I feel as though there is an epidemic surrounding young women today, and I wanted to find someone to guest post on this for a long time: naturally treating and healing endometriosis. While I don't suffer from it myself, I have numerous friends and family members that are dealing with the painful side effects that endometriosis brings.
Today I am pleased to welcome Stephanie Gianarelli of Acupuncture Northwest & Associates (pictured with her co-author, Lora Shahine, MD of Pacific NW Fertility & IVF Specialists based in Seattle) to the pages of LPN. Together they have written the book, Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy. Stephanie is a Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine, acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist.
Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture have been used for thousands of years to treat disease of every sort. Called TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) today, it has been China’s complete form of medicine for millennia, and treating women’s health has been major part of that history.
Endometriosis is defined simply as the presence of endometrial (or uterine) tissue in abnormal locations and can affect fertility as well as a woman’s quality of life. The tissue (ordinarily expelled from the body through menstruation) travels outside the uterus and implants itself. After implanting, a lesion forms as the endometrial cells proliferate and act as though they are still in the uterus – responding to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle by thickening, enlarging and bleeding just as in the uterus.
There is no way for this blood to leave the body, so it stagnates at the site. The lesion can inflame and may adhere to surrounding tissues. If the lesion is situated in close proximity to any nerve endings, these lesions can create pain. Additionally the immune system may detect the abnormal placement of endometrial cells and initiate an inflammatory reaction to protect the rest of the body from this perceived ‘invader.’ When the immune system is unable to eradicate the misplaced tissue, it reacts to all endometrial tissue, creating a toxic environment for an implanting embryo. Often the menstrual flow of a woman suffering from endometriosis is silty with dark, brown, clotted blood that has been allowed to oxidize. The immune system responds to this sediment-like, old blood, recognizing its toxic state and thereby mounting chemicals to clean up the debris.
Because TCM is non-invasive and focused on optimizing the health of the patient, it is a great place to start when beginning to treat endometriosis. TCM consists of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, nutritional and life style recommendations.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views endometriosis primarily as stagnant Blood and Qi, in other words the Qi and Blood are not flowing freely. If there is an overactive immunological response, there may be an additional diagnosis of either excess heat or damp-heat. When a person sees a TCM provider, a constitutional diagnosis is also given and treated (representing a person’s overall health) to assist in alleviating endometriosis pain. Acupuncture can move Blood and Qi, clear heat, help resolve damp and balance one’s overall constitution. Since acupuncture has been shown to increase the levels of ß-endorphins in the cerebrospinal fluid, it can often relieve pain. The presence of these neurochemicals also allows for vessel dilation, thereby increasing the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.
Given time and the proper treatment, the blood flow will improve, the sediment should clear and the body will usually overcome its immunological protective mechanisms. The psychoneuroendocrine system settles down, and the body can relax and if you are attempting to conceive, hopefully conception can take place.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbs are often crucial for effective treatment of endometriosis with TCM. Because Chinese medicine is always individualized for the patient and there are several different possible TCM diagnoses for endometriosis, the woman will have to see a TCM practitioner in order to take Chinese herbs.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet and avoid inflammatory foods (sugar, artificial sweeteners, gluten, MSG, transfats and alcohol).
While this isn’t the same for everyone, the basics include the following:
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids are very powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
- Cold water oily fish
- Flax seeds (some endometriosis patients have trouble with flax.
- Pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil
- Dark green veggies
- Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts)
- Green Tea
Other tips for helping to naturally heal endometriosis include:
- Implementing a diet free of dairy, wheat, and most animal products, as it can help calm the immune system
- Avoiding foods that have been treated hormonally and eat organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible in order to keep the chemicals you ingest to a minimum
- Supplementing with fish oil (or vegan krill oil). Its blood thinning qualities it can increase blood flow and decrease blood stagnation (fish oil may also help boost the immune system)
- Eating foods which are good for resolving blood stasis including: kelp, vinegar, lemons, limes, onions, Irish moss and bladder wrack (the last two are seaweeds). Any seaweed helps!
- Avoid cold foods or foods right out of the freezer or refrigerator and do not put ice in your drinks. TCM believes that cold slows down movement, which can cause stagnation that we are trying to avoid.
- Keep excess toxins to a minimum such as reducing intake of coffee, caffeine, artificial stimulants, and tobacco
- Use feminine hygiene pads rather than tampons. Tampons do not allow adequate expulsion of blood and may aggravate endometriosis backflow.
- Regular, moderate exercises help improve circulation and ease symptoms. Meditation, Qi Gong, and yoga are also helpful. However, you should not perform inversion techniques during menstruation. The energetic flow should be descending.
In conclusion, the full breadth of Traditional Chinese Medicine has a lot to offer a woman with endometriosis and some of them you can start at home today!
I hope this can be a helpful start for your journey to healing, beauty.