What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where cells typically found inside the uterus attach themselves to the other parts of the body, such as the outside of the uterus, the ovaries, the colon and sometimes the myofascial tissue surrounding the uterus. This causes issues like period pain or trouble concieving. These cells create menstrual fluid during the time of the cycle, yet there is nowhere for this fluid to go. This can lead to widespread inflammation and pelvic pain.
What do common symptoms look like?
In my clinical experience, any time a patient tells me that they are “out of commission” during part or all of their period, this is a red flag for me to be on the lookout for endometriosis. It’s common to feel more tired and fatigued during the first few days of the cycle; in Chinese medicine this is the yin time of our cycle, where we naturally need the most rest. However, If you feel that the cramping, PMS or fatigue is so bad that you have to stay in bed all day, or take multiple pain pills in one day just to function, you should consider the possibility of endometriosis. Other symptoms can look like heavy periods, PMS, anemia, and infertility.
Who does it affect?
It affects up to one fifth of people with a uterus. It is an incredibly common dysfunction of the reproductive system, one that many people who struggle with difficult cycles are left in the dark knowing how to manage. People who menstruate are often told that these severe cramps are “normal”, or worse, the severity of their pain is minimized or invalidated by healthcare providers. A common “solution” of Western medicine is to put one on birth control, specifically the depo provera shot, a form of birth control that limits a person’s menstrual cycle to about once per year. While this may decrease the severity of symptoms, unfortunately, this does little to solve the underlying root cause, and can even negatively affect one’s fertility later on in life.
There are two main hormones which impact the cycle: progesterone and estrogen. Ideally, these two hormones are in balance with one another, with estrogen dominating the first two weeks of the cycle and progesterone dominating the second half. Endometriosis is an estrogen- dependent disease, meaning that it’s linked to high levels of estrogen in relation to progesterone. Birth control often prevents ovulation, and progesterone is only produced during ovulation.
How can you help relieve your Endometriosis symptoms?
- Omega-3s – Because endometriosis seems to coincide with inflammation, lowering inflammation in the body will also decrease pain.
- Get enough exercise
- take Vit. C (750-2000 mg per day.) This counteracts stress in the body and is clinically proven to up progesterone.
- Daily deep breathing, minimum 5-10 minutes.
- Chaste berry or Vitex can boost progesterone, aiding painful periods and PMS
- Saffron is another supplement that can help painful periods and PMS
- Acupuncture done twice weekly during the week before and the week of your period for one to two cycles
- Chinese herbal medicine: formulas that we use often contain herbs like Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong, and others that are customized to you. They work on decreasing inflammation and balancing the hormones, and are extremely effective to provide relief and prevention.
How can Chinese Medicine benefit Endometriosis?
Our bodies are wise. Where there is pain, there is a message. Any dysfunction is a result of an imbalance of the body’s natural qi. Acupuncture utilizes specific points to bring the body back into a state of balance. Several studies have been published which demonstrates that acupuncture is more effective than placebo when treating menstrual pain. There are also many herbs that we will tailor to your unique case to bring about beneficial outcomes. There are many things we can do but remember It is always helpful to get evaluated with your medical doctor if you suspect you may have endometriosis.