A syndrome is defined as a group of symptoms that consistently occur together, and with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) the common symptoms women experience are related to hormonal imbalances, specifically, as Dr. Pentland says “the presence of multiple cysts on the ovaries, excess androgen levels (male hormones), irregular ovulation and menstrual cycles, and insulin resistance”. PCOS can present itself in a variety of ways, and so it often takes time before a person discovers that many of the physical symptoms they have been experiencing for some time can be explained through the lens of this syndrome and diagnosis. Essentially, women can experience atypical hair growth, weight gain, acne, irregular menstruation, infertility and other symptoms related to hormonal imbalance.
In clinic, it is best to incorporate Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbal medicine), naturopathic support and diet and lifestyle changes, as the balancing of reproductive health can be challenging with PCOS and requires time and commitment to treatment. Several hormonal systems may be out of balance, including reproductive hormones, testosterone, and insulin.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, the weight gain (and difficulty losing weight), ovarian cysts, and other common symptoms of PCOS often present as Spleen Qi deficiency with Phlegm-Damp accumulation in the Lower Jiao (lower abdomen). In this case, our focus is to tonify and nourish the Spleen energy (digestive function) and drain or resolve Dampness (Phlegm) in the body, thereby restoring menstrual regularity as we work to improve metabolism and focus on weight loss as a way to regain control over hormone levels.
How can acupuncture and Chinese medicine help?
1. Electro Acupuncture – once a week for 15-20 weeks helps restore regular ovulation in many women (balance hormones).
2. A study in the journal Acta Diabetologia showed that acupuncture decreased insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
3. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can support weight loss.
Acupressure for at home Application:
Acupressure is a useful and accessible way to treat yourself at home or on the go. Apply firm pressure on the point with your middle finger or thumbs, at a 90 degree angle from the surface of the skin for about 3 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day on both sides. If you find that your fingers are getting weak or sore, you can substitute a golf ball, pencil eraser or other appropriate object.
Spleen 9 – SP9 – YinLingQuan – “Yin Mound Spring”
This point is one of the most powerful to address dampness in the body, a common symptom of PCOS. It boosts the Spleen and benefits digestive and urological function.
Take home tips:
1. A commitment to treatment from 6 months to a year is most often necessary.
2. You must include exercise in your weekly routine, with a focus on aerobic fat burning and weight training to successfully manage blood sugar levels.
3. Get a thorough endocrine evaluation, as PCOS often causes a cascade of hormonal imbalances. This information will help to guide treatment.
4. Because menstruation is so frequently irregular, ovulation can be very difficult to predict, making timing of intercourse challenging. Getting in touch with the body signs of ovulation, such as libido, cervical mucus, cervical position/comfort during sex are good tools to find out what is going on, and it helps to cultivate a mind-body connection.
5. It is important to concentrate on curbing a sweet tooth, including artificial sweeteners as they create the same metabolic issues (such as PCOS) as does their natural ‘sugar’ cousin.