Premature ovarian failure is defined as a condition of which the ovarian is no longer responded to the brain in production of follicle before the age of 40, leading to high levels of FSH in the bloodstream and menopause hormonal symptoms. It is caused by either the accelerated loss of eggs or follicles are become less responsive to hormone stimulation from the pituitary gland. It has been estimated that POF affects 1% of the population. While conventional medicine uses synthesis medication to stimulate the ovarian response and artificial insemination with only 5% success rate accompanying with a high medical cost, it drives many women to seek help from traditional medicine, including the traditional Chinese medicine.
Traditional Chinese medicine views POF as an excess and deficiency pattern caused by emptiness of the penetrating and conception meridians and treatments are totally depended to her unique diagnosis, there is no one treatment for all.
Most women with POF have some of following symptoms
1. irritability, a rapid pulse and a red tongue
2. Pale or normal tongue
3. Weak pulse
5. Lethargy Pale,
6. Shallow breathing , soft voice Little desire to speak
7. Poor appetite
9. Loose stools
11. Bloating and gas
12. Reddish tongue with little or no coating
13. Dry mouth, especially at night
14. Dark, scanty urination
15. Night sweats
18. Heat flushes
22. Constipation Pale complexion
23. Pale and dry, cracked lips
25. Numbness or tingling in limbs
26. Light menses
27.Difficulty urinating, and
29. Cold limbs,
30. Lack of energy
31. Low sexual desire
Since each woman is diagnosed as her own entity, some symptoms may be found in some women, but not in the other, depending to the diagnosis.
I. Causes of POF in TCM perspective
A. Excessive yang
Caused by an excessive loss of vital essence and nutrient fluid, leading to dryness of skin, chapped lips, nose bleed, mouth sore, urinary burning, etc. and interfering with the kidney function in hormonal regulation, resulting in ovarian abnormal function in responding to the hormone secretion from pituitary gland.
B. Spleen qi deficiency
Liver has directed influentially in spleen function, without strong liver there is no treatment for spleen blockade and deficiency.
2. Diet and occupation
Since spleen prefer warm and hot foods, prolong period working in col environment and eating cold foods will effect the spleen function in synthesizing carbohydrate synthesizing, disrupting the processes in nutrients absorption, obstructing the blood flow to the abdominal region and effecting the luteal phrase, resulting in infertility
3. Life style and weakened liver
Spleen is view as the organ of digestion ( nutrients distribution ) and elimination ( eliminating the body waste ). Spleen qi deficiency is normal caused by irregular dietary habits and excessive use of mind in studying and working. Weakened liver may also increases the risk of toxins accumulation and liver qi stagnation in the body, effecting the spleen function and obstructing implantation of egg in the uterine lining.
C. Kidney yin deficiency
a) Unhealthy diet
As oppose to yang deficiency, It is caused by men who love to hot and spicy food leading to heat accumulation in the body causing yin deficiency.
b) External factor
Working in the hot environment causes the depletion of fluids in the body including the kidney leading abundant yang qi production.
c) Low sexual activity
Frequent sexual activity increases the risk of yang deficiency, low sexual activity causes energy overly accumulation in the reproductive organ, leading to yin deficiency.
D. Blood deficiency
Tradition Chinese medicine view blood deficiency is caused by weakened spleen organ, thereby, reducing the spleen function in blood formation, leading to causes not enough blood to distribute to the body such as absence of (no blood for) menstruation. Blood deficiency leads to abnormal function of reproductive system in regulating menstrual cycle, disrupting the production of egg or produces poor quality egg and makes uterine mucus hostile to sperm.
F. Kidney yang deficiency
1 Unhealthy diet
As we known, we live in the society, where everything we drink are mostly cold including milk. It has a danger effect in both female and male body as it depletes of the yang qi which is needed to counter the the cold effects of abundant yin, leading to kidney yang deficiency. If one day, our yang qi production from the kidney jing is no longer working well, it will cause symptoms of infertility
2. External factors
a) Working in the cold environment such as fish, poultry and meat processing plants may deplete the kidney yang as our body require to produce yang qi constantly to counter the external cold.
b) People stay in the cold place for prolong period of time may also have the same effect as people working in cold environment.
b) Frequent sexual activity
According to traditional medical medicine, sexual intercourse helps to improve blood circulation and production of certain hormones which are necessary for our health. It also helps to balance the kidney yin qi but frequent sexual activity depletes the kidney jing which is vital for hormone and sperm production, leading to low sperm count or semen with no sperm as well as kidney diseases.
1. Diet modification
a). Since most women with POF are diagnosed with excessive yang in the west caused by the typical American diet as resulting of the body evokes the response from the ovaries, it is advised that spicy and hot foods are eliminated from the diet until excessive yang can be neutralized.
b) What to avoid
i) Simple sugar and refine starches
Simple sugar and refine starches have a very high reading in the GI index list as they cause sharp rise and drop of blood sugar in the bloodstream.
ii) Hormone imbalance
As the levels of insulin produced by the pancreas have to increase traumatically when the blood sugar levels rise and stop when the blood sugar drop. The imbalance of levels of sugar also cause the over production of cortisol hormone by the adrenal gland that interferes with production of sex hormone, causing infertility.
Over production of cortisol caused by intake of sugar and refine starches also increases the risk of nutrients deficiency as resulting of vitamins and minerals depletion including B vitamin and magnesium.
iv) Weakened immune system
Study show that intake a teaspoon of simple sugar can weaken the immune system up to 4 hours as resulting of weakening protein functions in body defence.
v) Saturated fat and trans fat
Saturated fat and trans fat interferes the liver function in essential fatty acid metabolism, leading to over production of certain hormones in the prostaglandins family, causing menstrual camps and pain, nervous tensions as well as irregular menstrual cycle, thereby increasing the risk of infertility.
Intake of large amount of coffee daily to fight off stress may have a negative effect in the reproductive system. As study show that women who consume 300 mg or more of caffeine take longer to conceive than women who do not or take less.
vii) Drug and alcohol
Drugs and alcohol can influence an imbalance of reproductive hormones. As drug increases the tension of the nervous system leading to hormone imbalance, excessive alcohol drinking can cause liver damage, which abnormal function of liver in all kinds of metabolism, causing blood and qi stagnation in the liver and effecting a couple’s reproductive abilities. Alcohol also causes nervous tension, leading to over production of certain hormones, thereby, increasing the risk of infertility.
viii) Carbonate Soda
Carbonate soda contains high amount of sweetener, caffeine and phosphate which can interfere with calcium absorption as well as stimulating the over production of certain hormone including cortisol, leading to fatigue, stress and anxiety.
ix) Most animal and dairy products
Because most animal and diary products are considered acidic which can distort the balance of pH levels in the body, making cervical mucus hostile to sperm invasion as well as preventing the implantation of egg.
2. Chinese herbs
a) Herbs for Blood Deficiency
i. He shou wu (fleeceflower root)
He shou wu is a liver tonic herb, it promotes liver function in blood formation and increase the kidney qi in assisting the liver in transporting blood to the heart for circulation, thereby reducing the blood stagnation causes of deficiency. It also improves the kidney in urinary secretion, thus decreasing the risk of blood stagnation caused by fluid retention.
ii. Shu Di Huang (Chinese foxglove root)
Sdu di huang is a blood tonic herb. Besides improving the liver in blood formation, it also increases the lives qi, by boosting the circulatory system in transport oxygen and nutrient to the body cell thus reducing the risks of symptom of dizziness, pallid complexion, palpitations and scanty menstruation.
iii. E Jiao (Donkey-Hide Glue)
E jiao is important herb in improving the liver in blood formation and liver qi in regulating the blood circulation in the body, thereby, reducing the symptoms of dizziness, sallow complexion, palpitations caused by blood deficiency.
iv. Dang gui (Chinese angelica root)
Besides best known for improving the liver function in blood formation and regulating function of the reproductive organs, it also harmonizes the production of hormones during menstrual cycle, leading to reducing cramps and pain caused blood deficiency and stagnation.
v. Bai shao (white peony root)
Bai shao besides plays an important role in nourishing the blood and regulates menstrual problems due to blood deficiency, it also harmonizes the liver and spleen to prevent the rising of blood heat causes of headache and dizziness.
There are many more Chinese herbs helping to treat blood deficiency, you make sure to work with your Chinese practitioner to find the underlining causes and treat them effectively.
b) Herbs for Kidney yin deficiency
i. Shu di huang (rehmannia glutinosa)
Shu di huang is considered as yin tonic herb with warm in nature. It has an influence in the heart-kidney-liver channels by increasing the liver blood formation and heart blood circulation as well as enriching the kidney (jing) essence, thereby decreasing the symptoms caused by kidney yin deficiency.
ii. Nu zhen zi (ligustrum lucidum)
Nu zhen zi is a kidney and liver yin tonic herb with neutral in nature. By increasing the qi flow in the channels of kidney – liver, it reduces the qi and blood stagnation caused by excessive yang in the kidney.
iii. Sang shen (morus albus)
Sang shen not only has been used in Chinese for cooking to increase the kidney function in moistening the body fluid, but also used to nourishes the kidney yin and increases liver in blood storing and formation.
iv. Bai shao (white peony root )
Bai shao plays an important role in nourishing the blood and regulates menstrual problems due to blood and qi deficiency caused by excessive yang in the kidney.
v. Shan yao (ioscorea opposita)
Shan yao is also known Chinese yam in China, it is a kidney balancing herbs and neutral in nature. Besides as an important herb in increasing the yin of Spleen and lung, it also improves the kidney function by raising the kidney yin when it is deficient and reduces it when it is excessive.
In Some cases, there may be kidney yang deficiency instead of yin deficiency
c) Herbs for kidney yang deficiency
i. Lu rong
Lu rong is also known as deer antler, deer antler velvet. Besides tt is best known in enhancing the sexual activity in men, it also is a great herb that reduces the blockage of the meridian liver and kidney. Since yang qi deficiency is also caused blood deficiency, improving the body yang by strengthening the liver’s function in blood formation and kidney’s function in fluid distribution, it reduces the yang deficiency in the body.
ii. Du Zhong
It is also known ecommia bark, it is one the most used herb to enhance the function of meridian kidney-liver by promoting the qi and blood formation. Since the liver is a organ in charge of blood storing and blood formation and kidney is in charge of fluid regulation, it increases blood flow to the entire body and reduces fluid accumulated in the body, thus enhancing yang.
iii. Ba Ji Tian
Ba ji tian is also known as Chinese morinda root and sweet and warm in nature. It is also one the herbs used to strengthen the liver and kidney qi and blood yang by enhancing the liver in blood formation and kidney in urinary secretion, thus reducing the yang deficiency causes of abdominal distention, including cramps and pain during menstrual cycle.
iv Rou Chong Rong
Rou Chong Rong used in traditional Chinese medicine for reducing the blockage of kidney-large intestine meridian, thereby increasing the kidney function in bring blood to warm the uterus and urinary secretion and digestive system in moving waste, resulting in lessening the fluid retention and dysmenorrhea.
v. Bu Gu Zhi
Bu gu zhi is also known as psoralea fruit and used in traditional Chinese medicine in treating blockage of meridian kidney-Spleen. It notifies the yang qi by increasing the kidney function in assisting the function of lung qi and the function of Spleen in qi distribution.
d) Herbs for qi deficiency
While deficiency of blood and qi are defined as a condition of liver abnormal function in blood formation and blood transportation due to qi deficiency or the inability of qi in moving blood caused by spleen qi and lung deficiency. Therefore, by treating the stagnation of spleen and lung qi, it will improve the blood deficiency.
Herbs enhancing the qi movement include
i. Ren shen (Ginseng)
Ren shen is considered as one of most powerful herbs in strengthening the original qi in the body. * In spleen, it improves the spleen function in qi absorption, thus reducing the symptoms of distended chest and abdomen cramps and pain.
** In lung, it enhances the lung qi by moistening the channels, thus reducing the symptoms of asthma and dry cough and prevent the rebellion qi causes of menstrual cramps and pain.
ii. Xi yang shen (American ginseng)
Xi yang shen is yin in nature, besides promoting the lung and spleen qi, it also increases the digestive system in absorbing vital energy that is vital for women during menstrual cycle.
It also reduces the heat causes of qi stagnation by moistening the all qi transportation channels, especially for qi stagnation caused by deficiency of yin.
iii. Dang shen (pilose asiabell root)
Dang shen is a Spleen and lung tonic herbs. It improves the lung function in moving qi smoothly through its channels and spleen function in absorbing qi after foods entering the stomach. It also helps to restore the qi which is damaged by heat caused by infection, inflammation or heat generated due to excessive fluids accumulation.
iv. Tai zi shen (pseudostellaria root)
Beside helping to increase the spleen and lung qi, it also improve the blood transportation and spleen and stomach in absorbing vital energy for our body cells and generates fluids to prevent the heat causes of qi stagnation.
v. Huang qi (astragalus root)
It is one of the herb which helps to increase the function of liver in generating more blood formation and liver qi in blood transportation due to excessive blood during menstruation.
a) To clean heat and relieve the stagnation of blood
Stimulating Gongsun(SP4), Neiguan Pc6, LiequeLu 7 and Qi HaiQi6
b) To supplement yin and blood
stimulating Taixi Ki3, Sanyinjiao(SP6) and Zusanli St36
c) To calm heat
Shenmen Ht7 and yintang
d) To Rectify the liver qi and heat
Xingjian Lv2, Taichong Lv3, Ququan Lv8 and Qimen Lv 14
” All women can conceive sometimes during their child bearing age, before menopause”. If you are diagnosis with infertility caused by POFs, my heart goes to you. When comes to treat POFs, the traditional Chinese medicine is one of the best according to unconfirmed statistics. Please make sure you find a doctor who has both conventional medicine and TCM knowledge. Best luck to get pregnant soon Kyle J. Norton