as vigorously as any communicable epidemic. One of them is Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD) an endocrine disturbance which accounts for a major chunk of patients – women between 15 to 40 years of age. Other names for PCOD are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or the Stein-Leventhal syndrome. The disorder accounts for 30 per cent of all infertility cases with 73 per cent of women suffering from PCOD experiencing infertility due to anovulation. The data associated with PCOD is frightening enough to consider this menace as a priority for the medical system today.  

As said earlier in PCOD the hormones get out of balance. One hormone change triggers another which changes another. There is ovarian confusion, ovulation disruption, over nourishment and overproduction of insulin. Hormonal imbalance affects follicular growth during the ovarian cycle causing the affected follicles to remain in the ovary. The retained follicle forms into a cyst and with each ovarian cycle a new cyst is formed leading to multiple ovarian cysts. Normally, the ovaries make a tiny amount of male sex hormones (androgens). In PCOS, they start making slightly more androgens. This may cause women to stop ovulating, get acne, and grow extra facial and body hair. The body may have a problem using insulin, called insulin resistance. When the body doesn’t use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up. Over time, this increases your chance of getting diabetes which in turn enhances the risk of PCOD.

Symptoms:

• Menstrual disorders: Oligomenorrhea (fewer than nine menstrual periods in a year) or amenorrhea (no menstrual periods for three or more consecutive months), hypermenorrhea (heavy and prolonged menstrual periods) may also occur.

• High levels of male hormones:  Hyperandrogenism, the most common signs are acne and hirsutism (male pattern of hair growth, such as on the chin or chest), androgenic alopecia (increased hair thinning on the scalp or diffuse hair loss).

• Infertility: This generally results directly from chronic anovulation (lack of ovulation).

• Obesity

• Other symptoms include depression, obstructive sleep apnea, mood disorders, pelvic pain, and patches of thick and darker velvety skin, facial hair, and acne.

There is detailed information about the pathological changes that take place during PCOD in modern medical literature, but no information about the causes and thereby there is confusion about the management too. Every case of PCOD is dealt with the perspective of the objective to be achieved. For instance, in a case of PCOD with associated weight gain, the focus will be on weight loss, when there is amenorrhoea, hormonal stimulators are given to induce periods. When PCOD is related to infertility, methods such as Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and In vitro fertilisation (IVF)are adopted when primary management fails, and eventually, there is a surgical intervention to break open the cysts.

Ayurved’s approach to this syndrome is completely different and holistic. This disorder is also counted as one of those hundreds of metabolic disorders which are basically a result of a faulty lifestyle in itself. Therefore, in no time symptoms of PCOD are reversed by Ayurvedic management with minimal medication and accurate diet and lifestyle intervention.

According to Ayurved, the root cause of this disorder is agnimandya (reduction of appetite as well as the digestive power) and lack of nutritional food. Along with this heredity and genetic predisposition also plays a vital role. If we have a glance at the dietary habits of children these days, we have our answers. The day starts with junk food and ends with the same. Instant food like pizzas, burger, sandwiches, pasta, noodles, and other products of refined flour, ice creams, cakes and other bakery product, cold drinks, spicy chats available on the streets and such other edibles have negligible amounts of nutritive value in them. Such food should be eaten once in a while but unfortunately, edibles like these have become the main content of the dietary charts and parents are least bothered about it.

Some people have this misconception that making the above at home could make it healthy. This is not true. Some of these products are so heavy for digestion that our agni (digestive power) hits an all-time low, yet we don’t stop eating and thus suffer from digestive disturbances resulting in various such syndromes. To augment the ill effects, lack of physical exercise, sedentary lifestyle, improper sleep schedule or lack thereof, care during the menstrual periods are the most important causes of metabolic disturbances resulting in disorders like PCOD.

As explained earlier because of the various dietary and lifestyle-related causes the agni is imbalanced resulting in improper digestion leading to body tissues which lack the necessary essence and nourishment. According to Ayurved, rasa, rakta, mamsa, meda, asthi, majja, and shukra are the seven dhatus (tissues or the building blocks) which form the body. In the pathogenesis of PCOD, there is excessive production of kapha dosha (due to dietary-lifestyle factors) as a result of this, therasa-med-shukra dhatu is largely affected. These dhatus lack nourishment; therefore, their natural form and vigour are lost along with the loss of functions as well. Therefore, we see the effects such as cessation of periods, anovulation, weight gain, easy fatigue, hirsutism, or infertility.

The diet that is particularly followed during the specific stages of the menstrual cycle has the corresponding negative or positive effects on the body. For instance, once the menstruation is over during the first phase of the cycle (follicular phase) the uterus along with the ovaries prepares itself for the upcoming event of ovulation and later implantation (if fertilisation occurs). If the woman indulges in excessively oily, salty, or sour food it hampers the follicular growth and thus leads to cyst formation and anovulation which later has an effect on the menstrual cycle in totality.

To address a problem like PCOD, the physician has to find out the exact presentation in a patient and identify the causes first.

To be continued…

(Writer is CMO at Traya Natural Health Centre and can be reached at wellnesstraya@gmail.com)