Updated: Jun 27, 2020
The uterus is a beautiful organ. Much like the gallbladder, spleen, appendix, and tonsils, it shouldn't be surgically removed from the body unless it's causing more harm than good. When a patient presents with an organ removed that could have been prevented, I can't help but mourn a bit. I don't want this to happen to you or your loved one. I don't want someone to surgically remove your uterus because of endometriosis.
We have seen endometriosis resolve with proper treatment! It doesn't have to be a chronic lifelong disease managed with pain relievers and birth control pills or other contraceptives. Endometriosis can be reversed and you can have normal periods. The cyclical pain you experience every month is not normal and does not have to be your normal. Let's get to the root cause.
Endometriosis has been historically under-diagnosed. The average delay is 7-12 years. All too often a woman will not be taken seriously by her doctor. When I was young, I went to my doctor for painful periods. It was so painful I was writhing on the floor every month. She told me to take ibuprofen every two hours and that was it! It seemed ridiculous that ibuprofen is the only option and there was no explanation. Recently, I've seen an increase in diagnosed endometriosis, which is great because it means the doctors are aware this could be the cause of someone's pain, but also sad, because the treatment is so invasive (surgery).
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis causes painful periods. If not treated, it can spread to different parts of the body and cause pain and symptoms there. Endometriosis occurs when the inside lining of the uterus ends up outside of the uterus. We don't know why this happens, but there are theories: genetics, immune system dysregulation, hormonal imbalances, etc. My favorite theory is toxic overload of the uterus. Due to waste products building up and/or exposure to toxins, the uterus becomes burdened. Because it is the home of new life, it must be clear of anything that can cause harm; therefore, the body pushes out the toxins. Again, this is a theory. Take it with a grain of salt.
Estrogen is the hormone which causes the inner layer of the uterus (endometrium) to grow each month, and this is what is shed each month during the period. In endometriosis, this is also what grows outside the uterus. A common problem we tend to see in patients with endometriosis is excessive estrogen, and low levels of progesterone. Salivary hormone testing for proper diagnosis and treatment through diet, herbal medicines, homeopathics and supplements such as DIM and I3C tend to be incredibly helpful. These two supplements made from concentrated broccoli sprouts help improve the liver's metabolism of estrogen, the digestive system's elimination of estrogen and correct the imbalances from more harmful forms of estrogen.
Common sites of endometriosis are ovaries, ligaments of the uterus, colon, and appendix. When located on the ovaries, it can cause a cyst. Adenomyosis is a similar imbalance of the uterus. Adenomyosis is when the glands of the uterus move into the muscle layer, but not outside of the uterus. Other than painful periods, a person with endometriosis may experience pain with sex, heavy bleeding, clots, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bladder, fatigue, and infertility.
As an acupuncture student, I had a patient who had chronic low back pain. She was a climber and had no problem hitting the gym. She received a full workup for back pain and regular acupuncture but found zero relief. Upon further investigation, she was diagnosed with endometriosis. She decided to undergo surgery to remove the endometrial tissue. This was an eye opening experience for me as a young physician. And an important reminder that a holistic approach to healthcare is absolutely essential.
If you're new to natural medicine, you're in the right place. The first step you can do without a medical provider is to increase awareness of your menstrual cycle and symptoms. Begin tracking your cycle with an app like Kindara. We humans with uteruses cycle with the moon. Compare your cycle to where the moon is in hers. Do you bleed on the new moon or full moon? Reconnecting to nature is always a good place to start the healing process. If your periods are irregular, check out seed cycling, a way to regulate the cycle by simply eating seeds!
At PCNM, our approach to treatment is always comprehensive. Give the natural approach a try before you start taking hormones or go in for surgery. This will likely prevent a host of new problems down the line and provide you with valuable self-care tools. If you do choose surgery, check out a bit about holistic pre- and post-surgery care here.
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