Explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies like acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese herbal medicine to treat endometriosis symptoms.
- Endometriosis affects 10-15% of reproductive-aged people with a uterus.
- Endometriosis symptoms include heavy periods, painful cramping, and chronic pelvic pain.
- Western medicine uses hormone therapy, surgical procedures, and pain medication to address endometriosis symptoms.
- Complementary and alternative therapies utilize non-invasive methods to address symptoms of endometriosis.
- A holistic approach to treating your endometriosis symptoms may be beneficial to your overall health.
Endometriosis is a painful condition that’s difficult to treat. A holistic approach that includes traditional Western medicine treatment and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies is often the best way to improve endometriosis symptoms.
Explore these alternative treatment therapies that can be used in conjunction with Western treatment approaches to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
What is endometriosis ?
Endometriosis is an often painful condition that affects the reproductive system of approximately 10-15% of women of reproductive age. The condition is characterized by the appearance of uterine tissue outside of the uterine cavity, usually in the ovaries. It causes mild to severe symptoms that affect both reproductive and overall health.
Healthcare providers diagnose endometriosis by conducting a laparoscopic surgical procedure, which allows a surgeon to locate and remove endometrial tissue. The tissue is then biopsied to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no cure for endometriosis. However, there are many options available when it comes to treating the symptoms caused by the condition.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Symptoms of endometriosis vary by individual, but most people experience one or more of the following:
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Intense cramping during periods
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Chronic fatigue
- Allergies and chemical sensitivities
- Heavy periods
- Frequent yeast infections
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer
One of the most devastating symptoms of endometriosis is infertility. Approximately 30-40% of people with endometriosis experience infertility as a result of their condition.
Traditional Western treatment methods
Traditional Western medicine offers three main types of endometriosis treatment for the symptoms of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is directly connected to the body’s estrogen production, so providers often use hormones to manage endometrial symptoms, such as painful, heavy periods and pelvic pain. Hormones such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) or those found in birth control pills work by preventing ovulation and limiting pain associated with menstruation.
Over-the-counter pain medications are a common treatment for pain associated with endometriosis, as are prescription-strength options. Pain relievers can relieve chronic pelvic pain and period cramps.
However, prolonged use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories has troublesome side effects, and prescription pain medications can cause dependency. Neither is a good long-term option.
Surgical treatments may be performed for cases of severe endometriosis pain. During a laparoscopy or laparotomy, a surgeon removes the abnormal tissue growth to relieve pain. While it may provide relief, surgery is a short-term solution and carries heavy risks, including complications such as infertility.
How to care for endometriosis symptoms holistically
Traditional Western therapies can be effective, but they can pose several serious complications and side effects, which is why it’s important to thoroughly consider alternative ways to manage your endometriosis symptoms. CAM therapies tend to be gentler and to have fewer side effects than conventional medicine options.
Many people find that they get the best symptom relief by combining CAM therapy with Western treatment options. In this way, they create a regimen that treats their overall well-being (a holistic approach) and not just the individual symptoms.
Caring for your endometriosis symptoms with CAM can offer many health benefits. The best therapies for you will depend on the specific symptoms you wish to address.
In general, natural treatments, such as Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, pelvic floor therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), have been shown to help reduce the devastating symptoms caused by endometriosis.
Acupuncture is a CAM approach that uses tiny needles inserted at strategic locations on the body to increase energy flow and stimulate blood circulation. Acupuncture for menstrual cramps can be effective in reducing pelvic pain and the intensity of menstrual cramps in people with endometriosis.
A 2018 review of studies suggests that acupuncture for endometriosis can alleviate pain better than other commonly prescribed complementary therapies.
Homeopathy is a natural approach to wellness that involves using a highly personalized combination of natural substances to treat disease.
While there’s not much research available on homeopathic treatments for endometriosis, a 2017 study found that homeopathic doses of estrogen were more effective than a placebo at treating chronic pelvic pain from endometriosis.
However, because there is currently so little research on homeopathy, we recommend that if you try it, you do it with the guidance of a reputable homeopath.
Chinese herbal medicine
Chinese herbal medicine consists of blends of medicinal herbs customized to an individual’s needs. Treatments can take the form of teas, powders, or pills. Research supports that Chinese herbal medicine can be an effective treatment for endometriosis.
A 2014 study found that Chinese herbal enemas can help reduce endometriosis lesions as well as Danazol, a Western medicine that’s often prescribed for that purpose, but with fewer side effects.
Keep in mind, though, that success depends on using the right blend of herbs; Chinese herbal formulas can contain 10 to 20 different herbs. It’s important to work with a skilled herbal practitioner for best results as well as safety.
Be sure to inform your doctor of all supplements you take to lower your risk for herb-drug interactions and interference with other medical treatments.
For many conditions, nutritional or dietary therapy is a highly effective CAM method. Endometriosis is a hormonal condition that can be influenced by the foods you eat.
For example, caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in gluten and trans fat may increase your pain. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help manage your symptoms. Working with a registered nutritionist or dietitian to develop an eating plan can give you the support you need to fine-tune a diet that works for you.
While not specifically recommended for endometriosis, pelvic floor therapy can be helpful for people experiencing chronic pelvic pain.
Pelvic floor therapy is a type of muscular therapy in which a therapist can help you train your pelvic muscles to reduce dysfunction. It can also involve internal and external manipulation to relieve pain.
Pelvic floor therapy is generally performed by a physical therapist.
Natural home remedies for endometriosis symptoms
There are a few things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of endometriosis, including:
- Resting with a heating pad
- Drinking hot tea
- Taking warm baths
- Pelvic massage
- Breathing techniques
Find the care method that works for you
Caring for your endometriosis symptoms in a way that works for you is crucial. Depending on your symptoms, you may find that a combination of CAM therapies and Western treatments work best, or you might discover you can manage your symptoms with less-invasive procedures, such as CBT or a change in your diet.
Experiment with your options and pay attention to how your body feels. In time you will discover which methods reduce your symptoms and allow you to live a more pain-free life.
We can help
As you work through finding the best course of treatment for your endometriosis symptoms, consider us an ally in your journey. Follow our blog for the most up-to-date information on CAM therapies for endometriosis treatment, and visit our provider directory to find a CAM therapist near you.