The endometrium is the mucous membrane that lines the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, this lining thickens, allowing the possibility of a successful implantation of an embryo. Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the cells that line the endometrium of the womb or uterus lining are found somewhere else in the body. Common sights are the pelvic peritoneum, ovaries, bladder and bowels. Some women with this condition experience mild discomfort, while many suffer from extreme pain, heavy periods and infertility. Endometriosis is a long-term condition that affects millions of women worldwide. It is commonly diagnosed in females age 25 to 40 years and rarely occurs after menopause.
Every month at the end of the menstrual cycle, (with no symptoms and signs of pregnancy), the hormones in the body cause the womb’s lining to break down and bleed. The lining is expelled from the body as a period. During the menses (for a woman who has endometriosis), when the cells growing outside the womb break down and bleed, the blood has no outlet to exit the body. This bleeding results in irritation to the surrounding tissue, pain, inflammation, and possibly scar formation. The cause of endometriosis is unclear and therefore, difficult to treat. Some researchers theorize that the following factors can be contributors for endometriosis: an estrogen/progesterone imbalance, genetics, autoimmune abnormalities, environmental toxins and benign uterine fibroids.
Common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Heavy menstruation with pain, large clots, long or abnormal length of cycles (2 to 3 or more months between menses)
- Lower abdominal pain and swelling, back pain, burning or painful urination or bowel movements during menstruation (can also occur on a continuous basis), and swollen ovaries
- Painful sex
- Dysmenorrhea and intermittent bleeding between periods
- Infertility or difficulty becoming pregnant. Endometriosis.org has published that 10% of women globally are affected by endometriosis and 24 to 50% female infertility cases suffer from endometriosis.
- In rare cases, some women may experience bleeding after intercourse, bowel movements, or urination.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), views endometriosis as a disharmony of the liver, spleen, and kidneys energetically. The free flow of menstrual bold (blood stagnation) can also contribute to obstruction of the vital energy (qi) and blood in the uterine region. The lack of cellular nutrition caused by this stagnation causes menstrual pain. Typically, treatment protocols for the endometriosis patient by a TCM practitioner focuses on improving blood circulation, clearing stagnation and harmonizing the functions of the liver, spleen, and kidneys. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can be very effective in the treatment for the symptoms of endometriosis and the pain that accompanies this condition. Lifestyle and dietary modifications are addressed as stress and certain foods can cause inflammation and optimum flow of uterine blood. Avoidance of environmental pollutants are encouraged. TCM can help to balance hormones, support proper function and health of the endocrine and immune system, and endometrium.
March is Endometriosis Month. If you suffer from any of the symptoms aforementioned, see your pelvic floor specialist. If you need a referral, please contact my office and I will be most happy to help you. This is your first step to living a pain-free and full life.
Acupuncture Beats Drug for Endometriosis Relief, 11 July 2017 Health CMI, Shen Q, Lu J. Clinical Observation of Acupuncture-moxibustion for Endometriosis (J). Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 2017, 36 (6).
Narvekar, Nitish, Sharon Cameron, Hilary OD Critchley, Suiqing Lin, Linan Cheng, and David T. Baird. “Low-dose mifepristone inhibits endometrial proliferation and up-regulates androgen receptor.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 89, no. 5 (2004): 2491-2497.