29.01.2016 Eastern Healing

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Oriental practitioner Oliver LeJus looks at the troubling disorder, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

As a kid, I remember being fascinated by an old photo of a huge bearded lady in my Guinness book of records. Decades later, I found out why this poor woman had every reason to look as miserable as she did. Apart from the fact that she was being paraded around like a freak, this unfortunate woman was probably suffering from a hormonal imbalance called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). In those days, she had very little chance of ever bearing a child, and was very likely to be suffering from vascular disease, diabetes or cancer.

Today, PCOS is still one of the main causes of infertility in women.

This medical disease, which affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age, was first identified in France in1845. It is manifested by chronically irregular or absent periods, sometimes dating from the onset of puberty, but also obesity, acne and excessive facial and body hair growth (“hirsutism”), and thinning hair on the head.

The multiple small cysts, which develop inside the ovaries, are actually tiny follicles. Although these defective follicles never reach the mature stage, they produce male hormones called androgens, which stop the growth of healthy follicles, and prevent the release of the mature eggs during the ovulation stage.As the eggs are not released, pregnancy can’t be achieved.

Recent research has shown that most women who are afflicted were often underweight at birth; they had an early puberty, and a family history of diabetes.The link between PCOS and type 2 diabetes is quite strong; up to 70% of women with the disease have high insulin levels, which increases the production of androgen hormone.

The link between PCOS and type 2 diabetes is quite strong

Excess levels of androgen were the cause of the excessive male pattern characteristics of the bearded lady of my youth. Also, these excess levels of insulin affect the metabolism and encourage the storage of body fat, so women sufferers with a normal dietary intake can still become obese. As one can imagine, being afflicted with PCOS carries a heavy psychological burden. Those afflicted are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and poor self esteem.

Although Western medicine is still unable to pinpoint the cause of this disease, nowadays the medical condition is managed through specific diet, exercise, and medications. Women who are trying to get pregnant are prescribed a variety of hormonal stimulating drugs.Unfortunately, this approach has many drawbacks. According to MS Randine Lewis, author of the book The Infertility Cure: “The follicular development within the ovary is a delicate process which takes many months and when a women is forced to ovulate with ovulation stimulating drugs the quality of the eggs may be poor.” This is illustrated by the fact that women with PCOS with hormonal medications have a higher risk of miscarriage, and are at a higher risk of contracting a life threatening condition called Ovarian Hyper Stimulating Syndrome (OHSS).

Other treatment approaches include the use of surgery to remove the follicular cysts, or the use of oral steroids, which they are known to cause degeneration of the pelvic bones with long-term use.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is regarded as a fluid imbalance characterised by a build up of dampness or phlegm in the body. Our female patients will be complaining of being tired and bloated after eating. They will have a tendency to gain weight. They will be prone to yeast infections, vagina itching, loose stools, aches in the joints, and their tongue will be wet and slimy.

Since most women with PCOS are insulin resistant, the first step in the Oriental approach is to monitor their diet.

In our medical framework, the sweet flavor is associated with the spleen. Deficiency in that organ will increase fluid retention, dampness and phlegm in the body, and the creation of these ovarian cysts. A patient will be encouraged to eat more fresh vegetables and avoid all forms of sugar and complex carbohydrates. Fruits like berries, or apple, being not so sweet, can be tolerated. In addition, dairy products, which are a major source of mucus and dampness, should be eliminated from the diet.

Several Chinese medicinal herbs with phlegm- resolving effects have been used in gynecology for centuries. A herb called Gleditsia Sinensis (Zao Jiao Ci) has been shown to promote ovulation and improve the function of the ovaries. Other herbs with blood moving function, such as Leonuris seed (Chong wei zi) can relieve pain and assist ovulation by promoting blood flow to the reproductive organs.

In addition, dairy products, which are a major source of mucus and dampness, should be eliminated from the diet.

In addition, a medical research in the 1990s showed that acupuncture alone, which has a powerful affect on the parasympathetic nervous system, could regulate the hormonal levels of PCOS sufferers and restore ovulation in one third of the subjects in a short period of time.

One shouldn’t always expect such a quick improvement, but with the application of the dietary guidelines, the use of gentle exercise and the herbal and acupuncture therapies, after three menstrual cycles your chance of conceiving will have greatly improved.

Olivier Lejus MHSc, BHSc is a registered acupuncturist practising in Sydney www.olejusacupuncture.com

Olivier Lejus

Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com