Often defined simply as the presence of endometrial (or uterine) tissue in abnormal locations, endometriosis can affect fertility. The tissue (ordinarily expelled from the body through menstruation) travels outside the uterus and implants itself. After implanting, a lesion forms as the endometrial cells proliferate and act as though they are still in the uterus – responding to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle by thickening, enlarging and bleeding just as in the uterus. There is no way for this blood to leave the body, so it stagnates at the site. The lesion can inflame and may adhere to surrounding tissues. If the lesion is situated in close proximity to any nerve endings, these lesions can create pain. Additionally the immune system may detect the abnormal placement of endometrial cells and initiate an inflammatory reaction to protect the rest of the body from this perceived ‘invader.’ When the immune system is unable to eradicate the misplaced tissue, it reacts to all endometrial tissue, creating a toxic environment for an implanting embryo. Typically, the menstrual flow of a woman suffering from endometriosis is silty with dark, brown, clotted blood that has been allowed to oxidize. The immune system responds to this sediment-like, old blood, recognizing its toxic state and thereby mounting chemicals to clean up the debris.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views endometriosis primarily as stagnant Blood and Qi, in other words the Qi and Blood are not flowing freely. If there is an overactive immunological response, there is an additional diagnosis of either excess heat or damp-heat. A constitutional diagnosis is also given and treated (representing a person’s overall health). Acupuncture can move Blood and Qi, clear heat, help resolve damp and balance one’s overall constitution. Since acupuncture has been shown to increase the levels of ß-endorphins in the cerebrospinal fluid, it can relieve pain. The presence of these neurochemicals also allows for vessel dilation, thereby increasing the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.
Given time and the proper treatment, the blood flow will improve, the sediment should clear and the body will usually overcome its immunological protective mechanisms. The psycho-neuro-endocrine system settles down, and the body can relax so conception can take place.
- Mayan abdominal massage can be very helpful.