Endometriosis occurs when endometrial cells that line the uterus travel outside the uterus to other parts of the body. These cells are still stimulated by a woman's reproductive hormones and shed blood during menstruation each month. Blood from these cells is unable to leave the body and causes deposits to accumulate and form scar tissue.
The women in the newspaper reports describe poor diagnosis of the condition. GPs can be unsympathetic and dismissive. The symptoms experienced are very diverse and can vary from asymptomatic to intense menstrual pain for a week each month. The intensity of the pain does not necessarily relate to the severity of the condition. Other symptoms include chronic pelvic and back pain, painful ovulation, bloating, pain during or after sex, abnormal bleeding, nausea and fatigue.
Possible causes of endometriosis include retrograde bleeding into the abdominal cavity during menstruation, increased exposure to oestrogen, immune dysfunction and genetics. If your mother or sister has endometriosis, there is a higher chance that you will also have it.
There is no cure for endometriosis. Treatments are designed to relieve symptoms and aid fertility. The choice of orthodox treatment includes surgery, preferably skilled laparoscopic excision, hormonal treatments such as the contraceptive pill and pain management.
Medical Herbalists offer an effective approach to treatment. As identified by Hilary Mantel, ‘Alternative practitioners are often good listeners and highly empathic’. She also states that’ Herbal medicine harnesses the knowledge of countless generations gone before’. Key benefits of the approach of Medical Herbalists are that we are holistic and treat the body as a whole, and that we tailor the treatment so that each case can be managed individually. This is particularly important in the treatment of endometriosis.
The therapeutic approach taken by a Medical Herbalist would be to:
- Reduce pain
- Address any hormonal imbalances
- Improve the immune system
- Support the nervous system and reduce the response to stress
- Improve circulation and drainage to the pelvic area
- Restrict growth of endometrial tissue
- Detoxify to improve tissue health.