Double Board Certified: Dipl. NCCAOM Oriental Medicine
Fellow, American Board of Oriental and Reproductive Medicine
Endometriosis can be both a debilitating issue and a sneaky one. Frequently, endo is first suspected when a woman has stabbing, horribly painful periods with lots of clots; often the period blood is dark red or purple. There are frequently digestive issues such as diarrhea, or nausea and vomiting. Pain may flare in other places, too, in your general abdominal area, the anus, hips, back.
Sometimes endo is sneaky. I’ve had patients with endo where the only sign was a very short (21) day cycle as the only symptom. No pain, no period issues: but it deeply affected their fertility.
Understanding A Normal Endometrial Lining
Every cycle, women shed their uterine lining (the endometrium) in preparation for building a fresh, vital, new lining. If you visualize your uterine lining, most of it is discharged down. But in all women, some of it goes up and out of the uterus into the body. How? If you look at the diagram above, notice that the fallopian tubes are not attached to the ovaries: it’s not a closed system. When you have your period and your uterus contracts to shed the lining, it’s like squeezing a tube of toothpaste open at both ends: most goes down, some goes up.
Normally, when the endometrial cells escape into the body, they float around, die quickly and the immune system cleans them up. But in a woman with endo, that’s not what happens.
What Happens In Endometriosis
First, the endometrial cells are super sticky, so they stick to each other, and stick to other tissues abnormally. That’s why clotty periods are common. But it also means that when the cells go into the body cavity, they stick to things they shouldn’t and act like glue, which means that other body tissues start adhering, too.
Second, endo cells secret chemical signals that tell the immune system that they are supposed to be there, so the immune cells don’t clean them up the way they normally would. That means the endo cells stay there.
Third, endometriosis cells don’t die the way they should. Most normal cells undergo a process called apoptosis, a process of normal cell death. Endometriosis cells have the kill switch off, which means they stay alive and divide, creating more of themselves.
In short, endometriosis cells go where they don’t belong, stick to things they shouldn’t, don’t get cleaned up when they should, and don’t die like they ought to.
Endo and Fertility
In terms of fertility, endometriosis creates further complications. Endometriosis has an affect on normal blood flow to the ovaries. Part of the problem is that women with endometriosis are estrogen dominant. Whether excess estrogen is the cause, the result, or both, of endometriosis, the excess estrogen inhibits normal follicular development and interferes with healthy uterine lining development. The effect is a huge problem. Endo decreases blood flow to the ovaries and creates an estrogen heavy environment, compromising the nutrients that are delivered to developing follicles and inhibiting their growth. It also affects implantation. The sticky endometrial tissue prevents healthy implantation, much like a seed you plant that sticks halfway out of the mud rather than being fully buried in the ground. So fertility in women with endo gets a double whammy: poor egg quality and poor implantation. In fact, in IVF, success rates for women with endometriosis are decreased 40-50%.
Diagnosing and Treating Endo
Western medicine doesn’t have a way to treat endo, other than birth control and surgery. While they can help, these treatment methods don’t get to the root of the problem. Fortunately, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and lifestyle changes that are rooted in both Chinese medicine and Western science can help. In Chinese Medicine, endometriosis is classified as stagnant blood: that’s the diagnosis. The key to treating endometriosis is understanding the root cause. In CM, there are four types of endometriosis: hot, cold, qi stagnant or combination types. How endo is treated depends on what type you have. Whether you want to manage your symptoms and feel better, or you are trying to get pregnant, treating the root cause with acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help.
Success Treating Endo Symptoms To Regain Normal Life
I have successfully treated all different types of women with endo. One patient had had 3 endometrial surgeries, and was barely able to get herself up in the morning to get her kid to school. She spent her days on the couch, hadn’t seen friends in 3 years, and hadn’t been home in 8 because of the endo. With a few acupuncture treatments, and several months of herbs, she was back to normal. Another patient was able to live life, but her period was miserable and sex was excruciating. 3 months of acupuncture and 6 months of herbs, and she was back to normal and sex was enjoyable again.
Success Treating Endo For Fertility
For TTC patients treatment takes longer. We need to normalize hormones and promote healthy egg and lining development. For women undergoing IVF, a minimum of 4 months of treatment can dramatically improve the number of healthy embryos. For my TTC naturally patients, it takes longer. In either situation, most women will feel better, periods and symptoms will normalize, and your fertility will improve.
I can’t guarantee outcomes, but clinically my success rate for treating endo and helping women feel better, or helping women get pregnant are excellent.
Please call me at (702) 539-9185 to schedule an appointment!