Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and even that is an underestimated number. You see Endometriosis can’t be detected in a blood test, nor with an internal ultrasound. So there could be women with Endometriosis walking around that don’t even know they have it! Let’s take a look at it in closer detail.
Endometriosis is a condition where endometrium tissue migrates outside the uterus. Doctors don’t know why Endometriosis occurs, which makes it a very puzzling condition, even to the point where there is no cure. Endometriosis needs ongoing management from both Western and Complementary medicines to help give women suffering it a better quality of life, day by day.
When the endometrium tissue migrates outside the uterus, where does it go?
Lesions can attach itself to the ovaries, bladder, bowel – any structure within the pelvic cavity. The problem then is it can irritate those structures causing pain and discomfort or other symptoms such as IBS (Irritable Bowel).
Not all lesions looks the same – Endometriomas, sticky adhesions are also classified as Endometriosis. Some lesions are red, black or cystic in structure.
There are things that do encourage Endometriosis and these include:
- Long term tampon use – Retrograde flow or backflow of menses up and out the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity.
- Inflammation – including other inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia.
- Endometriosis is oestrogen driven, but not necessarily a result of oestrogen dominance.
- Oestrogen & Progesterone in the Luteal phase produces glandular structures – this can contribute to the swollen and distended abdomen known as “Endo Belly”
- Auto-immunity is a contentious point. Evidence suggests Endometriosis is not an Auto-immune condition itself, as the body’s cells are not attacking the immune system. Whether Endometriosis is present with an existing Auto-immune condition is possible though.
What can be done to manage Endometriosis?
Since there is no cure for Endometriosis in Western or Complementary Medicine, management is the only solution.
Western Medicine management offers:
- Medications/ Hormone Replacement / The Oral Contraceptive Pill to manage symptoms.
- Ablation procedure – where they laser off the patches of Endometriosis. Unfortunately, it’s well known that Endometriosis signs and symptoms can return after 5 years of this procedure.
- Hysterectomy – if Endometriosis is advanced, or the woman is past child-bearing age. However, this also doesn’t cure Endometriosis, as migrated tissue may be attached anywhere within the pelvic cavity – ovaries, bladder, bowel, pelvic structures eg.ligaments
What can Chinese Medicine offer and how does it differ?
Chinese Medicine looks at Endometriosis as a pattern of stagnation – Stagnation of Blood and Qi. In particular, Stagnant Blood, which produces the classic intense, sharp, stabbing pain of Endometriosis. This makes sense, as the clotty nature of menstrual flow, the endometrial lesions themselves are pieces of stagnant lining tissue, “getting stuck” on the pelvic cavity structures. It differs from Western Medicine, because it takes a wholistic approach. TCM’s aim is to manage a condition as it treats the cause AND symptoms simultaneously.
Treatment with Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs focuses on:
- Improving circulation to the uterus, reducing swelling of the lower abdomen
- Moving stagnant blood flow thereby stopping pain
- Minimising clots
- Managing bloating and distention
- Clearing out the uterus fully with each menses cycle
- Replacing lost blood and building up reserves in the case of those with heavy periods and low iron.
- Warming the Uterus by improving circulation in the pelvis
- Balancing out the hormonal ups and downs associated with Endometriosis and any severe PMS, helping her feel calm and relaxed.
A relative of mine suffered from Endometriosis and I saw first hand how painful that was for her. Bedridden with pain and heavy gushing flow was extremely draining on her body. Don’t wait until the Endometriosis is so severe that surgery is your only option. Even if your Endometriosis is mild, start now by managing your Period pain, balancing your hormones and regulating your cycle. Consider Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture as part of your management plan alongside your doctor.