It is now estimated that approximately 1 in 9 Australian women have Endometriosis. Worldwide the figure is upwards of 190 million women with this condition.
Endometriosis is a chronic gynaecological condition that is characterised by growth of endometrial-like tissue (similar to the tissue normally found lining the uterus) in other parts of the body outside of the uterus, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the membranes living the abdominal and pelvic cavities, otherwise referred to as the peritoneum.
The symptoms of endometriosis can often be as vast as they are severe, however most affected women will suffer from chronic pelvic pain, painful and heavy periods, abnormal uterine bleeding, painful intercourse, infertility, or risk of infertility. The experience of endometriosis and associated symptoms can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life, often resulting in anxiety, depression, and impaired social function caused by the severity of pain and ongoing discomfort.
With no known cure for Endometriosis, the diagnosis and management of this condition is often complex, particularly as the gold standard for diagnosis is still invasive laparoscopic surgery.
Endometriosis is fundamentally an inflammatory disease, with the immune and gastrointestinal systems and overall hormonal function and balance all having a close association. Whilst not considered a cause of endometriosis, oestrogen dominance often closely parallels several symptoms of Endometriosis, such as heavy painful periods. Exposure to toxins such as pesticides and dioxins may also be a risk factor, along with our ever-increasing exposure to xenoestrogens in the environment leading to accumulation of these within the body, and an added burden on our detox organs.
Image source: https://www.endofound.org/
Leaky gut and dysbiosis are key factors to address on an individual basis for women suffering from endometriosis, particularly as the research continues to develop in this area. A high level of gram-negative bacteria in the pelvic microbiome and the specific bacterial toxin LPS (lipopolysaccharide) have been shown to actively promote Endometriosis. As the gut and immune systems are so closely connected, it is no surprise that several studies have found an association between immune-mediated disturbances and the presence of endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity.
Conventional treatment for endometriosis involves surgical excisions of lesions which doesn’t guarantee complete removal or that they will not grow back. Hormonal suppression via the oral contraceptive pill and other hormone therapy is another standard treatment approach. Because of the often unsuccessful treatment outcomes and the chronic nature of endometriosis, many women turn to additional management strategies, particularly in the complementary and alternative medicine field. One of the most recent Endometriosis national online surveys in Australia, positively highlighted that over 75% of women are calling on non-pharmacological practices and lifestyle choices such as dietary changes, nutritional and herbal therapies, relaxation techniques and movement for long term management.
Management options for Endometriosis
- Consider cleansing and fasting regimes – we know the benefits that cleansing has for all organs of detoxification, along with fasting that may induce what we call “autophagy” which is the body’s natural mechanism of cleaning out damaged cells and toxins, to regenerate new cells
- Treating the gut is an integral priority in endometriosis treatment – gut healing nutrients might include Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Zinc, Glutamine, Probiotics, Calcium-D-Glucarate (always consult a qualified healthcare practitioner before taking/introducing any supplements)
- Get to know your dietary triggers – food intolerances and sensitivities, SIBO, pro-inflammatory foods, FODMAP foods, gluten, histamines etc may all be triggering unwanted inflammatory processes if not addressed (avoidance of foods such as gluten and dairy is an effective strategy in a variety of inflammatory conditions, including Endometriosis)
- Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables (ideally every day) for their liver supporting benefits and role in supporting oestrogen clearance from the body – think broccoli, kale, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli sprouts, Brussel sprouts
- Look to your beautiful herbs and spices that function as natural analgesics and provide warming circulatory effects throughout the body – think Ginger, Cinnamon and Turmeric
- Find movement that works for you – we know exercise produces endorphins which really are like natural painkillers. Movement helps improve blood flow to the uterus, supports lymphatic system health and works to support natural detoxification through sweating
- Consider TCM therapies such as acupuncture for additional support
- Introduce daily practices to nourish your nervous system and reconnect with your body. Deep breathing practices, dancing, yoga, meditation, journaling, affirmations, listening to calming music, being in nature – find whatever it is that gives you precious time to yourself and time to listen to your body.
The wonderful thing about combining conventional and complementary medicine strategies for a condition such as Endometriosis is that there is space and opportunity to explore what works best for the individual person. Not every woman with endometriosis has the same symptoms or has been on the same journey. If you are feeling a little lost on your journey or feel that you want to try something to better manage your symptoms and your health overall, know that there are many incredible avenues of support out there for you.