New Research Shows the Benefits of Acupuncture in Treating PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a prevalent endocrine-metabolic disorder that affects many reproductive-aged women, often leading to menstrual irregularities and infertility. It is estimated that up to 15% of women in their reproductive years experience PCOS. In recent years, acupuncture has gained increasing popularity as a potential treatment option for PCOS. Research has indicated that acupuncture can have positive effects on ovulatory dysfunction, infertility, and other symptoms associated with PCOS.

One of the key benefits of acupuncture for PCOS is its ability to improve ovulation rates, pregnancy rates, insulin resistance, negative emotions, hormone imbalances, and lipid metabolism dysfunctions. By normalizing the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, which plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle, acupuncture aids in the restoration of regular menstrual periods.

Recent reviews have provided encouraging evidence supporting the use of acupuncture in PCOS treatment. For instance, when combined with metformin, a commonly prescribed medication for PCOS, acupuncture was found to enhance pregnancy rates, ovulation rates, and insulin resistance compared to metformin alone. Additionally, combining acupuncture with moxibustion (the burning of herbs near specific acupuncture points) improved pregnancy and ovulation rates, reduced miscarriage rates, and helped restore hormonal balance and metabolic indicators.

Acupuncture has also shown promise in assisting PCOS patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). It increased clinical pregnancy rates, ongoing pregnancy rates, and reduced the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Moreover, acupuncture demonstrated efficacy in improving glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in patients with PCOS.

Several PCOS symptoms can be effectively addressed through acupuncture. Ovulatory dysfunction, characterized by poor egg quality, is a prominent fertility-related concern in PCOS. Acupuncture has been shown to enhance oocyte quality and embryonic development potential by regulating signaling pathways, follicle growth, and early-stage oocyte recruitment.

Hyperandrogenism, a significant clinical feature of PCOS, can also be mitigated with acupuncture. Numerous studies have indicated that acupuncture can lower testosterone levels in women with PCOS.

Furthermore, acupuncture has shown efficacy in improving insulin resistance, particularly in obese PCOS patients. Many clinical studies have demonstrated the positive impact of acupuncture on glucose and lipid metabolism dysfunctions, which are commonly found in obese PCOS patients. By regulating gene expression and methylation associated with glucose metabolism, acupuncture offers potential benefits for PCOS patients with diabetes.

Patients with PCOS often face emotional challenges such as depression and anxiety. Acupuncture can help improve depression and anxiety scores by regulating the levels of norepinephrine (NE) and serotonin (5-HT) in the serum and reducing sympathetic nerve activity.

The emerging research highlights the potential of acupuncture as a complementary therapy for PCOS. Its ability to address ovulatory dysfunction, hyperandrogenism, insulin resistance, metabolic dysfunctions, and emotional disorders makes it a promising treatment option.

Yang Ye et al Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022; 13: 1035929.

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