Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility in women today. It’s estimated that 6%-12% of women of reproductive age in the US (as many as 5 million) are affected.
PCOS is an endocrine disorder characterized by a combination of clinical and biochemical symptoms such as:
- Irregular periods or no menstruation.
- Decreased egg production or anovulation (lack of ovulation).
- Enlarged ovaries, with multiple cysts just below the entire ovarian surface caused by underdeveloped follicles.
- Elevated androgen levels, like testosterone. May cause women to have excessive facial or body hair, thinning scalp hair, and/or acne.
- Elevated levels of circulating insulin due to insulin resistance.
- Excess body fat and difficulty losing weight due to increased insulin levels that support fat storage.
- Increase hunger due to impaired appetite regulating hormones like leptin and cholecystokinin.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
A complex condition, PCOS is often described in Chinese Medicine as a phlegm or damp condition. While there are other energetics at play, the phlegm is often our primary concern. The presence of excess moisture, in the form of phlegm or dampness inhibits the ovary from fully producing and then expelling an egg every month. TCM seeks to resolve the phlegm and gently nudge the body back into balance.
Research has demonstrated that repeated acupuncture treatments resulted in higher ovulation and improved menstrual frequency in women with PCOS. Acupuncture increased blood flow to the ovaries, reduced ovarian volume and the number of cysts, decreases blood glucose and insulin levels, while also decreasing circulating testosterone without any negative effects on Luteinizing Hormone (LH).
Nourish your body via a nutrient-rich whole-foods that balance insulin/glucagons and eiconosids. Loss of body fat increases insulin sensitivity and normalizes insulin secretion, which results in normalization of blood sugar and a reduction of androgens. We recommend a low-glycemic diet
- Increase the amount of non-Starchy vegetables, beans and fruits; like berries and apples.
- If eating grains, make sure they are whole grains and minimally processed; like oatmeal and quinoa.
- Consume adequate amounts of protein, either in vegetarian form or in lean meats that have not been hormonally treated.
- Consume an adequate amount of healthy fats; like avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. They have been shown to balance hormones and improve insulin levels.
- Avoid concentrated sweets, refined grains, white bread and pasta.
- Avoid milk and dairy products, which tend to exacerbate the condition of internal dampness.
- Avoid excess yam consumption. The high starch and sugar content in yams exacerbates the impaired glucose metabolism and can actually delay or prevent ovulation in PCOS.
- Increase the amount of daily fiber. Aim for 13 grams per day or more.
- Eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
- Drink lots of water!
Chinese herbs will be prescribed if we determine it is appropriate fro your situation. As with acupuncture, they are used to resolve damp, normalize hormonal imbalances and regulate ovulation.
- Reduce toxins that act as endocrine disruptors (like BPA’s and phthalates)
- Stress management support. Stress and anxiety have been found to suppress ovarian function and menstrual cycles.
- PCOS has a negative impact on psychological wellbeing, even when compared with serious health conditions like asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, back pain, arthritis and coronary heat disease (Coffrey S et el Gynecol Endocrinol 2006 Feb 22)
- Get a healthy mount of exercise that builds muscle. Research showed that exercise accompanied with low frequency electro-acupuncture improved hyperandrogenism and menstrual frequency.
What about Thin PCOS?
written by Andrea Iwi'ula in the Bellevue office