What is a premature ovarian failure?
Premature ovarian failure, also called primary ovarian insufficiency, is when ovaries lose their function before a woman has reached her normal menopausal age. This disease affects 4% of American women.
There is no period, or the period comes only every few months, with hot flashes, night sweats, low energy, low sex drive, early onset of osteoporosis, weight gain, vaginal dryness, mood swings, bladder control problems, drooping muscles, arthritis, and sleep problems.
What could cause premature ovarian failure?
1. Viral infection can destroy the pancreatic, ovarian and other glandular functions.
2. Autoimmune disease when the body produces antibodies to attack the ovaries because the immune function is out of balance.
3. Too many stimulants such as coffee can bring all the energy to the brain and muscles, while the ovaries have insufficient blood and energy flow most of the time.
4. Surgical removal of ovaries.
5. Using birth control pill too early and for too long can make ovaries stop functioning early because “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
6. Genetic defects when certain chromosomes are abnormal.
7. Enzyme function problems or Celiac disease-causing insufficient absorption of vitamins and minerals which influence the production of estrogen and progesterone.
8. Chemo or radiation therapy.
9. Abnormal function of the pituitary or hypothalamus when these two glands cannot produce the right amount of the hormones to stimulate the ovaries.
How can acupuncture help with this condition?
One theory is that electro-acupuncture promotes the function of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) by increasing the synthesis and secretion of one of the adrenal steroid hormones, androgen. This androgen than is transformed into estrogen in the fat tissues and thereby restores the normal function of the HPAA, benefiting the function of the corpus luteum, the residual part of the follicles after the eggs have been released. This is very important in restoring the health of the women with premature ovarian failure, or an insufficiency of the luteal phase after ovulation.
If a woman is diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, her FSH level can be above 30. Theoretically, she has already started “menopause”. Can the ovarian function be restored with acupuncture and herbs? It depends on how serious the ovarian function is deteriorated.
In most situations, an endocrinologist would suggest that a woman with premature ovarian failure seek out a donor’s egg to get pregnant. With a healthy donor’s egg, a woman still needs a healthy uterus, which can provide the best environment for the embryo to grow. In this situation, acupuncture can help improve the blood flow to the uterus, thyroid gland, adrenal gland and ovaries to coordinate all the glands’ functions because a healthy pregnancy relies on the functions of all of those glands.
With premature ovarian failure and poor sperm quantity, the woman can still get pregnant:
“Fran” is a 35-year-old woman. Her FSH was 60 and was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. Her husband had almost no sperm. She was told that she had no hope to get pregnant even with a donor’s egg from one of the infertility clinics in Boston. Her friend referred her to an endocrinologist in New York. The specialist in New York got a few sperm from her husband’s testicles surgically, and then fertilized her eggs in a test tube. She started acupuncture 3 months before she went to New York and continued with acupuncture twice a week during the whole procedure. Miraculously, she got pregnant with one of those two sperms. Considering that a normal sperm quantity should be at least 40 million in order to fertilize eggs, this lady’s story should give many women hope and confidence to try to improve their ovarian function with acupuncture before starting IVF procedures.
Combining acupuncture and DHEA, ovarian function can be improved:
Drs. D.H. Barad and N. Gleicher of Albert Einstein College of Medicine published a case of a 42-year-old woman whose ovarian function was dramatically improved by using the dietary supplement dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and acupuncture. In a private IVF center, this patient initially presented with severely decreased ovarian reserve. The doctor used medication to induce ovulation while she was taking DHEA and undergoing acupuncture treatment. In her first treatment cycle, her peak estradiol was 1,211 pmol/mL. After seven months of DHEA supplementation and acupuncture treatment once or twice a week, her peak estradiol in cycle 8 was greater than 18,000 pmol/mL. Because of fear of hyper-stimulation, her endocrinologist reduced her gonadotropin stimulation by 25%. In the ninth cycle, her peak estradiol was 9,178 pmol/mL, and she produced 17 eggs that gave rise to 16 embryos. During the 11 months of treatments, the patient had undergone nine treatment cycles while continuously and dramatically improving her ovarian response and banking 66 embryos overall. This case illustrates the possibility that ovarian function may be improved with proper treatments, even in women of advanced reproductive age.
What can be done to restore or improve ovarian function?
1. Consuming sufficient raw vegetables and fruit to provide the necessary nutrients for restoring the ovarian function. Even though the ovaries do not produce sufficient estrogen and progesterone, the adrenal glands can still produce some estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. The green juice made from kale, lemon, apple, spinach and berries will help adrenal gland produce more estrogen and progesterone, which can help improve ovarian function.
2. Reducing stress with meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi and yoga will help the adrenal gland and ovarian function. Even menopausal women can release eggs when all her hormones are in good balance, which is why some 50 year olds can get pregnant occasionally when they are in a stress-free environment.
3. Taking Chinese Herbs can bring the energy to ovaries and digestive system with some herbs such Yin Yang Huo, Xian Mao, Shan Yao, goji berries have phyto-estrogen effect, creating an environment beneficial for egg production.
4. Getting electrical acupuncture twice a week for 2 to 3 months to improve ovarian, pituitary and hypothalamus functions. Once these three glands are in good condition, there may be ovulation every 2 to 3 months. Progesterone injections can induce a period initially, but it never can improve ovarian function. After few years, the injections will stop working.
5. Regularly eating fermented soy such as tofu will also help restore the ovarian function because tofu has phyto-estrogens which benefit the ovaries.
6. Stop eating sweets such as ice cream, chocolate and cookies to reduce inflammation in the ovaries.
7. Cooking this porridge of herbs 2 to 3 times a week: Yi Mi 40g, Shan Yao 30g, Go Ji 15g, Gui Yuan 12g, adding sufficient water.
8. Drinking Raspberry tea every day, or add wheat grass in your green drink.
Massaging the following points to bring the energy to uterus, kidneys and ovaries. Using the palm of your hand as a measurement unit, from the belly button, measure one palm down. This point stimulates the reproductive organs, uterus and energy production. From this first area below the belly button, measure right and left one palm. There are two points in these areas that stimulate the ovaries, so the massage area is about the size of your palm clockwise. The area around the belly button is important to stimulate energy for the reproductive system as well. Massage around the belly button moving clockwise. Lastly, on the inside of your ankles, in the divot between the ankle bone and the Achilles tendon, there is an important point to stimulate energy and reproductive organs. You can massage each of these points for one minute 2-3 times daily.