PCOS. What is it, why do I have it, what can be done about it?
Says that polycystic ovarian syndrome ( PCOS ) is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. It can cause problems with your periods and make it difficult to get pregnant. PCOS also may cause unwanted changes in the way you look, like acne and excessive body and facial hair.
What is it?
Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries, it is a natural part of ovulation, and are typically absorbed by the body. It when these cysts do not dissolve and begin covering large surfaces of the ovaries that hormonal disharmonies arise.
Hormones are chemical messengers that trigger many different processes, including growth and energy production. Often, the job of one hormone is to signal the release of another hormone.
For reasons that are not well understood, in PCOS the hormones get out of balance. One hormone change triggers another, which changes another.
- The sex hormones get out of balance. Normally, the ovaries make a tiny amount of male sex hormones (androgens). In PCOS, they start making slightly more androgens. This may cause you to stop ovulating, get acne, and grow extra facial and body hair.
- The body may have a problem using insulin, called insulin resistance. When the body doesn't use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up. Over time, this increases your chance of getting diabetes.
Symptoms tend to be mild at first. You may have only a few symptoms or a lot of them. The most common symptoms are:
- Weight gain and trouble losing weight.
- Extra hair on the face and body. Often women get thicker and darker facial hair and more hair on the chest, belly, and back.
- Thinning hair on the scalp.
- Irregular periods. Often women with PCOS have fewer than nine periods a year. Some women have no periods. Others have very heavy bleeding.
- Fertility problems. Many women who have PCOS have trouble getting pregnant (infertility).
Modern medicine can see what happens when cysts prevent ovulation but don’t understand why it happens - here’s the reason.
Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Has a simpler understanding of PCOS. Cysts being absorbed by the body is normal, the body understands that they are supposed to be removed and typically goes about doing it. The mechanisms that go about nourishing, repairing and healing the body contained in the blood. If there is improper circulation in areas of the body, the healing mechanisms in the blood are similarly restricted. “A rolling stone gathers no moss” is a good example of PCOS. If blood flow around your ovaries is poor then your cysts don’t get washed away before the next cycle.The ovaries find another spot to ovulate from, and then that cyst doesn’t get washed away, and so on until there a few or no spots from which to ovulate. No ovulation means then next round of hormones to be triggered by ovulation doesn’t happen and systems start to go out of whack.
But why does blood circulate poorly around my ovaries? Period pain is stuck blood trying to move. Endometriosis is baked on blood that doesn’t want to move. These are easy signs that blood is not moving properly down there. Imagine your period doesn’t clean your endometrium away properly and there is ‘litter’ left over. This litter builds up and builds up until the pathways are so choked up circulation in the whole area is affected. Not having your period is obviously going to choke up pathways even quicker - so there is the double edged sword. No ovulation means no period, which means more litter clogging up the flow, and even poorer circulation in the area. You can still have no period pain and have PCOS, I am just trying to give you a common example of how blood flow can start circulating poorly.
The importance of damp
The Chinese term of “damp” is the main culprit in this example. A good example of damp is when the weather is really humid and the air is thick and heavy and it makes you feel just awful. Tropical areas have damp and heat and colder areas will have damp and cold, fog is an example of damp and cold. Imagine that conditions like this prevail in the body. Overweight people trying to run a distance can become breathless and tire easily, healthy people trying to run a distance in great humidity will tire much faster too, running through fog is bad for you because of all the extra moisture you inhale. Now you don’t have to run through fog to get PCOS, and if you do run through fog it won’t make you get PCOS - I’m trying to give you a mental picture of how circulation is slowed down by damp conditions.
So here we have damp encumbering the circulation in the body. Your blood is trying to do its daily rounds and the damp is slowing it down and making it difficult, and blood flow becomes sluggish. Have you ever tried to do a 400 metre sprint with a full belly? That awful feeling you get, that’s how your blood feels running around your body when you are encumbered by damp. Dampness in the body is characterised by a heavy feeling in the body and extra body weight. Damp slows circulation, the healing mechanisms in the blood are similarly slowed, the jobs it’s supposed to do on the rounds become a backlog, until all of a sudden it doesn’t get to do the job at all anymore because the areas it was supposed to heal are too far gone now and disease ensues. This is the fundamental premise for all chronic disease.
To sum it all up damp encumbers blood circulation and the healing mechanisms don’t get to clean the cysts off the ovaries leading to ovaries covered in cysts preventing ovulation that messes with hormonal interactions leading to all the symptoms mentioned by modern medicine.
So to treat PCOS we use acupoints and herbs to resolve damp and move the blood and focus it on the reproductive system. Fortunately for everyone it tends to work.
30 Interesting Facts about PCOS
- Women with PCOS have higher rates of anxiety and depression than women without the syndrome.
- Worldwide, PCOS affects 6-10% of women, making it the most common endocrinopathy in women of childbearing age.
- Elevated insulin or insulin resistance are not part of the diagnostic criteria for PCOS but are seen in the majority of women with PCOS.
- The diagnotic criteria for PCOS states that a women has PCOS if she has at least 2 of the following 3 criteria. a. Irregular or absent periods, b. blood tests or physical signs that show high androgens, c. Polycystic ovaries
- The Unites States spends an estimated $4 billion annually to identify and manage PCOS.
- Women with PCOC are at a higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea due to the influence of androgens affecting sleep receptors in the brain.
- Women with PCOS can have monthly menstrual cycles and still have PCOS.
- Depsite the name, not all women with PCOS actually have cysts on their ovaries.
- Characteristics of PCOS were first described in 1935 by researchers Stein and Levanthal.
- There are at least 10 different phenotypes associated with PCOS.
- Both myo-inositol and n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) have been shown to improve fertility and metabolic aspects of PCOS.
- PCOS is the most common cause of ovulatory infertility.
- Know your numbers: women with PCOS have 70% prevalence of elevated triglycerides and low HDL ("good" cholesterol). Changes to diet and lifestyle can improve levels.
- In PCOS, there is a rapid conversion from impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes. For this reason, the Androgen Excess and PCOS Society recommends yearly blood screening.
- Women with PCOS have more testosterone and can build muscle easier than women without the syndrome.
- It is important if you are taking metformin or oral contraceptives to also take a B12 supplement as the drug can interfere with absorption of the vitamin. A lack of B12 can cause permanent and serious problems.
- The cysts typically seen in PCOS are actually the result of a hormonal imbalance, not the cause of the syndrome.
- One of the earliest signs of elevated androgens in adolescents with PCOS is acne.
- There is a lack of evidence that supports a very low carb or gluten free diet as an effective eating plan over other diets for women with PCOS.
- Fish oil improves every aspect of PCOS from improving hair quality to mood.
- Eating protein and/or fat-containing foods every 3 to 5 hours throughout the day may help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent cravings in PCOS.
- Regular exercise is an effective way to improve insulin levels in PCOS.
- As women with PCOS get older, they are likely to experience more regular menstrual cycles.
- The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in women with PCOS at middle age is 6.8 times higher than that of the general female population.
- A number of studies demonstrate that modest weight loss of 5-10% of initial body weight improves metabolic, physiological and psychological aspects of PCOS.
- The optimal treatment for PCOS is a multifactorial approach involving diet and lifestyle modification and medications.
- Women with PCOS have a higher incidence of gestational diabetes, miscarriages, preterm deliveries, and stillbirths.
- It is estimated that 50-70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance.
- Vitamin D, a hormone and a vitamin, have been shown to play a role in insulin resistance and egg development.
- If left untreated, PCOS can lead to numerous chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. With treatment, these conditions can be prevented.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine has a rich history in treating difficult health problems that Modern Medicinehas no answers for. We treat the root cause of your problem, so that the body can perform its functions normally.
At Australian Natural Fertility Townsville, Mackay and Whitsundays we use Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine to treat a wide range of gynaecological disorders and help people conceive naturally and improve the outcomes of IVF.
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