Endometriosis is a common condition that affects up to 1 in 10 women, and it is one of the leading causes of infertility. The exact causes of endometriosis are still being debated, making the quest for a cure ongoing. Whilst there is currently no cure for endometriosis, there are many ways to manage your symptoms and reduce the severity of your condition.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue that is normally found in the lining of the uterus, grows in other parts of the body. During a normal menstrual cycle, the endometrium thickens in preparation to receive a fertilised egg. When fertilisation doesn’t occur the endometrium sheds, resulting in your period.
There are many theories regarding how endometrial tissue finds its way outside of your uterus. The long-held belief was that is was due to a ‘back-flow’ of menstrual blood that passed through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity. More modern research is suggesting that endometrial tissue is laid down before birth, and it’s not until the hormones activated by puberty, trigger the condition. Other links to the cause of endometriosis show a genetic link, and exposure to dioxins whilst in the womb.
What we do know is that endometriosis is not a lifestyle disease, meaning that diet and lifestyle do not trigger it. However, diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic result in the improvement of the condition.
Regardless of how the lesions appear, we do know that there is a level of immune dysfunction and inflammatory disease that is present. Your immune system can produce inflammatory cytokines that inflame endometrial lesions and promote their growth. Hormones do play a role in the severity of the condition, but they are not solely responsible. For this reason, the prescription of hormonal birth control will not reverse endometriosis.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis
Pain during bowel movements
Pain on urination
Spotting between periods
Chronic lower back and abdominal pain
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
Unfortunately, it takes on average, 10 years for women to be diagnosed with endometriosis. This is a really long time to be suffering pain and discomfort before getting adequate treatment. This delayed diagnosis occurs as endometriosis can only be diagnosed by laparoscopic surgery. Ultrasounds will not detect the presence of endometrial lesions. Doctors often disregard a young woman’s pain as just being PMS, and no further exploration is offered. It is not until these women struggle to fall pregnant that further exploration might be offered. By this time the endometriosis might have caused terrible destruction in a woman’s reproductive system, significantly reducing her chance of a natural conception.
How to treat endometriosis
The management of endometriosis involves a treatment synergy of all that is mentioned above; inflammation reduction, immune balancing, hormone balancing, diet and lifestyle.
This includes –
- Avoid cow’s milk, gluten, eggs, processed foods and sugar. These can all trigger the inflammation that is associated with endometriosis. Eliminate these foods from your diet for several months and assess how you feel.
- Eat a diet rich in foods that reduce inflammation, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seed, seafood, berries, avocado, coconut oil, chia seeds, beetroot, celery and broccoli.
- Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables support liver detoxification, which is essential in processing and removing excess hormones from the body.
- Take anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric. Turmeric has shown to reduce the size and activity of endometrial lesions. There are several mechanisms to this action, with one of them being the reduction of estrogen produced in endometrial lesions.
- Zinc is a powerful anti-inflammatory and immune regulating mineral. Aim for 30mg per day after dinner. Taking zinc on an empty stomach may cause nausea.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) has been clinically trialled in endometriosis, with great results. This amino acid is a precursor to glutathione, which is our bodies primary antioxidants and immune regulator, as well as being anti-inflammatory.
- Vitamin B6 is great at balancing hormones by supporting progesterone production. Whilst estrogen can promote endometriosis, progesterone can reduce it.
- If you have heavy bleeding, ensure that you eat an iron-rich diet. This includes red meat, poultry, liver, egg yolk, navy beans, prunes and spinach. Ensure that any meat that you eat is organic, pasture raised as these sources of meat has a better fatty acids profile that supports inflammation reduction. Do not take an iron supplement unless you have had a blood test to confirm that you are iron deficient. Excess iron can be inflammatory to the body.
These tips are a general guide to some things that might reduce your symptoms. Endometriosis affects each sufferer differently. It is important to listen to your body and try to identify the things that trigger your symptoms. Charting your menstrual cycle, diet and lifestyle for several months can provide some invaluable information as to what may be worsening or relieving your symptoms. Enlist in a support network to help get the results you want. This includes your GP, naturopath and other therapies such as acupuncture and remedial massage.
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