In addition to the appropriate acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas for your specific condition, there are many things that you can do at home to help yourself.
From a natural Western medicine viewpoint, endometriosis and fibroids are usually an estrogen-dominance condition. This means there is typically too much estrogen in the body outright, or too much in relationship to the amount of progesterone. So, there are 3 main ways to reduce this excess estrogen load:
1. Support the health of the liver, which is responsible for metabolizing excess and spent estrogen.
2. Support the health of the large intestine to have regular bowel movements, so as to keep spent estrogen that is waiting to be excreted from being reabsorbed through the bowel wall.
3. Reduce exposure to “exogenous estrogens.” These are chemicals that are found in our food, water, air, and environment, that mimic estrogen in the body. These include chemical dioxins, hormones that are found in non-organic meat/dairy/eggs, and many chemicals that we find in household items.
Interestingly, from an Eastern Medicine viewpoint, again, the Liver energy is most implicated in endometriosis, but the explanation of how is a bit different. Nonetheless, supporting the health of the Liver is paramount. So, we will explore some ways to do this. We will also look at ways to optimize your digestive energy, which is also essential to treating endometriosis and other gynecological conditions.
First, let’s look at how to support your digestion. If you haven’t read the Nutrition Part 1 post, please do so. It explains the differences between whole foods and processed foods. Understanding and utilizing this concept is of utmost importance to improve all aspects of health, including Liver health. To learn more specifics about optimizing your vital energy (qi) through your food choices, also read Nutrition Part 2.
Now, let’s look at further ways to support your Liver energy and function:
In addition to what you learned from Nutrition Part 1 and Part 2, you want to focus the diet on whole, natural foods including, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains for liver health. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and chemical ingredients, which tax the liver and contribute to inflammation.
Only eat organic options when eating animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, dairy and eggs, so as to avoid unnecessary ingestion of exogenous hormones. Also, decrease your intake of animal-based foods in general, as they can stimulate the body to produce more of its own estrogens, and can contribute to inflammation.
Also, avoid iced foods/beverages, which can create “cold in the uterus” which contributes to cramping, clotting and infertility. Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar, which cause insulin spikes and drops, which further upset hormonal balance and deplete the Liver of essential B vitamins. Avoid foods that contribute to inflammation, such as refined or hydrogenated oils.
In Oriental medicine, stress is a huge contributor to stagnation and congestion of the Liver energy and function, which can hinder blood flow in the pelvic area, and contribute to endometriosis and other gynecological problems.
We know from Western science that stress stimulates your body to produce more cortisol. And, when needed, the body can actually convert its own progesterone into cortisol to keep up with the demand. When this happens, you have less progesterone to balance the estrogen, and more stress hormones.
Stress hormones, when present in higher amounts and for extended periods of time, have deleterious effects on all body systems, including hormone balance. The way to stop this snowball effect is to decrease your body’s stress reaction, which means decreasing the amount of stress in your life, and modifying your reaction to stress that you cannot avoid.
1. Stop over-committing your time and energy. It is common, in our busy lives, to say “Yes” to everything that anyone asks of us, especially because many of us feel that unless we are constantly being productive, we are not “good for anything”. It is vital for your health that you remove things from your plate of responsibilities as much as possible. Try to only commit to those extra activities that are joyful to you.
2. Find some stress-relief activities. Please make time to rest and “refill your cup.” One thing to be careful of is not relying on activities that further cause your body to release stress hormones; like watching scary or violent movies, playing violent video games, or participating in risky activities such as gambling.
Good options would be hiking in nature, praying, journaling, meditating, getting massage, getting acupuncture, walking on the beach, taking photographs of the flowers in your neighborhood, spending quality time with people you love, or taking up a new hobby.
3. Find ways to focus more on the good things in your life, rather than the negatives. Our perception determines how we experience our lives. If we choose to see the positives more than the negatives, we will be happier and healthier as a result. Working with a life coach or spiritual counselor can often help in this endeavor.
4. Incorporate activities that make your body and mind more resilient to the stresses that you cannot avoid. These include getting acupuncture and taking the appropriate Chinese herbal medicine specific for you. These also include taking a Tai Chi or Qi Gong class, which are not only are good for the body, but also the mind, requiring your full attention, so you can focus on the activity at hand, rather than the stresses in your life. And they can actually help your body to recharge and revitalize.
Studies show that those who regularly practice Qi Gong or Tai Qi have less depression, more balanced hormonal profiles, fewer injuries, better athletic performance, enhanced cognitive function, stronger bones and a more positive outlook.
Reduce Exposure to Harmful Chemicals:
It is imperative that you decrease your exposure, as much as possible, to chemicals and substances that are hormone-disruptors or that act like estrogens in the body. These include:
Dioxins: found in bleached products such as tampons, coffee filters, paper products and sanitary pads as well as pesticides, bug sprays & repellents, and weed killers.
Plastics: avoid drinking or eating from plastic containers, especially if they have been sitting in the sun or a hot car. Don’t drink water that tastes like the plastic bottle. Don’t cook (or microwave) in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
For more help with endometriosis or other gynecological conditions, contact Dawn for acupuncture, herbs and individualized nutritional advice.
Dawn Potter, AP, Dipl.OM
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Mills, Dian S. & Vernon, Michael. Endometriosis: A Key to Healing through Nutrition. Hammersmith, London. 2002. pg 192, 214.
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Physcians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Endometriosis. http://www.pcrm.org/health/PDFs/pv_endometriosis.pdf
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA. 1993.
Spangler, Luita D. “Xenoestrogens and Breast Cancer: Nowhere to Run.”Feminist Women’s Health Center Website. http://www.fwhc.org/health/xeno.htm#what