PCOS: East vs West

Diagnosed with PCOS? You’ve come to the right place. Dr. Nat Kringoudis TCM talks Eastern vs Western medicine diagnosis.

You’ve been diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and you feel completely alone. It might be reassuring to learn that around 20% of females who are of reproductive age also have PCOS. You are not alone, and the truth is, we must begin to tackle PCOS head on otherwise it’s not going away.

You may have been diagnosed out of the blue; that is you have no apparent signs or symptoms of PCOS other than a missing or sporadic menstrual period. Quite possibly you don’t have the actual syndrome; you do however have many unwelcome follicles or ‘cysts’ that have made your ovaries their new home. A little rude really, considering they were never knowingly invited. This, however, is known as Poly Cystic Ovaries PCO (not PCOS).

The symptoms of true PCOS shout loud and clear alongside the missing or irregular menstrual cycles – these include acne, facial hair, weight gain, thinning hair, mood swings, lower abdominal pain, the list goes on. I’m sure it’s enough for you to feel entitled in asking for a refund on all the extra androgens (aka male hormones) running rampant in your body.

When you were diagnosed with PCOS or PCO you may have been prescribed synthetic contraception like the pill or Mirena as a ‘treatment.’  In the west, this is the only option to supposedly address PCOS/PCO alongside the suggestion of a low GI diet. The reality is that whilst synthetic hormones may (or may not) stop any further cysts or follicles from creeping onto your ovaries (note – under ‘normal’ hormone balance, your ovaries make them anyway, just in lesser amounts), these synthetic hormones can never actually fix the problem at hand. The generic western medical approach to PCOS is failing many women because it has never actually addressed the core issue – why those darn cysts growing and is my only real chance at getting over it to fall pregnant? NO!

Fundamentally, PCOS is hormone imbalance due to a series of factors including, how well your liver performs its task of hormone detoxification and conversion, your body’s ability to utilise glucose, your gut health, and how receptive your reproductive organs are. You may be realising that the current model is failing many because it doesn’t address these factors. Therefore, it can never actually fix the issue at hand. You may have experimented yourself – you’ve been on the pill to ‘treat’ your PCOS and come off just to see if it’s actually helped. You’re then surprised to see that nothing has changed because…. well, nothing has changed. Your hormone imbalance remains.

The age old saying ‘do nothing, nothing changes’ aptly applies. We can’t expect our body’s to recover if we don’t lead it in the direction of recovery. For some, however, they may have been using the pill to ‘fix’ PCOS and at the same time embarked on a new way of living by better nutrition and a more wholesome lifestyle. Let me say – a little goes a long way and this is a wonderful approach. Rest assured; it sounds worse than it is. We’re not here to say you shouldn’t take the pill; that would be dangerous, but we are here to help you find solutions that fix your issues, alongside your favourite health care practitioner.

This then brings us to the gem of Eastern Medicine. When we treat illness from this viewpoint, we literally tip the Western Medicine model on its head. There is no doubt western medicine saves lives, but its core focus is on treating sickness in a given moment, not specifically leading the body to recovery. It doesn’t necessarily consider how vital the right nutrients and lifestyle approach are, nor is it individualised – it tends to be a ‘one size fits all’ tactic. It looks at treating symptoms as opposed to the root cause.  In Eastern Medicine, we call this the root and branch.  The root being the core issue and the branches being the symptoms, and we set out to address both by a very careful treatment plan. Essentially this means you may have PCOS and be in a room with 19 others in the same predicament, however, all of the symptoms that you present with differ. It means we begin to look at PCOS as a case by case situation which brings about excellent results.

You might think you need to invest in a good Chinese Medicine Doctor to do so, and in some instances, yes this may be true, but it’s what we can begin to do in our own homes that make all the difference. Perhaps you’ve clearly got digestive issues (how can you assimilate nutrients if you can’t absorb them?) or your skin is telling you that you have more internal damp than a house built on a swamp in 1942. Maybe you have so much heat in your body you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re going through menopause at age 21. Whatever your signs and symptoms are, they can lead you on the biggest road to recovery because they each represent your very own GPS guiding you towards treating your issues. 

We want to encourage you to approach your health by looking at the root cause. While Western Medicine doesn’t have an answer for why PCOS happens, from TCM viewpoint there are a magnitude of reasons why your body may present with PCOS. This ancient approach has stood the test of time; it begins with nourishing the digestive system, including Qi and blood to support overall healthy hormone imbalance, and then looking at the other little clues that show up along the way. When we can address the body from this holistic viewpoint, wonderful results happen.

Written by Dr. Nat Kringoudis TCM.

Photo via @westsingml

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Natalie Kringoudis is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncturist, Natural Fertility Educator, Author and owner of The Pagoda Tree.

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