Lena Dunham (of Girls fame), like many of our beloved celebrities, has spoken out about her struggles with the condition endometriosis. As it affects 1 in 10 women worldwide, with terrible debilitating symptoms and it is time for everyone to understand this condition.
Definition of Endometriosis:
A condition resulting from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus and causing pelvic pain, especially associated with menstruation.
What is Endometriosis?
The cells that line the uterus, the endometrium, thicken during ovulation. These cells exit the body each month during menstruation. Women with endometriosis have these cells growing in locations outside the uterus. As they are unable to leave the body during menstruation, they bleed, cause inflammation and pain, and then heal. This process repeats itself each month, and over time, can create scar tissue. This can cause the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and bowel to stick to each other at points called adhesions.
What are the symptoms of Endometriosis?
Please find below a list of the symptoms:
- Very painful periods (that can last all month)
- Pain with intercourse
- Pain in the pelvis
- Pain during ovulation
- Pain in the lower back and thighs
- Pain during bowel movements
- Pain during urination
- Reduced fertility
- Premenstrual symptoms.
What are the first signs of endometriosis?
The first signs can be any of the above list. Some women don’t have any symptoms and only notice when they are having problems conceiving or trying to get pregnant. However most women have intolerable pain and impacts their quality of life.
What is the Western Medicine Rationale and Approach:
The exact cause is unknown, but research suggests that retrograde menstruation (backwards flow of menstrual blood into the pelvic cavity ) and a family history of endometriosis might increase your risk.
Treatment usually involves medication, to perhaps prevent excessive bleeding and/or surgery to remove the endometrial tissue.
What is the Chinese Medicine Rationale and Approach:
As endometriosis is diagnosed surgically (laparoscopy), the CM approach would be to help with symptoms such as period pain or abdominal pain and categorise the condition into a particular CM pattern. A common one for endometriosis is blood stagnation. It results from a lack of blood flow and blockage in the pelvis. There are a variety of factors in CM as to why there is a lack of blood flow to the area, including:
- Digestive issues
- Invasion of cold
- Depleted constitutional health
Current studies for acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat endometriosis have been poor quality, therefore the research is not considered strong. However there is some evidence, listed below in the references, below suggesting the potential that there may be a low recurrence rate of endometriosis after acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Acupuncture can assist with other associated symptoms such as stress and tension.
Can I combine Western and Chinese medicine?
Of course, a laparoscopy can clear away adhesions quicker than herbs and acupuncture, which can decrease treatment time. Herbs may help with reducing blood stagnation to thereby restore normal blood flow and hopefully better menstruation function.
What can I do?
Period pain is common, but it is not normal, if you have bad period pain, see your GP or health care professional. Or if someone you know has these symptoms, encourage them to contact us for more information.
Try to avoid cold or raw foods which can make stagnation worse. Warmer foods that are easier to digest encourage your body to heal. Here is a Warming Vegetarian Chilli recipe. Garlic is good for building blood and moving stagnation in the pelvis according to CM diet therapy.
Written by Jane Ferguson Gardenvale Chinese Medicine
Lee, E., Xie, Y., Chen, H. & Meng, W. Systematic Review of Chinese Medicine for Ovarian Endometriosis. International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Chinese Medicine 2017. Volume 1 Issue 3. ISSN: 2576-4772
Effects of acupuncture for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Xu Y, Zhao W, Li T, Zhao Y, Bu H, Song S. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 27;12(10):e0186616. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186616. eCollection 2017. Review.PMID: 29077705