There is a common misconception that Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is rare, however this is actually far from the truth, millions of women are affected in the UK and 1 in every 2 women are believed to have PCOS. Some women are not even aware they have it and can often be misdiagnosed. Myself- Claire, as the author of this blog, I intimately understand PCOS as I have it personally and I understand the difficulties surrounding it. I know the importance of raising awareness so that more women can be supported understand the disorder and how to deal with the large and diverse array of symptoms.
In the spirit of holistic well-being, we'll also delve into Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal supplements that may offer relief from PCOS symptoms, providing a potential avenue for those seeking a more natural and balanced approach to managing this condition. Join us on this enlightening voyage toward a deeper understanding of PCOS and the hope it holds for a brighter, healthier future.
First discovered in 1935, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder and polycystic ovaries are only one of the possible symptoms. This condition disrupts the normal function of the ovaries, leading to an imbalance in hormonal levels, particularly an excess of androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. The hallmark features of PCOS include irregular menstrual cycles, which often result from the ovaries' failure to release eggs regularly. It is often genetically linked and can run in families that have diabetes (including mine), my sister also has PCOS and is one of the reasons why I decided to visit my Doctor in the first place, after she was diagnosed.
This hormonal imbalance can manifest physically with such a huge array of symptoms, there is not 1 specific feature. There is a misconception that PCOS just means cysts on the ovaries, in fact, not every woman that has PCOS has cysts. See the graph below that I have made, which lists many of the symptoms from people with PCOS (including myself) have experienced.
PCOS can contribute to fertility challenges due to the lack of ovulation. However, it's essential to recognise that PCOS is not limited to reproductive issues. It can also impact metabolic health, leading to insulin resistance, weight gain, and an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Understanding and managing PCOS is vital for those affected, encompassing a holistic approach that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of this condition.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic condition, meaning it cannot be completely cured or eliminated. However, there are various ways to manage and control its symptoms effectively. The primary goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms, regulate hormonal imbalances, and reduce the risk of associated health complications. Here are some approaches to manage PCOS:
1. Lifestyle Balance:
A balanced diet and exercise can help manage insulin resistance and regulate menstrual cycles. Although the ideal is to have a full healthy lifestyle with only healthy eating and do a tonne of hardcore exercise in order to keep weight right down and reduce symptoms, it is not realistic, believe me, I know. But by incorporating healthy foods and some physical activity weekly, this can significantly improve symptoms. It often helps having a buddy to support and encourage or do it with you.
2. Stress Management:
Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga, Thai chi or deep breathing can help manage stress levels, which can contribute to hormonal balance. Going on leisurely walks or practicing mindfulness or doing something you love will keep yourself mentally in check and truly help manage symptoms in the long run.
3. Fertility Treatments and Acupuncture:
Individuals trying to conceive may benefit from fertility treatments like ovulation induction or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to improve the chances of successful pregnancy. Try giving acupuncture a go alongside or independently alongside treatments. There are studies that show acupuncture may not only help but increase your chances of conceiving. Acupuncture can also help to treat other symptoms of PCOS or Endometriosis and even your mental well-being.
4. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Alternative Therapies:
Although medication such as hormonal birth control to regulate menstrual cycles or insulin-sensitising drugs are often prescribed to manage symptoms, you may find some comfort from PCOS symptoms through acupuncture, herbal supplements, or other alternative therapies. TCM may help in managing hormonal imbalances and associated symptoms. Below are some TCM herbal formulas that may help in aiding and reducing symptoms:
Chai Hu Shu Gan San may benefit women with PCOS by promoting liver qi circulation. This may help alleviate symptoms like irregular periods, mood swings, swollen breasts, bloating and abdominal pain associated with PCOS. The formula may also support hormonal balance, which is crucial in managing PCOS symptoms.
Known as the Easy Wanderer formula, Jia Wei Xiao Yao San potentially benefits women with PCOS by regulating hormones and reducing stress and aids mental health, especially potentially aiding with emotional stress, depression, irritability, short temper, low energy levels. It may relieve PCOS symptoms such as irregular periods, mood swings, anxiety, and bloating, due to its ability to balance the body's internal environment. It may also target those who suffer with insomnia, tiredness, headaches and general body pain, also boosting energy levels.
Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is a formula which potentially targets headaches, stress and wellness, especially with irritability and anger. It may help women with PCOS by clearing excess heat from the liver and gallbladder. It may also relieve symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, acne, mood swings, and irregular menstruation, which are often linked to heat-related imbalances in PCOS.
Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang may benefit women with PCOS by promoting blood circulation and relieving stasis. It can help alleviate symptoms like pelvic pain, irregular menstruation, and clots, which are often associated with blood stagnation in PCOS. It may assist with relaxation of the muscles/nerves and assists with chronic pain. Also may expel wind, invigorate overall blood circulation and promote internal harmony.
Jin Kui Shen Qi Wan is a formula which targets pain relief, blood sugar levels and internal harmony. It can potentially benefit women with PCOS by nourishing kidney yin and yang, regulating hormones, and improving reproductive function. It may relieve symptoms such as irregular menstruation, fatigue, and fertility issues often seen in PCOS. It may assist with balancing blood sugar levels, and provide natural pain relief.
While there's no complete cure for PCOS, appropriate management and proactive lifestyle changes can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals living with this condition. It's essential to work closely with a healthcare team or TCM practitioner to develop a personalised treatment plan and make informed decisions regarding treatment options.