What is Endometriosis?
Fun Fact: Did you know that the average woman spends approximately 3650 days of her life or about 10 years on her period? That’s a heck of a long time and sadly for up to 15% of women this monthly phenomenon is a cause of excruciating pain linked to endometriosis.
Endometriosis is when endometrial tissue grows in areas outside the uterus like the ovaries, colon or other parts of the pelvic cavity. This displaced endometrial tissue behaves like the rest of the endometrium ( uterus lining) by responding to the cyclic hormonal signals. So when the endometrium is being shed during menstruation, these tissues also slough off except that they have nowhere to go! So over time the tissues build up to form masses and lesions that can significantly affect organ function and fertility status.
As a health enthusiast, it is always important to first ask the question ‘why’? What is the root cause of endometriosis?
This has still not yet been fully understood. A lot of research is still being done with several factors like oestrogen dominance, retrograde menstruation and diet/environmental factors all playing a significant role. What we do know is that the condition has a genetic link as those with nuclear relatives with endometriosis and 6 times more likely to suffer from it.
TCM & Endometriosis
In chinese medicine, endometriosis is considered a blood stagnation. This simply means that blood is not flowing all around the body as well as it should. In this case, this poor flow of blood causes the growth of abdominal lumps. This blood stagnation could be manifesting due to:
1) Liver Qi stagnation with blood stagnation - this restricts blood flow
2) Kidney Yang deficiency with blood stagnation - this affects metabolism
3)Qi sinking with blood stagnation
How is it diagnosed/symptoms?
Common symptoms of Endometriosis include:
Pain during or after sex
Chronic pelvic pain
Heavy or irregular menstruation
Uterine bleeding in between periods
Pelvic bloating (from endometriotic cysts or an enlarged womb)
Bowel-related symptoms during menstruation (such as painful bowel movements, diarrhoea and constipation)
Urinary-related symptoms during menstruation (such as painful urination and bloody urination)
The first step in the diagnosis of endometriosis is often a pelvic exam and an ultrasound. However, the gold standard of diagnosis is a laparoscopy where they can visually look for the endometrial implants. Without a laparoscopy, it is difficult to fully see the extent of the condition and this contributes to why it can take up to 7.5 years to diagnose!
The first line of treatment in western medicine is often the oral contraceptive or other forms of hormonal therapy. These treatments unfortunately come with an array of negative side effects and pose a risk to a woman's overall fertility. TCM however provides a variety of low impact treatments.
By actively targeting blood stagnation, TCM is able to significantly improve a woman's quality of life and improve her fertility status. This is why up to tp 80% of women treated with TCM experience significant reductions in their symptoms.
3 things that aggravate endometriosis
Stress impairs qi and blood flow, produces excessive oestrogen and creates a hostile uterine environment. Pretty sure we could all do with less stress in our lives!
Extreme fatigue; when the body is burnt out, it leads to excessive consumption of qi and blood. A resulting deficiency of qi and blood during menstruation causes blood stagnation
Diet. A diet low in fibre and high in sugars, salt and refined foods impair the body's qi flow, metabolism and even immunity.
By looking at these 3 factors, it's easy to understand why the rates of endometriosis are continuing to grow. Many of us gals have so much on our plates and we are often stressed out, fatigued and not eating well! This state of chronic stress aggravates not only the development of endometriosis but a host of other health problems. Ladies, let’s take back our peace, by starting with a mindfulness practice and by being intentional with what we give our energy to!
3 things that significantly improve it:
Herbs. Using Chinese herbs that vitalise blood circulation, including dan shen (red sage), chis hao (red peony) and tao ren (peach kernel)
Acupuncture is very useful in improving blood circulation, relieving pain and correcting qi energy imbalances.
A whole foods, plant-rich diet: plenty of citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, whole grains, legumes and flax seeds.
1.A review of the risk factors, genetics and treatment of endometriosis in Chinese women: a comparative update
2.Treating endometriosis with the integration of traditional chinese medicine and western medicine