Natural Support for the Misery of Endometriosis
Are you one of the 10% of women affected by endometriosis? Despite causing severe pain and disruption to quality of life, the condition is frequently overlooked and rarely discussed. Worse, many women suffer for a considerable time – an average of seven and a half years – before they’re diagnosed. Part of the issue is women’s uniqueness, there being no normal when it comes to menstrual symptoms, not helped by the taboo still persisting around talking openly about menstrual issues.
Endometriosis Awareness Month aims to increase recognition and understanding of the disease. Read on to discover more about why endometriosis may develop.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
If you suffer from endometriosis, tiny fragments of your endometrium, the mucous membrane lining your uterus, become implanted onto areas elsewhere in your body. There they respond to increases in hormone levels over the month by thickening and growing. They then shed when hormone levels drop as they would during a menstrual period, but have nowhere to go. This, and the scar tissue often forming cause pain by pressure on nerves.
Endometrial lesions can form all around the body but are often found in the abdomen, on the ovaries and bladder, outside the uterus or on the tissue lining the pelvis. Symptoms vary depending on where the tissue is located.
- Pelvic and lower back pain, often radiating down to the legs. The pain can be severe, usually occurring around menstruation but sometimes at other times of the month. Some women report pain as severe as in childbirth, and may even pass out.
- Heavy menstrual flow, bleeding between periods.
- Irregular periods, meaning many women live in a permanent state of anxiety about when their symptoms will strike next.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Pain when opening the bowels, belly bloating and IBS symptoms, meaning endometriosis is often misdiagnosed as IBS.
- If lesions lodge around the fallopian tubes they can become blocked, obstructing the passage of an egg to the uterus.
- Urinary urgency or pain.
Endometriosis particularly affects women in their 30’s and 40’s, although it’s becoming more common in younger women. If a woman can conceive, symptoms usually abate during pregnancy. They tend to disappear at the menopause, although if you take HRT you may still experience symptoms.
Why Does Endometriosis Develop?
Although it’s not known precisely why endometriosis occurs, it’s believed sufferers have high levels of oestrogen, the hormone thickening the uterus in preparation for receiving a fertilised egg.
Known as oestrogen dominance, elevated oestrogen is incredibly common. It can occur because your body isn’t clearing away used oestrogen quickly enough meaning it’s recycled back into your bloodstream. Anything depleting progesterone, such as ongoing stress, can also lead to oestrogen dominance. Meanwhile, exposure to oestrogen from the environment can push up your levels of oestrogen. Xenoestrogens are chemical by-products from industry, are found in plastics and added to household cleaners and skincare products. They mimic oestrogen by attaching to your hormone receptors.
The rogue endometrial tissue should ideally be recognised and eliminated by your immune system, but in endometriosis this doesn’t happen. However, the immune system does seem to react by releasing inflammatory molecules, causing elevated inflammation throughout the body.
Scientists have found endometriosis sufferers have different types of bacteria living in their pelvic cavity. These bacteria are related to the bacteria found in your gut, known as your microbiome. They’re important for managing inflammation as well as clearing away used oestrogen and regulating your immune system.
Conventional Diagnosis and Treatment
Because the symptoms of endometriosis can be similar to those of other conditions such as ovarian cysts, diagnosis is only possible with a laparoscopy. Treatments concentrate on blocking oestrogen or reducing its levels, along with surgery to remove the endometrial tissue.
Helping Clear Oestrogen Naturally
Your body should efficiently clear away any oestrogen no longer required, otherwise levels will build up. It’s your liver’s job to detoxify oestrogen, while your digestive system excretes the unwanted hormone. If your bowels move slowly or your microbiome is unbalanced, oestrogen destined to be excreted may be reabsorbed back through your gut lining into your bloodstream.
Certain nutrients such as B vitamins are important to help your liver clear oestrogen. Zinc is known to be important for hormone balance, and studies have discovered women with endometriosis had less zinc in their blood than usual. Meanwhile, researchers gave vitamin E and C supplements to sufferers, and the pain and inflammation reduced significantly. Finally, if you’re deficient in magnesium as many people are, this can increase the likelihood of cramping.
Natural Help for Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a complex disease to treat because its cause isn’t fully understood. However, after testing your levels of oestrogen and progesterone, balance can be restored by supporting your liver and bowel health. It can be useful to take a peek at the bacteria comprising your microbiome. I’ll then work with you to manage inflammation and support your immune system.