Oct 5, 2019

10 more habits to keep PCOD under control

I had shared a personal "10 year health transformation" journey post on Instagram yesterday, primarily focusing on how I'm managing PCOD. I had asked women facing PCOD issues to reach out to me if they have any questions or would like to share their concerns. What I didn't expect was the number of messages I would end up receiving. Within a span of 12 hours, I received around 35 DMs from women in their 20s and 30s. PCOS/PCOD is affecting many women in India and the number keeps growing at an alarming rate.

I had written this article "10 habits to keep PCOD under control" in Jan 2016. Since it is close to 4 years now, I wanted to write a follow up post, addressing a few more habits that have helped me in keeping PCOD in check.

DisclaimerI'm neither a gynecologist nor a dietitian. This is purely based on my experience. Do consult your doctor if you are making any major changes.

1.Adopt the right mindset
We generally tend to ignore irregular periods and other related symptoms UNTIL the time we are getting married or ready to start a family. I made the same mistake too. PCOD affects our health in many ways - weight gain, hair fall, hair growth on face (hirsutism), acne, extreme mood swings and much more. If left unattended, it leads to insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders. So it is imperative we address PCOD at a young age (in your late teens or early 20s). Most gynecs wouldn't recommend any lifestyle changes unless you are trying to conceive (TTC). They might prescribe hormone tablets/contraceptive pills to regulate periods but these tend to have a lot of side effects. Let's adopt the right mindset - we are going to address PCOD for the sake of our own good health, not just for getting a baby. And yes, all these habits are equally important after delivering a baby as well.

2.Address stress inducing situations/people
Women of today carry so much of mental load and pressure on ourselves. Studies, work pressure, commute, household responsibilities, career goals and what not. Responsibilities are only piling up as we grow older. On top of that, if we are married and have difficulty in conceiving, the society (including close family members and relatives) makes a mockery out of our situation instead of offering genuine help. Be conscious of situations and people who stress you out. Stay away from them as much as possible. Identify ways that help you reduce stress - cooking, cleaning, reading, listening to music, meditation, going for long walks, spending time amidst nature, gardening - whatever works for you. And please let's not use junk foods/icecreams/chocolates/tea/coffee as ways to combat stress. Speaking from experience, these might give only a temporary relief to take our mind out of stressful situation but comes loaded with side effects.

3.Eat only when hungry
In my earlier post on PCOD, I had mentioned "Never skip breakfast" but I have learned from experience in the past couple of years that it is okay to skip or delay breakfast until we feel hungry. Wrote a detailed post on the same topic. Do check it out if you haven't seen it yet. Also, avoid mindless grazing - processing something in your mind and munching on something, watching TV and eating snacks. Plan for 2-3 wholesome meals. If feeling hungry mid-morning / evening, have a small handful of nuts or fruits.

4.Be mindful of portion size
If your capacity is to eat 4 idlis/3 chapathis, don't load your plate with this fixed quantity by default every time. Take it slow - serve yourself 2 idlis with a bowl of sambhar/chutney. Finish your plate fully and if you are still hungry, take one piece at a time. For rice, serve a small ladle of rice, adequate portion of veggies, dal/sambhar, salad etc. Finish the plate fully and then decide if you need more rice. That way, your appetite is filled by a wholesome meal and you don't load up on rice/rotis.

5.Include bitter and astringent tasting foods more regularly
This is something I have been doing consciously in the past few years. In Tamil, these two tastes are called kasappu and thuvarppu respectively. Our previous generation completely ignored these two tastes and focused more on sweet, sour, spicy and salty foods. The bitter and astringent tasting foods are so beneficial not only for PCOD but also for managing diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol etc.
Bitter tasting foods - bittergourd, methi seeds, curry leaves, turkey berries (sundakkai), dry wonder berries (manathakkali), dry neem flowers
Astringent tasting foods - banana flower, banana stem, pomegranate, Indian gooseberry (amla/nellikkai), brinjal, dry figs
Plan your meals in such a way that foods rich in these two tastes feature more regularly.

6.Limit dairy intake
The commercial dairy products we get these days are loaded with growth hormones, antibiotics and other unwanted stuff. Though I haven't stopped completely, my dairy intake has reduced considerably. My body isn't able to digest heavy dairy products like paneer, cheese etc. Except for my tea and a small bowl of curd, I don't consume milk or any other dairy products. You could try limiting or stopping dairy for a week and you will notice the difference.

7.Limit wheat intake if you are a South Indian
This is another change I have made in the past few years and I can vouch for its positive outcomes. Similar to dairy, you could try stopping wheat for a week and you'll notice the amazing difference - less bloating, no acidity, light stomach. And the idea that wheat is better than rice (promoted by packaged atta makers, sometimes recommended by doctors/diabetic centres) is totally incorrect. Check out my earlier post for more details.

8.Finish dinner early
For women with PCOD, the most common problem is weight gain around belly. One of the ways to manage this problem is to ensure that you finish dinner by 7:30PM and not eat anything post dinner. It gives your body ample time to digest before you go to sleep. Undigested food in the stomach leads to disturbed sleep. Lack of good quality sleep disrupts your hormones, leading to more complications.

9.Be active throughout the day
Most of us have become conscious of the fact that exercise is important. But the mistake we do (including yours truly) is that we finish one hour of exercise in the morning and we don't move much the rest of the day. Taking stairs, walking to buy veggies/groceries (instead of online orders), participating in activities that involve physical work (gardening, cleaning, cooking) etc are some of the ways by which we can stay active. I have observed that on days when I'm physically active throughout, I sleep better, whereas my sleep gets disturbed on days when I'm sedentary.

10.Say no to plastic
Plastic (irrespective of BPA free, food grade or any other fancy terms) is not suited for food consumption. It leeches harmful chemicals that disrupts our hormones. Earlier, I used to drink water from plastic bottles, use melamine plates, reheat food in microwave oven using plastic bowls etc. I have put a complete stop to all that. Water in steel bottle, ceramic/steel plates for serving food, ceramic plate/bowl for occasional reheating in MW oven. Stopped teflon coated nonstick pans. Switched to iron kadai/tawa.

Last but not the least, a question that I'm sure I would be asked - What about Keto? 
Personally, I don't believe in restrictive diets. I don't go overboard on "carbs". I eat millets/handpounded rice/red rice etc but am mindful of my portion size. Balanced, wholesome, homecooked meals work for me. Choose what works for you. If you don't miss "carbs", then eat homecooked meals with more veggies and healthy fats. Avoid packaged keto junk, it is becoming a big thing these days. Read the ingredients and understand what you are putting in your body.

Hope these pointers are helpful in managing PCOD. Do write in the comments below if you have any further questions.

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