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Alternative Treatments for Polycystic Ovarian Disease

by Brad McHargue
  • Overview

    Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common condition found in women, characterized by enlarged ovaries covered in numerous, small cysts. The cause is unknown, and treatment involves careful monitoring of the condition, with alternative treatment focusing on diet and exercise.
  • Causes and Symptoms

    Symptoms of polcystic ovary syndrome typically manifest themselves shortly after the woman's first menstrual cycle and are different for everyone. The most common symptoms include an abnormal menstrual cycle characterized by infrequent cycles and excessive bleeding; excess levels of testosterone (androgen) manifesting as increased body hair, baldness and acne; and the titular polycystic ovaries. If polycystic ovaries present without either of the two other symptoms, the diagnosis is not polycystic ovary syndrome. However, the ovaries can also appear normal, with the remaining symptoms providing the positive diagnosis. Other symptoms associated with polycystic ovary syndrome include obesity, infertility, type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance and acanthosis nigricans (darkened skin). The exact cause of the condition is unknown. Possible factors include a resistance to insulin, resulting in its overproduction by the pancreas to compensate, which in turn boosts androgen production; and genetics, specifically the possibility of a mutated gene.
  • Diet

    Women affected with polycystic ovary syndrome are advised to follow a low-carbohydrate diet due to the possibility of excess carbohydrates increasing insulin levels. Given the importance of carbohydrates in a healthy diet, complex carbohydrates such as beans and whole-grains should be consumed due to their high fiber content. Fiber slows down the process of digestion and this slows down the speed at which blood sugar rises.
  • Exercise

    Beyond diet a proper exercise plan and maintaining a healthy weight are important in the fight against polycystic ovary syndrome. Exercise lowers blood sugar, improves overall health and can help treat insulin resistance. The recommended amount of exercise is approximately 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, such as running, cycling or swimming. Consult with your doctor and a dietitian to formulate a proper diet plan and exercise regimen.
  • Acupuncture

    Some studies have suggested that acupuncture combined with physical activity may help women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The sympathetic nervous system, a branch of the autonomous nervous system, has been shown to be a factor in the overproduction of insulin and insulin resistance. Physical activity and acupuncture may stimulate and alter its activity and thus lowering the risk of insulin abnormalities. This was shown in a June 2009 study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, wherein a team of researchers from Gothenburg, Sweden concluded that low-frequency electro-acupuncture and physical exercise lowers the activity of the high sympathetic nerves.

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