Acupuncture relieves symptoms of PCOS
by Don Matesz —
A study recently published in an online issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology has found that acupuncture can relieve some of the symptoms and improve the hormone levels of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which occurs in about one in 10 women.
Women suffering from this condition have elevated levels of androgen hormones — including testosterone — and often develop ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles and infertility. PCOS patients also suffer from increased muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), characteristic of the fight or flight response. This constricts blood vessels and can increase a woman’s chances of developing diabetes and high blood pressure or having a heart attack or stroke.
In this study, researchers at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden, randomly assigned 20 women to three groups: electro-acupuncture (nine women), exercise (five women) or control (six women).
The acupuncture group received 14 acupuncture treatments over 16 weeks: twice weekly for two weeks, once weekly over six weeks and once every second week for eight weeks. The acupuncture prescription included needling points on the abdomen, forearms, hands and legs. The acupuncturist used traditional points that either have relationship to the ovaries by route of the central nervous system (CNS), or have a specific effect on the CNS.
The exercise group received a pulse watch and instructions to take up regular low-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, at least three days per week. They were given instructions to use a self-selected pace described as “faster than normal walking, but a pace that could be sustained for at least 30 minutes,” to maintain a pulse frequency above 120/min for 30 to 45 minutes each session, and continue this for 16 weeks.
When researchers compared the groups, they found that both the exercise and acupuncture groups had desired decreases in MSNA. The acupuncture group also reduced testosterone levels and in some subjects improved (restored) menstrual function, whereas exercise had no effect on these functions.
This study confirmed previous findings that repeated acupuncture treatment exerts lasting beneficial effects on hormonal balance, ovulation and menstruation in women with PCOS and women with undefined ovulatory dysfunction, with no negative side effects.
In a news release, researcher Elisabet Stener-Victorin of the University of Gothenburg, said, “The findings that low-frequency electro-acupuncture and exercise decrease sympathetic nerve activity in women with PCOS indicate a possible alternative nonpharmacologic approach to reduce cardiovascular risk in these patients.”
Although researchers used electro-acupuncture in this study, acupuncture without electricity exerts similar effects and represents the standard of practice in acupuncture medicine. Diet provides another valuable tool for correcting PCOS. This disorder belongs to a set of metabolic disorders that arise from excessive insulin levels and insulin resistance. These disorders only result from frequent consumption of carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates. Individuals with PCOS will benefit from a low carbohydrate diet.
Source: Stener-Victorin E, et al. Low-frequency electro-acupuncture and physical exercise decrease high muscle sympathetic nerve activity in polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol (June 3, 2009).
Don Matesz, M.S., L.Ac., operates Barefoot Acupuncture Clinic, devoted to providing affordable acupuncture and effective nutrition guidance. www.barefootacupuncture.vpweb.com, www.donmatesz.blogspot.com or 602-954-8016.
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