From a Traditional Chinese medicine perspective Painful periods, Adenomyosis and Endometriosis results from a slowdown and stagnation of blood flow to the pelvis, typically caused in Chinese medicine terms by cold. The stagnation can gradually becomes visible on laparoscopy as endometrial lesions. We can see the slowdown and stagnation of blood flow in the menstrual period; Blood that can be in appearance dark clotty, un-fresh.
From a more modern and integrative approach we understand that perspective painful periods which are termed membranous dysmenorrhea is caused by the dysfunction of the corpus luteum, causing a deficiency in the hormone progesterone and a relative excess in the hormone oestrogen. Progesterone and oestrogen should exist in a ratio of about 30:1, but when this ratio becomes skewed and a woman has a deficiency of progesterone and/or an excess of oestrogen, that woman is in a state of oestrogen dominance.
Oestrogen dominance worsens conditions such as Adenomyosis and Endometriosis, which are considered a complex condition of inflammation, autoimmune dysfunction, back flow and of course the relative excess of oestrogen.
When progesterone is insufficient the endometrium is poor, and cannot breakdown and dissolve as it normally would during a period. The lack of breakdown makes it difficult to peel of the uterine wall, thus increasing the contractions of the uterine muscles. As we age or after childbirth the uterine walls often become less toned so the pain decreases but the heaviness and clotting is still present.
There is no perfect period but it should be something like this; 3-5 days long with very little or no clots, bight red blood with a woman typically changing her menstrual pad 3-5 times per day. In TCM we believe that clotty or painful periods are a direct reflection of the pelvic blood slow. Poor pelvic blood flow may reduce or affect implantation, however as we know getting pregnant actually helps endometriosis suffers.
Symptoms of Oestrogen Dominance
- Painful periods, heavy bleeding or clotting
- Sore, tender breasts
- Swollen fingers and feet
- Irregular periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Breast cancer
- Fat gain particularly in the womanly areas such as lower abdomen, hips, butt and thighs.
- Hair loss
- Some forms of PCOS or PCO
- Early onset of first period
- Low thyroid function (hypothyroid)
- Decreased sex drive
- Cold hands & feet
Natural ways to decrease Oestrogen
- Eat cruciferous vegetables; broccoli is the star but eating plenty of green vegetables of the cruciferous family help the liver metabolise oestrogen. Other cruciferous vegetables include; Bok-Choy, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Daikon radish, Horseradish, Kale, Radish, Turnip and Watercress
- Eat high fibre foods to help oestrogen bind in the bowel and assist elimination. One source suggests that eating 1/2 cup of raw grated carrots can be enough fibre to assist in elimination
- Decrease alcohol consumption
- Assist the liver by drinking St Mary’s Thistle and Dandelion tea
- Avoid soy
- Eat a no sugar and no gluten diet; sugar and gluten are both highly inflammatory in susceptible people so should be avoided when possible
- Be mindful of too many vitamins, supplements, medications and even caffeine that all need to be processed by the liver, where possible space them out through the day