Acupuncture is used to treat premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). How does it work?

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for thousands of years to treat various conditions. In recent years, there has been growing interest in using acupuncture to treat premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), a condition that affects women under the age of 40 and can lead to infertility. In this article, we will explore how acupuncture works to treat POI and what recent research has discovered about its effects.

POI is a condition in which the ovaries stop functioning properly before the age of 40. This can lead to infertility and other health problems such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. The exact causes of POI are not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to genetics, autoimmune disorders, and environmental factors. Treatment options for POI are limited, and often involve hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.

Acupuncture is a holistic approach to healing that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. In traditional Chinese medicine, the body is believed to have channels of energy called meridians, and acupuncture is thought to restore balance to these channels. In Western medicine, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and release natural painkillers such as endorphins.

Research into the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating POI has been limited, but recent studies have shown promising results. One study published in the journal Menopause in 2020 investigated the effect of acupuncture on hypothalamic functional connectivity in patients with POI. The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that plays a key role in regulating reproductive function, and previous research has suggested that POI may be related to abnormal hypothalamic function.

The study compared the differences in functional connectivity between the hypothalamus and whole brain regions in patients with POI and healthy volunteers based on resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI). The researchers found that after 12 weeks of acupuncture treatment, there was a significant improvement in patients with POI. Their anxiety levels were reduced, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels decreased, and the antral follicle count (AFC) increased.

The researchers also found that the functional connectivity of the hypothalamus with various brain regions was altered in patients with POI compared to healthy volunteers. After acupuncture treatment, the functional connectivity between the hypothalamus and specific brain regions was improved. This suggests that acupuncture may improve hypothalamic function and regulate the activity of other brain regions involved in reproductive function.

The mechanism by which acupuncture improves hypothalamic function and regulates reproductive function is not fully understood, but there are several theories. One theory is that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, which can reduce stress and anxiety levels and improve overall well-being. Stress and anxiety are known to affect reproductive function, so reducing these factors may help to restore normal ovarian function.

Another theory is that acupuncture improves blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, which can improve ovarian function and increase the chances of conception. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to specific regions of the body, including the reproductive organs, and this may help to improve ovarian function.

In conclusion, acupuncture has shown promising results in treating premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). Research has shown that acupuncture can improve hypothalamic function and regulate the activity of other brain regions involved in reproductive function. This can lead to improved ovarian function, decreased anxiety levels, and increased chances of conception. While more research is needed to fully understand how acupuncture works to treat POI, it is a safe and non-invasive treatment option that may provide relief for women struggling with this condition.

Ting-ting Zhao et al Zhen Ci Yan Jiu 2022 Jul 25;47(7):617-24.

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