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Acupuncture for PCOS – Points to Ponder

By Beth Heller, MS

At Pulling Down the Moon, when we come across a tough problem we often turn to our acupuncturists and ask “isn’t there a needle for that?” It seems like every day we read another study where researchers find that acupuncture is beneficial for something…especially fertility. Recently the focus was on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Researchers in Sweden announced that electro-acupuncture improves hormonal profiles and menstrual cycle regularity in patients with PCOS when compared to physical exercise and control groups.

Evidence is piling up that acupuncture is an effective treatment for PCOS. This latest study spotlighted one potential mode of action for acupuncture. The women from the both the acupuncture group and the exercise group actually showed a decrease in the activity of their sympathetic nervous system. In addition, women in the acupuncture group showed a decrease in unhealthy belly fat (abdominal adiposity) when compared to the exercise and the control groups. This finding is exciting because abdominal fat is associated with many of the negative health consequences associated with PCOS, including diabetes and heart disease and potentially infertility as studies show that “apple shaped” women may be more prone to infertility than “pear shaped” gals.

We know that the stress hormone cortisol promotes fat storage in the belly as opposed to peripheral storage depots (a.k.a. tush and hips). Stress also aggravates blood sugar regulation and can negatively impact reproductive function. It is possible that these findings suggest a new direction for healing for PCOS that emphasizes stress reduction. If so, in addition to diet and exercise, the new prescription for PCOS should emphasize meditation and relaxation as well as exercise and diet for optimal efficacy.

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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2009 Aug;297(2):R387-95. Epub 2009 Jun 3