Polycystic ovarian syndrome (or polycystic ovary syndrome – PCOS) is a complex condition in which a woman’s ovaries are generally bigger than average. Polycystic means the ovaries have many cysts or follicles that rarely grow to maturity or produce eggs capable of being fertilised. Despite the fact that these cysts are not harmful, they are responsible for hormonal imbalances in the women. The hormonal imbalance interferes with the menstrual cycle which means that the periods either become highly irregular or are non-existent.
We have noticed that this condition is affecting more women in the last few years, and they often seek assistance when they are unable to conceive. Sadly, failure to treat the problem may lead to serious health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Long-term problems are certain to be avoided through an early diagnosis and treatment.
The body talks through sending messages in the shape of hormones
Hormones act as messengers meant to trigger different processes in the body; these include energy production and growth. Every so often, one hormone works to trigger the release of another hormone. As with all conditions (diagnosed or not) in Chinese medicine, we establish the disruptive pattern causing the illness. In PCOS, we often see a lack of kidney energy together with ineffective transformation of fluids in the body, which results in phlegm. This phlegm then blocks the natural physiology and hence the chances of falling pregnant.
According to the traditional view, the accumulation of phlegm in the ovaries which is either due to a inadequate diet or the inability of the kidney to steam the fluid to the upper parts of the body. The kidney yang (the active, energetic part of the kidney) acts as a heater that is meant to steam body fluids and ensure they are properly distributed throughout the whole body.
Some of the major symptoms of PCOS are:
- Irregular menstrual cycles; absent or irregular menses
- Mid-cycle bleeding, painful ovulation, or agonizing menstruation
- A stabbing pain, heaviness, or distention in the pelvic region
- Heavy menstruation, more so if the periods are late
- As it is, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility. The analogy behind this is the fact that ovulation is affected by the disorder.
With customised Chinese herbal medicine formulations as well as acupuncture, we will target the disruption of the reproductive system by balancing the hormones and assist the body in gaining a natural cycle including ovulation as well as regular periods. Different herbal combinations are created so as to offer the much needed therapeutic effect. The incorporation of cinnamon, more specifically (Rou Gui) cinnamon bark, works to support the water-steaming characteristic of the kidney. Fu Ling (Hoelen) is a moisture-controlling herb that, when used in combination with cinnamon and other herbs, may treat the disorder. Ba Wei Di Huang Wan (Rehmannia Eight Formula) or Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan are widely used in the Chinese medicine treatment of PCOS. The formula is administered either using pills, as a decoction or as liquid or granulated extracts.
Damp stagnation, qi and blood stagnation, and heart qi stagnation are the three major forms of PCOS. Owing to the obvious distinction in symptoms and aftermaths, it is advised that you seek personalized medical care.
Deficiency of Kidney Yang and Spleen Qi
Women ailing from this pattern of PCOS exhibit long menstrual cycles, watery blood, and scanty bleeding that may have mucus or stringy tissue. Some of them also do not menstruate at all which is principally why they seek fertility treatment. Women in this category feel bloated, add weight easily, tire easily, and do not like cold weather. Chronic vaginal discharge and chronic yeast infections are also possible symptoms.
Treatment here is aimed at dissolving the phlegm, removing dampness, and boosting the digestive system. Specific herbs, administered in formulas such as Tu Si Zi (Cuscutae Semen), Gui Zhi (Cinnamomi Ramulus), Cang Zhu (Atractylodes Rhizoma), and Du Zhong (Eucommiae Cortex), etc. may also be used. The composition of the herbal formulation will entirely depend on the pattern and your constitution.
Blood Stasis and Liver Qi Stagnation
Enduring depression, stress, or anxiety are the main causes of this pattern. These, in turn, affects blood circulation; qi is necessary for blood circulation in the liver as well as the chong (Conception) and ren (Governing) channels that connect and traverse with the uterus. Some of the most common symptoms in this pattern include headaches, irritability and restlessness, a general feeling of heat, distended abdomen or breast and predominantly clotty and heavy periods.
Herbs meant to promote blood circulation in the uterus and qi, reduce distention and pain, remove heat, and calm emotions are used. In such cases, formulas such as Dan Zhi Xiao Yao Yao San, Chai Hu Shu Gan Tang or Xiao Chai Hu Tang are used with modifications based on the diagnosis.
Acupuncture for PCOS
Acupuncture has been used extensively to offer relief from myriads of problems; PCOS is not an exemption. Through acupuncture, blood flow to the uterus is increased essentially increasing the wall’s thickness; this is an important dynamic in fertility. The stress hormones associated with infertility may also be reduced by the treatment.
Acupuncture treatment may be given once a week, or more frequently depending on the severity. Patients with pain in the mid-cycle or before menstruation are subscribed to relatively frequent acupuncture sessions. Normally, continuous treatment is recommended for about three months. However, the duration varies considerably based on factors such as the intensity of the symptoms and the Chinese medicine diagnosis offered among other factors such as dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
We found that if women affected by PCOS need to consider the following, basic dietary changes:
- Reduce the intake of dairy (as milk and cheese products will encourage the formation of phlegm)
- Don’t eat anything raw (uncooked) or cold (out of the fridge or frozen)
- Drastically reduce the intake of refined sugars, carbohydrates and starchy vegetables
- Eat healthy fats and oils (the best sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish)
- Use lots of pungent and warming herbs out of the garden to encourage the flow of Qi and blood throughout the body.
It is easy to ignore one’s menstrual cycle in your earlier years. Despite the urge, it is important to take note of unusual signs that may be present.
A certified Chinese Medicine herbalist and practitioner can correctly assess and diagnose the symptoms that should be addressed first, and the underlying cause.
We strongly recommend that instead of blindly taking herbal formulas without professional diagnosis and proper dosage, you should seek the services of a certified therapist.
BACKGROUND. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.itmonline.org/arts/ovcyst.htm
“Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility.” By Dr. Raymond Chang, Dr. Pak Chung, and Dr. Zev Rosenwaks. Fertility and Sterility. 2002;78(6):1149-53. – See more at: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/links/blogs/traditional-chinese-medicine–acupuncture-for-women-with-pcos.html#sthash.yh95GMyT.dpuf