What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects a woman’s reproductive organs. It happens when the lining cells of the uterus (called endometrium) grow outside of it. Those suffering from endometriosis typically have their endometrium on and around pelvic organs such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. However, although rare, endometrial tissue may even spread beyond pelvic organs.
Although displaced outside the uterus, the endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would in a menstrual cycle – it thickens, breaks down and bleeds. Since this tissue breaks down inside the body without being able to exit the body through the uterus and vagina, it becomes trapped inside the body. This can cause severe pain, especially during menses.
This is a common condition and affects about 10 per cent of women.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Endometrial symptoms include:
- Painful menstruation
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Heavy or irregular menstruation
- Pelvic bloating (from endometriotic cysts or enlarged womb)
- Subfertility / Infertility
- Bowel-related symptoms during menstruation such as painful bowel movements, diarrhoea and constipation
- Urinary-related symptoms during menstruation such as painful urination and bloody urination
- Pregnancy complications
- Endometrial cysts
TCM and endometriosis
According to the theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), endometriosis is known as “menstrual pain” due to its symptoms. It is not categorised as a disease in TCM, and is described as a blood stasis syndrome with formation of abdominal lumps.
Blood stasis is a condition where small vessels are not capable of carrying blood flow normally. It is the cause of severe pain, especially in the lower abdomen during your menstruation, and is believed to be responsible for cases of excessive menstrual bleeding and infertility. Those with blood stasis have abnormal blood flow, which may trigger a negative response from the immune system due to the endometrial cells growing outside the uterus.
How can TCM help treat endometriosis?
Blood stasis is said to be related to a stagnant Qi (which restricts blood circulation), and kidney yang deficiency (which affects metabolism). Thus, TCM can ease endometriosis by using:
Chinese Herbs that vitalise blood circulation, including danshen (red sage), chishao (red peony) and taoren (peach kernel)
Acupuncture to relieve pain, regulate blood circulation and correct qi energy imbalances. Some acupuncture points that are targeted include baihui (top of the head), yintang (halfway point between the eyebrows) and guanyuan (lower abdomen).
The combination of these TCM treatments are given to treat endometriosis symptoms such as chronic fatigue, chronic pelvic pain and painful menstruation. For women trying to conceive, these treatments also improve her chances of pregnancy by increasing her natural fertility.