Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic imbalance of a woman’s hormones. This imbalance can cause changes in the menstrual cycle (amenorrhea, irregular periods, dysmenorrhea), skin changes, small cysts in the ovaries, infertility, hair growth and other problems. In a woman’s normal menstrual cycle one (or more) eggs are released from the follicles in the ovaries. In PCOS the eggs do not mature and instead form small cysts in the ovaries. This can lead to infertility.
Diet, exercise and Chinese Medicine can all help restore balance to a woman’s hormones and in many cases ‘cure’ PCOS. Diet is certainly the most important aspect as sugary foods (sweets) are one of the major contributors to developing hormonal issues such as PCOS. The reason is that sugar decreases a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). SHBG clears excess estrogen from the body and PCOS is an estrogen dominant disorder. Exercise offers a multitude of benefits including reducing estrogen levels.
Chinese medicine through herbal medicine and acupuncture can most certainly benefit PCOS. I always say that Chinese Medicine has a tremendous more to offer for gynecological and fertility issues than Western medicine. Chinese medicine helps balance the body have a small effect on many systems whereas Western medicine uses very strong drugs to have a big effect on a small area. I am not anti-western medicine. It is very much needed, however in the so cases I see, especially infertility I think it is like using a machine gun to kill a mosquito. It is needed, but the mindset that everyone that has had trouble getting pregnant needs some sort of ART (Assisted Reproduction Technologies) is a misuse of the medicine. Certainly perhaps if there is tubal blockage or there is advanced maternal age with very high FSH then ART is appropriate. But if someone is told they have PCOS and trying to conceive there is no reason to start with the heavy hitters such as Clomid and IUI. Diet, herbal medicine and acupuncture can do a better job in most cases and help couples conceive naturally.
What prompted this blog entry is a recent Swedish study using acupuncture with a TENS unit called “Electro-acupuncture” (it does not hurt at all) was done that showed significant improvement in PCOS treatment outcomes. There were 3 groups totaling 84 women. One group was assigned exercise, another assigned acupuncture and a control group with no intervention. The study lasted for 16 weeks with the acupuncture group receiving treatments 2x/week. The acupuncture groups had a 25% reduction in testosterone, 30% reduction in other androgens and significant improvement in menstrual cycle regularity. What is most interesting is that the acupuncture group had the significant improvement in PCOS outcomes independent of weight loss. This is important as weight loss is typically key to helping improve PCOS symptoms, however in this Swedish study there was no significant weight loss. This study demonstrates how acupuncture alone can help regulate hormonal levels even when other variables (such as diet) are kept constant.
I also want to point out that ART (Assisted Reproduction Technologies) such as IUI and IVF may help a woman get pregnant, but I don’t think the goal should be getting pregnant. It should be having a healthy pregnancy, postpartum and of course a healthy offspring. The reason there is a problem getting pregnant is because the body is telling women that have the western label of ‘infertility’ that there is an imbalance. The body isn’t ready to handle a pregnancy. By using Chinese medicine along with dietary improvements and exercise many women can have balance hormonal levels and normal ovulation. This can help them get pregnant naturally and in a much more enjoyable way than anesthesia.
So if someone you know has PCOS or has PCOS and infertility please call the office and set up a free 15 minute consultation to learn how you can be helped with acupuncture and herbal medicine. 978-461-2001
Yours In Health,
George Mandler LDN LicAc