For most women menstruation is a time of heightened sensitivity, for women with endometriosis it can be disabling. With approximately 176 million women and girls suffering from endometriosis worldwide, it is now seen as a global epidemic.
What is Endometriosis?
During menstruation the lining of the womb, the endometrial tissue becomes swollen then breaks down and sheds. Now imagine what it would be like if this endometrial tissue grew in places it shouldn’t? In women with endometriosis this tissue can be found between the uterine walls, in the fallopian tubes, on the outside of the womb, or even, on rare occasions, in the joints, brain or other organs such as the lungs. When hormonal signals are sent to trigger menstruation all the endometrial tissue in the body becomes inflamed and can even shed each month. This can be incredibly painful, plus endometriosis or surrounding adhesions can create obstructions within the body.
- Pain during intercourse
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Cramping and pain before and during period
- Painful bowel movements
- Painful urination
- Gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea
- Long periods
- Intermestrual bleeding
- Chronic lower back and pelvic pain
The Origins of Endo
FOETAL DEVELOPMENT. The cause of endometriosis has been under debate for decades. A common theory was retrograde menstruation; a state where menstrual blood ‘backwashes’ up the fallopian tubes. Doctors thought this carried endometrial cells into other areas where they would implant and grow. But only 10% of women with retrograde menstruation have endometriosis. Dr David Redwine was one of the first to discover endometriosis can form during the women’s development in utero. The symptoms only arise at the onset of menstruation when hormones activate menstrual inflammation. One is seven times more likely to have endometriosis if you have a close female relative with it. Even if there is a genetic predisposition, this has to be triggered by something and today we know environmental chemicals are one of the biggest culprits.
According to a paper published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online in July 2010, “Research has recently found evidence for endometriosis in human female fetuses at different gestational ages. The case suggests that endometriosis can be caused by dislocation of primitive endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity during organogenesis.” Which leans more towards the understanding that endocrine disrupting chemicals have been found in fetal cord blood and could well be disrupting reproductive development resulting is imbalances such as endometriosis.
OESTROGEN DOMINANCE. Oestrogen is an essential hormone, but too much of a good thing can cause a little chaos. Oestrogen promotes tissue growth and has an inflammatory action on endometrial tissue. According to current scientific evidence, endometriosis is an oestrogen dependent disorder. Factors that increase oestrogen levels include petrochemical products (beauty and cleaning products) and environmental toxins; stress; and a high intake of processed foods, soya or animal products. Endometriosis has even been found in some men treated with oestrogen therapy.
The study on endocrine disrupting chemical’s (EDC’s) in the journal Endocrine Reviews, December 2008, found, “There is evidence that in utero exposure to DES (pesticide) makes a woman nine times more vulnerable to endometriosis.” In fact babies who were exposed to the DES in utero are 80% more likely to develop endometriosis.
In the 2015 research trial on infant girls receiving soya formula, scientists found “That women who were regularly fed soy formula as infants had more than twice the risk of endometriosis compared with unexposed women.In the 2015 research trial on infant girls receiving soya formula, scientists found “That women who were regularly fed soy formula as infants had more than twice the risk of endometriosis compared with unexposed women.”
Women that have managed to balance oestrogen and progesterone levels have been known to experience a reduction in symptoms and size of rogue endometrial tissue.
Stress, including lack of sleep, has the grand ability to increase oestrogen, reduce progesterone and use up your magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 supplies, which aggravates the already difficult state of endometriosis.
SURGICAL SCARS. There have been cases of endometriosis located within scars from uterine surgery including caesarean or episiotomy. According to the findings of a large prospective cohort study conducted in Sweden in 2013, researchers “Found an association between caesarean section and general pelvic endometriosis.” Women who had a cesarean were 80% more likely to develop endometriosis than women who had a vaginal delivery. The analysis also showed that the risk of endometriosis increased over time. Having a close female relative with endometriosis increases your chances of having it by seven fold.
According to the Endometriosis Association women with endometriosis are more sensitive to:
- Chemical sensitivities
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Asthma and eczema
- Yeast infections
- Food intolerances
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Autoimmune disorders, including lupus and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
SOYA FORMULA. In the 2015 paper ‘Early life factors and endometriosis risk’ researchers were amazed at the results for women fed soy products as babies, “We observed that women who were regularly fed soy formula as infants had over twice the risk of endometriosis compared to unexposed women.”
- Keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is essential for balanced hormones. Each time you get too hungry your body uses your anti-inflammatory hormone progesterone to make your stress hormone cortisol. Progesterone is the antagonist for oestrogen and therefore is key in softening the symptoms of endometriosis as well as supporting your long-term health and vitality.
- Cut out sugar, soya processed foods and high meat consumption. These all increase oestrogen levels and inflammation within the body.
- Eat a mainly organic whole-food diet. Eat high plant protein and fats like avocado, coconut, olives, seeds and nuts; high greens; low animal products, grains and fruit. Enjoy plenty of berries, sweet potatoes, fish and green juices.
- Take a good quality omega 3 fish oil to support hormone production and act as an anti-inflammatory (algae oil for strict vegans).
- Magnesium will help the liver more efficiently metabolize hormones and to prevent spasms and tension in muscles and nerves.
- Vitamin B6 and B complex with extra panthothenic acid will support ovaries and the adrenal glands.
- Turmeric or curcumin is a high grade anti-inflammatory and pain killer.
- Natural progesterone cream will balance the oestrogen, keep down inflammation, help to shrink rogue endometrial tissue and support stress.
- Chasteberry can balance progesterone and oestrogen.
- Zeolite, fulvic acid or NAC will to help detox synthetic chemicals.
- Coconut oil, avocado and hemp support the production of pregnenolone, cortisol and progesterone.
LAPAROSCOPY is a form of keyhole surgery that is used to remove endometrial implants and adhesions. This is a useful procedure for women who are experiencing compromised health and pain from endometriosis, or who have made healthy lifestyle shifts but are still struggling to fall pregnant. For up to 50% of patients that don’t make relevant lifestyle changes the endometriosis usually regrows within 5 years.
FIRST CLASS MEDICAL SUPPORT – First prize is to find a Functional Medicine or Integrative Medicine GP that specializes in natural hormone balancing and is up to date on the latest tools.
I highly suggest watching this fabulous TED Talk on curing endometriosis by Miranda Bond.