What is PCOS?
1 in 10 people are affected by Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and yet despite this staggering number it is still not fully understood what causes it and there is no cure.
But that doesn't mean that we cannot help manage those signs and symptoms.
In PCOS the hypothalamus and GnRH preferentially promote luteinising hormone (LH) over follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
This causes the anterior pituitary gland to increase the LH/FSH ratio and in turn, the ovaries create hypersecretion of androgen (an example of which is testosterone).
With this increase in androgen, there is an increase in insulin resistance.
The result is high androgen, high insulin and low FSH = follicles continue growing but not maturing and no ovulation.
If like me, you would like more information on the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle, you can find more in my recent blog here.
With these hormonal changes we will expect to see:
no or irregular periods/infertility
increase in bodily hair
the polycystic appearance of ovaries on an ultrasound
increase in weight
risk of developing non-insulin-dependent diabetes
high blood pressure
The exact cause of PCOS is not well understood but could be an interaction between genetics and environmental factors.
How does acupuncture look at PCOS?
In Chinese Medicine, we treat the individual symptom and whilst a diagnosis of PCOS is helpful we will take the whole picture and treat accordingly.
If we look at the individual signs and symptoms e.g. no or irregular periods there are a number of TCM patterns we can explore including:
Qi & Blood deficiency
Qi stagnation or Blood stasis
However, there are four Chinese medicine 'patterns' which we might look for. These would be:
Spleen & Kidney Yang Deficiency
delayed / irregular periods
scanty light coloured period blood
dizziness & tinnitus
aching or weak lower back and knees
cold sensation in body and limbs
clear and profuse urine
loss of libido
scanty, delayed, or no periods
dizziness or muzziness
profuse sputum in throat
no periods or scanty periods
distending pain in chest or breasts
dry mouth with thirst
Qi Stagnation & Blood Stasis
scanty period with clots
abdominal pain during menstruation
fullness in the chest
So, what can acupuncture do for PCOS?
The British Acupuncture Council website and the research that they have on PCOS say that acupuncture treatment may specifically help with symptoms by: