The PCOS Dilemma
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal condition found in women across the globe. It is a complex condition that influences many systems in the body, including metabolism, hormones, fertility, the brain and the immune system. It stems from genetic origins but certain environmental and dietary factors can amplify the symptoms.
Women who have PCOS may experience:
Irregular menstrual cycles – menstruation may be less or more frequent due to less frequent ovulation (production of an egg)
Amenorrhoea (no periods) – some women with PCOS do not menstruate, in some cases for many years
Excessive facial or body hair growth (or both)
Scalp hair loss
Reduced fertility (difficulty in becoming pregnant) – related to less frequent or absent ovulation
Mood changes – including anxiety and depression
Obesity and high risk of Type 2 Diabetes
What causes PCOS?
Although the cause of PCOS is still not fully understood, two known factors, inflammation and insulin resistance, are big drivers of the condition. When confronted with inflammation, impaired insulin signalling and several other issues, the ovaries of some women respond by shutting down ovulation and making excess testosterone – this happens because of a genetic susceptibility. Other women without that susceptibility can face the same inflammation and insulin resistance, but their ovaries don’t make testosterone.
Treatment of PCOS
Every woman I see in the clinic is different and presents differently. There are those who I see that have a more “classic” PCOS presentation; high body fat percentage, struggling with weight-loss no matter how much they try, facial hair and periods that are all over the place. Then there are those who are on the smaller side, have high testosterone, no ovulation and are finding it very hard to conceive.
Of course, the presentations and symptoms other than these are endless and everyone I see is treated uniquely. Nevertheless, there are some common factors for those struggling with PCOS and in many cases, these tips can help you take control.
Tackling the insulin resistance
The first suggestion I make to clients is to strongly reduce sugar or even quit sugar – the main sugar we are talking about is excess Fructose. A small amount of fructose is healthy but a large amount is a major contributor to insulin resistance. Cutting down to no more than 20 grams of Fructose (2 whole fruits) daily is a great start, some will have to reduce even further. Again there is no one size fits all so experiment with this. Supplements to consider for insulin resistance are Magnesium, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Inositol.
It’s worth mentioning that in addition to sugar some studies have shown that Oral contraceptives, a common treatment for PCOS, may themselves decrease insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, and this might possibly increase the risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus in women with PCOS.
Acupuncture for PCOS treatment
Acupuncture has shown time and time again to be very effective for many ailments and it is no different when it comes to PCOS.
Studies have shown Acupuncture to be an effective treatment for PCOS with no side effects. In the studies Acupuncture was thought to play a role in reducing PCOS by increasing blood flow to the ovaries, reducing ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycaemia through increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing cortisol levels and assisting in weight loss.
As mentioned, everyone I see with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is treated uniquely. Nonetheless, by applying appropriate stress management techniques, making adjustments in lifestyle and nutrition and getting regular Acupuncture treatments PCOS can be treated safely and effectively.
- Dr. Peter Mejia
Doctor of TCM
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