By Amanda Cox
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition of ‘stasis’ and ‘stickiness’ in the lower abdomen (or ovaries). The underlying condition can be due to a lack of energy to develop and ‘ping’ the follicle down the Fallopian tube causing a build-up to develop around the ovary.
TCM lifestyle advice for PCOS therefore revolves around managing and conserving energy where it is low, enabling the proper circulation of blood and energy, and avoiding things that will cause more internal ‘stickiness’ and ‘stasis’ to develop.
Below are some practical tips to manage PCOS.
Do not overexert yourself – if you feel tired, rest. Moderate exercise to gently help improve circulation in the lower abdomen is a good thing, but excessive exercise that leaves you feeling exhausted is not advised. There are some good yoga and qi gong exercises to improve flow to this area.
In TCM we believe that cold causes stasis in the body. Keep your abdomen covered and warm, especially in cold or windy weather. Try not to hang around in a wet swimming costume in a cold breeze. Keep your feet warm; walking barefoot on cold surfaces can cause cold to climb the energetic channels from the feet up to the abdomen.
Finally, try not to use tampons unless necessary – they can cause stagnation as they can block the free flow of blood from the uterus. Try to use natural sanitary products (see Chemicals & Toxins below). When on your period try to do less physically; avoid excessive exercise, and inverted postures in yoga.
Stress is always a factor in a lack of flow of energy and blood, so doing a little calming activity is always good to keep things flowing (eg. a little guided meditation, yoga, a walk). Creative activities always help everything to flow – not just the creative juices. Book yourself onto that crochet course!
Eliminate chemicals and toxins
Avoid plastics, including clingfilm and plasticky packaging, as they can release oestrogen-mimicking chemicals. If possible, use sanitary products that avoid the inclusion of chemicals (Natracare is a good natural product). Choose organic food where possible. Think about using paraben-free skin and hair products.
Your digestion can be a factor in causing ‘sticky’ accumulation in the body (for example some people with wheat allergies can see immediately that they get an increased sinus discharge after eating wheat; this can happen in other areas of the body if the digestion cannot break down food properly).
Foods to tonify specifically your reproductive energy include: millet, barley, black bean, black soybean, mung bean, kidney bean, watermelon, blackberry, mulberry, blueberry, water chestnut, wheat germ, potato, seaweeds, black sesame seed, sardine, crab, clam and eggs.
A little ginger or cinnamon on things is good to aid circulation if you are not too hot constitutionally. Also beetroot, spinach and carrot can be beneficial in improving blood supply and circulation to the ovaries. (A juice a day is a good idea if you can manage it.)
In general to aid digestion and stop ‘sticky damp accumulation’ occurring in the body:
- Minimise dairy and sugar or eliminate it completely. Substitute sheep or goat rather for cow products if you need to eat dairy as they are easier to digest.
- To get the most out of your food and tonify your digestion chew well, eat in a relaxed situation, stop when you are full, and do not have more than a cup of fluid with a meal.
- Steer away from cold and raw foods as these are more difficult to digest due to the fact the stomach has to warm them up first. Lightly cooked vegetables (steamed or stir fried) are easier to digest than salads. Keep salads for the summer, and if possible have a little miso soup at the same time to aid the digestion process.
- Eat regularly and try to make your last meal before 8pm to give you time to digest it before sleeping.
Foods to avoid
Avoid raw or cold foods (room temperature is fine, but avoid frozen and drinks with ice); Sweet or rich foods, dairy, wheat, deep fried foods, roasted peanuts, concentrated juices (especially orange and tomato), saturated fats, bananas.
Foods to seek out
Foods to increase that will help improve your digestion:
Apple, apricot, avocado, blueberry, cherry, date, fig, grape, grapefruit, kiwi, lychee, mango, papaya, pear, pineapple, plum, pomegranate, strawberry, tangerine, lemon
Alfalfa, aubergine, bamboo shoot, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, kohlrabi, mushroom, onion, potato, pumpkin, radish, rocket, scallion, spinach, spring onion, squash, string bean, swiss chard, pea, turnip, watercress
Pulses, nuts and grains
Aduki bean, barley, broad bean, chestnut, chickpea, corn, job’s tears, kidney bean, lentil, pumpkin seed, rye, sunflower seed, soy bean, tofu
Anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardine, trout
Beef, chicken, duck, turkey
Herbs and spices
Cayenne, clove, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, hawthorn, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, turmeric
Jasmine tea, green tea, rice or almond milk, ginger root tea, warm or room temperature water, fresh juice of any of the above fruit or veg.
Image of blueberries courtesy of Katie Chase/ Unsplash.