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Ancient Wisdom at Work—Natural Acupuncture & Herbal Treatments for Endometriosis and Infertility

Posted Jan 25 2010 11:20am

Chinese medicine—especially the use of herbs—can effectively assist women suffering from endometriosis and infertility prepare for pregnancy.  Depending on the severity of the condition, Chinese medicine offers strong treatment measures alone or as an adjunct to Western medicine.

Endometriosis—The Right Tissue In The Wrong Place

Endometriosis generally occurs when uterine tissue migrates outside the uterus and attaches itself to organs in the abdominal cavity.   It is typically seen as pigmented or non-pigmented lesions, cysts, nodules or masses.  The lesions can be found on the colon, bladder, ovary, fallopian tubes, uterine ligaments or abdominal wall.  The lesions can be problematic in that they are stimulated by the same hormonal cues as the uterine lining.  This stimulation can lead to growth and microscopic bleeding of the lesions, which can result in scar tissue formation (adhesions), severe pain and inflammation.

The only way endometriosis can be confirmed is through laparoscopy.  Western medicine does have treatment for the symptoms; however a cure has been elusive.  If endometriosis is found, it will usually be removed surgically.  While surgery may be helpful at removing the some of the lesions or masses, it does little to stop the formation of new lesions or calm the body’s immune response to the endometriosis.

How does endometriosis affect fertility?

While the theories behind how endometriosis affects fertility are numerous and varied, it appears that it can affect fertility in a couple major ways: structurally, and immunologically.

Structurally, endometriosis can lead to scarring and adhesions in the pelvic cavity—which, if extensive, can distort the pelvic anatomy affecting the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.  Distortions of the pelvic anatomy can affect implantation.  Endometriosis on the ovaries, if severe, can affect ovarian functioning and FSH levels.  Adhesions on the fallopian tubes can affect tubal mobility and access to the ovulated egg.  Mucus secretion build up on the fimbrial ends of the fallopian tubes can affect the guiding of the egg into the tube or block entry into the tubes altogether.

Immunologically, the body’s inflammatory response to endometriosis can lead to a toxic environment for conception and implantation.  In many cases the body will view the lesions as foreign tissue and produce antibodies against them.  The antibodies put the body in a reactive and combative state ready to destroy foreign invaders such as sperm and can lead to an inhospitable environment for a potential embryo.  If there is a significant inflammatory response to endometriosis, these immunologic factors can negatively impact sperm motility, egg maturation, fertilization, embryo survival and tubal function.

The benefits of Chinese medical treatment for endometriosis

Chinese herbal medicine can play an important role in helping women with endometriosis achieve pregnancy with its ability to treat the root and the symptoms aggravating the uterine environment.  There are many herbs to treat some of the symptoms associated with endometriosis, having effects such as:

  • decreasing prostaglandins (especially PGE2), which play a role in creating pain;

  • dissolving mucus accumulations and loosening of adhesions in the pelvic cavity;

  • encouraging flexibility and reducing mucus obstructions around the fallopian tubes;

  • settling the body’s immune response and calming the uterus.

Other helpful suggestions to help calm an overactive immune system include:

  • reducing consumption of dairy, wheat and animal products;
  • supplementing with omega-3 rich sources like flax seed or fish oil; and
  • adding super-antioxidants such as pycnogenol or OPC.

What is most important from a Chinese medical standpoint is to identify the root of the imbalance and treat that accordingly.  If the root is treated along with the symptoms, then the likelihood of achieving a nurturing uterine environment and healthy pregnancy increases dramatically.

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