Alternative Treatments for Endometriosis That Actually Work
By Nilofar Kazi, Director of Education and Community Outreach
Endometriosis, a disease that occurs when tissue that normally lines the uterus begins to grow outside of it, affects approximately 10% of women in the U.S.¹ Managing the condition can be difficult, especially when severe symptoms like chronic pelvic pain regularly disrupt everyday activities.
Many women with endometriosis search for natural ways to relieve their symptoms. While some home remedies may help to temporarily relieve pain, others are no more than ineffective marketing gimmicks. Finding relief depends on recognizing the difference and weeding out the ineffective treatment methods.
ON THIS PAGE:
- Skip the Detox Pearls and Vaginal Steams
- Alternative Treatments We Recommend
- When Surgical Intervention Is Necessary
Skip the Detox Pearls and Vaginal Steams
Alternative practices like vaginal steaming and detox “pearls” originated from ancient Eastern medicine. Proponents of these methods claim they can treat painful periods and gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation by cleansing the vagina and promoting circulation.
For vaginal steaming, a steam bath is filled with various medicinal herbs. The heat from the steam is thought to relax and open the vaginal walls to allow the essence of the herbs to travel up through the vagina and into the gastrointestinal tract.
Vaginal detox pearls are cloth-wrapped balls of herbs that are inserted into the vagina, where they remain for up to two days. Proponents of vaginal pearls claim the pearls absorb any toxins, “bad” bacteria or blood clots in the vagina. They also claim the pearls work to tighten the vaginal walls and prevent dryness. After those two days, the pearls are removed along with these supposed toxins.
The problem with both of these methods is the lack of scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness. There are no credible published studies that back up any of these claims, and these kinds of alternative methods for endometriosis may do more harm than good.
The vagina is already a self-cleaning organ. The cervix makes mucus that flushes out potentially harmful bacteria in the vagina. The entire female reproductive system is a detox system that contains “good” bacteria for protection. Using any outside elements meant to detoxify the vagina may actually do the opposite — eliminate the good bacteria and introduce toxins to the vagina that can cause infections. With vaginal pearls, leaving a foreign object in the vagina for days can lead to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a serious complication of a bacterial infection that can be life-threatening. While vaginal steams may be less dangerous than pearls, the claims that they can cure endometriosis and other gynecological conditions are just not true.
Alternative Treatments We Recommend
Alternative treatments for endometriosis that do work to relieve symptoms are methods backed by research. Endometriosis has no cure, but its symptoms can be managed through the following health care treatments:
- Medical management: Pain from endometriosis can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, Motrin and Advil. Hormonal medication can also be used to inhibit additional lesion growth by stopping the production of estrogen.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to relieve pain by restoring the proper flow of energy in the body. Practitioners insert thin needles where energy may be blocked to allow for smoother energy flow that can decrease pain and illness.
- Pelvic floor physical therapy: This type of therapy incorporates soft tissue stretching, relaxation exercises, biofeedback and at-home exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues. Strengthening the pelvic area can help to relieve pain in the lower abdomen, back and hips.
- Physical training: Exercise is known to release anti-inflammatory and antioxidant markers in the body, which help to fight the inflammatory response that endometriosis provokes in the body. Endorphins released by exercising can also relieve pain and stress.
- Nutritional counseling: Anti-inflammatory diets and nutrition plans can help calm inflammation in the body and reduce flare-ups brought on by endometriosis.
- Psychotherapy: Endometriosis is often linked with anxiety and depression caused by the uncertainty of the diagnosis and the impact on quality of life over time. Cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based therapy and hypnosis can help people with endometriosis learn effective strategies for handling mental health issues that are exacerbated by the condition.
When Surgical Intervention Is Necessary
While alternative treatments can temporarily relieve symptoms of endometriosis, they do not address the underlying cause of the condition. At its later stages, endometriosis symptoms may not respond to alternative treatment options.
The most definitive relief for endometriosis can be found through minimally invasive excision surgery. Excision involves cutting out any visible endometriosis laparoscopically through small incisions in the abdomen. Complete resection of the disease removes all lesions that have grown outside of the uterus and minimizes any leftover scar tissue.
A highly skilled surgeon gives patients the best chance at long-term relief. CIGC specialists have dedicated their careers to the most minimally invasive techniques. A successful excision will lower the likelihood of recurrence or regrowth of endometriosis, giving patients the quality of pain-free life they deserve.
Book A Consultation
CIGC is dedicated to helping women find relief from complex GYN conditions like endometriosis. The CIGC founders, minimally invasive GYN specialists Paul MacKoul, M.D., and Natalya Danilyants, M.D., developed their advanced GYN surgical techniques using only two small incisions with patients’ well-being in mind. They also created the CIGC Wellness Center to meet the need for holistic GYN care.
Their personalized approach to care helps patients gain a better understanding of their condition and the recommended treatment so they can have confidence from the very start. Our surgeons have performed more than 25,000 GYN procedures and are constantly striving to improve outcomes for patients.
1. Burney RO, Giudice LC. Pathogenesis and pathophysiology of endometriosis. Fertil Steril. 2012;98(3):511-519. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.06.029