Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects up to 10 percent of women during their child-bearing years — and it’s a disorder than causes a host of heartbreaking problems. PCOS is the result of eggs that don’t mature and are not released from the ovaries. Instead, small ovarian cysts form, wrecking the balance of a woman’s sex hormones.The results? Irregular, missed and/or extremely heavy periods as well as difficulty becoming pregnant. PCOS also causes an increase in androgens, or male hormones, leading to decreased breast size, a deepened voice, increase in hair on the face and body with thinning of hair on the head, and severe acne. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease are also widespread among women with PCOS.
Mainstream medicine has little help for the disorder; treatment focuses on managing PCOS symptoms with birth control pills, laser hair removal on the face and body, acne medication and even total hysterectomies followed by hormone replacement. But now researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have found alternative, non-drug therapies that improve the hormone levels and menstrual bleeding pattern in women with PCOS — acupuncture and physical exercise.
In the new study, just published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, a group of women with PCOS were given acupuncture where the needles were stimulated both manually and with a weak electric current. A second group of study participants was told to exercise at least three times a week, while a third group acted as controls. All the women were given information on the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet.
“The study shows that both acupuncture and exercise reduce high levels of testosterone and lead to more regular menstruation,”researcher Elisabet Stener-Victorin, who headed the study, said in a statement to the media. “Of the two treatments, the acupuncture proved more effective.”
Although PCOS impacts one woman in ten, the cause isn’t known. “However, we’ve recently demonstrated that women with PCOS have a highly active sympathetic nervous system, the part that isn’t controlled by our will, and that both acupuncture and regular exercise reduced levels of activity in this system compared with the control group, which could be an explanation for the results,” Stener-Victorin added.
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