Endometriosis can be associated with backache, painful defecation and/or rectal bleeding, premenstrual spotting, sciatica, urinary frequency and pain, vomiting, abdominal pain and swelling. Any single endometriosis symptom is troubling, but in combination can be excruciating. Untreated, endometriosis can become the cause of female infertility. Although traditional Chinese medicine has no disease category endometriosis , it does recognize, categorize, and treat effectively each endometriosis symptom and sign.
The Role of Liver, Qi, and Blood in Menstrual Health
Menstruation should be painless and accompanied by minimal pre and postmenstrual signs and symptoms. We know the menstruate should be of sufficient volume, a rich, fresh color, and free from clots. The absence of these factors is an endometriosis symptom .
If there is free flow, there is no pain: if there is pain, there is no free flow. In Chinese medicine, the uterus and the liver are closely related. The liver maintains patency or free flow of the qi or vital energy of the body. The liver, spleen and kidney channels run through the pelvis and all can effect menstruation . If any of these channels is blocked, congested or deficient, this will usually manifest in women as some sort of menstrual problem.
Qi moves the blood. The qi can become sluggish or stuck due to emotional stuckness or stress. It is the liver’s job to maintain the free flow of qi , stagnant qi is associated with liver depression. The liver is so intimately associated with the menstrual cycle, liver depression and stagnant qi in women almost always manifests as some menstrual-related problem. Stagnant qi manifests as pain and distention and is dull, crampy or colicky. Static blood may be caused by either long-term qi stagnation or by traumatic injury, including surgery. Its characteristic is localized, fixed, sharp, stabbing or lancinating pain. Blood clots are common when one’s qi is stagnant.
The most common cause of qi stagnation is stress, and usually results in liver depression. This can also become the cause of female infertility . Stagnant qi causes pain, urinary problems, lower abdominal pain and distention, sciatica, premenstrual nipple sensitivity, irritability, depression and headaches.
Static blood may be caused by trauma, such as intra-abdominal surgery, IUDs, abortions, and certain birth control pills in some women. It may also be caused by intercourse during menstruation or due to stagnant qi . The signs and symptoms of blood stasis are stabbing, sharp, fixed, and lancinating pain, clots in the menstrual discharge, the relief of pain after passing of clots, prominent blue, varicose veins on the lower abdomen, possible hemorrhoids or varicose veins on the legs, poking pain with intercourse. Most women with endometriosis have some combination of stagnant qi and blood stasis.
Dietary and Lifestyle Considerations for Women’s Health
Accumulation of cold-causing blood stasis also leads to uncomfortable side effects. Coldness and dampness can be generated by over eating cold, damp foods. Cold foods include anything eaten chilled, frozen and cold. They also include most raw vegetables and fruits, dairy products, oils, nuts, sugar, fatty foods, and citrus fruits.
The signs and symptoms of accumulation of cold causing blood stasis in the lower burner include cold, fixed pain in the lower abdomen relieved by warmth, a dark, clotty menstrual discharge, aversion to cold, late or absent period, back pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite.
The Chinese endometriosis natural remedy suggests avoiding fear, anger and excessive emotions in general. Maintaining an even, free flow of moderate emotions is the same as maintaining an even, free flow of qi and blood. Just prior and during menstruation women should not allow themselves to become fatigued. Not dwell on negative thoughts or frustrations. Avoid eating cold and raw foods prior to or during their periods. Avoid sex during their period as this reverses the flow of qi and blood from down and out to up and in and tends to cause the formation of blood stasis.
Stress reduction, changing jobs, seeking counseling for relationship problems, changing residence, taking more time off, relinquishing unrealistic goals and expectations, and just in general adopting a slower, more open attitude no matter what we are doing can help us with balance. We need to teach ourselves consciously and deliberately to relax. Done daily, at least twenty continuous minutes, can benefit our overall health.
Chinese medicine believes that a certain amount of physical exercise is necessary to maintain one’s health and prevent disease. Exercise speeds up a sluggish metabolism and increases production of qi and blood. Aerobic exercise from twenty to thirty minutes every other day increases circulation and body temperature, and aids digestion, appetite, mood, energy and sleep. Exercise greatly reduces the severity of any endometriosis symptom or symptom associated with stagnant qi and blood stasis.
Importance of Diet and Exercise in Managing Menstrual Health
Chinese medicine places great importance on diet, especially on cooked as opposed to raw food. Cooking makes the nutrients in foods more easily assimilable, resulting in a greater net gain. Our diet should consist of warm foods. Drinking too much liquid and especially cold liquids with meals can cause stagnant qi . There are also certain foods which should be eaten in great moderation. Sugar weakens the spleen and therefore the healthy creation of qi and blood. Honey, molasses and maple syrup create dampness and hinder spleen function. People with liver depression and qi stagnation tend to crave the sweet flavor. Other foods that can create dampness are nuts, oils, and fats, chocolate, beef and pork, dairy products, fruits, eggs, and citrus fruits, pineapples, apples and pears. Alcohol is also dampening.
Those with stagnant qi must be careful of hot, spicy foods. Coffee disperses stagnant qi but wastes the blood and yin — both regular and decaf. Coffee gives a sense of energy by freeing up stuck qi . Women who experience any kind of menstrual, reproductive tract or breast disorders should avoid coffee. It is not caffeine alone that is the offending substance. There are many volatile oils in the coffee bean, which as a whole cause the problem. Placing a drop of White Flower Oil on the tip of the tongue when the coffee craving strikes can help alleviate this dependency.
Many studies confirm that lifestyle factors, which are largely preventable, are the cause of debilitating disorders. Deep relaxation, aerobic exercise and dietary modification and moderation are the keys to preventing dysmenorrhea and endometriosis . And Chinese medicine is an ideal therapy for women with these and other reproductive disorders, especially for the management of any endometriosis symptom .
One should first use more natural and organic methods of treatment when the problem is in its formative stages. Only when such gentler therapies have failed or when the situation is critical should the “heavy guns” of the Western medical armamentarium be brought into play.
Herbal and Acupuncture Treatments for Female Reproductive Disorders
Chinese medicine ‘s main therapy is herbal medicine. Herbs are an excellent endometriosis natural remedy . Over 5,000 medicinal substances are taken from plants, minerals and animal by-products. The ingredients are combined into formulas comprised of from eight to fifteen ingredients where they work synergistically. The most common way of ingestion the herbs is through a tea. However, pills, powders, liquid and dried extracts and syrups are also used. Herbs are free from side effects. Chinese doctors are constantly updating and modifying their patient’s treatment in order to optimize results. Women with endometriosis generally require three to six months of intensive Chinese herbal therapy to achieve substantial amelioration in their condition. When compared with the cost of most Western drugs and medical procedures, the net cost of Chinese medicine is relatively cheap.
Acupuncture effectively treats endometriosis . The body comprises points located on pathways at which the energy traveling through them can be manipulated and therapeutically adjusted. Patients may experience the slightest pinch upon insertion and then any of several sensations as the needle touches the point that is below the skin. These sensations can include tingling, heat, distention, heaviness, soreness, or an electrical, nervy feeling. Typically patients will relax deeply and may even fall asleep.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine treat effectively: painful menstruation , menstruation which is too little or too large in volume, menstruation which is either too early, too late, or which occurs at no fixed schedule, amenorrhea, PMS, lower abdominal pain, any endometriosis symptom and infertility.
The Western theories about the cause of endometriosis development are all on a cellular and biochemical level, about which the patient herself can do nothing. The Chinese theories of disease mechanism explain what everyday factors have led to the disease (in this case the cause of endometriosis ) and immediately imply what the woman herself can do to rectify the situation.
Most menstrual problems can be treated by Chinese medicine within three to six months. However, the duration of therapy depends to some extent on the length of time the disease process has been in motion. Patients should expect it to take at least one month of treatment for every year there has been some problem with their period or in their pelvis in general.
If either we are born with insufficient congenital essence or we use up or fail to make acquired essence, our blood production will also be insufficient. This will be the cause of endometriosis . And, if the blood is insufficient, conception cannot take place, or, if per chance it does, the fetus will not be nourished properly and miscarriage is likely. Deep relaxation, a nutritious diet from which acquired essence can be created and stored, life-style modifications to reduce stress and over stimulation, and complete abstinence from drugs and stimulants such as coffee, nicotine, and alcohol. Stress, frustration and repression are the main causes of liver qi stagnation .
Over-eating raw fruits and vegetables, chilled, iced, and frozen foods and drinks, and drinking too many cold juices, are all contemporary Western causes for blood vacuity. This can cause blood stasis in the uterus due to cold congelation and be harmful to healthy menstruation if they are eaten just before or at the onset of menstruation (when they are often craved).
Fertility is the natural expression of a body full of life force and blood which is flowing freely and unobstructed. Any cause of endometriosis should be avoided or treated. Therefore, women trying to conceive should place their attention on regulating their menstruation , eliminating premenstrual breast tenderness and any other PMS symptoms, and generally improving their health and physical and mental well-being as much as possible. That means they should seek treatment for menoxenia or any menstrual abnormality, any digestive dysfunction, any problem with elimination or perspiration, appetite, sleep, energy or mood. In Chinese medicine , when a female’s period is on time, painless, without PMS, of a sufficient volume and duration, a healthy red color and free from clots, and when her digestion, elimination and energy are good, her sleep peaceful and sound, and appetite and mood are all good, this woman is healthy and should be able to conceive.
Among American women in their twenties, endometriosis is the leading cause of female infertility after fibroid tumors. It is estimated that endometriosis affects 15% of American women of reproductive age.
Be sure to check out Pacific College’s traditional Chinese medicine degree programs that are available!