POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS) | Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome literally means a syndrome with many (“poly”) cells (“cysts”) in the ovaries. These many cells are the immature follicles that stop developing completely within the ovary. In a healthy individual, after reaching maturity, the follicle should rupture out of the ovary during ovulation and the ovum should pass on through the fallopian tube to await fertilization. However in the case of PCOS, the mature follicle never leaves the ovary and as time progresses, there becomes an increasing number of these mature follicles within the ovary as the woman goes through each menstrual cycle; hence, the name “many cells.” PCOS is a complex syndrome with several factors, involving hormonal irregularities (increased LH and decreased FSH levels, increased androgen production), increased sympathetic activity (stress/adrenergic response) and insulin resistance (hyperglycemia). The cause of PCOS is still unknown but PCOS is considered to be one of the leading factors of infertility and frequently correlated with diabetes and obesity.
Conventional treatments for such issues often include agents that induce ovulation. However, these hormones can disrupt estrogen production which can eventually thin out the lining of the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus), which can impede implantation.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs do not employ exogenous hormones into the body, but aims to balance the body’s energy in necessary areas to re-align the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovary (HPO) axis, reduce sympathetic activity and help restore insulin sensitivity (a good study to look at: here). The hypothalamus in the brain triggers the pituitary gland to release the reproductive hormone to signal to the ovary to induce ovulation.