Endometriosis is a female health disorder that occurs when cells from the lining of the womb (uterus) grow in other areas of the body. 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 for endometriosis, it does recognize, categorize, and treat effectively each endometriosis symptom and sign.
At her optimal health, a woman’s menstruation should be painless and accompanied by minimal pre and postmenstrual signs and symptoms. 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.
Chinese medicine believes that each life force has an innate energy flowing throughout its form. This is called “qi” and qi is also believed to move the blood. The qi can become sluggish or stuck due to emotional stagnation 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, which often 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.
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 natural remedy for endometriosis symptoms 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. Do not dwell on negative thoughts or frustrations. Avoid eating cold and raw foods prior to or during periods. Avoid sex during the 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.
Exercise can also speed up a sluggish metabolism and increase 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.
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 that should be eaten in great moderation. For example, 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.
One of Chinese medicine ‘s main therapies 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 usually comprised of eight to fifteen ingredients that work synergistically. The most common way of ingestion the herbs is through a tea. However, pills, powders, liquids, 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.
The body comprises points located on pathways at which the energy, qi, traveling through them can be manipulated and therapeutically adjusted. This is how acupuncture can treat endometriosis symptoms. 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. 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.