Endometriosis Treatments with Acupuncture and Herbs*
Endometriosis is a complex disorder that results in a large number of hospital visits and surgeries in the United States every year. It is a chronic condition that is not completely understood with an impact that varies from severe chronic pain to infertility. Chinese medicine—especially the use of acupuncture and herbs—can help women suffering from endometriosis and infertility to prepare for pregnancy and manage pain.* Depending on the severity of the condition, Chinese medicine offers strong treatment measures alone or as an adjunct to Western medicine.* As a board certified Oriental Reproductive Medicine specialist through the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) (the only one out of 4 people in Massachusetts who is in the Boston area), I work primarily with fertility patients and have experience treating women with endometriosis. Below, you will learn what endometriosis is and the benefits that Chinese medicine has to offer.* Read a few of our success stories.*
Endometriosis—The Right Tissue in the Wrong Place
Endometriosis generally occurs when uterine tissue migrates outside the uterus and attaches itself to organs in the abdominal cavity. It is typically seen as pigmented or non-pigmented lesions, cysts, nodules or masses. The lesions can be found on the colon, bladder, ovary, fallopian tubes, uterine ligaments or abdominal wall. The lesions can be problematic in that they are stimulated by the same hormonal cues as the uterine lining. This stimulation can lead to growth and microscopic bleeding of the lesions, which can result in scar tissue formation (adhesions), severe pain and inflammation.
The diagnosis of endometriosis is typically confirmed through laparoscopy, and the treatment will depend on the severity of its presentation. While there is no cure for endometriosis, Western medicine does have treatment for the symptoms. If endometriosis is found, it will usually be removed surgically or managed with medication. While surgery may be helpful at removing the some of the lesions or masses, it does little to stop the formation of new lesions or calm the body’s immune response to the endometriosis. Medical management of endometriosis is typically focused on managing pain and reducing the prevalence of new lesion formation through the use of pharmaceuticals. The drawback to this approach is that some of the side effects (such as facial hair, weight gain, acne, mood changes, decreased bone density, etc.) are not well tolerated—making compliance difficult.
How Does Endometriosis Affect Fertility?
While the theories behind how endometriosis affects fertility are numerous and varied, it appears that it can affect fertility in a couple major ways: structurally and immunologically.
Structurally, endometriosis can lead to scarring and adhesions in the pelvic cavity—which, if extensive, can distort the pelvic anatomy affecting the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. Distortions of the pelvic anatomy can affect implantation. Implantation is also affected by reduced progesterone sensitivity, often occurring with endometriosis patients. Endometriosis on the ovaries, if severe, can affect FSH levels, ovarian functioning and egg maturation. Adhesions on the fallopian tubes can affect tubal mobility and access to the ovulated egg. Mucus secretion build up on the fimbrial ends of the fallopian tubes can affect the guiding of the egg into the tube or even block entry into the tubes altogether.
Immunologically, the body’s inflammatory response to endometriosis can lead to a toxic environment for conception and implantation. In many cases the body will view the lesions as foreign tissue and produce antibodies against them. The antibodies put the body in a reactive and combative state ready to destroy foreign invaders such as sperm and can lead to an inhospitable environment for a potential embryo. If there is a significant inflammatory response to endometriosis, these immunologic factors can negatively impact tubal function, egg maturation, sperm motility, fertilization, and embryo survival—all of which can have devastating affects on fertility.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine Treatment for Endometriosis*
At Family Acupuncture & Herbs of Reading, we take a comprehensive approach that includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, lifestyle, diet and nutritional supplements to offer a natural and holistic treatment for endometriosis.*
Treatment goals are broken down into four areas:
- Pain management and prevention*
- Reduction in abnormal tissues*
- Improved reproductive health*
- Preventing recurrence*
We tailor treatment plans to suit each individual’s needs and to achieve maximum effect and long-term relief.* To accomplish effective treatments, it is important to address all potential areas of imbalance.* Uncovering the root cause behind the imbalance is the key to successfully treating the expression and spread of endometriosis.*
Key Highlights to Managing and Treating Endometriosis*
- Digestion—In many cases the imbalance is related to digestion, so it imperative to get gut inflammation under control to silence the inflammatory response throughout the system. We will start by cutting out inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy and sugar. Animal products should be hormone-free and preferably from grass fed or pastured animals.*
- Herbal medicine—The Chinese herbs formulas I prescribe will depend on how a person presents, but many times we use herbs to help:
- Reduce blood viscosity.* There is a proven relationship between blood viscosity and abnormal prostaglandin (pain producing chemicals) release. Reducing blood viscosity will help regulate prostaglandin levels and reduce pain.
- Dissolve mucus accumulations and loosening adhesions in the pelvic cavity.*
- Encourage flexibility and reduce mucus obstructions around the fallopian tubes.*
- Settle the body’s immune response to the endometrial cells outside the uterus.*
- Acupuncture—Acupuncture is used to calm the uterus, manage pelvic pain and assist with organ function, in particular liver function.* Since endometriosis is related to hormonal imbalance like estrogen dominance, supporting liver function and its ability to process estrogen will be helpful in regulating elevated estrogen levels. Studies with acupuncture have concluded that it is a viable treatment for pelvic pain related to endometriosis.*
- Supplements—Supplementing with omega-3 rich sources like fish oil and super-antioxidants such as pycnogenol or OPC (try OPC ISOTONIC by Saratoga Supplements) may also be helpful and reducing inflammation.* For fish oil, we highly recommend the brand, Nordic Naturals, and are pleased to offer you a 15% off discount and free shipping when you use practitioner code 106250.
- Bee propolis—Bee propolis has also been shown to be helpful with endometriosis by inhibiting c-aromatase and vascular endothelial factor (VEGF). Simply put, this means bee propolis can help reduce excess estrogens and blood supply to the endometriosis lesions.*
- Reduce xeno-estrogen exposure—Xeno-estrogens are compounds that bind to estrogen receptors and promote endometriosis. They are found in pesticides, some plastics (such as BPA and phthalates), bleached products (like tampons and toilet paper), and certain ingredients in beauty products (including parabens). For a more detailed list of xeno-estrogens, visit http://womeninbalance.org/2012/10/26/xenoestrogens-what-are-they-how-to-avoid-them/.
These are some of the ways we approach endometriosis, with a focus on being able to identify the root of the imbalance and treat accordingly. If the root is treated along with the symptoms, then the likelihood of achieving success with fertility and pain management can increase dramatically.* If you are currently struggling with endometriosis, we offer a free 30 minute fertility consultation. Contact us today!
*Disclaimer: Specific results are not guaranteed. Results may vary from person to person.