Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which a woman’s levels of sex hormones are out of balance. This leads to the growth of ovarian cysts on the ovaries.
PCOS is thought to affect up to 10% of women of childbearing age and if you have two of the following three features you may be diagnosed:
- Irregular or absent periods – which means your ovaries don’t regularly release eggs or ovulate
- Excess androgens – high levels of “male hormones” in your body, which may cause physical signs such as acne or excess facial or body hair
- Polycystic ovaries detected on an ultrasound
What causes it?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but genetics can play a role. It is also related to high levels of insulin which is a hormone that controls sugar levels in the body. This makes it not just a disorder of potential fertility issues but a metabolic disorder too. Many women with PCOS are resistant to the action of insulin. This is commonly associated with diabetes and women being overweight or obese also increases the amount of insulin their body produces. However, many women with PCOS are not overweight. Women with PCOS also have a more than 50% risk of getting Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes before age 40.
Why does insulin resistance matter?
Excess insulin causes hormones to become imbalanced. This can then cause the typical symptoms of PCOS and can make it more difficult for women with the syndrome to become pregnant.
Diet and Lifestyle
Healthy diet and exercise is the first line of intervention for overweight women with PCOS. Research shows that a 5% to 7% reduction in body weight over a six-month period can restore ovulation and fertility in more than 75% of patients.
Normalising your response to insulin enables you to metabolise sugar and fat more effectively. It can also correct hormonal imbalances that can give rise to typical PCOS symptoms.
What can I do?
- Eating little and often to keep blood sugars balanced. Do not miss out on any meals and include good quality protein or fat with each meal and snack.
- Include plenty of vegetarian sources of protein such as chick peas, beans, and lentils. These all help to stimulate the liver to produce more sex hormone binding globulin.
- Eat a rainbow – include plenty of fresh vegetables every day to provide fibre, fibre can help balance blood sugar and also maintain healthy digestion in order to excrete old hormones.
- Essential fatty acids help maintain the cell wall to absorb the nutrients we need. They also help to balance hormones and manage weight. Oily fish such as salmon or mackerel are fantastic sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Other healthy fats include avocados, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
- All sugars, stimulants and refined carbohydrates should be avoided as they will cause a rapid increase in blood glucose.
- Add some exercise, even a short walk after dinner can help lower the potential insulin effects of the meal.
- Manage stress – when under stress out body produces cortisol which in turn triggers to release of insulin. Mindfulness, meditation, acupuncture, and exercise are great ways to reduce stress.
How can acupuncture help?
Acupuncturist and natural health therapist Fiona O’Farrell says:
Acupuncture has a long history in helping gynecological issues. Its wide-ranging effects on the body makes PCOS an excellent fit for the holistic approach offered by acupuncture. Acupuncture treats the root, conventional medicine treats the branch.
What does treatment involve?
Treatment for PCOS with acupuncture will involve placing a strong focus on both the hormonal axis and improving the circulation of your vital energy, known as ‘qi’ around the ovaries. We consider PCOS to be a conditional of both excess, with ‘stagnation’ of fluid building around the ovaries and excessive levels of androgen hormones, yet there may also be additional patterns of deficiency that have allowed the stagnation to build up in the first place, so focus will be placed on both building up patient’s vital energy whilst also working at invigorating circulation, always including important hormone regulating points.
Tailor made program
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the patient is considered completely unique. Although many patients will have similar symptoms and conditions, how those conditions developed will be individual to the person. This allows the acupuncturist to tailor the treatment specifically to suit the patient and her energies.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of tiny needles into various acupuncture points across the body. In treating PCOS we will select points located in several body areas and may include gently stimulating the points with low levels of electrical stimulation, known as EA (electroacupuncture) which has shown in research to be of enormous help in PCOS.
How long will it take?
When treating hormonal issues, you can expect a minimum treatment period of three months to influence a significant change to both hormones and ovarian circulation. You will notice wide ranging benefits as you naturally improve the quality of your overall wellbeing as well as optimising your hormonal health.
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