“Endometriosis is a complex disease affecting millions of women globally. Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to the endometrial lining are found within the pelvic cavity. These cells respond to the cyclical changes of hormones throughout a cycle, like the endometrial cells do, and also bleed and become inflamed during a period. Over time these cells can form into lesions and scar tissue/adhesions can form throughout the pelvis.
When people think of endometriosis symptoms they often think of the severe pain during menstruation and throughout the cycle so many women experience. It’s quite common for women with endometriosis to experience such severe pain they can have nausea, vomiting and even lose consciousness. These symptoms are extreme, yet so common and absolutely should not be ignored and require proper investigation and care from your health care providers.
What is less commonly known is that endometriosis can often manifest with digestive symptoms. Many women experience the ‘endo bloat’, something so many with endo knows far too well. The ‘endo bloat’ is when the abdomen swells so severely many women say it is comparable to looking 6 months pregnant. The abdomen will feel very hard and firm to touch due to the immense swelling and inflammation.
Depending on the locations, type, and severity of the endometriosis, some women can experience alternating constipation and diarrhoea with endo flares.
From a biomedical perspective, endometriosis is characterised by high levels of inflammation. High levels of oestrogen and prostaglandins can accelerate the motility of the bowel and cause frequent diarrhoea/loose stools with an endo flare. Endometriosis lesions on the bowel/intestines will also amplify digestive symptoms.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, we may see this as a weakness in the Spleen Qi. One of the roles of the Spleen organ system is to control the timely processing of bowel movements. When the Spleen Qi is strong, the bowels will move 1-2 times per day in formed, easy to pass stools. Frequent loose or watery stools can be a sign the Spleen (aka, your digestive system) is a calling out for extra support.
In Chinese medicine, all cases of endometriosis have an element of blood stagnation, but may also be accompanied by many other patterns such as Yang deficiency, Qi deficiency, Qi stagnation, Dampness and Cold in the uterus. Clinically, we find that women who have an element of the Yang deficiency, Qi deficiency or Dampness patterns often will experience the digestive symptoms with endometriosis as well as the classic pelvic pain.
It is important to raise awareness about how common digestive issues with endometriosis are. Many women have digestive complaints such as severe, painful bloating, nausea and constipation and/or diarrhoea and have been told they have IBS, whereas it’s actually the endo causing these symptoms. For a woman in this situation who has not yet been diagnosed with endometriosis, passing off her digestive complaints as simply ‘IBS’ is a great disservice. It stops any further exploration into her health. This leads to women going to all different sorts of digestive specialists like gastroenterologists when the problem is actually the endometriosis, not the digestive system itself, again, prolonging appropriate treatment and care. We see this example so clearly in the endometriosis community with it taking 6-10 years to actually receive a diagnosis (and likely many different doctors in between).
The beauty of Chinese medicine lies in its ability to see the whole picture, the whole body working together as a cohesive system, not separated into parts. Every sign and symptom someone experiences is relevant and a part of their individual pattern we seek to bring back into balance.”
Words from TCM Doctor Lauren Curtain.
Yours in wellness,
Traditional Chinese Restoratives