March is Endometriosis Awareness Month!
Endometriosis is a disease that affects around 11% of women worldwide. But the kicker is it can often take years for women to receive the diagnosis.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is when the cells that normally line the uterus are found outside the uterus. When during a woman’s menstrual cycle those cells are shed from the uterus and menstruation begins, these other misplanted cells are also signaled to bleed, and that causes inflammation wherever they are. These cells can be anywhere in the pelvic cavity and can also adhere to the intestines and even travel up to the chest cavity in more severe cases. So endometriosis can cause all kinds of pain.
How Do You Know if you have endometriosis or just bad periods?
Here are the main signs of endometriosis:
- Pelvic Pain
- Severe stabbing pain especially before or during menstruation.
- Pain during intercourse
- Post-coital nausea
- Getting very sick with the menstrual cycle such as fever and chills, vomiting, etc.
- Pain with urination or bowel movements
- Pain in legs and buttocks
The only way to definitively diagnose the disease is via laproscopy, which is sneaking a camera in the abdominal and pelvic cavities to look for the implanted endometrial cells. Many women find out they have endometriosis when they have difficulty conceiving. This is because the continued bleeding of the misplanted cells can cause scar tissue and adhesions to build up, and often on the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. This blocks the pathway for both egg and sperm.
Conventional treatment Options
There are two main ways medical doctors will treat endometriosis. One is with surgery to either cut out the adhesions or to remove tissues or organs affected. The other is the use of hormonal birth control containing synthetic progesterone called progestin. This counters the effect of estrogen which is the hormone that causes the endometrium to grow.
There are some negative possible outcomes with either drugs or surgery. Hormonal birth control often creates side effects and risks such as blood clots, weight gain, or mood changes. Likewise, serious problems with surgery include the adhesions growing back or scar tissue building up. Often doctors recommend a hysterectomy, and understandably a woman may oppose this level of invasiveness. Even with removal of the uterus and other tissues, endometriosis can still grow back in other tissues and areas.
Chinese Medicine Therapy for Endometriosis
Some women prefer to seek other options to hormonal drugs and surgery. Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used for many centuries to relieve menstrual pain, abdominal pain, and to improve hormonal imbalances.
What to Expect if going the natural route
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine work to uncover the root causes of why a woman is having pain, heavy bleeding, etc, all the symptoms she experiences as part of her endometriosis diagnosis. We as practitioners will examine the pulses, abdomen, and tongue, as well as ask many questions about the quality of the pain, blood, bowel movements, etc, to get a whole picture of what is not working right.
The Diagnosis and Treatment in Chinese Medicine
According to Chinese Medicine, most women with endometriosis have a form of what is called Blood Stasis, or Blood Stagnation. In our medicine, refers to a poor quality of blood that is too thick or not fluid enough, and blood that is not free flowing througout the body and especially that gets obstructed in the uterus. While these terms do not mean that there is something wrong with your blood according to conventional medicine, it refers to the way Chinese Medicine views the Blood as a grouping of functions in the body. Once the Chinese Medical Diagnosis is determined, we can then ascertain which treatment approach to take. For instance, if we determine the blood is stagnant, we may use herbs that invigorate the blood and points that promote circulation.
A treatment plan can be anywhere from 3 months to 9 months depending on the severity of the case. Many women experience significant reduction of pain and bleeding and improved cycles with acupuncture and herbs, and often have noticeable improvements within the first few treatments.
finding hope for endometriosis
Here at Energy Flow Health, we support a woman’s decision, as we honor that a woman knows her body best. It is helpful to explore the options, and if something isn’t feeling right then you always have the right to try something else. There is hope, and if you would like to discuss working with Amy, please call 630-335-1069 for a complimentary consultation.
This one is for the ladies! Actually, if you’re not a lady, you probably have one or two in your life so you can listen in on this one too.
Dysmenorrhea means painful periods. This pain is commonly due to cramping of the uterus causing lower abdominal pain but can also refer to back pain, leg pain, or headaches that come before or during the menstrual period.
Who is Affected and How Common Is it?
Girls normally begin menstruating anywhere from age 9-18 with an average around 12-14. Some girls have no issues – it comes every month, no pain, no symptoms – but for many it is not so smooth or seemless. In fact, it can be downright dreadful! I know, I was one of those teens who experienced pain every month for years. Research statistics are not concrete, but looking at the reviews of all the literature show that at least half of all menstruating females experience dysmenorrhea (painful periods). It varies in severity but can be debilitating for some.
Alternatives to NSAIDS and other analgesics
Many women rely on pain relieving over the counter or prescription medications to cope with the monthly pain. There are issues with this as there is of course side effects with these pills. Luckily, Chinese Medicine is an effective way to heal the root cause of the pain and improve girls’ and women’s cycles overall.
What causes menstrual cramps
In Chinese Medicine, pain associated with menstruation is due to stagnating blood in the uterus/lower abdomen. In our system pain = blockage. Something is preventing the free flow and circulation of Qi and Blood. But why? Well, everyone is different but the most common causes I see are Liver Dysregulation causing Qi to not be flowing smoothly and freely, which then in turn means that blood can’t flow either.
The other is Cold. If there is a lack of warmth, from our internal Yang Energy or internal Fire, then cold causes blood vessels to contract, causing pain. Cold blood is like an icy river – it needs a certain amount of heat in order to flow (remember we’re about 98.6F inside – that’s pretty warm!).
Here at Energy Flow Health, I assess a person to see if they have 1. adequate blood flow, 2. adequate Yang/Fire in the right place, and 3. blockages in their energy meridians causing Qi Stagnation. From there we come up with acupuncture points and often times a customized herbal formula to remove blockages and repair internal deficiencies or excesses, respectively.
This condition is a passion of mine, and I want you to know that there are solutions. I am eager to help women find relief and get that week of their life back! If you are ready to receive treatment you can schedule here or shoot me an email if you have any questions!
As you can tell from my tagline I specialize in digestive and hormonal imbalances.
So one may wonder, how does acupuncture affect hormones?
The Chinese Medicine view of hormones
Since Chinese Medicine originated thousands of years ago, the perspective of human physiology was conceived and understood under different terms and points of reference. Then, there was no traffic, no TV, no internet, no central air or furnaces, no high-tech medical equipment. But imagine. People were really close to nature. Really in tune with the forces of nature surrounding them. So every nuance of biology was more heightened. Everything was interpreted through nature. Not separate. As a result, they discovered the spaces between the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels contained a special intangible force, and that by inserting thin objects into these spaces at specific points, the “energy” or “qi” in these spaces or “channels/meridians” could be affected, and illnesses could be resolved, and immunity could be strengthened.
Part of the mystery of our health is in our chemistry, dominated by chemicals called hormones. Hormones are the bosses of our physiology and metabolism. Scientists today are still trying to grasp the far reaching influences and delicate balances of these chemicals.
Hormones are the bosses of our physiology and metabolism
Back to Chinese Medicine – of course people still had these chemicals back then, but they were seen more holistically, and incorporated into the explanations of the functions of structures that could be seen (unfortunately mostly due to war when people’s guts literally were spilled out). So to summarize, in Chinese Medicine we explain most of our physiology in terms of functions of a number of systems. Each system has associated organs, senses, meridians, colors, emotions, flavors, directions, seasons, etc. And more importantly, herbs and acupuncture points that influence these systems.
Ok, now back to the original question –
how does acupuncture, and for that matter, herbs, affect our hormones?
Hormones, being very minute microscopic, can be considered to be a part of the channel system in the body, and therefore part of our life energy aka Qi. This means by manipulating the channels and organs in the body with energetic means, we can affect how the hormones work.
Health is perfect balance right? Blood and other fluids flowing unimpeded through the body, carrying nutrients to and waste products away from every cell, regeneration of cells, and lack of blockages. This is what acupuncture and herbs do. They work to dissolve blockages, encourage appropriate regeneration, and good metabolism of the food we eat so it provides energy to every cell.
I know this was a long read, so thanks for slugging through it! I hope it explains the mystery of this ancient yet extremely useful medicine, in a way that makes sense. If not, I’d love to hear your questions – send me a text or call me at 630-335-1069, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I feel the need to inform people about the herbal aspect of Chinese Medicine. Many people don’t know much about it and therefore are wary about trying it. I don’t blame them, what we don’t know we don’t trust.
So let’s get straight about Chinese Herbal Medicine. What is it, how does it work, what is it used for, what to expect when you receive a prescription.
What are Chinese Herbs?
Chinese herbs are substances found in nature that are mostly plant, some mineral, and some animal. We use a lot of roots, twigs, seeds, leaves, fruits, and bark from various plants. Where they’re grown and how and when they are harvested are part of their identity and use in the medicine. Some familiar and commonly used herbs include ginger root, cinnamon, apricot kernels, and peach kernels. If you are vegetarian, or have allergies, please tell your herbalist so they can be sure your prescription is aligned.
How is it different from other herbs like the ones I see at the health food store?
Here in the US, people tend to be more familiar with Western herbs, in single form. For example, saw palmetto, or milk thistle. While most herbs in the capsules and tinctures on store shelves have their own uses and validity, they derive from a different system of medicine altogether. Chinese herbs are prescribed in formulas, meaning in combinations of 2 or more herbs. The formulas come from texts dating back as far as 200 BCE, and some even as recent as the 18th century. I mainly use formulas from the Han Dynasty China which was about 1800 years ago.
Are they safe?
Chinese herbs are medicine. This means they affect the body chemically. So it’s not something you can just buy off Amazon because your friend recommends it.
They have also been in use for literally thousands of years, and when prescribed by a professional that has undergone specific training including a nationally recognized board certification, and taken as prescribed, are very safe. But they are taken to effect change in the body and should be regarded as medicine.
How are they taken?
Herbal prescriptions can come in several forms. Some practitioners will send the patient home with, or have mailed, bags of the actual herbs to be cooked in water on the stove and then drunk as a tea.
Some herbs do come in tablet or capsule form, and yet another form is as granules that are stirred into hot water and drunk as a tea.
Do I need a prescription?
Yes, because there are som many formulas for so many different conditions and symptoms and individuals, they’re not just one or five sizes fits all. They are prescribed specifically for one person at one time.
How long do I need to take them?
Course of treatment with Chinese Herbs varies from 1 dose to several months to even years. It really depends on the patient’s needs at the time.
What are the benefits?
I tend to get patients who’ve either had bad experiences with conventional drugs or who want to avoid the side effects of drugs. So one benefit is the zero to minimal side effects, as well as the synergy the natural herbs have with our also very natural bodies. They tend to work with the body more than against it. The benefits depend on the reason they’re prescribed – so we use herbs to improve sleep, fertility, mood, digestion, elimination, urination, pain, etc. The benefits are countless!
Interested in an herbal consulation? You don’t have to have acupuncture although most people do. Please call me at 630-335-1069 to set up an appointment!
Autumn – a time to turn inward and accept the Power of Change
Perhaps your inbox is bombarded with tips for the season – pumpkin-themed recipes, back to school tips, Halloween happenings. I know many of us love this time of year. Yet for some it forbodes an impending doom – summer is gone and winter will be upon us with all its frigid cold and dangerous icy patches!
Finding Meaning in the Season
Let’s take a breath and consider what this time of year has meant over the millennia for many cultures that experience the four seasons and confer its symbology into their philosophies. Fall is a time when the energy we spent outwardly growing and producing fruits all summer is mostly spent and then that energy converges inward to prepare for winter’s hibernation and storage of energy until life’s rebirth in spring.
In health terms, if we choose to live in tune with the seasons, our physical and mental energies turn inward also. It’s the perfect time for reflection, and warming our hearts and spirits with gentle activity and meditation. I like to take this time of year to revisit my purpose and values.
Over the summer, I was busy enjoying outdoor activity, engaging with friends, and allowing a bit more freedom into my schedule. Now, I want to hunker down and get back to the core of why I’m on this planet. Here are some suggestions to help you take advantage of the inward turning of life’s energy so that your roots may be well mulched to endure the long and cold winter months.
My Tips for Harnessing the Power of Change
- Journaling – not your thing? Never done it before? Need enticing? Start with a beautiful book in which to write your deepest thoughts and dreams! I love Paperblanks. I’ve gone through many of these over the years and delight in getting a unique new design each time.
- Mindfulness for the Beginner – ok, I’m no one to talk about having a devoted meditation practice, but over the years I’ve learned there are so many ways to incorporate mindfulness without sitting on a cushion or chair 30 minutes twice a day as experts such as Deepak Chopra recommend (although I do believe this is an admirable and worthy practice). The important point of meditation is to give that monkey mind we all have a break and focus on being in the present moment, so try one of these methods that fit into your life if sitting still is not appealing.
- Take in Nature – this can be as simple as walking around the block and collecting fallen leaves, or visiting a nearby stream and listening to it gurgle, or laying outside and looking up at the infinite sky for a few minutes. Again, this is all the same as #2, which we really all need as much of as we can get.
- Weightless floating – a friend recently visited the local Float Club and commented on how she was able to release control and tension more and more and more during her hour session. This can be useful for the very type A person who is constantly in action and has trouble turning off. Here’s a link to a local place to try.
- Let go of that which no longer serves you – This takes courage and willingness to look at yourself from the inside, and identify what you have accumulated so far this year that is not for your highest good. You can consider consulting a therapist or a good friend to help you identify old patterns that you are ready or in need of releasing. Some people like to write these things down on paper and burn them in a fire.
- Acupuncture – many of my patients say that acupuncture helps them shift energetically so that the previous 5 tips are accessible and useful. Acupuncture works by releasing energetic blockages within our bodies thus restoring homeostasis when the natural flow of energy is reestablished. Breath comes easier, patience is more attainable, and stress is more manageable. Here is more information about Acupuncture on my site and in Wikipedia.
What do you usually do and think when energy shifts and we are facing the the power of change? Please, share in the social media with me or contact me personally!
I hope this article has been helpful for anyone who could use a shift or who was just curious about how to best utilize the change of season!