Acupuncture and Exercise May Benefit Women with PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common female endocrine disorders. It affects approximately 5 to 105 of women of reproductive age. Researchers have recently found that acupuncture and physical exercise may help improve hormone levels and menstrual bleeding pattern in women who have PCOS.
Exercise Can Lower Heart Disease Risk, Acupuncture May Regulate Menstrual Cycles
University of Gothenburg scientists tested electroacupuncture on a group of women with PCOS where needles were stimulated both manually and with a weak electric current at a very low frequency. A second group of women exercised at least three times a week, while a third group acted as controls. Both acupuncture and exercise reduced the high levels of testosterone and lead to more regular menstruation, said study author Elisabet Stener-Victorin.
Women with PCOS have irregular ovulation and menstruation due to many small immature egg follicles present in the ovaries. This causes the ovaries to produce excess testosterone which in turn can lead to issues such as obesity and insulin resistance. Regular exercise can help women lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Inclusion of a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet may also assist with weight loss.
PCOS patients, because of their higher blood sugar levels, are at an increased risk for heart disease. Many are given metformin (Glucophage) to help normalize blood sugar, but this can lead to an elevated homocysteine level, another risk factor for heart attack and coronary artery disease. Regular exercise has been shown to significantly lower homocysteine levels in young overweight women with PCOS.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, illness is caused when qi (energy) does not flow properly throughout the body. Correcting this imbalance may help activate the endorphin system, which could lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease. It may also be useful in the treatment of acne, a common problem among PCOS sufferers.
Electroacupuncture is a relatively new technique in which acupuncture needles are attached to a device that generates continuous electric pulses. The needles are inserted on specific points along the body, similarly to traditional acupuncture, but stimulate a larger area.
Women who have a history of seizures, epilepsy, heart disease or stroke should not participate in electroacupuncture therapy, nor should women who have pacemakers. All patients should be sure to discuss potential risks and benefits with their practitioner.
E. Jedel, F. Labrie, A. Oden, G. Holm, L. Nilsson, P. O. Janson, A.-K. Lind, C. Ohlsson, E. Stener-Victorin. Impact of electro-acupuncture and physical exercise on hyperandrogenism and oligo/amenorrhea in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jan;300(1):E37-45. Epub 2010 Oct 13.