I was recently asked by one lovely lady to look into the benefits of using acupuncture with PCOS. Now, this strays a little bit away from my usual PCOS Diet posts but I have to say that I was intrigued and decided it was worth investigating.
You see, I have a medical background and have been well-trained to look for the evidence and reasoning behind things. In my Westernised, medical mind, acupuncture has never been on my radar.[blockquote align="right"]In my Westernised, medical mind, acupuncture has never been on my radar[/blockquote]
So when I was asked to do some research, I couldn’t help myself. I needed to know the ins and outs of why acupuncture could be beneficial for PCOS and whether I have been missing out on something that could help me. I found a lot of information, too much for one post. So, this will be done over two posts. To really understand the benefits of acupuncture for PCOS, we’re going to need to get a little medical and dig deeper so bear with me.
Here is what I found:
What is acupuncture?
According to Wikipedia, “Acupuncture is a collection of procedures which involves the stimulation of points on the body using a variety of techniques, such as penetrating the skin with needles that are then manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.” (1)
It is a traditional Chinese medicine that is based on the belief that any illness or pain is caused by a blockage in the flow of vital energy or “qi”. Acupuncturists insert needles into specific acupuncture points in an attempt to unblock the flow of qi and restore balance to the body. (2)
There is no scientific evidence that qi exists or that the body has meridians or acupuncture points. But, there is research that proves that acupuncture is more effective than a placebo.
So, clearly acupuncture must do something to the body, but what? How does acupuncture work?
Which type of acupuncture for PCOS?
From what I have read in the medical research, the type of acupuncture most frequently spoken of is electro-acupuncture. This is when a small electric current is sent through the needle into the muscle. Two needles are used so that a circuit is set up. The current is a continuous pulsating current and is applied for no more than 30 minutes. Also, more than two needles can be stimulated at any given time. (3)
How does it help PCOS?
From what I understand, there seem to be two ways in which acupuncture helps women with PCOS.
Okay, this is going to get Geeky but we need to understand some things about the body to understand how acupuncture works.
The needle is inserted into the skin and underlying muscle. The needle and electric stimulation causes the muscle to send information to the brain, via the spinal cord. If the needle is inserted into the area that sends sensory information about the ovary to the brain, it leads to a decrease in the release of male hormones from the ovaries.
And we know that these androgens or male hormones are responsible for a lot of our symptoms of PCOS.
The other way that acupuncture work is by acting on the system in the brain that releases hormones or the neuroendocrine system. It leads to a decrease in the release of luteinizing hormone which again leads to a decrease in the release of male hormones from the ovaries. (4)
Summing it Up
So, this sounding good! We’re saying that acupuncture can ultimately work on our hormone or endocrine system and directly on our ovaries to lower the release of male hormones which will lead to an improvement in our PCOS symptoms.
I’m almost tempted to try it, if only if it weren’t for my massive fear of needles! In the next article, we’ll look more closely at how often you should go, how long the treatment will take and we’ll also have a look at what the research says in terms of success rates and improvements in hormones.
This is a very high level overview of how things work. If you’re a bit of a geek like me and want more detailed information, we can jump down the rabbit hole and go into a deeper explanation. Just leave me a comment below and we can have more of a discussion about it!
Also, if you have tried acupuncture to manage your PCOS, I would love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment below letting me know if you loved it or hated it and if you feel that it helped your symptoms!