Endometriosis is a term that refers to inflammation caused by endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus. Some think that it is caused by a back-flow of blood through the fallopian tubes during a woman’s period instead of through the cervix. This is thought to be a relatively common occurrence but why some women develop the patches of endometrium inside the pelvic cavity is unknown. These patches act like the endometrial lining inside the uterus, growing with estrogen stimulation and bleeding during the period time. The bleeding can cause severe pain and inflammation for some women while others remain symptom-free. This is why endometriosis can only be confirmed by your doctor visually by doing a laparoscopic procedure. More recently doctors are suspecting an immune component to endometriosis, meaning that the body’s immune system attacks the endometrium that is growing outside the uterus because there is not an effective way for the body to eliminate the blood in the pelvic cavity. The result of this immune system attack is inflammation. The body cannot distinguish between endometrium growing inside or outside the uterus and so a hostile environment occurs in the entire pelvic cavity.
Western treatment can consist of estrogen suppression via birth control pills or stronger medications such as lupron injections. Laparoscopic surgery to remove the endometrial patches is also a solution for advanced conditions or women trying to conceive.
How can Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture help endometriosis?
From a Chinese medicine perspective, we work to restore a pain-free natural menstrual state. Each symptom of the disorder is addressed whether it is pain, dark and clotted menstrual blood or excess estrogen imbalance causing heightened feelings of PMS. Both acupuncture and herbs can work to reduce the pain, breakup the old stagnated blood and encourage fresh red flow and promote hormonal balance. Reestablishing proper estrogen/progesterone ratios is essential to healing from this condition and acupuncture works to this effect. A woman with mild endometrial symptoms may be able to use Chinese medicine alone to heal naturally from the effects of endometriosis. More severe cases need to employ the use of both western medicine and Chinese medicine to have the best prognosis for long-term cessation of symptoms.
How many treatments will I need?
Endometriosis is a condition which takes time to treat naturally with acupuncture and herbal medicine. If your goals for treatment are to reduce pain and symptoms without the use of birth control pills or other drugs, a course of treatment will be one treatment per week for three months. More than one course of treatment may be necessary to fully achieve treatment goals. If the goals of treatment are to become pregnant, acupuncture and Chinese medicine may be used in conjunction with western treatment prescribed by your reproductive endocrinologist. Combining both eastern and western medicines in this way is a very effective method of reducing the negative effects of endometriosis while conception occurs.
What other tools am I given to ensure my treatments are effective?
Diet is an important tool in battling the symptoms of endometriosis. Some diet alterations can help reduce the excess estrogen imbalance in your system. Other diet alterations will help reduce the inflammatory factors in your body contributing to the symptoms. One place to start is to eliminate sugar, alcohol, red meat and caffeine from the diet as much as possible. Your acupuncturist will discuss your current dietary habits and make other suggestions during your initial consultation.