Fertility

How To Treat ED With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

man smoking
Smoking can contribute to ED in men.

Let’s face it: most men have probably had trouble getting hard on occasion, but if it’s happening 50% of the time, or more often, then it may be a sign of men ED, or erectile dysfunction. ED refers to the inability to get or maintain an erection, making it difficult to have sexual intercourse. Acupuncture and TCM offer a natural solution for low sex drive and reproductive health problems, without over the counter ED pills.

In the past few decades, this condition, which used to be referred to as “impotence,” has come to be perceived as a men’s health issue or a men’s fitness issue that can be treated medically, rather than a personal problem. While it’s great that men can get help from doctors for this condition without embarrassment or shame, ED medications may not solve the problem for everyone. Stress, hormones, nutrition, exercise, emotions, and relationship dynamics all play a role in ED. ED can have a serious impact on a man’s quality of life, as it affects self-esteem, romantic relationships, and fertility.

It is estimated that about 30 million men in the U.S. experience erectile dysfunction (ED). By age 60, over 40% of men will probably experience ED. While ED drugs and over the counter ED pills help some men with ED symptoms, many men cannot use these medications because they interfere with others that are commonly used to treat heart disease. Acupuncture and TCM provide an alternative treatment for ED that can help men with this issue. 

Top 10 Causes of ED

ED is a complex problem, which can involve both physical and mental components. A physical problem that causes a man to experience ED a few times may lead to emotional stress around sex and low sex drive, making the problem worse. Because the brain and hormones contribute so vitally to arousal and erection, sometimes depression, anxiety, or interpersonal feelings are the main cause of the issue. Some of the most common physical causes of ED include:

  1. Heart problems, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, high cholesterol
  2. Diabetes
  3. Obesity
  4. Use of certain prescription medications (antihypertensives, antidepressants)
  5. Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis
  6. Alcoholism or excessive consumption of alcohol
  7. Smoking cigarettes/tobacco
  8. Prostate problems like enlarged prostate or prostate cancer
  9. Lack of sleep, sleep disorders
  10. Low testosterone

Sometimes erectile dysfunction is the reason men discover that they have a heart condition or diabetes that they didn’t realize they had. When high cholesterol causes plaque to build up in the blood vessels, it’s not only the heart that is affected. Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) can also affect a man’s ability to get an erection by restricting blood flow to the penis. Inability to maintain an erection can be a sign that a man has hypertension.

What Is the Treatment for ED?

The most common medical treatment for men with ED are PDE-5 medications (like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra), which work to dilate the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. These ED drugs lower the blood pressure, which is why they cannot be used in conjunction with some other medications, including nitroglycerin or Imdur. If a man were to take both his ED pills and these medications, it could cause dangerously low blood pressure.

Some men experience side effects of taking these ED meds, including: headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, hot flushes, muscle pain, and diarrhea. In rare cases, men may have a painful erection that lasts longer than four hours (priapism), which can require medical treatment and/or cause permanent damage. If necessary, a doctor may numb the penis and use a needle to drain the blood that is trapped there, or use decongestant medications to help relieve the swelling. Other forms of therapy for ED include penile implants and penile injections. TCM acupuncture treatment for ED does not involve any needles inserted into the penis itself.

How Can Acupuncture Help ED?

man exercising in the sun
Acupuncture brings balance to the body, mind ,and emotions

According to TCM theory, ED is classified as a Jin Wei disorder and can follow one of a few patterns:

  1. Liver qi stagnation
  2. Blood stasis
  3. Kidney deficiency

TCM also acknowledges that stress, emotional and mental health disturbances are often a primary cause of ED, and seeks to incorporate counseling and awareness-building, both with the patient, and with the patient’s partner, if applicable. Sessions with a TCM provider usually involve plenty of discussion and feedback; patients feel heard and understood, which can go a long way towards relieving anxiety surrounding the ED or other sexual disorders.

TCM treatment for ED will include both acupuncture and herbs, which, combined, help to address the weakness or blockages that have developed around the liver and kidneys, strengthening the liver qi, relieving stagnation, and clearing dampness.

One study showed that, after a course of treatment including 3-5 acupuncture treatment sessions and daily herbal supplementation, almost half of the men reported satisfaction with the results. 

Another study found that about two-thirds of the men who received TCM treatment reported feeling that they were “cure,” while the other third reported improved erections, but still felt that they needed more help. The group who received placebo treatment did not report improvement.

 

Top 5 Tips for ED Men’s Fitness

man lifting weights
Building muscle can help boost testosterone levels.

The desire to overcome ED and get your sex life back on track can be a great motivation to clean up your diet and get rid of habits you know have been holding you back from peak men’s health. Your acupuncturist can help you plan the best diet for men to help regulate hormones, reduce cholesterol, improve circulation, boost heart health and energy.

  1. Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs. You may feel like these substances help you to relax and get in the mood, but on a deeper physiological level, they are compounding the problem. 
  2. Get more exercise. Ideally, balance cardio with some weight training. Losing fat and building muscle will help to balance the hormones and increase testosterone levels.
  3. Take care of your mental health and emotional well-being. Foster open and honest communication about ED with your partner. Acquaint yourself with men’s and women’s health issues, so that you can care for each other with empathy.
  4. Reduce stress. Prioritize a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Making time for yourself through regular exercise, meditation, and healing modalities like acupuncture can help improve your performance in all other areas of your life
  5. Get adequate sleep. When the body doesn’t get the deep rest it needs, it can lose all kinds of functionality. 

Acupuncture Near Me for ED

ED is a sensitive men’s health issue. Knowing that it’s a common problem that affects lots of other men may help a little, but if ED is becoming a sexual problem that is negatively affecting your life and relationships, it’s worth it to seek out help for erectile dysfunction. If conventional medical treatment for ED isn’t working or isn’t an option, or if you want to take a more holistic approach that will help also boost your fertility and longevity, consider acupuncture treatment for ED. 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 

 

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How to Treat Leiomyoma of the Uterus With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

woman in pain
Painful, heavy periods are debilitating.

Heavy bleeding, menstrual cramps, long periods? This could be a sign that a woman has leiomyoma of the uterus. Also known as uterine fibroids, leiomyomas are growths or benign tumors in or on the wall of the uterus. TCM and Acupuncture provide a natural alternative treatment that can help relieve uterine fibroid symptoms.

A leiomyoma, in general, is a growth in smooth muscle tissue. Leiomyomas can develop in any muscle tissue in the body, including that of the intestines, esophagus, and under the skin, but the most common type of leiomyoma occurs in the uterus.

Many women have uterine fibroids and aren’t aware of them. It is estimated that 60-80% of women will have leiomyomas of the uterus at some point during their reproductive years (“childbearing age” – anytime from menarche to menopause). Only about 30% of women report symptoms of fibroids to their doctor, though, because many women do not notice any signs of leiomyoma of the uterus. It is probably rare for someone to have a single fibroid tumor; usually, there are multiple tumors. Fibroids can be hereditary; if your mother had them, you may be more likely to have them, too. 

Fibroid tumors can grow inside the uterus, or on the outside of the uterine walls. Sometimes they stay small, and in many cases they don’t cause problems. In some cases, though, they can grow large and press against other internal organs. Fibroids of any size can cause symptoms like painful or irregular periods, abdominal bloatingback pain, and bladder problems.

The primary sign that a woman has uterine fibroids is heavy bleeding during menstruation. In many cases, doctors will say that there is no need for medical intervention. Sometimes hormone suppressing medications are used to try to slow the growth of the tumors and reduce the period-related symptoms. In about 20% of cases, people opt for surgery to remove fibroids. Often the fibroids stop growing and may even shrink after menopause. It is extremely rare for leiomyomas of the uterus to become cancerous. However, uterine fibroids can cause women so much pain that it becomes disabling.

Fortunately, there is natural treatment for fibroids with TCM. Acupuncture and herbs are excellent modalities for helping all kinds of womens’ health issues related to the female reproductive organs. TCM doctors have been observing and treating growths in the pelvic area for many centuries. Acupuncture and herbs can help women with leiomyomas of the uterus, as well as related issues such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts.

Top 10 Signs of Fibroids

woman in bathroom
Fibroids can cause elimination problems as well as heavy bleeding and cramps.

In many–if not most–cases, women do not realize they have fibroids, either because they have no symptoms, or they don’t notice the signs as being something out of the ordinary. Some women will feel these symptoms of leiomyoma of the uterus:

  1. Heavy menstrual bleeding, heavy periods
  2. Longer periods
  3. Irregular menstruation, irregular periods, spotting
  4. Feeling pressure in the pelvic area, fullness in the belly
  5. Frequent urination (have to pee all the time)
  6. Urinary retention (having trouble peeing)
  7. Low back pain
  8. Constipation
  9. Enlarged abdomen, belly bloated
  10. Pain during sex

The sort of heavy bleeding caused by fibroids can lead to anemia. Some fibroids can grow as large as a grapefruit, which clearly is going to cause distension in the abdominal area and put pressure on the other pelvic organs and blood vessels, potentially causing a lot of dysfunction and discomfort. But the size of a fibroid is not necessarily an indicator of whether it will cause painful periods or heavy bleeding. Even small leiomyoma of the uterus can cause pain and excessive bleeding. Emotional imbalance can also be a symptom of uterine fibroids. Leiomyomas of the uterus can cause difficulties during pregnancy, and in some cases, have a negative impact on fertility.

What Is the Treatment for Fibroids?

Sometimes a doctor may discover larger leiomyomas while doing a routine pelvic exam. When women seek medical treatment for fibroids, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound, CT, sonography, MRI, or x-rays) will be used to try to determine the location and size of the growths. 

Current medical science does not provide a clear explanation for what causes leiomyomas to grow in the uterus; it is only understood that estrogens seem to contribute to their growth, so the first line of treatment usually focuses on trying to alter the levels of female hormones in an effort to slow the development of the fibroid tumors.

Hormone medications, oral contraceptives, and even hormone-releasing IUDs are often prescribed to help control the heavy periods (cause spotting or no periods). These drugs do not do anything to change the fibroids themselves, though, and obviously, they are not suitable solutions for women who have plans to become pregnant. 

For women whose bleeding is so excessive that it becomes disabling, Lupron may be recommended. Lupron acts upon the pituitary gland to turn off estrogen production, which can essentially start early menopause. Many women experience menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and headaches while taking Lupron. It is usually prescribed for women who are planning on undergoing surgery, as it can temporarily reduce the size of the leiomyomas to make them easier to remove. It is not viable as a long-term treatment on its own, though; as soon as a woman stops taking the medication, the fibroids will grow back.

There are relatively non-invasive surgery techniques that are able to remove fibroids while preserving the uterus; this is called myomectomy, which can be performed via incision or laparoscopically. Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) is a newer procedure that blocks blood flow to the leiomyomas by injecting particles into the arteries connected to them. Some women opt to have a hysterectomy, a major surgery to remove the entire uterus, to get rid of fibroids for good.

Unfortunately, many women think that painful periods and heavy bleeding during periods is normal. Heavy periods may be common, but they are not “normal” or necessary. Women do not have to suffer with terrible cramps and lose a lot of blood every month. TCM herbs and acupuncture offer a natural way to get relief from painful periods and reduce fibroids.

How Can Acupuncture Help Fibroids?

woman cold drink
Icy cold drinks and foods can cool the uterus and lead to female health problems.

In TCM, we have a category of disorders that we classify as “Zheng Jia,” which mean “masses.” This umbrella concept covers all the womens’ health issues that stem from growths or tumors that affect the female reproductive system, including uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts/PCOS, endometriosis, and reproductive cancers. 

According to TCM theory, Zheng Jia disorders arise from internal factors such as blood stasis,/phlegm (spleen deficiency), liver stagnation (fire), and cold uterus.

Top 3 Factors Causing Fibroids According to TCM:

  1. Blood stasis/Liver Stagnation – Qi (life force energy) helps blood to flow. If Qi is blocked, blood flow gets stuck. Good Qi flow relies strongly on the liver and the emotions related to it. People who tend to have negative PMS symptoms like irritability, breast tenderness, and cramping probably have compromised liver Qi due to long-term stress. Liver Qi stagnation leads to blood stasis, which contributes to the formation of the fibroid tumors. Presenting symptoms: irritability, breast tenderness, distended abdomen, strong emotions, heavy flow during period, bright  or deep red color, possibly with clots, and some cramping. Bright red or deep red blood is an indication of liver fire.
  2. Cold uterus – Habits like always drinking cold beverages (especially during periods) and underdressing in cold environments can cause restricted flow of blood, which, over time, causes circulation issues and gradual development of tumors. Symptoms include: menstrual blood is darker red, cramping which improves with the application of heat (heating pad or hot water bottle) or after passing clots, feeling of being cold all the time, needing extra layers of clothing and blankets (yang deficiency). 
  3. Phlegm/Spleen/Stomach Deficiency – This type of deficiency causes improper digestion of food, creating dampness and phlegm that builds up in the system and affects the blood flow, stagnation that causes the tumors to grow. Symptoms: indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, tendency to gain weight, lighter colored, watery period flow, maybe with some mucus.

When a TCM practitioner works with a patient with fibroids, she will not only choose acupoints and herbs to help shrink the growths themselves, but will also address the underlying factors that have led to the growth of the leiomyomas in the first place. With the right guidance and lifestyle modifications, the deeper stagnation can be resolved, which will help to reduce existing fibroids and prevent more from forming.

One study of Chinese Medicine herbs used to treat uterine fibroids in over 200 women showed a 72% reduction in bleeding, as well as over half of the patients reporting a reduction in back pain and abdominal pain. For over half of the patients in this study, imaging showed a reduction in size or even disappearance of the leiomyomas of the uterus.

Another study compared women receiving acupuncture and herbs versus patients treated with a combination of mifepristone, a steroid medication, and Chinese herbs. All of the women saw some benefits, but the ones who had acupuncture treatment saw an overall greater reduction in the volume of their fibroids.

One of the primary benefits of receiving regular acupuncture treatment is the prevention of blockages along the meridians and in the blood circulation. We believe that women who practice health maintenance with acupuncture are less likely to develop growths in the pelvis and to have better reproductive health and more comfortable periods overall. Acupuncture and herbs can help to manage the pain and bleeding caused by fibroids, offering an effective alternative to hormone medications or surgery.

Top 3 Tips for Fibroid Self-Care

woman meditation
Stress reduction is key to solving many health problems.

Lifestyle and behaviors contribute to the formation of pelvic tumors. Knowing which habits may cause female health problems can help relieve painful periods.

  1. Manage stress – constant stress and anxiety have a profound effect on liver health, which in turn impacts the reproductive organs. Regular exercise, meditation practice, and prioritizing rest and sleep are keys to stress reduction. Don’t take on more projects and responsibilities than you feel you can handle. Ask for help when you are feeling overworked.
  2. Modify diet – avoid mucus-producing foods, especially deep-fried foods, dairy products, and red meat, which are harder for the body to process thoroughly. Undigested foods like this create mucus and stagnation. During the period, the pelvic area is vulnerable, and anything inappropriate can cause extra problems. Choose warm foods, ensure you do not have any indigestion. If you do, address it with acupuncture and herbal supplements. 
  3. Stay away from cold especially during the period, a miscarriage, or post-partum. Anytime there is bleeding from the uterus, the uterus is open, and it is crucial to keep everything warm to allow proper blood flow.

Acupuncture Near Me for Uterine Fibroids

TCM has been used to treat all types of gynecological conditions since at least 1000 B.C. At Art of Wellness, we bring unique expertise to this area of women’s health care, combining over 30 years of experience in both traditional methods of treatment and partnering with the top womens’ medicine and fertility specialists in the Los Angeles area. Find relief from the pain of fibroids through integrative care for leiomyoma with acupuncture.

 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Painful Periods With TCM and Acupuncture

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D., & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

woman in pain
Severely painful periods could be a sign of endometriosis.

Our patients often ask us these questions: Why do I have heavy periods with severe, painful menstrual cramps that seem to be getting worse and worse? Why do I have spotting in between my menstrual periods? My ovaries hurt, I feel abdominal pain after sex; it even hurts to go to the bathroom. Excruciating period cramps, or period back pain during any part of the menstrual cycle, may mean a woman has endometriosis. Endometriosis is when menstrual tissue grows in places it shouldn’t. Acupuncture and TCM can help provide menstrual cramp relief, restore normal periods, and boost fertility.

Endometriosis is a fairly common condition, affecting about one in ten women during their reproductive years (age 15-49). If it goes untreated, endometriosis not only causes serious pelvic pain in women (pain lower abdomen), but can create a lot of scar tissue on the abdominal organs, negatively impacting fertility, and sometimes even continuing to cause problems after a woman has gone through menopause and no longer has a menstrual cycle. 

What is Endometriosis? The thick, bloody lining of the uterus that develops every month–with the ultimate purpose of possibly nourishing a fetus, should a woman become pregnant– normally breaks down and flows out during the menstrual period. When a woman has endometriosis, this same tissue develops in places other than the inside of the uterus: on the ovaries or fallopian tubes, on the outside of the uterus, or even on the intestines or bladder. The overproduction of hormones created by this excess tissue is partly what causes painful periods, as well as internal bleeding.

Current conventional Western medicine generally treats endometriosis using pain medicine and oral birth control pills or Nupron, a drug that suppresses estrogen production, to control bleeding. Nupron prevents the period from coming, so it controls most of the menstrual pain of endometriosis and prevents the further growth of menstrual tissue. However, when a woman stops taking these hormone suppressant medications, the condition will most likely come back. Surgery can remove patches, nodules, and cysts, but endometriosis can still come back easily when the root cause has not been addressed. TCM gives us a way to treat and prevent endometriosis at its source, at the same time as providing natural pain relief.

Top 10 Signs and Symptoms of Endometriosis

The symptoms of endometriosis can be serious and debilitating, especially when a woman has her menstrual period. However, the pelvic pain and excessive bleeding associated with endometriosis can occur at any time during the month. 

  1. Severely painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhoea)
  2. Heavy bleeding during period; period lasts a long time
  3. Spotting in between periods
  4. Pain during ovulation (mittelschmerz); pain in lower right abdomen, pain in lower right side, pain in lower left abdomen, pain in lower left side
  5. Pain during or after sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
  6. Pain when urinating or defecating, perineum pain
  7. Chronic pelvic pain
  8. Chronic low back pain
  9. Fatigue
  10. Infertility
woman crouching in pain
Endometriosis can cause terrible pain, infertility, and depression.

The severity of pain does not necessarily correspond to the size or spread of the endometrial tissue. Small nodules can cause severe pain, while massive adhesions or large cysts can cause minimal pain. Pain can occur any time, not only during menstruation. 

Endometriosis can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life. Not only is the constant, serious pain exhausting, but painful sex, low libido, and anxiety about fertility can put a strain on relationships. A woman with endometriosis may also experience depression. The severe pain caused by endometriosis should not be ignored, as the condition can cause lasting damage, not only to the reproductive organs, but potentially also to the digestive organs and other abdominal tissues.

Endometrial patches or lesions may respond to the stimuli of the female hormones produced by the ovaries, causing them to become inflamed and/or shed bloody tissue during the menstrual period. During the period, the uterus bleeds, and the other patches of tissue bleed, too. They can also begin to produce their own hormone secretions, causing them to bleed at irregular times. This tissue can cause organs in the pelvis to “stick” to each other and create scar tissue or nodules on the organs over time. 

Endometrial patches can grow nerve tissue, as well, which produces the intense sensations of pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, and cramps. Women with endometriosis often have cysts on the ovaries, because the endometrial tissue outside of the uterus responds to hormones. The body absorbs water from these cysts, and the bloody tissue turns into a thick, syrupy, brown liquid; this is why they are sometimes referred to as “chocolate cysts.”

When a woman has endometriosis, she almost always shows compromised hormone issues, in addition to menstrual pain. The cycle is off, usually showing luteal phase deficiency– when the luteal phase is 12-14 days instead of the typical 14 days from ovulation to the start of the period. This is due to ovarian cysts affecting the function of the ovaries.

Patches or nodules can also form in other parts of the body, in rare cases, causing nosebleeds or chest pain because tissue has migrated outside the pelvic area.

What Causes Endometriosis?

The causes of endometriosis are not currently understood by medical science. Women whose mothers or other female relatives have had endometriosis do seem to have a higher risk for having it themselves, so it is possible that there is some genetic marker that causes some cells outside the uterus to develop into endometrial cells. The most likely theory is that a backflow of some menstrual blood travels into the fallopian tubes and from there migrates into other areas of the pelvis, and in some cases, even other parts of the body. 

birth control pills
Birth control pills may help control bleeding, but they aren’t a cure for endometriosis.

Many women have a hard time finding a proper diagnosis for their endometrial pain. Menstrual pain has been normalized to such an extent that it is often ignored, or just accepted, by both doctors and patients. Usually many other possible causes of the pain have to be ruled out before a woman is offered diagnostic testing especially for endometriosis. The usual type of pelvic exam is generally not helpful for spotting endometriosis. Ultrasound may detect large lesions, but imaging is not clear enough to see all endometrial growth. Getting a confirmed diagnosis involves a somewhat invasive laparoscopic procedure to detect cysts, lesions, or scar tissue. This is unfortunate, because early detection is the best way to prevent endometriosis from spreading and getting worse.

Conventional treatment for endometriosis focuses mainly on pain management with analgesic medications, and using hormones (birth control) to prevent further growth. Clearly, this is not helpful for women who want to get pregnant. When a woman is concerned with her fertility, and wants to conceive, then laparoscopic surgery to remove growths may be indicated. 

How Does Acupuncture Treat Endometriosis?

According to TCM theory, endometriosis is considered a form of blood and Qi stagnation. We might classify this type of problem as Zheng Jia, in which blood stasis causes clotting or the formation of masses. PCOS, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, and reproductive cancers would also fit in this category. Other patterns can also cause dysmenorrhea (painful periods) and contribute to endometriosis.

Problems with the female reproductive system can present in a variety of ways:

  • Qi stagnation with blood stagnation
  • Yang deficiency with blood stagnation
  • Qi sinking with blood stagnation

The reason for stagnation can be a blockage of liver Qi, often associated with feelings of anxiety. This is why stress management is so important. Blockages can also be caused by being in a cold environment, not dressing warmly enough, or drinking or eating cold things during the menstrual period. During the period, the organs need to be open; allowing the pelvic area to become too cold can restrict the flow, create stagnation, and contribute to the development of cysts, endometriosis, and/or fibroids.

moxibustion
Moxibustion cultivates heat energy

Carefully considering the overall presentation of symptoms, an acupuncture practitioner will seek to determine the root cause of the Qi and blood stasis and develop a treatment protocol aimed at clearing stasis, increasing circulation, nourishing the uterus and ovaries, and regulating dysfunctional energies in other organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and spleen. Moxibustion may also be used to help bring heat energy to areas where stasis is caused by cold.

Acupuncture treatment in conjunction with individually formulated Chinese herb supplements and other modalities such as cupping is used to help move Qi and blood. Herbs help to bring in nutrients that people would not otherwise get in their diet; nourishing the ovary follicles, in particular, is vital for helping women with endometriosis overcome infertility problems.

A clinical trial at a hospital in China compared two groups of women with endometriosis: one group was given the synthetic steroid mifepristone, intended to reduce progesterone action. The other group was treated with acupuncture and herbs. The patients were checked via ultrasound to detect progress. The efficacy rate for reduction of endometrial growth was the same in both groups, suggesting that TCM methods were just as effective as steroids for improving the symptoms of endometriosis and halting its spread.

A systematic review of ten trials concluded that acupuncture treatment was effective for reducing endometriosis pain. 

Both of the studies cited here also noted, via blood tests, a reduction in CA-125 levels in the women receiving acupuncture. Elevated CA-125 is a marker not only for more advanced stages of endometriosis and increased pelvic pain, but also for various types of female reproductive cancers. 

Keep in mind that the effects of acupuncture treatment are cumulative; more benefits will be felt with regular treatment. There is no cure for endometriosis, but acupuncture and TCM can help significantly reduce pain,  prevent the further development of endometrial tissue and scarring, and help improve fertility for women who want to start a family. 

TCM not only treats symptoms and pain, but helps relieve stress, and increases the flow of Qi and blood, helping to manage all aspects of female reproductive health.

During childbearing age, the best way to help get rid of or manage endometriosis is to carry a pregnancy to term, because during pregnancy there is no period. When the ovaries and menstrual cycle get ten or so full months of resting time, there is a good potential for cysts, nodules, and lesions to go away. Good care will rid the body of the stagnation. Acupuncture and TCM allow us to treat endometriosis and infertility simultaneously, if pregnancy is a woman’s goal.

Top 5 Tips for Natural Relief of Endometriosis

acupressure point for menstrual cramps
Apply gentle pressure to help relieve painful cramps.

In addition to acupuncture and TCM treatment, here are some natural remedies for endometriosis pain that you can try at home:

  1. Apply heat – warming energy can help relieve the painful symptoms of endometriosis. An electric heating pad, hot water bottle, or sock filled with rice and heated in the microwave, then applied to the abdomen or lower back can help relieve cramps.
  2. Drink plenty of water – dehydration intensifies cramping, so be sure to sip clean water throughout the day. Warm water particularly can help to thin the blood and keep it flowing smoothly.
  3. Plan ahead to give yourself extra down time – tracking your cycle and symptoms is important. When you know ahead of time that you are likely to be experiencing pain, plan to give yourself time off to rest. Taking extra pain medications or pushing through pain will only cause more exhaustion and anxiety.
  4. Period care – we recommend you use pads or period underwear more often than tampons during the menstrual period; use tampons only when the situation requires it (swimming, etc.). Also, do not engage in sexual intercourse during the heavy flow days of the period. Avoid anything that could block or reverse the flow of menstruation.
  5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol – some studies have shown that women who consume more of these substances are at higher risk for endometriosis (and many inflammatory conditions). While this doesn’t mean there is a direct link, it is still better to keep your intake of coffee and wine to a minimum. Avoid toxins in your food – food additives, pesticides, and chemicals in meat can trigger endometriosis symptoms. Focus on eating whole, natural foods and getting plenty of healthy Omega-3 fats from nuts, avocados, and high-quality fish or plant oils.

There is also a good acupressure point to use when you are having painful cramping during menstruation. 

Acupuncture Near Me for Endometriosis

At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience in managing women’s health issues. Our education and early practice gave us the opportunity to work with leaders in cutting-edge integrative medicine for women. Since 1997, we have worked with the top infertility ART providers in Los Angeles to give women the best in reproductive health care and fertility treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with the pain of endometriosis or infertility, do not hesitate to call us and get started with an initial consultation.

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

abdominal pain PCOS
PCOS causes irregular and painful periods.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition that affects 10-20% of women during their reproductive years. PCOS is also one of the most prevalent causes of infertility among women. The primary problems of PCOS are hormonal imbalances and dysfunction of the ovaries. Women with PCOS have irregular or missing periods, anovulatory menstrual cycles, and elevated androgen and/or testosterone levels. 

Medical interventions for PCOS often involve using birth control pills to stimulate regular menses, but this treatment does not address the issue at its source. Additionally, many women struggling with PCOS are actively trying to get pregnant, so contraceptive medications are not useful in these cases. TCM and acupuncture are able to help resolve many women’s health problems, including PCOS and the resulting infertility, restoring normal function to the female reproductive system without the side effects that medications can cause.

What Is PCOS?

PCOS is a syndrome, which means it is a collection of symptoms that occur together and help to define a disease even though its medical causes are not completely understood yet.

Most women with PCOS ovulate infrequently or not at all. Women with PCOS also might experience:

  • Irregular Periods
  • Heavy and/or painful periods,
  • Insulin resistance
  • Obesity
  • Excess hair on body and face (hirsutism)
  • Thinning hair on head
  • Acne, oily skin
  • Abdominal bloating

PCOS is considered a disorder of both the reproductive and endocrine systems. The majority of women with PCOS also exhibit hyperandrogenemia – an excess amount of androgen hormones. In many cases, this condition starts early, when a girl is going through puberty. The problems begin to manifest shortly after a girl gets her first period (menarche).

Androgens are commonly referred to as the “male” sex hormones, although they naturally occur in both men and women, just in differing amounts. The primary androgens are testosterone and androstenedione. In women, androgens are produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands, whereas in men they are produced in the testes, usually in larger quantities. Hyperandrogenemia can be helped by weight loss, because adipose tissue (fat) itself is hormonally active, meaning the fat cells themselves also produce excess androgens.

Insulin resistance is also widespread among women with PCOS; about 85% of women with PCOS are insulin resistant, causing them to be at risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Sometimes women are prescribed Metformin to lower insulin and blood sugar levels.

PCOS Diagnosis

PCOS often goes undiagnosed for years. In many cases, women do not find out they have it until they are trying to get pregnant and then seek help for infertility. For most women, PCOS causes irregular periods. In these cases, women may go months without having a period, and then have a very heavy, painful period. Often, PCOS begins when girls are teens, and this condition causes them to struggle with being overweight, prone to getting pimples, and having extreme period pain (dysmenorrhea) and heavy periods that can cause embarrassing accidents. Girls may not realize that their experience is not normal, and may not talk to anyone about it. When they do seek help, they are usually prescribed birth control pills. 

Birth control pills “regulate” the menstrual hormone cycle, causing a period to predictably start every 28 days. This use of contraceptives to “correct” menstrual problems and help clear acne during the teenage years leads to the masking of PCOS for many years–often until a woman is well into adulthood and ready to conceive. Then, when the birth control is stopped, the PCOS symptoms appear, which generally means that regular periods stop.

At this point, a firm diagnosis of PCOS is often reached after an internal ultrasound reveals the phenomenon which gives the syndrome its name: multiple small cysts forming around the edges of the ovaries. These fluid-filled bubbles, only a few millimeters in diameter, are partially formed eggs that have not been released. These cysts do not in and of themselves cause problems. Blood tests are done to find the high levels of androgens (testosterone) and also to measure the hormones involved in egg production and release. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation. The ratio of LH to FSH (follicle stimulation hormone) is higher in women with PCOS.

Conventional medicine provides the means to pinpoint the manifestations of PCOS in the body, hormonally and physically, but it does not offer much in the way of causal understanding or effective treatment. 

TCM Perspective of PCOS

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the concepts of Qi, life force energy that travels through the body along meridians, and the balanced energies of Yin and Yang. Elemental pathogenic factors such as Wind/Cold, Dampness, Fire/Heat and Dryness come into play.  Disease is created by either external or internal factors and can be discovered through diagnostic techniques of observation, inquiry, and palpation. 

In a sense, TCM looks at all diseases as “syndromes.” In TCM, we do not look for one single cause of the symptom for which the patient is seeking relief. We look for other signs and symptoms that the patient may not have realized were related. We study the whole collection of indications and look for a pattern. An illness can be the result of any one of several different patterns.

When working with a patient who is experiencing reproductive and hormonal problems, a TCM provider will take into consideration the lab results of blood tests showing hormone levels, but will also be looking for clues as to what is happening throughout the organ systems of the body. In TCM,  PCOS is categorized as a “Zheng Jia” diagnosis. Zheng Jia means “masses” (tumors), and includes uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and even reproductive cancers.

Internal factors are at the root of PCOS and other Zheng Jia disorders. Most clinical manifestations of PCOS arise from patterns of too much Dampness and Phlegm in the reproductive organs, which is what causes the fluid-filled cysts to form. This excess dampness is also what causes weight gain. Kidney deficiency contributes to the imbalances in hormone production. Blood deficiency causes absent or scanty periods, while blood stasis leads to painful periods.

Acupuncture and TCM for PCOS and Hormonal Imbalance in Women

Standard medical treatment for PCOS and infertility in women involves using medications to alter hormone levels: either OCP to regulate periods, Metformin to lower insulin, or Clomid or Letrozole to stimulate ovulation.

Acupuncture and TCM treatment for PCOS focuses on clearing excess dampness and phlegm from the uterus and other female reproductive organs, tonifying and nourishing the kidneys, invigorating the blood and clearing blood stasis. Electro-acupuncture has been shown to help facilitate natural ovulation.

A TCM provider will also focus on lifestyle and nutrition changes that will help alter the internal factors involved. Tracking basal body temperature can help both doctor and patient understand what is going on during the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle in each individual. Specially chosen combinations of herbs can be very helpful for making the subtle adjustments needed to normalize the hormones, increasing blood flow, and even balancing the emotions. 

PCOS and Endometriosis

Endometriosis is another common women’s health problem in which uterine lining tissue begins growing outside of the uterus. It is estimated that about 10% of reproductive-age women have endometriosis, although we cannot be sure because, like PCOS, endometriosis is also often undiagnosed. It is not uncommon for women to have both conditions. When women with endometriosis have a menstrual period, there can also be bleeding in other parts of the abdomen. This can cause severe pain and create a lot of scar tissue in the pelvic region. Sometimes surgery is recommended to remove this scar tissue. This can help alleviate pain and increase the chances of conception, but it does not address the root problem, so the bleeding often recurs. Like PCOS, endometriosis can be a cause of infertility, making the use of birth control pills to control the hormones far from ideal. 

According to TCM, endometriosis and PCOS are both Zheng Jia disorders; they are part and parcel of the same root problem. An acupuncturist can help correct both of these disorders, and the related infertility, all at the same time.

Integrative Medicine for PCOS and Infertility in Women

TCM has been using acupuncture and herbs to help women’s reproductive disorders and increase fertility for many centuries. In the past few decades, it has become increasingly common for patients to seek out acupuncture to help address infertility due to PCOS, both on its own and as an adjunct to Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). Studies have shown that acupuncture and herbal supplementation used in concert with infertility procedures such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) improve outcomes. Acupuncture treatment also helps to reduce the pain and anxiety many women experience while undergoing ART procedures.

Top 5 Self-Care Tips for PCOS

icy drink and cold foods
icy cold drinks and foods are not beneficial

One of the main internal factors causing the excess dampness and stasis of PCOS is too much cold in the body. Maintaining your warm energy is key. Habits like drinking ice cold beverages and eating ice cream, especially around the menstrual period, can really have a negative impact. It may seem old-fashioned, but a lot of the advice we associate with our grandmothers’ time still applies today. 

  1. Dress appropriately for potentially chilly weather. Always bring your jacket with you.
  2. Avoid exercising to the point of sweating and then allowing yourself to get chilled. Change into dry clothes right after your workout.
  3. Keep the abdomen covered and warm. 
  4. Don’t wear sandals or go barefoot when it is cold outside.
  5. Don’t go to bed with wet hair. 

Acupuncture Near Me for PCOS

At Art of Wellness, our doctors have over 30 years of experience in the successful management of women’s health issues, including PCOS and infertility. In China, Dr. Cai practiced and taught at Chengdu University’s TCM Hospital as a gynecologist. During a two-year period of specialty training, she had the opportunity to study and work with some of China’s foremost experts, pioneers in integrative medicine for reproductive health.

Since 1997, Drs. Cai and Tan have brought their unique experience to Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Their knowledge of both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine allows them to recommend, when necessary, a mixture of medical modalities and to advise whatever course of treatment is most beneficial for each patient.

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Infertility in Women with Acupuncture and TCM

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by Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Heart Hands on Belly
TCM for Infertility

About one in ten women who are ready to conceive find that they have trouble doing so naturally. Infertility in women is thus a very common condition, one that has a profound impact on women and their partners. Acupuncture and TCM is proven to be extremely beneficial to women who are trying to get pregnant, both as primary and complementary care. 

Dr. Cai at Art of Wellness has thirty years of experience, both in China and in the U.S., as a specialist in women’s healthcare and infertility in women. She has studied and worked with some of the most influential doctors in the field in both countries, and has helped hundreds of women achieve healthy pregnancies.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  is a system of health care that goes back thousands of years. Women’s health care has been a key part of this system all of that time. Conditions such as irregular or painful menstrual periods, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and infertility have all been recognized, studied and effectively addressed by TCM for many centuries. Women who are having difficulty solving these problems with their medical doctor may find not only relief from pain, but a true solution that addresses their whole being–body, mind, and spirit.

Diagnosis of Infertility in Women in 8 Exact Steps

Any time a woman of childbearing age has a partner with healthy sperm, and they’ve been trying for two years without conceiving, we define this as infertility. But age makes a difference. If the woman is over 35, and it has been one year, we will diagnose infertility.

There can be many factors or causes involved in the infertility diagnosis, some chemical, some mechanical: 

Fertilization
Fertilization
  1. Hormonal imbalances can cause irregular cycles, which means shorter or longer than the usual number of days (28-30), sometimes with no sign of ovulation, sometimes with high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). 
  2. Fallopian tubes may not be open due to scarring or previous PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). 
  3. Endometriosis or an STD (sexually transmitted disease) can also cause blockage. 
  4. Sometimes the uterus can be congenitally misshapen, or inside there may be fibroids, polyps, lining issues, twisting, chronic inflammation, etc. 
  5. Occasionally, antibodies can get into the cervix and block the sperm.
  6. In rare cases, the uterus may be tilted to the front or back, positioning the cervix so that it is either very high or very low or over to the side, making it difficult to receive sperm. These patients must rely on IUI (intrauterine insemination) to get the sperm where they need to go.
  7. Autoimmune issues can cause a woman’s immune system to produce antibodies that reject the sperm. 
  8. Blood incompatibility between the parents–for example, if the woman is RH (Rhesus factor) negative with a RH positive man–can happen sometimes after a first pregnancy or miscarriage. This is more common in older women.

Top 5 Different Causes of Infertility in Women

Infertility can feel isolating
Infertility can feel isolating

According to TCM, there are several differentiations of an infertility diagnosis. TCM practitioners differentiate between various causes and treatment plans for dysmenorrhea based on when the pain occurs (before the onset/during the period), the quality and location of the pain, associated symptoms like bloating, the appearance and volume of flow and accompanying emotions and sensations such as dizziness or fatigue. Some types are due to an excess, either of cold, or of stagnation of qi or blood. Others are due to a deficiency of qi or blood.  

  1. Kidney Deficiency – If a woman’s menarche occurred later than usual (typical is age 12-14), that might indicate some weakness of the reproductive system. To perform its normal functions, the uterus needs a rich and plentiful blood supply. Constriction of the capillaries that supply blood to the uterus occurs when there is too much cold in this area. Certain lifestyle behaviors can cause diminishment of ovarian health, sometimes leading to premature ovarian failure. Naturally over the age of 35, many women can begin to show signs of kidney deficiency.
  2. Blood deficiency – Poor digestion or a diet with insufficient nutrition can create a situation in which blood is not providing enough nourishment to support the ovaries and uterus.
  3. Liver qi stagnationLong periods of emotional stress and irritability can cause qi/blood flow to become stagnated, interrupting the flow of energy through the system.This can cause irregular periods or a lack of ovulation. Blockage in the flow of qi restricts the supply of necessary energy to developing eggs, fertilized egg or embryo.
  4. Dampness – Insufficient nutrition from diet, poor digestion, and/or being overweight can cause dampness and water retention to accumulate in the reproductive system. This condition can lead to pelvic inflammation, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), painful periods and blockage of qi.
  5. Blood stasis – Can be caused by physical trauma to the uterus due to surgery or injury. It can also stem from a Cold uterus condition (too much cold exposure or icy-cold drinks/raw food during periods). Lack of proper blood circulation relates to painful conditions such as the formation of clots, ovarian cysts, tumors or fibroids that create a physical blockage. Blood stasis can also lead to thin lining or even absence of periods.

Both kidney and blood deficiency can cause irregular periods, anovulation, short cycles, light flow, poor uterine lining, and the type of pain during periods that is helped by massage or heat.

Blood stasis and dampness can cause endometriosis, severe menstrual pain (not helped by heat or massage), ovarian cysts, strong hormone suppression, and lack of ovulation.

Top 5 Infertility Treatments with TCM

moxibustion
moxibustion

TCM treatments for the different kinds of infertility in women include: 

  1. Acupuncture: In TCM, the objective is always to use the stimulation of specific points to clear blockages in the systems in order to keep qi and blood moving fluidly, clearing the way for harmonious cooperation between the organs involved in the system. Weak areas are tonified, or strengthened, while areas bloated with excess are relieved of pressure. 
  2. Cupping: This is a method of acupressure that uses glass cups to create a vacuum effect in specific points. It is used to dispel stagnation and excess heat and stimulate circulation of blood and qi.
  3. Moxibustion: burning a stick made of mugwort near a specific acupuncture point is something patients can do at home to help a cold uterus condition.
  4. Herbal supplements: Herbs can really help to support the woman’s cycle and even re-activate ovaries until average menopause at age 45-55.
  5. Nutrition and Lifestyle Guidance: An acupuncturist will recommend an appropriate diet for nourishing the whole body as well as correcting any Yin/Yang imbalances. In addition, certain behaviors related to bathing, exercise and even clothing choices may be affecting a cold uterus condition and need attention and adjustment.

TCM Doctors Offer Solutions for Infertility in Women

Welcoming a new baby
Helping women have healthy babies

Advances in technology in recent years have been a boon to couples who are struggling, especially for women who have physical barriers to achieving conception and carrying a pregnancy, such as blocked tubes. IVF (in vitro fertilization) allows us to move past these roadblocks with surgery.

However, a woman still needs good hormone levels for better outcomes for conception, pregnancy and birth. For those with elevated FSH or low AMH (anti-müllerian hormone) who require IVF, adjunctive acupuncture and TCM will help to address these problems and increase the chances of success. One German study showed that success with IVF cycle was 15% higher than without acupuncture.

Each woman’s situation is unique and personal to her. Scientific study and medical research are only in recent decades beginning to acknowledge the connections between a person’s thoughts and emotions and her physical well-being, but women intuitively know that their less visible, harder-to-describe feelings are inextricably linked to their reproductive processes. Finding an acupuncturist who really listens and understands this might be the key to reaching a new level of quality of life, as well as realizing a dream of having a child.

For additional resources, visit our Fertility FAQs page. For more examples, visit our success stories of women who found solutions from Dr. Cai’s treatment. 

If your family suffers from infertility and  you are looking for infertility clinics, visit Art of Wellness at Santa Monica, Los Angeles, one of top 19 picks among 825 clinics in the great LA area.

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