PCOS is the most common anovulatory disorder and the single most common hormonal cause of infertility. Anyone with ovaries can develop PCOS, in fact an estimated 10% of women have been diagnosed with this disorder. PCOS is a complex metabolic and endocrinologic disorder characterised by several factors including: disordered hormone signaling, high androgen levels, insulin resistance and inflammation, resulting in the ovaries not being able to fully mature an egg. Many follicles begin to develop and build up fluid but do not progress to the point of releasing an egg. As a result, ovulation is often, but not always, absent or intermittent. Some of the semi-developed follicles turn into little fluid filled sacs called cysts but they are not cysts in the true sense of the word. Without the progesterone the mature follicles make menstruation can be irregular or stop all together. PCOS is a defined as a syndrome because there are many different presentations, known as phenotypes, with no precise or uniform cause. Some phenotypes can hav elevated androgens which can prevent ovulation and cause male pattern hair growth or hair loss and acne.
The most common symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods, ovulatory dysfunction, acne, increased hair growth, insulin resistance, inflammation, and weight gain. PCOS is also associated with several other health problems including, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, increased risk of endometrial and uterine cancers. It's possible for women with PCOS to menstruate and ovulate, but irregularly. It is also possible for women with PCOS to get pregnant and carry a healthy baby to term. Proper nutrition, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can contribute greatly to the treatment of PCOS. We suggest the following lifestyle adjustments in addition to acupuncture and herbs:
- Lose some weight if you need to. Research has shown that losing just 10% of body weight can result in normal ovulation for some women with PCOS.
- Avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates which can greatly impact insulin resistance. Eat whole grain, complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat or grains, brown rice, and oatmeal.
- Avoid cold foods and ice cold drinks. Cold food and drinks take longer to go through the digestive system and slows the body's metabolism. Some level of insulin resistance is assumed in women with PCOS which translates into a slower metabolism to begin with. Having warm drinks and foods is better for PCOS sufferers.
- Maintain refular sleep patterns. Longer hours of regular sleep play a major role in maintaining good homeostasis and general well-being.
- Eat a wide range of low glycemic fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Get plenty of antioxidants from foods and supplements. These fight inflammation, which has an assumed presence in PCOS to varying degrees.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown to improve metabolic function, regulate cycles, and contribute to successful pregnancy outcomes.