I will be really honest, when I first came across Ayurveda many moons ago I thought it was all a bit strange.
But the more I read and learnt about it, the more it really started to resonate with me and provide answers to questions I had been having about my PCOS symptoms.
For those of you that might be new to the world of Ayurveda it is a sophisticated and powerful mind-body health system that originated in India and has been refined over thousands of years to help people maintain (or restore) optimal health.
Ayurvedic medicine believes that three ‘doshas,’ or forces of energy – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – circulate in the body and regulate important bodily functions. When the three doshas are in harmony, the body is healthy, but any imbalance in the three doshas can lead to disease.
I am very much a Vata dosha, with some elements of Pitta and Kapha scattered throughout as well.
In case you are wondering what on earth I am talking about, here is a super simple explanation of the three doshas.
1. Vata — Space and Air
Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.
Vata types are often creative, impulsive, enthusiastic and full of vitality when balanced.
Their bodies are slender with prominent features. When out of balance they can become fearful, moody and anxious.
2. Pitta — Fire and Water Energy that controls the body's metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body's temperature. When Pitta types are in balance they are content and intelligent.
They are medium-built, well-proportioned and have a stable weight.
Out of balance, they can suffer from ulcers and become angry.
3. Kapha— Water and Earth
Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturises the skin, and maintains the immune system.
When balanced, Kapha types are very loving and forgiving. They are often solid, heavy and strong-bodied types with a tendency to become overweight. When out of balance, they can feel insecurity and envy.
Each person has all three Doshas, but usually one or two are dominant.
Various Dosha proportions determine one's physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes.
For example, Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold (hence why I am soooo much happier during summer/on holidays!), while Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types.
There are lots of quizes online you can do to find out which Dosha you are. This is the most comprehensive one I have been able to find. (I am not affiliated in anyway, I just think it's a good one.)
HOW IS PCOS AND THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE EXPLAINED IN AYURVEDA?
To give you a little background first:
- Pitta provides the energy responsible for transformation, reflected in the changing balance of hormones during the different stages of the menstrual cycle and ovulation.
-Vata is responsible for the release and movement of the egg from the ovary down into the uterus, as well as the release and movement of blood during menstruation.
- Kapha is the ‘nurturer’ – it helps develop the uterine lining for a possible pregnancy, and also helps to support the growth of the egg follicle before ovulation occurs.
Ayurveda classifies PCOS as an excess of Kapha disorder.
When Kapha is aggravated (dominant) it blocks Pitta and Vata, suppressing the hormonal transformations that normally regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation, and obstructing the release of both the ovum and menstrual blood – explaining why many women with PCOS either do not ovulate or rarely ovulate, and why they often stop having periods or only have them very infrequently.
To treat PCOS, Ayurveda focuses on bringing all doshas back into balance, but particulary Kapha, through a combination of diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and herbal treatments.
Tips to reduce excess Kapha (and bring your other doshas back into balance) include:
- Stay warm, protect yourself against cold, damp weather
- Engage in regular exercise/movement to get your blood moving
- Try to follow the rule ‘early to bed, early to rise.’
- Seek out new experiences
- Keep your home (or office) clean
- Reduce heavy, oily, sweet, sour and salty tastes in your diet.
- Limit sugar (in all forms)
- Include aromatic, bitter, astringent tastes and light, dry and warm foods, i.e. plenty of beans, easily digestible grains, spices (other than salt), and vegetables (cooked or sautéed)
- Choose warm foods and drinks rather than cold, i.e. drink warm water and medicinal herbal teas, eat soups
- Include specific Ayurvedic yoga poses for PCOS
YOGA FOR PCOS
Ayurveda also recommends specific yoga poses to help treat PCOS. These include:
Naukasana (Boat Pose)
Sarvangasana (Reverse Body Or Shoulder Stand Pose)
Shalabhasana (The Locust Pose)
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Bhadrasana (Butterfly Pose)
When you work to get your Kapha under control, Pitta and Vata will no longer be blocked, and can return to balance. This will help to regulate your cycle and reduce PCOS symptoms.
Now, if this all sounds very confusing, you’re not alone! I felt the same!
But don't stress, because there is plenty of info about Ayurveda available online - start with the simple stuff to see if it helps you. Of course, it's always best practice to get advice from a qualified Ayurvedic medicine practitioner before you make any major changes to your lifestyle.