What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is an “umbrella term” for a women’s endocrine disorder that affects the reproductive system and fertility. PCOS may or may not present with actual multiple cysts on the ovaries, may or may not present with insulin resistance (blood sugar issues), but will present with a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance looks like:
- elevated testosterone levels
- elevated DHEA-sulfate
- high LH to FSH ratio (~2:1)
PCOS affects approximately 5 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. and can have a negative impact on egg quality and the ability to conceive. This condition can cause anovulation, irregular menses, and amenorrhea (lack of a menstrual period).
If you think you may have PCOS based on these symptoms, ask your doctor about it. Your doctor will likely run the following lab tests; FSH, LH, Estrogen, Androgen, DHEAS, HbA1c, and Glucose.
How does acupuncture help?
Acupuncture has a regulatory effect on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. These are the parts of the body and brain that impact hormone levels and regulate menstruation and ovulation. Following acupuncture treatment, studies have shown that beta-endorphin levels are significantly increased, having a regulatory effect on hormones, including FSH, LH, and androgen (the main hormones responsible for your ability to ovulate and the main hormones that are out of whack in women with PCOS). The National Institute of Health has determined acupuncture to be a safe and effective treatment of PCOS, and can increase blood flow to the ovaries, reducing ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycemia through increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing cortisol levels and assisting in weight loss and anorexia.
What should I expect during an acupuncture treatment?
Acupuncture treatments are customized to each individual patient. Points are chosen based on your health history, current symptoms, and your unique pattern diagnosis (which is different than a Western medical diagnosis of PCOS). However, sometimes acupuncture protocols are used to treat patients. These protocols are a set of points researched and developed in clinical trials with predictable outcomes for specific health conditions. One of these protocols developed for PCOS, includes a set of points on the lower abdomen and lower legs in conjunction with electric stimulation or “e-stim.” We don’t use this technique on every patient, or even every patient with PCOS, but it can be a helpful tool for inducing ovulation. A small machine, not unlike a TENS unit, has leads with tiny alligator clips that are attached to the needles. The machine is turned on and provides electric stimulation to the needles, enhancing the effect of the treatment. This sensation is like a tapping or twitching and is comfortable for the patient to experience.
Diet and exercise can have a BIG impact
For many women with PCOS, making dietary changes and increasing exercise can have a positive impact on hormone balance and reproductive health, with improved cycle regularity, ovulation frequency, and lowered blood sugar levels.
For other women with PCOS, you can exercise your life away while seeing little improvement in menstrual regularity. Having high testosterone levels can make it difficult to lose weight.
What if I’m doing everything right?
That’s where acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutritional supplements come in.
PCOS can be a very stubborn issue. We will develop a customized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs.
You may already have tried or be in the process of fertility treatments with your OBGYN or Fertility Clinic. Acupuncture is a safe and effective complement to conventional Western Medicine. If you are taking Clomid, or other fertility medications, then we will advise you on which supplements are ok to take, and which are not, to give you the best chance for a successful conception.