Rule number 1: period pain is not normal and requires treatment.
Endometriosis has now reached an all time high in its ever-growing presence.
While this disease is often debilitating both physically and emotionally, a significant percentage of women who have endometriosis are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms.
To make matters worse, many women are wrongly diagnosed with other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, when they actually have endometriosis.
Endometriosis can wreak major havoc with a woman’s emotions, hormones and libido. Many sufferers of endometriosis have pain during intercourse, which further lessens the desire around sex. If you have painful periods and can't get out of bed, there is a good chance you have endometriosis.
Other symptoms such as migraines, headaches, dizziness, constipation, pain with bowel movements, joint pain and all manner of symptoms are created as result of the inflammation this disease causes and creates.
Hormonal disturbances can also result in mood swings, fatigue and restlessness.
How Is It Diagnosed?
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the gold standard diagnostic test is laparoscopy, unless the endometriosis is otherwise visible.
What Causes It?
To date, Western medicine does not know how or even why endometriosis occurs. The only solution that has been offered in the past was to laser it, which has a recurrence rate of up to 80%.
Recently, many doctors have been cutting it out, which offers better relief with a lower chance of recurrence.
However, it still usually recurs. Why is this so?
Endometriosis primarily re-occurs because only the symptoms get treated, and not the cause. You can eliminate most of the physical symptoms very easily, but if the underlying cause isn’t addressed at the same time, you have no chance of a full recovery, including the emotional factors.
Many of the hormones women are given after surgery simply masks the problem, and can actually make things worse. By stopping a woman’s period (as many of these hormones do), there is an increased risk of regrowth. Sure, while you have no period, you have no pain or symptoms, but internally, the endometriosis is still there, waiting to flare up again.
This is caused by the woman’s emotional outlook, and the very hormones that are supposed to be helping. Oral contraceptive pills containing oestrogen should be avoided, as they only add to the problem, making it worse. Progesterone only options should be looked at rather than a combined pill, if you decide to use hormones.
Other Underlying Causes
Extended use of the pill, the increasing levels of hormones in our food and a protein deficient diet haven’t helped the number of cases of endometriosis.
Increased levels of insulin due to a high GI diet lead to inflammation in the body, and this further fuels conditions such as endometriosis.
There are all sorts of weird and wonderful diets out there, attesting to be the cure for endometriosis, but half are them are actually making it worse. Unless the diet involves reducing grains, high GI carbs and sugars, as well as increasing proteins, then it isn't going to help you.
But at the end of the day, it’s diet, emotions and lifestyle that is the true culprit behind endometriosis.
An Effective, Eastern Medicine Solution
The Chinese consider blood stagnation and long-term liver Qi stagnation as the cause of endometriosis.
In essence, what this means is that over a long period of time, emotional issues have caused stagnation in the body, which then manifests in real physical symptoms such as stagnant blood (clotting and pain).
The Chinese believe that the real cause behind endometriosis and many gynaecological problems is long-term emotional problems such as frustration, anger and long-term resentment. I haven’t met anyone with endometriosis without these emotional issues causing their condition. I honestly haven't.
In the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists paper, titled, The Investigation and Management Of Endometriosis, they state that there is evidence from two systematic reviews suggesting high frequency TENS, acupuncture, vitamin B1and magnesium may help to relieve dysmenorrhea (painful periods).
One randomised controlled trial has shown vitamin E to relieve primary dysmenorrhea and reduce blood loss.
Many women with endometriosis do find that therapies like Chinese medicine do improve pain symptoms, and therefore, quality of life.
In my opinion, I believe the very best course of action is to use a combined approach. For severe cases, you will need to see a good gynaecologist to get as much of the endometriosis cut out (not lasered). Surgery is a much needed option if the pain is severe, because it helps to get rid of the endometriosis that can be seen. It doesn't get the microscopic endometriosis that can't be seen, which is why it’s likely to re-occur.
This is where Chinese medicine can help. Chinese medicine can treat the microscopic endometriosis, stopping it from progressing further. This should be the primary treatment after surgery to help stop it from coming back.
Do not use any hormones such a Depo-Provera (depo shot) to stop your period or to mask underlying problems. This will only cause further blood stagnation by not bleeding, and it can lead to further fertility issues down the track.
Finally, find a great counsellor. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine will help both the physical and emotional sides of the disease, but sometimes solution-based therapy is needed for best results. In my clinic, we provide our patients with a list of preferred gynaecologists and counsellors. Not all therapists and health care professionals are the same, so make sure you find a good recommendation.
Takeaways From This Article
To summarise, the best solution for endometriosis is surgery to remove it. It should be followed by acupuncture, Chinese medicine and counselling to prevent re-occurrence.
While it may sound like an extreme or invasive approach, surgery can be a much needed step if the problem is either too acute or chronic, in order to alleviate and remove painful symptoms. However, in the end, Chinese medicine treats the root cause. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines for treating endometriosis includes acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a recommended therapy – because it does help.
While Eastern medicine can help to stop endometriosis in its tracks, ultimately you have to make a solid commitment for anything to work more effectively.
Give it a try – you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. Especially if what you’ve been doing isn’t working for you.
Articles posted on BellyBelly which are not written by Doctor Andrew Orr are the opinions of BellyBelly and not necessarily the opinion of Doctor Andrew Orr.