PCOS and ACUPUNCTURE – How Traditional Chinese Medicine Can assist with PCOS.
Do you have PCOS? Or have you recently been diagnosed with PCOS and are confused with what that means?
You’re not on your own, PCOS is a common female endocrine disorder which affects 12-20% (1) of women aged 12-45 and is a leading cause of reduced fertility. In many cases, women go undiagnosed, until they begin to try and conceive.
It is important to note, that just because you have been diagnosed with PCOS, it does not mean that you cannot get pregnant. It just means that you may have a reduced chance of falling pregnant.
You may be asking yourself what the difference between PCO and PCOS is.
It is important to understand that Polycystic Ovaries “PCO” differs from the syndrome “PCOS”.
Many women may just have polycystic ovaries and have no other symptoms of the disorder.
Polycystic ovaries refer to small cysts – which have been egg follicles previously. These follicles are now “stuck” in your ovaries and form little “bumps” on the ovaries. The ovaries are generally larger in size.
A pelvic ultrasound may reveal that there are 12 or more cysts on one or both ovaries.
Women can ovulate with PCO and none of the symptoms affect them, in this case, they have the condition but not the syndrome.
PCOS, on the other hand, is a common hormonal condition. On a pelvic ultrasound, 40+ ovarian cysts can be found on one ovary or both ovaries. There are several symptoms that the condition is based on, which can include:
– Increased androgens which may result in increased hair growth, acne or increased blood testosterone levels
– Insulin resistance meaning your body struggles with regulating your blood glucose levels, this can lead to weight gain or women struggling to lose weight and keep it off.
Western medicine takes the stand that PCOS is caused by several factors such as hormonal imbalance, Insulin Resistance and heredity to a certain extent.
Having PCOS may also mean that you do not ovulate, your periods may be irregular or absent, some women may only have one period a year, and in some cases, it is not until women start to try and conceive that they start questioning why things are not going to plan.
It may simply be because they are not releasing an egg and ovulating regularly.
If you are trying to conceive it is important to understand that having PCOS doesn’t mean that you will not be able to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. There are a few ways you can help your body and manage your condition; this includes lifestyle and dietary changes.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is broken down into two main sub-categories: Deficiency that is aimed at kidney yang deficiency, kidney yin deficiency, and spleen qi deficiency along with the Excess such as phlegm dampness, liver stagnation with heat and blood stasis. The most common manifestation of PCOS is dampness and/or phlegm in the body. However, PCOS is often complicated with patterns of deficiency and excess. Most women with PCOS will ovulate later in the cycle if at all.
One of the most common patterns of PCOS in Chinese medicine is Phlegm and Dampness. From a Chinese medicine perspective, this describes the cysts and symptoms present which can include being tired, difficulty losing weight, heaviness, bloating, swelling and fluid retention in feet and ankles, slow metabolism, dizziness, and poor appetite. Your acupuncturist will ask about your symptoms in detail.
The diagnosis in TCM always takes into consideration the symptoms that manifest in every individual, as we understand that not everyone is the same and therefore TCM can be a great way to tailor each treatment to every single individual person. What works for one person may not work for another and no two people are the same. We treat the root cause in TCM and not just the condition or the symptoms.
I also ask my clients with PCOS to begin BBT (Basal body temperature) charting. This is a great tool that is free, and it enables me and yourself to see how your hormones are functioning, without having to get you to have a blood test. It is also a terrific tool as it shows you exactly how our TCM treatment is adjusting your hormones, your cycle, and ovulation.
Now that you have this information what can you do? Here is how acupuncture may be able to help:
1: It is a great way to naturally regulate your hormones (2)
2: It can regulate your periods, kickstart a period and regulate long menstrual cycles (2)
3: Can induce ovulation by selecting specific points along the body which have a direct effect on the uterus and ovaries
4: Relax and sedate your body, which can influence your cortisol levels which is directly related to your stress levels
5: Supporting metabolism and regulating your appetite. The fact that you may have a lack of appetite can be affecting your weight management, this can be why your metabolism is sluggish when you have an appetite this is a great way to know your body is on track (4)
6: Regulating your bowel movements, this is especially important as women may be prone to constipation or having loose stools, and regular bowel motions are a way the body naturally detoxes
7: Increasing your energy. When your body is working harmoniously it means that there are no blockages in the body
8: Reducing acne, especially if you suffer from outbreaks related to your menstrual cycle
9. Assisting your cravings. If your blood glucose levels drop throughout the day it can result in sweet cravings (3)
10: Herbal medicine generally complements the use of acupuncture; it is a great way to support your body in targeting all your individual symptoms. Your TCM practitioner will be able to assess what herbal formula is best suited for you.
What to expect with treatments?
If you are planning on seeing an acupuncturist you will be assessed, and a diagnosis will be determined.
For gynecological conditions weekly acupuncture sessions are generally recommended to support your body. You should allow yourself a period of up to 4 months or more to help regulate your body, you must remember that you have had this condition for years and hormonal conditions cannot be regulated overnight.
I use a combination of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, and diet to assist with PCOS.
From my experience, I have found that the combination of these treatments enables the body to rebalance itself out a lot quicker. We use diet therapy to assist with insulin resistance, assist with weight management and to decrease acne.
Acupuncture’s main role is encouraging blood flow through the uterus and ovaries. This is performed by placing needles along with different points in the body that correspond to different channels and organs.
Your body responds to the stimulation of the points. In some cases, there may be blockages that need to be released.
For women who are not ovulating, I will use electroacupuncture on an abdominal point can Zi Gong Xue – which is located over the ovaries. This is performed to “wake up” the ovaries and to encourage ovulation to occur.
Acupuncture for polycystic ovaries and PCOS is generally placed in the abdominal region as well as hands and legs. Depending on your symptoms and where you are in your cycle these points may vary from treatment to treatment as we also work within the phase of your cycle.
Understanding and listening to your body is vital for a good outcome. Your body is your most important asset. At times your body sends you signals that something isn’t right, and when you have a better understanding of your condition things start to make more sense and you can directly relate all your symptoms that you have been experiencing to your diagnosis of PCOS.
Your acupuncturist will help to explain what is happening for you and provide you with tools to support your health outside the treatment room. These may include moxibustion, acupressure, diet and lifestyle changes.
Maintaining good health is essential to all aspects of your wellbeing and I will provide you with simple tips and lifestyle changes that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
If you would like to find out more about PCOS or find out more about how we can assist you on your journey please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org we would love to hear from you.
To book an appointment please click here or call 9431 5505.
1.afp reproductive health: https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/october/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/
(2) Traditional Chinese medicine and infertility. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18460933
(2) Treating Gynaecological Disorders with Traditional Chinese Medicine: A reviewhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816470/#R28
(3) Repeated Acupuncture Treatments Increases Whole Body Glucose Uptake and Decrease Circulating Testosterone in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
(4) [Effect of Transcutaneuos Acupoint Electrostimulation on Serum Sex Hormone Levels and Expression of Ovarian Steroid Hormone Metabolic Enzymes in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Rats].