PCOS is a common cause of anovulation and infertility in women. Women with this syndrome do not ovulate regularly and have ovaries that contain many small cystic structures a few millimetres in diameter. The main problem is that although the polycystic ovaries contain many follicles with eggs, the follicles do not develop and mature properly. Women with PCOS often produce excess amounts of male hormones - this can lead to symptoms such as increased hair growth, weight gain and acne due to the hormone imbalance.
Chinese medicine often views this condition as the accumulation of damp (unresolved fluids in the body) which is caused because the kidney yang energy has become deficient. Kidney yang can be thought of as a warm, active, motivating energy in the body, and this is vital for good fertility. Excess dampness in the body can smother this energy and lead to the production of further damp in a vicious circle.
Acupuncture can treat the symptoms as well as the underlying cause (the deficiency in kidney yang). Treatment to dry dampness and stimulate the yang energy of the body is effective in clearing PCOS. It can take a few months of treatment however, because PCOS is by its nature a stubborn condition, but progress can be accelerated through dietary changes if appropriate. Diet-wise, the most important thing is to eat foods that avoid damaging the spleen, as a weak spleen will find it difficult to transform and digest the food that comes into the body. This improperly transformed food ends up as damp, a type of stagnant energy blocking the flow of clean energy around the body. In patients with chronic damp, it can congeal further into phlegm. Cysts in the body are one manifestation of phlegm.
One of our patients relates her experience with polycystic ovaries and acupuncture:
"I had Polycystic Ovaries, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POS) and a hormonal imbalance for 15 years. My periods were also extremely painful and for years the only solution conventional medicine gave me was to take the pill. After only 15 or 20 sessions of acupuncture and taking Chinese herbs, the period pain virtually disappeared and to my surprise, in my next hormonal test my hormones had regulated! I think that acupuncture is especially effective in hormonal issues, which is fundamental if you are planning to have a family."
Moxa is one way to introduce warm energy into the body and help dry the damp. This dried Chinese herb is placed on the end of needles and burnt to bring warmth directly through the needle and into the acupuncture point. If the acupuncture point is chosen correctly, this warmth can travel along the acupuncture channel giving a greater sensation of warmth. Other ways to bring warmth into the body include an infra-red heat lamp (very good for warming large areas of the body), or the good old-fashioned hot water bottle. Chinese Medicine is very practical, and will make use of anything available to help achieve the needed results.
From a Western point of view, PCOS has a strong hormonal related component. Many patients would benefit from getting the basic hormone levels tested to see exactly which aspects are out of balance. Each hormone in the body creates different physiological effects so knowing which one is most affected can sometimes be helpful to your practitioner. We offer a reasonably priced total hormone check for patients with PCOS.
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