How To Treat PCOS Without Birth Control
It is very possible to treat PCOS without birth control if you go beyond the limitations of western medicine. That is not to say that Western Medicine is bad. In fact, it saves many lives. However, Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine are based on entirely different medical systems and principles. Each modality is different and embracing the knowledge of both would be a benefit to those seeking to treat PCOS naturally.
Western Medicine doesn’t always aim to fix the underlying problem as seen in TCM and often forces the body to behave in the desired way with pharmaceuticals. For instance, a common symptom of PCOS is irregular menstrual cycles and the common solution is birth control. Western Medicine stops at knowing the hormones are out of balance and looks to directly and artificially alter them with additional hormones. This medication looks to force a normal period by introducing hormones instead of addressing the root cause of why an irregular menses is occurring in the first place which may have other unintended effects and stresses on the body.
Yes, hormones are out of balance, but why? TCM understands that the expression of a symptom or group of symptoms may be similar but the cause may be different from person to person. Traditional Chinese Medicine looks for the TCM pattern that is causing irregular menstrual cycles specifically within your body. TCM Patterns such as Qi or Blood Deficiency, Blood Stasis, Phlegm-Dampness, Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Blood stagnation or Kidney Deficiency can all cause menstrual complications or irregularities. By addressing the pattern directly using Chinese herbs and acupuncture, making the needed adjustments in your diet, lifestyle, environment and addressing stress and emotions, the body in turn may re-calibrate naturally. This individualized approach is how TCM can help treat PCOS without birth control.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, abbreviated PCOS, is an endocrine system disorder that has become a common problem. This sometimes painful and frustrating disorder affects approximately 10% of people with ovaries in the United States and affects those attempting to conceive. Some symptoms of PCOS can include irregular or absent menstrual cycles, cysts on the ovaries, acne, weight gain that is inconsistent with your food intake/activity/energy levels, high insulin and blood sugar, new or excess facial or body hair, pelvic pain, decreased sex drive, stress and anxiety among many others. While conventionally there is no “cure” and the cause of PCOS is unknown, three factors are considered major contributors:
Increased Androgen hormones
Do we really not know what causes PCOS?
While it is said the cause of this syndrome is unknown in Western medicine, TCM has a very different point of view. Typically PCOS is caused by an excess pattern but for many women a combination of excess and deficiency patterns are present and must be addressed. Here are some example patterns that may be contributing:
Phlegm Dampness (excess)
Spleen Qi Deficiency (deficiency)
Liver Qi Stagnation or Stasis (excess)
Blood Stagnation or Stasis (excess)
Kidney Yin or Yang Deficiency (deficiency)
Factors such as inflammation in the body, excess insulin, genetic predisposition, excess facial/body hair, irregular menses, weight gain, along with all the other possible symptoms are clues. Using observation, a comprehensive collection of health information, tongue and pulse diagnosis and diet and lifestyle assessment, TCM can identify which pattern is the root, underlying cause of PCOS for you.
Nutrition is also an important factor in PCOS. It is no surprise that PCOS has a strong link to body weight and Type 2 Diabetes. Specifically following a Traditional Chinese Medicine nutritional approach can be a very beneficial part of treatment for this condition and essential in how TCM can help treat PCOS without birth control.
Tips for treating PCOS without birth control.
Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, lose some weight…These recommendations are typical but don’t quite give enough information from a TCM perspective. The kind of exercise you do, when you do it, the properties of food such as whether they are hot , cold or damp and the organ system they support/hinder are all taken into consideration. If you need to lose a little weight, how you do it makes a difference in whether or not you are doing it in a way that exacerbates a pattern that is already causing a problem for you or not. There are many intricacies in TCM recommendations and treatments that are extremely individualized for your body. For this reason, we recommend getting properly assessed by a licensed and nationally board certified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine that specializes in reproductive health conditions such as PCOS, Pelvic Pain and Fertility.
What you can start doing:
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. Get properly diagnosed by a TCM specialist and begin receiving weekly treatments. You will receive proper advice on diet and lifestyle designed specifically for your needs as well as custom herbal formulas to support healing and balance. Length and duration of your treatments will be dependent on the severity of your case and the types of symptoms you are presenting with. Typically, a 3 month regimen is recommended.
Say no to processed foods and avoid sugar. A good rule of thumb when you are in the grocery store is to stay in the perimeter of the store. This is where the most fresh food is! Almost anything in an aisle is in a box, can, jar or bottle, all of which contain terrible additives, sugars and preservatives and all promote inflammation in the body. Step away from the pasta, white bread and soda pop and watch our video on nutrition.
Avoid Cold Food and Drinks. Warm food is good food. From a TCM perspective, when you put cold/raw food into your body, not only do you use energy to digest the food, but in order to do it, extra energy is needed to “cook” it; putting extra stress on that system. Ice water, cold beverages and raw veggies are more difficult for the body to warm and metabolize. Instead opt for room temperature water and steamed veggies.
Avoid Dampness. Dampness can invade the body through internal or external factors caused by food and your environment. Dairy should be avoided as well as avoid staying in wet clothes or spending a lot of time in damp environments such as basements. Watch our video on dampness.
Exercise in a way that doesn’t overwhelm your body. While exercise is good and very important to your health, overdoing it may be counterproductive. Heavy exercise and excessive cardio pushes blood to the muscles so you can be fit but takes blood away from the uterus, which is where it is needed for regulating your cycle. Gentle, consistent exercise that addresses the mind and body is what we recommend such as Yoga (not hot yoga), Qi Gong and Tai Chi.
Clinical Evidence & Studies
Our team has over 40+ years of clinical experience and specializes in reproductive health issues such as Fertility, Pelvic Pain and PCOS. Not only have we seen clinical evidence of successful PCOS treatment within our own practice and with our peers, studies are also supporting the value of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, in ovulation induction, reduction of hyperandrogenism and improves oligo/amenorrhea.