|Posted by Tanya on March 26, 2013 at 11:20 PM|
"The lotus spring from the mud." ~ Chinese Proverb
What do endometriosis and fibroids have in common? Both conditions are characterized by inappropriate tissue growth within the reproductive system, causing damage to the reproductive organs and preventing conception. There is no Western cure for either. In Eastern medicine, however, they are both considered processes of inhibited, stagnated uterine Blood.
Luckily both conditions respond quite well to Chinese medicine. Given time and proper treatment, the blood flow will improve, the sediment will clear, and the body will overcome its immunologic protective mechanisms. Our psychoneuroendocrine system will settle down, and our body can relax so conception can take place.
Affecting millions of women, and most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of thirty and forty years old; it can also begin as early as the teenage years.
In endometriosis, the endometrial cells somehow migrate and implant in areas outside the uterus including cervix, vaginal-rectal space, ovaries, fallopian tubes, colon, and bladder wall. Endometrial cells have also been found in the abdominal wall muscles, the lungs, the nose, even the brain. These misplaced endometrial cells respond to the hormonal stimuli of estrogen and prgesterone and bleed during menstruation. But there is no way of the blood to leave the body, so it stagnates and scars the surrounding tissue.
Western science is at a loss when it comes to understanding why women with endometriosis have fertility problems. Certainly, the scarring and adhesions associated with severe endometriosis can obstruct the path of the egg to the uterus, but women with milder cases can suffer impaired fertility as well.
Its probable that endometriosis is yet another autoimmune disease. Some women who are diagnosed with endometriosis have high levels of autoantibodies, which are associated with recurrent miscarriage. Endometriosis creates an inflammatory response to the endometrial tissue growing outside its intended site. In attempt to "clean up" this tissue, the immune system is reprogrammed to react to all endometrial cells as if they were not part of the body.
Hormonal treatments like birth control pills, testosterone-enhancing or menopause-inducing drugs are sometimes prescribed to halt menstruation altogether, the theory being that when menses ceases the misplaced endometrial tissue will "starve" to death. Of course, ovulation is also halted in the process. In addition, the masculinizing side effects of increased testosterone are difficult for women to endure.
TCM View and Treatment for Endometriosis
Endometriosis is not a disease category in TCM, however Eastern healers have recognized this disease for far longer than Western medicine. In TCM, endometriosis is known by its symptoms and is referred to as "menstrual movement pain." In the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essentials from the Golden Cabinet), describes this condition as follows: "The menstrual blood is inhibited and there is (resulting) lower abdominal fullness and pain."
Chinese medicine categorizes endometrial lesions as static Blood, or Blood that is not flowing as it should. (This is not so different from our Western understanding of endometriosis). However, since the compromised Blood is located in an area where normal flow is often absent or minimal, the body has a tougher time resolving it. The Chinese say the static Blood has entered the network vessels (offshoots of the major meridians, like energetic capillaries), which are more difficult to reach. When an enduring disease enters the network vessels, its wise to employ the use of resins like frankincense and myrrh with treatment. The Chinese say these resinous herbs infiltrate into the deeper meridians, just as sap penetrates a tree.
It is clear that Chinese herbal medicines can play an important part in balancing the complex interrelated factors contributing to both the treatment of endometriosis and the promotion of a healthy reproductive cycle.
Fibroids, or myomas, are the most common neoplasm (abnormal growth) of the female reproductive organs. They are benign tumors found in approximately 20 percent of women over thirty-five years of age. They can occur on the inner and outer wall of the uterus, or anywhere else in the pelvic cavity. They range in size from small (size of a pea) to large (the size of a cantaloupe).
Fibroids can increase in size during pregnancy because of the increased hormone levels, causing pressure in the uterus and, in some cases, premature labor.
Western medical treatment occasionally uses drugs like Lupron to create the condition of pseudomenopause. In many cases, drug therapy is accompained by surgical removal of the fibroid. Another technique is arterial embolization, when the blood vessels feeding the fibroid are cauterized. However, as this cuts off blood flow to the uterine lining as well, it is not recommended for women who wish to have children. The last line of treatment is a hysterectomy - removal of the uterus - with her uterus gone, a woman's only remaining means for parenthood are gestational surrogate or adoption.
Shrinking Fibroids the Eastern Way
TCM provides a far gentler and more effective remedy for fibroids. Like the tissues formed by endometriosis, fibroids are considered lumpy nodulations within the body caused by a hardening static Blood. This condition can be treated with means similar to those used for endometriosis, with equally dramatic results.
One Chinese study used traditional Chinese medicinals to treat 223 cases of uterine fibroids. All patients had measurable symptoms, and all were given a basic herbal formula to resolve Blood stasis. Additional herbs were added based on the different patterns diagnosed as contributing to the formation of fibroids. Following treatment most of the accompained symptoms, like heavy bleeding, and backache, improved or were eliminated. The fibroids themselves were either diminished or disappeared in 72 percent of patients.
Other Natural Remedies for Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids
Here is a list of recommendations for using TCM to treat your endometriosis or uterine fibroids:
- Rest and wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- Perform deep-breathing exercises and meditative practices.
- Take warm baths (with aromatherapy if you like).
- Use essential oils such as frankincense, myrrh, clary sage, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, juniper, and thyme.
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen during and after menstruation.
- Apply warm castor-oil packs on your abdomen to invigorate the Blood, assist the lymphatic system, and balance hormone levels. Apply warm castor oil to the lower abdomen and cover with plastic wrap two to three times per day during the premenstrual and menstrual period. (If you are trying to conceive, use only during the menstrual period.)
- Regular, moderate daily exercise helps improve circulation and ease symptoms. Meditation, Qi Gong, and yoga are also helpful. (You should not perform inversion techniques during menstruation, especially if you have endometriosis. The energetic flow must always be descending.)
- Avoid all foods that have been treated hormonally.
- Consume soy and soy products like tofu.
- Eat only organic fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid refined and hydrogenated oils.
- Use only unprocessed plant sources of essential fatty acids.
- Use oils rich in both linoleic and alpha-linolenic fatty acids such as flaxseed, pumpkin-seed, and chia-seed oils, but only if they are recently cold-pressed and refined.
- Include dietary spirulina, evening primrose oil, and oil from black currant and borage seeds.
- Avoid sources of arachidonic acid, which comes from animal meats, dairy products, eggs, and peanuts.
- Avoid all animal products, except fish. If you do consume meat, make sure it is organic and not hormonally treated.
- Eat walnuts, dark greens, saffron, and cold-climate root vegetables like squash.
- Foods that are especially good for resolving Blood stasis include kelp, lemons, limes, onions, Irish moss, and bladder wrack.
- Supplement your diet with B vitamins and antioxidants like vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. Include OPC superantioxidants (grape seed extract, pine bark extract, red wine extract, bilberry extract), which contain procyanidins and caffeic and ferulic acid. These substances have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antispastic effects.
- Both endometriosis and fibroids benefit from the use of of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Fish oil and linseed oil are good sources of these omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil prevents abnormal blood clotting. If your menstrual blood contains clotty tissue, supplement with fish oil, (which also contains gamma-linolenic acid, known as omega-6).
For conception to occur, all the energies of the body must be free-flowing and moving like water in the river bringing life to the land through which it passes. Fibroids and endometrial growths are like rocks in that river, preventing the embryo from mooring safely within the walls of your womb. By eliminating Blood stasis, balancing the body's other energies, and softening the concretions within your reproductive organs, you can restore the flow of the "river of life" through you and provide a clean, clear harbor for your unborn child.
Please join me next week as we discuss part 6 of this series:
PCOS and POF: You can Heal your Ovaries