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  • Marisa Maher, L.Ac

Menstrual Monday's - PCOS

Recently In my clinic I have had more and more patients come in who experience PCOS. It is always a surprising moment when a patient comes in for muscular pain and brings up the fact that they also have PCOS. While I definitely enjoy treating pain, I have really enjoyed combining acupuncture and Herbal Therapy to help with the signs and symptoms of PCOS. I had one patient who was diagnosed in her teen age years. Now in her 30's, she constantly worries about her ability to have kids in the future and her overall health. When she first came into my office she had constant menstrual spotting for 2+ years. After 4 treatments of Acupuncture and a customized formula, she stopped spotting and her menstrual cycle is now regulating itself. This is crucial for those who wish to concieve in the future to know the different phases in the menstrual cycle. Check out my other blog post to see how the different phases are looking at in a TCM view!




What is PCOS?

PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility, affecting 6% to 12% (as many as 5 million) of US women of reproductive age. But it’s so much more than infertility. This lifelong health condition continues far beyond the child-bearing years. Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, which can increase their risk for type 2 diabetes. They also have higher levels of androgens (male hormones that females also have), which can stop eggs from being released (ovulation) and cause irregular periods, acne, thinning scalp hair, and excess hair growth on the face and body.



What Causes PCOS?

The exact causes aren’t known at this time, but androgen levels that are higher than normal play an important part. Excess weight and family history—which are in turn related to insulin resistance—can also contribute.


Weight

Does PCOS make you overweight? The relationship is complicated and not well understood. Being overweight is associated with PCOS, but many women of normal weight have PCOS, and many overweight women don’t.


Family History

Women whose mother or sister has PCOS or type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop PCOS.


Insulin Resistance

Lifestyle can have a big impact on insulin resistance, especially if a woman is overweight because of an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity. Insulin resistance also runs in families. Losing weight will often help improve symptoms no matter what caused the insulin resistance.





PCOS Signs and Symptoms

Sometimes symptoms are clear, and sometimes they’re less obvious. You may visit a dermatologist for acne, hair growth, or darkening of the skin in body creases and folds such as the back of the neck (acanthosis nigricans), a gynecologist for irregular monthly periods, and your family doctor for weight gain, not realizing these symptoms are all part of PCOS. Some women will have just one symptom; others will have them all. Women of every race and ethnicity can have PCOS. It’s common for women to find out they have PCOS when they have trouble getting pregnant, but it often begins soon after the first menstrual period, as young as age 11 or 12. It can also develop in the 20s or 30s. To determine if you have PCOS, your doctor will check that you have at least 2 of these 3 symptoms:

  1. Irregular periods or no periods, caused from lack of ovulation

  2. Higher than normal levels of male hormones that may result in excess hair on the face and body, acne, or thinning scalp hair

  3. Multiple small cysts on the ovaries

Just having ovarian cysts isn’t enough for a diagnosis. Lots of women without PCOS have cysts on their ovaries and lots of women with PCOS don’t have cysts.


What causes PCOS remains a mystery, but we do know that PCOS sufferers have a higher sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity than other people so it may be that the acupuncture is calming the SNS and thus leading to a reduction in symptoms.





Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - The Traditional Eastern View In Chinese medicine, PCOS is usually attributed to Kidney Yang Deficiency (poor metabolism) and Damp Accumulation (fluid-filled cysts) and has been treated for hundreds of years using a combination of herbs and acupuncture. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is seen as a heterogenous disorder, consisting of quite a few possible pattern discriminations. They are broken down into two main subcategories: Vacuity

  • Kidney yang vacuity

  • Kidney yin vacuity

  • Spleen qi vacuity

Repletion

  • Phlegm dampness

  • Liver depression/depressive heat

  • Blood stasis

They all have manifestations in the way in which the body ovulates, however. Most women with PCOS ovulate later in the cycle, if at all.




Treatment

Treatment must first and foremost be based upon your individual diagnostic pattern. Here are some dietary guidelines for PCOS that may actually make sense! (below).


Dietary Therapy

If you are overweight, this condition responds much better to weight loss. Fat cells store estrogen, and there is usually relatively too much circulating estrogen and LH in women with PCOS. The liver metabolizes these hormones, so a healthy functioning liver is mandatory for proper therapeutic effect. Include dietary sources of the B vitamins, which keep the liver healthy. Because of the insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism found in PCOS, it is very important to modify dietary intake if you have this condition.


Insulin is a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas and is designed to maintain the blood glucose level within a certain range. Insulin stores glucose in the form of fat. Insulin resistance means that the body's response to insulin in various tissues is impaired. Hence, the pancreas secretes more insulin. When the body fails to respond to insulin, glucose intolerance and diabetes and its many complications may become the eventual result. The best natural management for insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism is to lower the level of sugar intake from the diet, and eliminate the ingestion of any food substance that the body can utilizes as simple sugar.


Here are some suggestions you can start today!

  • Cut out all forms of refined sugar

  • Cut out all forms of refined carbohydrates. The body immediately turns these into sugar. This includes white bread, pasta, potatoes, white rice, most breakfast cereals, rice cakes, popcorn, or any starchy, low fiber food.

  • Do not adhere to the fertility diets that advocate massive yam consumption. This can actually delay or prevent ovulation if you have PCOS.

  • Avoid soda, fruit juice, and any drink which rapidly raises the blood sugar level.

  • Consume adequate amounts of protein, either in vegetarian form or in the form of lean meat which has not been treated hormonally.

  • Eat as many fresh vegetables as you wish.

  • Eat only complex, whole grains.

  • Eat fruits like berries which are not too sweet.

  • Avoid milk and dairy products which tend to exacerbate the condition of internal dampness.

  • Eliminate alcohol and caffeine.

  • Increase your dietary fiber intake.

  • Exercise.



If you or someone you know struggles with PCOS book an appointment at Enerqi Acupuncture & Wellness. We can help and you are not alone.


References:


Dr. Jill Blakeway, D. (2020, July 19). Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine to Treat PCOS in New York. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.yinovacenter.com/blog/using-chinese-medicine-to-treat-pcos/


PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes. (2020, March 24). Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html


Polycystic ovary syndrome. (2019, April 01). Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome


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