Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, was first identified through research conducted in 1935 – and yet, almost a century on, a certain amount of mystery still surrounds it. For many years, the medical community made no significant attempts to gain a deeper understanding of the condition, or even how to properly diagnose it.
Fast forward to 2020, and it’s become a fairly common affliction for women of reproductive age, with a variety of factors, including genetics, believed to contribute to the development of the condition. There is also a long list of symptoms associated with PCOS, such as irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism (excess body hair), acne, infertility, and pelvic pain. And this is without even factoring in the psychological impact that these symptoms can have.
As a result, it can be hard to accurately determine what percentage of the female population is affected by PCOS, with the global number ranging from 2% to 26%, depending on what criteria are used to define the condition. However, even amidst all this relative uncertainty, we do at least know that hormonal imbalance is one of the primary driving causes of PCOS symptoms.
What causes PCOS
Androgens, a hormone responsible for the development of male traits, are generally produced in small amounts in women. The elevation of these androgen levels leads to the disruption of the menstrual cycle, as well as the other symptoms we discussed earlier. Though it is still unclear what causes this spike in androgen levels in the first place, with environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors all potentially playing a role.
Some scientists believe that higher levels of insulin resistance can also be a contributing factor to the production of androgens – putting women who are overweight, or have a family history of type-2 diabetes, at risk of developing the symptoms of PCOS.
There is still no absolute cure for PCOS, and we’re still in the process of finding out exactly how it’s caused, there are certainly ways the condition can be managed. Research has shown that Yoga, paired with specific breathing exercises, can be a very effective first line of intervention.
How Yoga helps with PCOS
Yoga can go a long way towards helping to alleviate the biological and physiological symptoms of PCOS. For instance, certain postures that focus on the lower half of the body help to open up the pelvic area, enabling better blood circulation in the abdominal region. This leads to better regulation of menstrual cycles, while also balancing the androgen levels in the body.
Research has shown that yoga can also contribute to improving the resistance values of glucose, lipids, and insulin in adolescent girls with PCOS. Combining these yoga postures with guided meditations can help provide relief from the psychological impact of the condition. Guided meditation techniques such as visualization have proven to be effective tools to help deal with stress and anxiety – fairly common occurrences in women with PCOS.
Ultimately, the medical community, much like the rest of us, still has much to learn about this condition. But as it continues to work towards finding a more definitive solution, yoga and meditation can provide an effective and non-invasive treatment to manage its symptoms, and help women with PCOS live happy, healthy, and anxiety-free lives