- Amanda is 37 and dealing with pelvic pain, discomfort and heavy periods
- Doctors diagnosed her with endometriosis and fibroids
- They prescribed birth control but she’d had a bad reaction in her youth
Endometriosis affects 10% of women between the ages of 15 – 49. That’s 176 million women in the world. The most common, traditional way to treat this issue is with hormone therapy in the form of birth control medication.
When Amanda came to me, I understood her hesitation in using birth control to manage her endometriosis symptoms. I wanted to find out if we could find the root cause of the endometriosis and treat that instead. The hunt was on and there were many clues to consider.
Dr. Shiroko Sokitch is a functional medicine doctor, a trained acupuncturist, and a traditional Chinese medicine doctor. This unconventional combination makes her very good at solving health mysteries. She shares my approach of getting to the root cause of a problem, so I thought she would be the perfect person to discuss Amanda’s case.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where uterine tissue starts to grow beyond what is needed for the reproductive process. This can be contained in the uterus but it can also cause endometrial tissue to grow outside of the uterus. For example, a woman may have uterine tissue growing on her fallopian tubes or in her intestines. The excess endometrial tissue can really cause problems because it will continue to respond to hormones and can cause an imbalance that leads to many different symptoms.
Symptom of Endometriosis
The location of the endometrial tissue overgrowth will dictate the symptoms experienced. However, many women who have endometriosis experience abdominal pain, heavy and/or irregular periods, inflammation, pain with sex, and/or bloating. If the endometriosis has spread, they may also experience digestive issues and related symptoms.
There is a second level to the symptoms caused by the hormonal imbalances related to endometriosis. These imbalances can cause migraines, headaches, moodiness, irritability, and other symptoms that may seem unrelated.
It can take conventional doctors a while to test for endometriosis because many will dismiss it as PMS at first. This can be very frustrating. Endometriosis can be diagnosed using a pelvic scope, and sometimes it can be seen through ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. Once a definitive diagnosis is made, conventional doctors will generally recommend medication or surgery.
However, in the functional medicine world, diagnosing the condition is only the start of the process. There are many things that could have caused the endometriosis and so, we search for that cause in the hopes that reducing or eliminating it will positively impact the condition.
Causes of Endometriosis
There are a variety of underlying causes and more research is needed. One of the possible causes that Dr. Shiroko is that many women are exposed to toxins in our environment. This includes feminine hygiene products that contain chemicals, plastics, beauty products, cleaning products, and food. Additionally, women are also exposed to xenoestrogens which mimic estrogen and disrupt the natural production of estrogen and can cause an overload of estrogen.
Dr. Shiroko also points out that some women are genetically predisposed to endometriosis.
There is no one singular cause of endometriosis which means that each patient has to be treated as a unique case.
Understanding Endometriosis through the TCM Lens
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the menstrual cycle is regulated by the liver. Every organ in TCM has a different set of physical and emotional functions. So, the liver’s job is to regulate the menstrual cycle, store the blood and regulate smooth flow of energy in the body. It deals with the emotion of anger. If you have PMS, fibroids or endometriosis, it would fit within the perspective of liver imbalance.
Tests to Find the Root Cause of Endometriosis
The DUTCH test looks at the adrenal hormones (including eight kinds of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA). Alternatively, an organic acids test can also reveal the root cause. Dr. Shiroko also likes to use the NutrEval Plasma® test which looks at how your cells generate energy and your digestive system. It also tests for parasites or bacteria, yeast production, food absorption, amino acid levels, the chemicals your brain produces, vitamins, minerals, toxins, heavy metals, and your body’s ability to detoxify and manage oxidative stress.
Treatment for endometriosis, from a non-conventional perspective depends on finding the root cause of the condition. In following Chinese medicine, Dr. Shiroko would listen to the patient’s story, examine the abdomen, feel the pulses, and look at the tongue to determine where the imbalance is in the body. Then, she would use acupuncture and herbs to rebalance the area that is out of balance. She points out that emotional causes also need to be considered.
With a functional medicine approach, she would look for the cause through testing. It might be necessary to test hormone levels, look at chemical or heavy metal toxicity, measure exposure to pesticides and other toxins, and consider the nutritional status of cells. This would then lead to removing or reducing the cause of the imbalance. Often a detox is suggested as well as shifting away from toxins.
With Amanda, I ran a DUTCH test and saw there was estrogen dominance which meant she was not properly detoxifying or metabolizing her estrogen.
We started with her diet by replacing any meat or dairy produced with hormones with clean options. We also gave her personal care products a makeover to significantly reduce her xenoestrogens. Plastics were the next to go.
We added in methylated B vitamins in liquid form and used a combination of EPA, DHA and GLA to help balance her omegas. Amanda also started seeing an acupuncturist (who specializes in hormone balance) once a week.
After 2 months on the nutritional protocol and doing acupuncture, Amanda noticed her cycle was not as heavy and she didn’t have as much pain. Two months after that, the pelvic pressure reduced significantly. She went back to her gynecologist for an annual and the ultrasound showed that her fibroids have shrunk to about half the size they were the year before. Most importantly, Amanda’s cycle is much more manageable and she avoided having to take medication.
Eliminating Health Mysteries
For Amanda we were able to find the root cause of her health issue and help regain her health without having to go on birth control medication. Could you or someone in your life be missing the real cause of their health mystery?
Thanks to my guest Dr. Shiroko Sokitch. You can connect with her through her website https://hearttoheartmedicalcenter.com/. You may also want to check out her book, “Healing When It Seems Impossible: 7 Keys to Defy the Odds”.
We also discussed the EWG (Environmental Working Group) website as a great resource for living toxin-free. You can find it here https://www.ewg.org/
Related Podcast Episodes:
EPISODE #030 The Case of Horrible PMS w/ Dr. Anu Arasu
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