Note: This post was originally published in December 2021. I have since expanded my Eastern medicine journey, and am now adding new details in December 2023. Please enjoy this updated blog post! ~ Angela
The fall of 2021 has been wild.
I decided to fully embrace Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and give it a shot to manage a new-ish health issue. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a large tumor in my uterus called a uterine fibroid. After a recent check-up with my gynecologist, and some disheartening ideas for managing the issue, I decided I wanted to try something more natural.
Although this isn’t an autoimmune disease, and this blog is about managing autoimmunity, everything in our body is connected. My doctor says the chronic inflammation associated with autoimmunity has nurtured tumor growth.
Disclosure: This blog is reader-supported, which means this post contains affiliate links and advertisements. I earn a small commission if you shop through them, which helps fund this website so I can continue to bring you amazing content. Thank you! ~Angela
I’m giving myself six months to allow my body to heal itself and shrink the tumor in hopes of not needing major surgery. My acupuncturist is confident we can do this if I’m diligent with embracing natural medicine techniques rooted in Chinese culture and science. Along with her guidance, I’m studying the book Chinese Natural Cures: Traditional Methods for Remedy and Prevention. I’ve also got the thumbs up from my rheumatologist (Hey Dr. D!).
We are working with:
- Chinese herbs
- Stress management
Please send some good vibes my way as I manage this new health journey!
Here’s How I’m Feeling Today
It’s been about five weeks (at the time of writing this) that I’ve been following the TCM routine very closely. In that time, I’ve noticed multiple positive changes in my body.
- My blood sugars have stabilized. I don’t feel hypoglycemic crashes.
- I don’t have daily joint pain and aches in my hips, knees and ankles.
- My skin is clearer and with fewer pimples, even during my menstrual cycle.
- I have more physical energy during the day and don’t fall asleep at my desk.
- I’m taking fewer naps during the daytime and sometimes have trouble feeling tired at bedtime.
- My thinking is more focused, sharp and clear.
- Pressure in my abdomen and frequent needs to urinate are decreasing.
- My creativity and work efficiency as a writer are increasing.
- My hands don’t throb and ache like they used to after a day of work.
- I’m not having strong cravings for sweets, cheese or fried foods.
- My grocery bills have been cut in half.
- I’ve lost a few pounds!
- I feel more present and in tune with my friends, family and surroundings.
Of course, all this progress goes out the window when I veer from the TCM plan, don’t get enough rest, don’t manage my stress well or make poor meal choices.
And yes, I’ve gone off track a few times during this process. Hey, I’m human!
I will get an update on the fibroid’s size in the spring when I have my next ultrasound. I asked my doctor how I will know if it’s starting to shrink without being able to see a scan. She explained that if my fibroid symptoms start to resolve, the tumor should be shrinking. I’m monitoring my body closely for those changes.
Update: The fibroid tumor didn’t shrink. But, the growth I did notice was small, and my symptoms didn’t increase. So, I feel the TCM approach is helping! AND — this is the bigger bit of information, I had a home emergency in December 2022 and stopped going to my acupuncture appointments. I haven’t done any appointments since December 2022 with this clinic. So I was only on this program for about a year. I share more updates below, too!
Here’s What Acupuncture Feels Like
I wrote a bit about my very first experience with acupuncture over the summer. You can check out my colorful details in A New Way to Move Stagnant Energy and Reduce Pain: I Tried Acupuncture and Moxibustion. But, now that I’m going to acupuncture appointments weekly, I have some new insight.
I don’t mind the needles, and think it’s super cool that their placement is completely based on how I’m feeling that day and which health issues I want to target beyond the fibroid.
My doctor and I have also developed a pretty friendly partnership in my healing journey. The other day she laughed and said “I’m going to make you a unicorn” as she jabbed a needle into my forehead. We both laughed!
The needles are slender and don’t usually hurt when inserted. However, I’ve learned that if you have extra tension in your body, or an area that needs a lot of work, the insertion can be painful and linger hours after the needles are removed. I was having some stomach issues (phlegm build-up from eating dairy products) and when the needle for the stomach meridian was inserted, it stung!
The Warming Effects of Moxibustion and Massage
After the needles are removed, my acupuncturist does a moxibustion treatment using burning mugwort. For me, it’s focused on my abdomen to manage a few health issues located in that region. I love the warmth and have grown used to the earthy fragrance. I now associate the experience with calmness and relaxation.
Sometimes the doctor incorporates massage of my abdomen to help with blood and energy flow in the area. This also helps to soften the fibroid tissue so it can break down more easily.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutrition for Healing
Anyone can go to an acupuncturist and have the needles applied. If you really want to feel the effects of this process, you also have to do your homework and that includes removing the foods that trigger inflammation, disease, blockages, imbalance and pain in the body.
I was diagnosed with having dampness and heat in my body, so I was instructed to remove processed foods, sweets, oils, warming spices and dairy from my meals. I am eating some whole fruits (not juices) because they’re nutrient-dense. I haven’t had any candy or desserts made with white sugar since earlier in October.
After a month into this process, the dampness was drying up and my circulation is improving. I have much more mental clarity, focus and physical energy. I truly feel good.
Here’s Why I’m Taking Chinese Herbs
In addition to acupuncture, nutritional changes and moxibution, I’ve started taking herbs for additional healing and health support.
I’m taking two different formulas, three times a day. One is focused on tumor reduction while the other boosts my energy levels.
I’ve noticed more physical energy and mental alertness since starting the herbs. The first week I took them I had trouble falling asleep at night, which never used to be a problem. Now, sometimes I only take them twice a day so I can still sleep at night.
Stress Management Trumps it All
I can visit with my acupuncturist, make healthy food choices and still feel terrible (and promote tumor growth) if I’m not managing what life throws at me with intention.
I know this after juggling a particularly busy week at work with multiple medical appointments and a handful of social obligations. It was too much, too fast. All my autoimmune symptoms flared that weekend to remind me that I need to exhale, move slower and focus on healing.
I’m working on adding more meditation, yoga, journaling and other calming activities to my days — which is not easy during a busy holiday season and multiple deadlines for work.
How am I Feeling While Following Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Amazing. Plain and simple, my body is in better balance.
I’m not having issues with hypoglycemia, fatigue and joint pain like I used to manage daily in the past. My level of hunger is lower because I’m eating nutrient-dense food that’s satiating. Although I still admire pictures of cupcakes and french fries, I don’t crave them like I used to. It’s getting easier to eat simply and focus on my wellness.
Since cleaning up my meals, I’ve also lost a few pounds which means less pressure on my lower joints including my hips and knees. I’m thankful for that!
My Future Health Management Plans
They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, and 60 days for it to truly stick. This is HARD. I’ve been raised on the American societal norms of overwork, sugar-oil-spice-laden foods and joking about exhaustion as a badge of honor after spending the night out. Uprooting all of that conditioning and reexamining how I spend my days has been eye-opening — and truly healing.
I plan to find a happy balance between following traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and transforming some of my old habits into a new healthier mindset. I’m working on this through reflective writing, meditation and mental rest so my thoughts can be noticed.
With that said, if you know of an amazing blogger who bakes and cooks with TCM in mind, message me. I’d love some meal-time inspiration.
Update from December 2023
Isn’t it fun to get an update several months or years later to see how people are doing now? Well, I got back into Eastern medicine healing in October 2023. It’s been just two full months and I’m deep into a new healing plan that includes TCM herbs, but also a homeopathic approach. I’m working with a new doctor at a clinic in West Des Moines, Iowa. She did comprehensive testing on me to discover what’s at the root of my autoimmune issues and tumor growth.
I learned a lot!
Of course, I’ve written about it, and you can learn more about the testing, my diagnoses and initial treatments in this post, “I’m Trying a Holistic, Homeopathic Approach to Healing Autoimmunity“. Since starting this approach, I’ve had two follow-up visits with this doctor. She says the treatments are working well to re-train my immune system, to fight the bad bacteria, viruses and parasites in my system.
We are specifically working hard on healing a chronic Lyme disease infection as well as the side effects of having Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Most people have EBV in their systems, but when you have a faulty immune system that’s weak, the symptoms flare out of control. I’m learning that many issues associated with Lyme and EBV mimic multiple sclerosis. Mind blown!
So we are working hard to clean up these yucky invaders in my body to see what symptoms (if any) linger. As I work through these new treatments, I’m noticing more energy again, better digestion and a renewed hope for healing. In February 2024 I will follow up on the fibroid and see if a few months of a new holistic approach has made an impact.
Until next time,
Note: This post was last updated on December 28, 2023.