Treating PCOS Naturally for Health and Fertility
PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women, occurring in up to 10% of women.
How is it diagnosed?
The main criteria for a PCOS diagnosis is hyperandrogenism with either irregular menses or polycystic ovary on ultrasound.
Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition characterized by excessive production and/or secretion of androgens - hormones that stimulate or control the development and maintenance of male characteristics. The primary and most well-known androgen is testosterone. Hirsutism – facial and body hair growth in a male pattern in women – is the main clinical sign of hyperandrogenism. Elevated testosterone levels can also indicate hyperandrogenism.
Ovarian cysts can arise when there is a hormonal imbalance that disrupts the normal female menstrual cycle, leaving an unruptured egg inside the ovary, which can then grow to become a cyst. The majority of ovarian cysts are benign and do not cause any symptoms. However, when they become enlarged and multiply, this condition is known as a polycystic ovary and can be seen with an ultrasound.
When PCOS is suspected, the work-up should include blood work to measure the following levels in the blood:
- SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin)
- TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone)
- PRL (prolactin)
- Morning 17-hydroxyprogesterone [If elevated, follow-up with an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test to confirm diagnosis.].
- FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone)
Long-term health risks of PCOS
PCOS is associated with numerous serious metabolic effects, including:
- Glucose intolerance/type 2 diabetes
Because PCOS is associated with abnormal insulin metabolism, the lifetime risk of developing diabetes is significantly higher in women with PCOS. Evaluation for glucose abnormalities is therefore recommended at the time of PCOS diagnosis and periodically thereafter. The gold standard for assessing glucose tolerances is a 2-hour oral glucose challenge test.
- Lipid abnormalities
Dyslipidemia, including elevated triglycerides and decreased HDL cholesterol, is common in PCOS. Measurement of serum lipids and screening for cardiovascular disease risk factors should be performed upon diagnosis of PCOS and at periodic intervals.
Treatment should aim to:
- Regulate menses to promote ovulation
- Improve androgenic concerns
- Assess and improve metabolic status, including addressing lifestyle issues
- Weight reduction, if necessary
Obesity is a common finding in PCOS patients, occurring in more than 60%. Obesity influences the condition and worsens androgen excess. Prevention and control of obesity is important in the long-term management of PCOS.
Prescription medication for PCOS treatment include:
- Birth control pills to regulate menses
- Metformin to increase ovulation
- Antiandrogen treatment such as spironolactone to control acne and excess hair growth
Acupuncture treatment is an effective treatment to increase fertility by regulating menses and ovulation. For long-term health, it can reduce the chances of developing further complications. Many studies show that patients with PCOS have a threefold increase in the risk of endometrial cancer compared with age-matched controls. In addition, if they're obese, the relative risk increases to 6- or 7-fold. It is important for PCOS patients to seek acupuncture treatment to naturally regulate their hormones for fertility enhancement and to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and other long-term health conditions.
For women who are already diagnosed with PCOS and PCOS-related infertility, acupuncture can help by treating the root cause of the PCOS. Treatments will focus on balancing and regulating important hormones related to PCOS. In addition, acupuncture will re-establish and increase blood flow and nutrients to the uterus and ovaries. Patients will observe more regular menstruation and ovulation, less pain, and increased fertility.
Proof that Acupuncture Works
A study published in the June 2009 issue of American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, shows exercise and electro-acupuncture treatment can reduce sympathetic nerve activity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The study also found the electro-acupuncture treatments led to more regular menstrual cycles, reduced testosterone levels and reduced waist circumference.
Researchers looked at whether acupuncture or exercise could decrease the sympathetic nerve activity in women with PCOS. Twenty women were divided into three groups; low-frequency electro-acupuncture, exercise and untreated controls. The acupuncture group underwent 14 treatments during the 16-week study. The exercise group took up regular aerobic exercises that were faster than walking three days a week for 30-45 minutes, while maintaining a pulse frequency about 120 beats per minute. The control group was not specifically designed to do anything differently.
Following the 16-week study, both the acupuncture and exercise groups significantly decreased muscle sympathetic nerve activity, while the acupuncture group saw a drop in waist size. The acupuncture group experienced fewer menstrual irregularities and a significant drop in testosterone, while the exercise group saw neither. Exercise had no effect on the irregular or non-existent menstrual cycles that are common among women with PCOS, nor did it reduce waist circumference. However, exercise did lead to reductions in weight and body mass index. These findings are important because women with PCOS often have elevated sympathetic nerve activity, which plays a role in hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- Hoeger, K.M. The Challenge of Managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Adolescents. Sexuality, Reproduction, & Menopause, 2011;9(3):5-11.
- Stener-Victorin E., Jedel E, Janson E, Sverrisdottir YB. Low-frequency electroacupuncture and physical exercise decrease high muscle sympathetic nerve activity in polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physio, 2009 Aug;297(2):R387-95.
PCOS Success Stories
"After the birth of our first daughter I discovered I had Poly Cystic Ovaries along with an underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroiditis) which wasn't helping in our dreams to expand our family. After two years of trying on our own, we turned to an infertility doctor which unfortunately led to four unsuccessful IUI (Inter Uterine Insemination) procedures and one miscarriage. After two years with the infertility doctor I decided to give up and cleanse my body of all the hormones and meds that were given to me.
My sister-in-law had mentioned that she had used an acupuncturist in the Bay Area to aid her in her quest to conceive and low and behold, she was pregnant within the first three months of acupuncture sessions. I didn't believe it could happen to me but I thought, 'What do I have to lose by trying?' Really, at this point, my goal was to use acupuncture to get my body to relax and relieve me of all the stress from the infertility treatments. I found Zen Fertility Center via the web and saw that they specialized in infertility and decided to give them a try. My spirit was defeated from all the previous unsuccessful treatments with the doctor so I did let them know from the beginning that I was skeptical and even though my heart was wishing acupuncture would work, I voiced that I was really looking for acupuncture to help me feel better.
I asked my acupuncturist what was the average time in which acupuncture would result in a pregnancy. She said there were no guarantees, but that she had seen it work in some as little as five months. I was so skeptical of acupuncture working for me that I booked a Disney Cruise for my family five months from the date of my first visit to Zen Fertility Center and I kidded by telling her, 'In five months I'm treating my family to a cruise with the money we would have used for infertility treatments so I cannot get pregnant.' Within five months of herbal pills and sessions, I not only felt more calm and healthy, I became pregnant. When I came in for my next session after finding out I was pregnant I told my acupuncturist and she laughed because she remembered that I told her that I didn't want to get pregnant before the cruise. I was 14 weeks pregnant when we took our cruise. Iliana was born in July 2007 and we have Zen Fertility Center to thank! I LOVE ZEN FERTILITY CENTER!" - May Vukotich, San Diego, CA
"After trying to get pregnant for two years, I went to three different fertility doctors who diagnosed me polycystic ovaries, and concluded that becoming pregnant on my own wouldn’t be possible. I decided to try acupuncture before going through an infertility treatment with medications and hormones. After three months of weekly treatments with Zen Fertility Center and after following his guidance on using herbs and changing my diet and lifestyle, I got pregnant. I am in my 6th month currently and expecting a baby girl in August 2009. From the beginning my pregnancy started easy – no morning sickness, no dizziness, no back pain, graduate weight gain, etc. Some people say I am lucky; I tell them it is all thanks to my acupuncture treatments that prepared my body and soul for this wonderful experience." - Teodora P., San Diego
Tips for women with PCOS trying to conceive:
- Keep insuli n levels balanced by eating small meals frequently (about every 3 hours). Focus on eating more organic protein, fruits, vegetables, and fiber to regulate your blood sugar levels.
- If you are overweight, losing a few pounds can help regulate your hormones and thus your cycles if they are irregular.
- Read “The PCOS Diet Book” by Colette Harris for a healthy, nutritional approach to addressing PCOS.
- Taking D-chiro-inositol might effectively restore ovulation.
- If planning to start acupuncture, begin charting your BBT to help your acupuncturist determine when and if you ovulate.
- Call us today to start acupuncture. PCOS is a chronic condition that your body has been dealing with for years so addressing it with natural methods like acupuncture will take time.