Endometriosis is fast becoming a common chronic women's health condition, effecting 1 in 10 women (Australian statistic), with a lot of cases going undiagnosed or very late to be diagnosed. It is a progressive inflammation disease, manifesting when endometrial tissue is found in ectopic (abnormal) sites outside the uterus. It can lead to implants, scarring, adhesions and ovarian cysts (endometriomas).
Endometriosis usually becomes apparent in the reproductive years, when ovarian hormones stimulate the lesions, which will become proliferative (grow/multiple rapidly) and undergo menstrual breakdown.
There is a delay in diagnosis of between 7 and ten years. This is due to girls and women as well as doctors normalizing symptoms when women do finally seek medical assistance. It is characterised by intense pain, however all aspects of a womens life is impacted due to the systemic inflammation it causes and it effects her quality of life.
Whilst every woman is different, premenstual & around ovulation time is usually the time when the symptoms are strongest and they subside after cessation of menstruation, this is due to the rise in oestrogen.
The following are the common signs of endometriosis –
1) Pelvic pain – the most common symptom
2) Heavy dark clotted menstrual bleeding
3) Back pain
4) Dyspareunia – pain during sexual intercourse.
5) Pain with bowel or bladder movement
6) Can be the cause of infertility
7) Digestive issues – constipation and bloating, diarrhoea, IBS
8) Urinary problems
9) Chronic fatigue
To get a proper diagnosis of endometriosis a laparoscopy needs to be conducted to confirm the lesions and endometrial tissues outside the uterus.
The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown; however, the following are the factors that can contribute to the progression of the disease:
1) Heredity –it is very common for the condition to be seen in multi generations in one family.
2) Dysbiosis in the gut – Gram negative bacteria (E. coli) is commonly found in the gut of women with endometriosis. IBS is also common among these women – which coincides with menstrual complaints.
3) Auto immune role – an immune derangement where it turns the cells on to create more endometrial tissue. Impaired immunity seeing high antibodies and low killer cells. Innate immune system dysregulation – not removing the endometrial tissue linked to a low natural killer cell activity.
4) Hormonal imbalances – displaced oestrogen with low progesterone is often found in cases of endometriosis.
5) Inflammation – Prostaglandin role – Extreme oxidation and inflammation, destruction to surrounding tissues. Inflammatory disease is dependent on oestrogen
Stress control is imperative to help manage and in the healing of endometriosis. Even our concept of stress can drain the adrenals. Things like time pressure, relationship problems, work issues are commonly what people with say are stress causing. But anything that changes our bodies balance will also cause a stress response in our body - being in a cold room, waking up at unusual time, not being at sunlight, plastic exposure, blood sugar drops all of these are accumulative invisible stressors, which impact our lives in the following ways -
- Depletes your immune system
- Depletes good bacteria in the gut – leading to gut dysbiosis and the invasion of E. Coli bacteria. As well as the fact that 95% of our serotonin (neurotransmitter responsible for feeling calm, satisfied and relaxed) levels are in our gut.
- Chronic stress depletes natural T killer cells – which are imperative in the healing of endometriosis.
Treatment of endometriosis is very complex and multifaceted, it involves -
- Reducing inflammation
- Reducing oxidative damage
- Healing the Gut
- Balancing hormones
- Treating the pain
- Detoxifying and supporting the liver
- Reducing and healing the adhesions.
Across the board the following as some common dietary and lifestyle factors that will help in the treatment of this complex condition -
- Organic produce – unfortunately much of our vegetables and fruits have been sprayed and are contaminated with pesticides & herbicides, especially when buying imported produce.
- Plant based diet is imperative – it lowers inflammation in the body, helps with gut healing and is fibre rich.
- Increase Essential Fatty acids – omega 3 oils – Fish oil, borage oil, avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
- Antioxidant rich diet – berries, dark organic chocolate, green tea, cloves, turmeric, cacao powder, cinnamon, pecans, artichokes, goji berries (soaked in boiling water over night), kale, red cabbage, beetroots.
- Increase use of anti-inflammatory spices – turmeric, cinnamon, cardamon and ginger – use daily.
- Water – 33ml of water per body weight daily – Crucial for healing – blood cleansing, lymphatics, bowel
- Mushrooms – modulate the immune system, stimulate the production of natural T killer cells – Reishi is specific for adrenal support
- Prostaglandin lowering diet –Fatty fish, citrus fruit (lemon, limes), pomegranate, brown rice, broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, beans, peas, lentils
- Avoiding - gluten, alcohol, coffee, soy, vegetable oils, dairy, and sugar.
- Use organic sanitary pads, menstrual cups or period underwear – won’t block the flow of blood. Avoiding tampons is imperative as there is a strong link between tampon use and endometriosis, there are also loaded with chemicals as well as it acts like a plug and blocks the flow of blood – increasing prostaglandin levels.
- Sitz bath – add clary sage, lavender, cinnamon, ginger essential oils – with some loose chamomile flowers & calendula flowers - is great to help ease the pain and heal the adhesions.
- Exercise at least 3 times a week for 40 minutes – imperative for blood flow, anti-inflammatory role and boosting endorphins which help with pain.
The abovmentioned are just a few of the many dietary and lifestyle treatments involved in the treatment & management of endometriosis.
Early diagnosis and treatment reduce the long term impacts of endometriosis and frequency of invasive treatments and fertility treatments.
In my clinic I treat a lot of women suffering with endometriosis, so I suggest booking an in-depth consultation to allow me to help you find a natural approach to health and healing of endometriosis.
In health and happiness
Sarah Emily Herbalist