‘For PCOS Treatment, We Need to 1st Understand What Is Causing Hormonal Imbalance Among Women’: Dr Nandita Shah
September is PCOS Awareness Month & we interview Dr Nandita Shah to learn more about PCOS treatment through diet and natural methods.
Data suggests that PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is widespread. In India, one in every five women between the ages of 21-60 is being affected or likely to be affected by it.
To understand PCOS in detail, we spoke to Dr Nandita Shah, founder of Sharan, an organization that is committed to building a culture of health and disease reversal through food. She has also authored ‘Reversing Diabetes in 21-Days’ and is a recipient of the President’s ‘Nari Shakti Award’ in 2016 for her work in the field of health and nutrition.
Can you explain what exactly is PCOS and what causes it?
In simple words, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance amongst women of child-bearing age. Basically, in addition to making estrogen, women also make a small amount of testosterone.
And in the case of PCOS, a little extra testosterone is produced that results in irregular or heavy menstrual cycles, extra hair growth on unwanted areas like face or chest, thinning of hair, fertility issues and weight gain.
PCOS is particularly common amongst teenage girls. The medicines used to treat it can have serious side effects.
What has led to PCOS to be on the rise?
When I graduated as a doctor, almost four decades ago, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS or PCOD) was relatively rare. In fact, most hormonal problems were barely known. But now hormonal problems such as PCOS, hypothyroid, menstrual problems, prostate enlargement, diabetes and infertility are heard of everywhere. What has changed?
In the last 40 years our consumption of animal products has grown exponentially. In the past when refrigeration was less available, non-vegetarian food was consumed mainly on Sundays. Milk was used in small quantities and concentrated forms of milk like cheese, paneer and dairy sweets were reserved for special occasions.
Now animal products are on every table in every meal. Vegetarians also consume dairy and dairy products. Meat and milk have the same properties – high protein, high fat and no fibre. The result – the same diseases across the population.
Are there any other reasons for the rise on PCOS?
We have more and more chemicals – hormone disruptors – in our food since we eat more restaurant foods, packaged and pre-prepared foods. Then, there is the ubiquitous plastic.
The good news is that most hormonal diseases can be reversed, and the power is in our hands. All that is required of us is to be better informed and make prudent diet choices!
What are the ways we can avoid PCOS and can you give some tips on PCOS treatment through natural means?
So what is the main cause of hormonal imbalance? Hormones and chemicals! Many chemicals are hormone disruptors resulting in various hormonal issues. These are some steps you can follow to reverse or prevent any hormonal imbalance. These are also useful for PCOS treatment…
- Go Plant-based: Meat and milk products contain both natural and injected hormones that disrupt our own hormonal system. Avoid the trigger itself by going plant based.
- Go Organic: PCBs and dioxins found in pesticides are hormone disruptors. Buy naturally grown produce and save your health and the environment too.
- Stop Processed Foods: Preservatives are nothing but chemicals and do nothing to preserve our health. They cause a hormonal havoc in our system.
- Go for Natural Cleansing Products: Household products (floor cleaner, dish-washing bars, detergents) and personal care products (cosmetics, sun-screens, shampoos, soaps) are full of chemicals. Make that little effort to source natural products, it will be well worth your time.
- Opt for Steel Cookware: Non-stick coating has chemicals that manipulate our hormones. Invest in heavy bottomed steel cookware or surgical steel cookware.
- Avoid Plastics: Plastics contain phthalates that are hormone disruptors.
- Beware of medicines: Medicines, too, are chemicals and play around with our hormones. So take such good care of your health that you wouldn’t need to pop any pills.
- Avoid GMO: Soy, corn, wheat, and a few other grains can be genetically modified. India is yet to approve the commercial production of a GM food crop, so we are relatively safe. However, India does permit the inclusion of GM ingredients in food products. So, buy organic and buy local.
Image source: Sharan