PCOS is a very common endocrine condition which I see daily in my clinic. It leads to the presence of small cysts growing on an ovary.The symptom range is vast with some clients presenting with many symptoms including irregular periods, problems with ovulation and a delay in conception. Others have very few. As with all my clients I ask them to pay a visit to a GP and take advice on blood tests, scans or onward referrals. I believe whole heartedly in working alongside conventional medicine. I come from a nursing background so have a specialised knowledge of hospitals, procedures, drugs and the importance of professionalism.
What causes PCOS?
The cause is not scientifically proven. The leading theory is that it is genetically linked so if a mother or sisters have the condition then there may be an increased chance of the daughter or sibling having it too.
A contributing factor is a hormonal imbalance with levels of male hormones such as LH and testosterone being raised. Some women with PCOS are less sensitive to insulin than other women leading to a condition called insulin resistance. This can lead to hormonal imbalance and sometimes diabetes and heart disease.
Low grade inflammation has been shown to be present in research studies into PCOS. This type of inflammation may stimulate polycystic ovaries to produce male hormones.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
To be diagnosed with this condition a doctor will look for two of the following
Irregular periods of more than 35 days , less than eight cycles a year, absence of a period for four months or longer and prolonged periods with either heavy or light bleeding.
Excess male hormones(androgens) raised levels of androgens leads to excess facial hair, adult acne, male pattern thinning of hair.
Polycystic ovaries. Ovaries become enlarged and contain numerous small fluid filled sacs surrounding the egg.
You can usually have a good indication of the presence of PCOS from both a blood test and a scan. Sometimes it is not a straightforward diagnosis. Your GP can do the blood test but you will need a referral to gynaecology for a scan. They are the experts and will do all they can to help, with your GP acting as the talented middle woman/man.
What treatment options are available?
Combined pill will decrease to production of male hormones and give your body a break from continuous estrogen and helping to correct any abnormal bleeding.
Progesterone for a few weeks each month or so. Helps to regulate cycles but has no effect on levels of male hormones
Metformin which can help with insulin resistance. May help with ovulation and to regulate cycles.
Clomid can help ovulation if taken in first half of cycle.
What can you do to help yourself?
It can be more difficult to lose weight with PCOS but it can be done and it is really worth trying. I do not make that statement lightly. I know from my clients how much effort it takes to lose weight with PCOS. So please know I respect that. Even losing a small amount of weight can be enough to reduce both insulin and androgen levels and may restore ovulation. I have seen it in action. If there is anything particularly troubling you please tell me and I will do all I can to help.
Exercise helps to lower blood sugar levels so increasing daily activity may treat or even prevent insulin resistance as well as help with weight loss. Walking can be a good starter. If you have some music on your device the exercise time can be broken down into manageable chunks. Most songs are 3 minutes long. Walk one way for three songs and then turn and come back with three songs. 18 minutes completed.
Women with PCOS can suffer anxiety, depression and sleep distubances. Higher levels of cortisol , the stress hormone are to blame and finding ways to take a few minutes out of your day to just breathe can be surprisingly beneficial.
Try the Square Breathing Technique.
Imagine you are going to be drawing an imaginary square as you alternately breathe and then hold your breath.
Use any four sided object, window, computer screen, iPad or phone.
Begin by focusing on the top left hand corner of your object. As you breathe in for a count of four move your gaze slowly along the edge to the upper right corner.
Holding your breath for a count of four move your attention smoothly to the lower right corner.
Exhaling for a count of 4 move your attention to the lower left corner.
To finish move your gaze up to the upper left corner whilst holding your breath for a count of four.
Do this two or three times. If the four is too long please feel free to reduce it to three. It should be a pleasant experience! You will be able to close your eyes and imagine a square when you have practised a few times.
How does this technique work?
This can be useful as it is using both sides of your brain. Both sides are occupied and it is easier to switch off and relax. The creative side of your brain is occupied with the mental process of drawing and the analytical part with the counting. The breath is the bridge to both, blending and uniting them to make a complete process.
Holding the breath allows oxygen to fill your lungs and circulate through the body. This greatly increases the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system promoting a state of calmness and serenity.
How does your clinic help PCOS clients?
My hypnotherapy and relaxation techniques can be used to reduce stress and promote both sleep and more positive thoughts. These techniques can be personalised to suit individuals and their concerns. For example; help with emotional eating, problems falling asleep, anxiety thoughts when waking through the night and a more positive outlook. Please feel free to ask me any questions. I will do what I can to help.
I will also give some suggestions on foods you can eat which will complement my Chinese Medicine diagnosis.
I use a technique called electroacupuncture which involves a very small electric current passing through my acupuncture needles. My clients describe the sensation as a tickly feeling and not at all uncomfortable. There has been quite a bit of research around EA and PCOS and I see great results with my clients.
I also use a type of acupuncture called abdominal acupuncture. Needles are placed in the stomach area. To qualify in this specialised technique involves post- graduate training and a lot of practice! It is great for pain, hormones, mood and sleep to name but a few. It is incredibly gentle and yet powerful.
In acupuncture PCOS is categorised into mainly two areas with some individual variations. They are Kidney yang deficiency and Kidney yin deficiency.
A client Jane came to see me last year. She suffered from PCOS and was overweight and finding it depressingly difficult to lose weight. Jane was not ovulating and suffered from sweet food cravings and could not relax. She was trying to conceive and had been under the care of The Regional Fertility Clinic in Belfast for four months.
After our initial chat, taking pulses and observing the tongue it was concluded that she had dampness leading to Kidney yang deficiency.
We set a treatment protocol in place for weekly acupuncture sessions including electroacupuncture to try to address the cycle issues alongside medication she was already taking from the fertility doctors. I trained and worked for many, many years as a nurse so am well versed in pharmaceuticals and how acupuncture can complement them.
She found it very difficult to give up sweet foods which was down, in her case, to insulin resistance. Metformin was helping a little but she found it was making her feel nauseous. She found acupuncture on the main nausea point to be of great benefit.
I also carried out a few sessions of hypnotherapy to help put some coping mechanisms in place to address the sweet craving , decrease comfort eating and help with exercise motivation. Jane found learning self-hypnosis a great tool to carry on the work at home. It also helped her stress levels to reduce helping her to enjoy life again.
I received this card from her last month
“Thanks so much Sharon. Your kind and gentle way put me at so much ease. The advice you gave me was so easy to follow and learning hypnosis was fab. So relaxing. It is a skill I will always have and I think I may need it as I am now 12 weeks pregnant!! Over the moon! Your treatments obviously helped!
Thanks again Sharon. I will be in to see you soon to show off my bump and for some acupuncture. AJ
If you have any questions or wish to book in with me please get in touch.