Endometriosis is believed to affect around 1 in 10 women during their menstruating years. It is commonly associated with infertility, painful, heavy or irregular periods, premenstrual spot bleeding and painful intercourse.
Western Medicine Diagnosis & Treatment
Endometriosis describes a condition in which endometrial tissue, the tissue that lines the uterus, is also found outside the uterus. It is most commonly found around the ovaries and fallopian tubes but also in various other sites in the pelvic cavity, possibly on the bladder or the bowel. Endometrial tissue naturally changes in response to hormones during the menstrual cycle (to prepare for potential pregnancy) and then shed during the menstruation becoming the menstrual blood (if there is no pregnancy). Misplaced endometrial tissue also responds to the cyclical hormonal changes but has no outlet for the monthly shedding. This can then cause bleeding onto surrounding organs and tissues, possibly leading to irritation, inflammation, scarring and adhesions.
Western Medicine (WM) is becoming increasingly better at detecting and diagnosing endometriosis with investigative laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). However, WM struggles to understand and explain the causes and development of endometriosis. Treatments offered mainly involve surgery to remove the problematic tissues or strong hormonal treatments. Unfortunately these treatments are often associated with unpleasant side effects and the recurrence of misplaced endometrial tissue.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective
From a TCM perspective endometriosis is always associated with some level of “stagnation”. Stagnation indicates an unsmooth, disrupted or dysfunctional flow of the natural bodily fluids and functions. This results in “clumping” and congealing of bodily fluids and tissues such as blood. “Stagnation” is usually a result of deep underlying (hormonal) imbalances, which gradually worsen if not addressed. These imbalances can be caused by a combination of factors such as genetics, illness or infections, overwork or overtraining, exposure to cold temperatures, diet and lifestyle, and ongoing emotional stress. Other factors, like the use of tampons, intercourse during menstruation, and inter-uterine devices such as IUDs are also believed to increase the risk of retrograde menstrual flow i.e. blood flowing the “wrong way” and escaping into the pelvic cavity, potentially becoming endometriosis.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments
TCM always aims to treat the underlying cause of a condition to achieve successful and long lasting results. Based on a detailed analysis of the signs and symptoms a woman presents with and with the help of WM investigative laparoscopy or ultrasound, a CM practitioner can get a good understanding of the underlying imbalance and the pathology behind the endometriosis. This forms the basis for the treatment plan.
Treatments are individually tailored and usually involve a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal prescriptions, as well as diet and lifestyle recommendations, to remove stagnation and deal with the underlying imbalances. For best results the treatments are timed around a woman’s menstrual cycle and continued for 6-12 months. This however will depend on the severity of the endometriosis, how long the condition has been present, and how well the individual woman responds. Some symptomatic relief such as reduced pain or menstrual flow can generally be expected after only a few treatments or menstrual cycles.
TCM can be used to compliment WM when surgery is necessary, which it sometimes is. However because the Chinese Medicine approach is to address the underlying imbalances and causes of endometriosis it offers a good alternative to Western Medicine’s more intrusive treatment options to treat or manage the condition.
In summary TCM treatments can offer longer lasting results, reduced symptoms, increased fertility, and lessened risk of recurrence.
Gardenvale Traditional Chinese Medicine