Endometriosis links with periods in most minds. That’s because its symptoms heighten during that time of women’s cycles. Yet endometriosis affects our hormone patterns and therefore impacts our entire cycle.
What happens during our periods has a ricochet effect on the rest of our cycle. When not addressed the issues build up until the situation becomes chronic. At this point an endometriosis diagnosis is most common. But we can take action before then and that is the aim of this article.
Endometriosis – A Summary
There’s a lot of talk lately about endometriosis, and rightly so. It affects 1 in 9 Australian women and 1 in 10 globally. It is a disease that cripples women with pain, fatigue, infertility, insecurity and depression amongst other symptoms.
Endometriosis is a condition where endometriomas (uterine tissues) grow outside of the uterus. Today it still takes on average 7-10 years for women to get an endometriosis diagnosis and this requires laparoscopic surgery. Treatment options are broad but no cure exists and for many women Western options offer no relief.
At AcuNatural Health we treat dozens of women with endometriosis. We’ve dedicated a blog series to it, including how to treat endo pain and symptoms other than pain.
Usually the menstruation cycle divides into 4 phases：menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. However, at AcuNatural Health we divide it into 5 because we add a pre-menstruation phase. This pre-menstruation phase (7 days before your period) is very significant for endometriosis treatments.
This article provides more information on our view of the menstruation cycle and its functions.
Endometriosis and Ovulation
This is our TCM view of endometriosis – women with endometriosis don’t ovulate. They don’t ovulate because they have too much oestrogen.
Not ovulating means there is no or very little progesterone in the body. Progesterone is what helps the body clean the uterus lining. Though the uterine wall will shed without progesterone (which is why you can have a period without ovulating) without it some of the lining can remain in the uterus. This triggers inflammation causing pain and other symptoms of endometriosis.
During and after your period your body produces more oestrogen to thicken the uterus lining, building up on the old and making it harder to clean the lining out each time. Ultimately this makes the lining thicker and thicker and the endometriosis worse.
Even if the areas affected are outside the uterus the process is the same – no progesterone to properly eliminate old endometriomas.
Our Understanding of Common Treatments for Endometriosis
Many women then undergo laparoscopy. The surgery scrapes out the old lining which will reduce inflammation and pain. It does not fix the out of balance hormones or get you ovulating again, which is why it so often comes back, and for some people, comes back quickly.
Most people with endometriosis get put on the pill as a treatment option. This works for many people as it controls the oestrogen levels better. But the pill is designed to stop ovulation from occurring. Not ovulating will not improve the endometriosis, which is why it is so difficult for women coming off the pill and trying to fall pregnant – their body is very out of whack and the pill suppressed the problem but didn’t fix it.
AcuNatural Health Endometriosis Treatments
We have a couple of aims when treating endometriosis:
Reduce the oestrogen predominant cycles
Eliminate pain and other symptoms
Ideally around 7 days before your period we will begin preparing your body for menstruation. As there is no progesterone to promote bleeding, our Chinese herbals temporarily take its place. We support organ function (kidneys, liver and adrenal) to encourage blood flow and effective cleaning of the uterus lining. This is why the first period after starting our treatments is sometimes heavier than you are used to.
Additionally this strategy reduces inflammation in the body, easing endometriosis symptoms such as pain and bloating. To help with inflammation and pain we also work on liver and nerve function which works to reduce stress.
Once bleeding occurs we continue to gently promote cleaning out the lining. We then focus on supporting digestion to assist with nutrition absorption and energy levels throughout your period.
This is also where a lot of work on the endocrine system begins to eventually get the body to ovulate. Although hormones are produced by the endocrine system, which is very important in Chinese medicine too, behind the endocrine system is organ function. To get your hormones balanced and achieve a healthy endocrine system we must increase organ function.
Getting the body to ovulate again takes time. Although reducing pain and symptoms of endometriosis can happen quickly for most people, to see the body begin to balance out and ovulate again usually takes 3-6 cycles of treatments with us. The most effective option to start with is weekly acupuncture treatments with Chinese herbal medicine and then adjust as you respond.
Once ovulation has occurred we will continue to monitor for 3 more cycles to make sure the body is functioning properly and doesn’t slide back due to stress or other issues. While the endometriosis is not ‘cured’it should not negatively impact your life anymore.
Endometriosis: Education is Key
One of the biggest issues with endometriosis is the lack of education it has. This is not just among women but in healthcare too. Our aim is to increase awareness and knowledge of endometriosis among all women so that we can reduce the impact it has among our friends, family and community. Understanding how our cycles work and then how endometriosis impacts on it is crucial to one day eradicating this disease.