Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Signs and symptoms
- Strongly associated with excess body fat (50% of women with polycystic ovaries have excess body fat, often the apple-shaped body type)
- Decreased egg production or anovulation
- Irregular periods
- Elevated levels of circulating insulin due to insulin resistance
- Elevated Androgen levels (testosterone)
- Enlarged ovaries, with multiple cysts just below the entire ovarian surface caused by underdeveloped follicles.
- Hirsutism (excessive body/facial hair)
Our treatment plan is four-fold:
A complex condition, PCOS is often described in Chinese medicine as a phlegm or dampness condition. While there are other energetics at play here, the phlegm is of primary concern. The presence of excess moisture, in the form of phlegm or dampness, inhibits the ovary from fully producing and expelling eggs every month. TCM seeks to resolve the phlegm and gently nudge the body back into balance.
- Nourish your body fully via a nutrient-rich whole-foods diet that balances insulin/glucagons and eicosanoids. Loss of body fat increases insulin sensitivity and normalizes insulin secretion, which results in normalization of blood sugar and a reduction of excess androgens. We recommend a low glycemic index diet.
- Multivitamin-mineral supplement of good quality.
- TCM dietary suggestions:
- Avoid all forms of simple, refined sugar.
- Avoid all forms of refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, white rice, most breakfast cereals, rice cakes or any starchy, low-fiber food.
- Avoid excess yam consumption. The high starch and sugar content in yams exacerbates the impaired glucose metabolism and can actually delay or prevent ovulation if you have PCOS.
- Avoid soda, fruit juice and any drink that rapidly raises the blood sugar level.
- Consume adequate amounts of protein, either in vegetarian form or in the form of lean meat that has not been hormonally treated.
- Eat as many fresh vegetables as you wish.
- Eat only complex whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat.
- Eat fruits like berries, which are not too sweet.
- Avoid milk and dairy products, which tend to exacerbate the condition of internal dampness.
- Eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
- Increase your dietary fiber intake.
- Get adequate amounts of exercise.
- Drink lots of water!!
- Get out into the light — natural light. It can affect the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and thus affect ovulation. Northrup suggests sleeping with the light on 3 days each month (p.137) and consider getting full spectrum lights in your home, especially during the fall and winter months.
- Get regular, moderate exercise: Exercise consumes calories, builds muscles which increases insulin sensitivity, makes weight loss easier as less glucose is converted to fat.
- We may suggest performing abdominal self-massage daily, as it can increase the blood flow to your ovaries, and therefore increase their productivity.
- Chinese Herbs
Chinese herbs will be prescribed if we determine it is appropriate for your situation. As in the case of acupuncture, Chinese Herbs can dissolve the phlegm or drain the dampness and normalize hormonal imbalances.
Stresses have been associated with functional amenorrhea (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovary axis), which a symptom of PCOS. Stress and anxiety have been found to suppress ovarian and menstrual cycle.
PCOS has a negative impact on psychological wellbeing, even when compared with other serious health conditions like asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, back pain, arthritis and coronary heart disease. (Coffrey S at el Gynecol Endocrinol 2006 Feb 22).
Lewis, Randine, PhD. “The Infertility Cure.” Little, Brown and Company. 2004.
Northrup, Christiane, MD. “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, revised edition.” Bantam. 1998. Merck Manual, 17th Ed. Merck Research Laboratories. 1999.