As a woman, we know the state of our sexual health and changes in our periods can be a great indicator of overall health and health problems.
A work colleague had recently been to see her doctor, saying she'd been gaining weight, had irregular periods and was just feeling generally fatigued and listless.
It turns out she had an undiagnosed case of polycystic ovary syndrome ( PCOS ) which was playing havoc with her hormones, massively increasing the amount of testosterone in her body.
As anyone who has heard of this condition knows, it can have huge implications on how you live your life, including for fertility and reproductive health.
As well as generally messing with the body by destroying the delicate balance of hormones it needs to keep itself stable and healthy.
My friend said the doctor had prescribed her Metformin and hormone stabilizing tablets. Apparently, they were working, but she wasn't particularly happy with the idea of taking pills for the rest of her life, so she was looking into other options.
How does hormone imbalance affect me?
A woman's body requires two main hormones to function. Estrogen and progesterone. It's these hormones that control the reproductive cycle, menstrual cycle and fertility in women, as well as having major effects on mood and general health.
So it stands to reason that a hormone imbalance causes major issues with a woman's reproductive cycle, including irregular periods, menstrual problems, mood swings, weight gain, increased chance of osteoporosis, heart disease, and even breast cancer.
Whilst there are multiple reasons that a woman could develop a hormone imbalance, such as stress, diet, or weight gain, the two biggest factors are generally birth control pills and the perimenopause stage of life.
Hormone based birth control pills rely on high doses of estrogen to prevent ovulation, as well as progestin, synthetic progesterone, to thin out the lining of the uterus. Because of the way they work, hormonal birth control pills contain doses of estrogen up to four times higher than would naturally be found in a woman's body during her menstrual cycle.
Then menopause also causes major changes in a woman's hormone cycle. As your ovaries age, they naturally release lower levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which cause major changes in your body and can have huge negative effects on health and quality of life for years to come.
Whilst there are many ways to treat this, including hormone replacement therapy and other hormone balancing medication, there are a wealth of other options, including one that many people might otherwise overlook.
What is acupuncture?
Used in the east as a traditional treatment for centuries, acupuncture is an alternative therapy that is becoming widely accepted, to the point that many reputed and high level medical sources have begun to offer acupuncture treatment alongside more conventional medical treatments.
The therapy itself involves inserting thin needles into key points around the body, generally along nerve lines or around specific organs.
According to the traditional understanding, the body is full of energy, generally called Chi, or Ki.
It's this energy that keeps us alive, and it is believed that inhibiting the flow of it around the body, especially through key points, is what leads to illness and disease.
Under Eastern philosophy, the needles used in acupuncture unlock the flow of energy in these points when they are blocked, balancing your life energy so that the body can heal itself naturally.
In the west, where research on acupuncture is ongoing, the way it works is thought to be neurophysiological in nature, but it is still not completely understood.
It is known that the insertion of acupuncture needles has definite effects on the body, causing nerve stimulation that release muscles and even override brain signals.
There are also measurable changes in body chemicals in patients undergoing treatment.
Whilst it may not be completely understood, the benefits of acupuncture treatment are widely accepted …
To the point that it is regularly available as an alternative treatment from most medical practitioners, and more research studies are being completed every year in an effort to understand just how acupuncture delivers all of its healing properties.
Can acupuncture balance our hormones?
When it comes to hormone imbalance, the studies are clear.
Women who received daily acupuncture sessions showed massive improvements in multiple areas, comparable to the results shown by women tested at the same time with prescription metformin pills.
Both groups showed significant improvement in levels of male hormone in the blood, as well as massive changes in cholesterol levels, insulin markers and blood glucose.
Incredibly, the women who were prescribed acupuncture actually lost more weight and saw a far quicker response when it came to balancing their menstrual cycles.
On top of this, multiple other studies have shown that regular treatments of acupuncture can have healthful effects all over the body, including stabilizing fat burning hormones productions by the kidneys and liver, as well as the production of the happy hormones dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
As for my friend, she started a course of acupuncture at the local health center. Within two weeks, she was getting back to her old self, and had nothing but good things to say about the staff and the treatment. According to her, she wasn't the only woman being treated for her condition there, and the amount of people and illnesses they saw was apparently staggering.
So if you have a hormonal issue and your doctor prescribes you a course of pills, always remember that as always you do have other options. Acupuncture is available all over the country, so just search for your closest practitioner and book yourself a short course.
The results might just surprise you!