Endometriosis - Chinese Medicine Approach
Updated: Aug 3
Endometriosis is a chronic and often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. This tissue can be found in various areas within the pelvic region, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus, and other surrounding tissues. In rare cases, it may even spread beyond the pelvic region.
During a menstrual cycle, the endometrial tissue thickens, breaks down, and sheds as menstrual bleeding. However, in the case of endometriosis, the misplaced endometrial tissue also responds to hormonal changes. Instead of blood flowing harmlessly outside the body, the internal bleeding causes great damage in the pelvic cavity.
This results in inflammation, scarring, and the formation of adhesions. These adhesions can cause organs and tissues to stick together, resulting in pain, fertility problems, and other complications.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include severe pelvic pain, painful menstrual periods, pain during intercourse, excessive menstrual bleeding, and infertility. However, the severity of symptoms can vary widely among individuals. Some may experience mild discomfort, while others may have debilitating pain that significantly impacts their quality of life.
Symptoms, diagnostic and treatment of endometriosis
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary from person to person, and some individuals may experience mild symptoms, while others may have more severe ones. Common symptoms of endometriosis include:
Pelvic pain: This is the most common symptom of endometriosis. The pain may range from mild to severe and can be constant or cyclical, occurring before or during menstruation. It may also occur during sexual intercourse or bowel movements.
Menstrual pain: Many individuals with endometriosis experience severe menstrual cramps, which may be more intense than typical period pain. The pain can start a few days before menstruation and last throughout the period. It can also show up as nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
Heavy or irregular periods: Endometriosis can cause excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding. Some individuals may also experience irregular menstrual cycles.
Painful intercourse: Deep pain during or after sexual intercourse (dyspareunia) is a common symptom of endometriosis. The pain may be felt in the pelvis or lower abdomen.
Chronic pelvic pain: Some individuals with endometriosis may experience persistent pelvic pain outside of menstruation. This pain can be dull, aching, or sharp and may worsen over time.
Painful bowel movements or urination: Endometriosis can cause pain during bowel movements or urination, particularly during menstruation. Some individuals may also experience bloating or constipation.
Infertility: Endometriosis can contribute to fertility problems, making it difficult for some individuals to conceive. It is estimated that around 30-50% of women with endometriosis may experience infertility.
The severity of symptoms does not necessarily correlate with the extent or stage of endometriosis. I have seen individuals with mild endometriosis who experienced severe symptoms, while others with extensive endometriosis who have minimal or no symptoms at all.
The diagnosis of endometriosis typically involves physical examination and search for tender areas or masses in the pelvic region as well as imaging tests such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to visualize the pelvic organs and identify any abnormalities or signs of endometriosis. The gold standard for diagnosing endometriosis is a surgical procedure called laparoscopy. It is usually performed under general anesthesia. If endometriosis is suspected, the surgeon may take tissue samples (biopsies) for further examination and confirmation.
It is important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a gynecologist or a specialist for a proper diagnosis of endometriosis.
Conventional treatment for this condition varies depending on the severity of your symptoms, the location of the endometriosis, and whether you are trying to get pregnant. Treatment options include medications to relieve pain and inflammation, hormonal therapies to stop the endometriosis from getting worse, surgery, and as a last resort hysterectomy.
Can Chinese Medicine help?
In Chinese medicine, endometriosis is seen as blood stagnation that leads to strong period pain, endometriosis implants, infertility and menstrual irregularity.
However to treat it properly a good practitioner will also diagnose and treat the root cause of the blood stagnation. The most common patterns seen are :
Qi stagnation with blood stagnation
Yang deficiency (cold or kidney yang deficiency) with blood stagnation
Qi sinking with blood stagnation
There are other, rarer Chinese medical diagnoses associated with endometriosis. I am always happy to explain how your particular pattern works, how I came to this diagnosis, and what treatment strategies are designed to achieve.
Chinese medicine is a great help when it comes to relieving the uncomfortable symptoms associated with endometriosis such as inflammation, period pain, digestive issues, and fertility.
Although Chinese medicine does not make current endometriosis disappear, it may help to reduce it by limiting the proliferation of endometriosis.
Acupuncture seems to promote blood circulation and regulate hormones. It also seems to have an anti-inflammatory effect and is effective for pain relief because of its effect on endorphin levels.
In the clinic, I use a combination of ear points and systemic body points to improve blood circulation, clear inflammation, relieve pain, and treat the patient’s underlying condition..
I also designed a specific formula to treat a patient’s individual pattern so that endometriosis stops progressing and eventually reduces as well as specific symptoms to the patients.
Chinese medicine is a great help for women suffering from endometriosis because it offers a global approach to not only reduce pain and endometriosis implants but also to treat the functional issue that led to the endometriosis. This will help avoid relapse of the endometriosis after surgery or after stopping medication.
What can you do?
Regular acupuncture improves blood flow, reduces inflammation, and decreases pain.
Chinese herbs prescribed by a herbalist have been shown in clinical trials to reduce the pain associated with endometriosis and may also prevent further proliferation of the tissue.
A warm castor oil pack on the lower abdomen brings relief too
Regular exercise promotes blood flow (endometriosis patients who exercise frequently respond better to treatment)
As endometrial tissue is affected by estrogen it is helpful to help your liver metabolize excess estrogen. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid caffeine. You may also want to discuss with your practitioner supplements to support the 2 phases of liver-detoxification and drink herbal tea such as dandelion, milk thistle, and burdock root as part of your herbal regimen.