Using Acupuncture to Treat PCOS

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common fertility challenges a woman can face. PCOS is marked by irregular or lack of menstruation, excess androgen hormones (causing hair growth, for example), acne, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. You may be diagnosed with PCOS as early as your teens, although most women are diagnosed in their 20's or 30's.

PCOS occurs when your ovarian cycle is interrupted, and instead of the ovary releasing an egg, the follicle remains until gradually more and more follicles (not actually true cysts) gather and can be seen on an ultrasound. The lack of the released egg is what prevents conception. While there is strong evidence that PCOS is partially a genetic disease, it is believed to be largely caused by excess insulin, which in turn causes more male hormone (androgens) to be produced, thus interfering with your ovulatory cycle.

How can acupuncture help with PCOS?

Acupuncture can help with PCOS in a variety of ways. Studies have shown that over time (possibly two to four months), acupuncture can regulate your hormonal cycle, thus helping with your menstruation as well as reducing your symptoms of androgen excess. Acupuncture can also resolve your acne, help you lose weight, and manage diabetes and high cholesterol. It's most probable that acupuncture is so effective because it has a multifaceted effect on your body: regulating your hormones and your sympathetic nervous system while also improving your circulation, nerve conduction, and lymph drainage.

What is the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) explanation for PCOS and its treatment with acupuncture?

Although your TCM diagnosis will be unique, depending on the various symptoms that you present with, your pattern will be either deficient or excess in nature. The patterns of deficiency associated with PCOS are Kidney deficiencies ('Kidney' is capitalized to differentiate from the scientific explanation). Your Kidneys store your life essence, essentially that which helps you grow, reproduce, and age, and they are composed of two parts: a Yin and a Yang. Kidney Yin deficiency in PCOS can present with symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes, constipation, low back pain and a short ovulatory cycle. Kidney Yang deficiency in PCOS can present with symptoms such as an aversion to cold, a reluctance to communicate with others, diarrhea, and a low sex drive.

The excess patterns related to PCOS present as Dampness or Blood Stasis in your body, causing a blockage in the flow of energy in your energy pathways (referred to as 'meridians'). Blockage of energy in your body generally presents itself as pain, but can have other repercussions as well, such as your body's inability to release an egg during ovulation. Symptoms of Dampness accumulated in your body with PCOS include a general feeling of heaviness, dull abdominal pain, headaches, and diarrhea. Blood stasis symptoms in PCOS include sharp or stabbing pain in your abdomen, menstrual flow with clots, and a purplish tinge to your lips or your tongue.

What can you do?

Because PCOS is closely related to your insulin levels, it will be necessary to regulate your diet and exercise levels, whether or not you are also diagnosed with diabetes. Follow an exercise regimen that will complement your acupuncture treatment: deficiencies require light exercise, whereas if you have an excess pattern you will need more vigorous physical activity. Your diet should include at least six or seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day, whole grains, and no refined foods such as candy or white flour products, and no artificial sweeteners. Eating four or five small meals per day is also advisable, as is eating organic meats and avoiding dairy products, especially if you are diagnosed with Dampness accumulation.

For more information, and to obtain your own free TCM diagnosis, contact us.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner


These links may also be helpful:

Acupuncture and TCM

Female Fertility

Male Fertility

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

The Yellow Gazebo Fertility Program


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