PCOS and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Some women may opt to try Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a common, growing threat to women’s fertility, vastly unrecognized by doctors and women alike.
Traditional Chinese Medicine & PCOS
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is as old as Chinese civilization itself. TCM gets its theoretical basis from the Taoist principles of yin and yang, the five movements, and Qi (pronounced “chi”). As early as the 1200s, Chinese medicine recognized PCOS, describing it as a “Tian Gui” disorder. This is a genetic disorder with symptoms of an irregular menstrual cycle and infertility caused by anovulation.
According to TCM, PCOS is considered an anovulation disorder related to ovarian insulin resistance.
PCOS and fertility
According to western medicine, most women with PCOS have one of the primary symptoms below:
- Menstrual irregularities and ovulation dysfunction
- Insulin resistance
- Excess facial and body hair growth
- Skin problems
- Polycystic ovaries
PCOS can be linked with infertility and other long-term health consequences such as diabetes and heart disease. Many women with PCOS are first diagnosed when they have problems getting pregnant.
PCOS and the kidneys
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, practitioners describe PCOS as a Kidney Deficiency. In TCM, the symptom of irregular or absent menstrual periods, along with the absence of ovulation is considered a kidney disease process. The kidney in TCM is the organ system that is regarded with any genetic disorder and, thus, considered the root cause in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Modern western medicine also considers PCOS an inherited condition.
PCOS and the spleen
In TCM, PCOS is considered to be a Spleen Deficiency. A Spleen Deficiency relates to the symptom of insulin resistance. With TCM, the spleen is in charge of metabolizing the vitamins and minerals from foods, as well as changing and carrying body fluids. TCM practitioners would consider the spleen dysfunctional in women with ovarian cysts.
The spleen is also the organ that is correlated with weight gain in TCM. About 30 to 60 percent of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are obese.
TCM believes that when the function of the spleen is improved, it helps to regulate blood glucose and weight gain. A healthy spleen also ends excessive fluid accumulation in ovarian cysts.
PCOS and the liver
TCM recognizes a third pattern of Liver Stagnation with PCOS. Liver Stagnation can manifest as Blood Stasis or excess heat in the channels or meridians of the body.
Blood Stasis in the body’s meridians or channels nourishes the hair follicles excessively, creating the coarse and unwanted hair. This sign is consistent with hirsutism, a common symptom that affects about 70 percent of women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Excessive heat in the meridians or channels of the body also triggers the acne component of PCOS.
TCM treatment for PCOS
The main goal when trying to improve fertility in women with PCOS is to induce ovulation. To induce ovulation, TCM practitioners treat the main organs, including the kidney, spleen, and liver. The practitioner may use a combination of acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, moxabustion, and herbal therapy.
The concept behind Traditional Chinese Medicine is very progressive. Not only is it highly personal, but TCM was one of the first traditions to grasp the potential within the broader field of preventative medicine.
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1. Pulling Down the Moon; 2. Different phenotypes of polycystic ovary syndrome by Rotterdam criteria are differently steroidogenic but similarly insulin resistant. Fertil Steril. 2010 Mar 1;93(4):1362-5. Epub 2009 Sep 26. Lorenz, L., & Wild; 3. R.A. Polycystic ovarian syndrome: An evidence-based approach to evaluation and management of diabetes and cardiovascular risks for today's clinician. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2007; 50(1), 226-243.