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  • Writer's pictureDr. H. Singh, ND

Fertility Acupuncture for PCOS and Insulin Sensitivity

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can impact up to 10% of a population and may be higher in other parts of the globe. PCOS is a complex hormone disorder than can result in infertility, increased risk of diabetes, mental health disorders and increased risk for weight gain and obesity.

Two central features of polycystic ovarian syndrome that lead to symptoms of hormonal imbalance and increased risk for infertility are: increased inflammation and poor insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and it is required to help the cells in the body absorb glucose from the blood. When insulin sensitivity is decreased, the normal amount of insulin usually required by the body to absorb the glucose in the blood is no longer enough. This signals the pancreas to secrete even more insulin in to the blood.

Insulin also interacts with the ovary, and encourages the production of testosterone and can inhibit ovulation. The increased insulin can also make it easier to gain weight and difficult to lose weight. Poor insulin sensitivity is estimated to affect around 44-70% of patients diagnosed with PCOS. In fact, insulin sensitizing agents are often used to help improve symptoms of PCOS and have been shown to increase spontaneous ovulation and pregnancy rates in some cases. However, not all patients respond well to medications as they can often be accompanied by uncomfortable side effects, particularly digestive upset commonly occurring in patients taking metformin. In addition to medication, lifestyle and dietary changes are central to supporting health weight loss, insulin sensitivity and reproductive hormonal balance.

Enter fertility acupuncture: an easy-to-add adjunctive therapy which, independent of PCOS, has been associated with increased fertility rates for patients undergoing IVF. Specific to PCOS, another recently published study found that the regular use of specific fertility acupuncture protocols (studied in previous acupuncture for PCOS research papers) have been shown to support improved insulin sensitivity, improved lipid levels in the blood, improve fasting glucose levels (also a measure for blood glucose control), and reduce inflammation. The acupuncture is suggested to affect the autonomic nervous system and improve insulin sensitivity and improve glucose intake in the cells independent of insulin by stimulating muscular contractions in large muscle groups.

Patients who underwent acupuncture for 3 months showed improved insulin sensitivity for up to 3 months after the last acupuncture treatment (6 months from initial therapy start date).

Fertility acupuncture can be a powerful adjunctive therapy to support fertility outcomes and is often preferred as it does not interact with fertility medications (whereas certain supplements and herbs have been shown to potentially interact with fertility medications). And it can be safely included for patients trying to conceive naturally, with IVF/IUI/ICSI or simply to support hormonal balance and improved insulin sensitivity.

While a lot of the recently published studies show similar trends, larger trials for PCOS and acupuncture were recommended by the researchers to confirm findings.

This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor. Please discuss with your healtcare provider and only make changes to your medications regimen if recommended by your doctor and under their guidance.

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