As part of our medical training, 10th trimester naturopathic medicine (ND) students are required to give a Grand Rounds presentation on a case they've seen in clinic. I presented this week, week 2 of the trimester, on endometriosis. One of my patients has received a lot of pain relief from endometriosis using naturopathic medicine and acupuncture.
Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, usually in the pelvic cavity; however, it can occur in other areas of the body as well. With every menstrual cycle, the lesions bleed and activate pain receptors, causing immense pain and suffering. About 10% of menstruating women are affected by this condition.
There are a few theories on how the condition comes about: retrograde flow, altered cell immunity, and environmental toxins. Retrograde flow is where menstrual blood flows backward and into the pelvic cavity and then the endometrial cells implant into other tissues. However, the problem with this theory is that over 90% of menstruating women have retrograde flow. Likely, there are other factors at play. Altered cell immunity is a theory that endometrial tissue of embryologic origin traveled through lymphatic channels and blood vessels to other areas of the body. Then, when activated, they secrete chemicals causing local capillaries to bleed, further causing pain. Many environmental toxins have been associated with endometriosis, especially dioxin and radiation.
Conventional treatments for endometriosis include laparoscopic surgery to excise the lesions, pharmaceuticals such as hormones to affect the menstrual cycle, and pain killers.
There are several naturopathic therapies that I used with this patient:
- Botanical tincture – to help balance estrogen/progesterone
- Kali phos and mag phos cell salts – to decrease menstrual cramps, stress, fatigue, and mental/emotional symptoms around her cycle
- Constitutional hydrotherapy – to tonify the autonomic nervous system
- Botanicals for liver support and castor oil packs – to support the liver's metabolism of estrogen
- Cold laser for pain – cold laser has anti-inflammatory effects which reduces pain locally
- Gemmotherapy – specific gemmos have anti-sclerotic properties that can help break up endometrial lesions
Notice that with naturopathic medicine, several therapies can be used, and there isn't just one protocol to stick to. Individualizing care is key! This case was a wonderful learning opportunity for me to be persistent and patient while utilizing a wide range of therapies to support the body.
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