Endometriosis 101

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What is Endometriosis?

In the spirit of Endometriosis Awareness Month, I thought I would create a post to provide some education on the condition! Endometriosis can cause a significant amount of pain and discomfort to women and is associated with infertility. It affects approximately 10-15% of menstruating women between the ages of 24-40 years. Endometriosis can start during the onset of a women’s period or begin later on in life.

Endometriosis is when endometrial-like tissue (aka tissue that resembles the lining of the uterus) is found outside of the uterus. It can be found on in and around the reproductive system including the uterus, the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, rectum, legs, pelvic area and intestines. However, the disease has been shown to be found in areas such as the lungs and brain.

Symptoms:

Three MAIN symptoms of endometriosis known as a “triad of symptoms” include:

  • Dysmenorrhea (pain with menstruation)
  • Dyspareunia (pain with vaginal intercourse)
  • Infertility

Pain can occur before your period starts and can last for a day or two during your period or throughout the month. Some women may experience intense labour like pains along with vomiting, diarrhea, and fainting. This pain can disrupt your daily functions and can end up affecting your social relationships, work, school and overall well-being.

Other symptoms:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Pain with urination
  • Pain with bowel movements
  • Bleeding from nose, bladder and/or bowels

Causes:

  • Genetic: Main risk factor is heredity – if your first-degree relative has severe endometriosis your chances of endometriosis are 6x higher than women without a 1st degree relative with endometriosis
  • Environmental: there are some suggestions that xenoestrogens that act like estrogens are linked with a risk of endometriosis

Diagnosis:

  • Physical exam with your doctor can reveal tenderness on your abdomen
  • Definitive diagnosis is accomplished with a laparoscopy, where a surgical scope is inserted into a small incision in your pelvic region
  • A screening blood test called CA-125 is often done and can help monitor treatment

Natural Treatment of Endometriosis:

The goal of using natural therapies is to provide relief to the symptoms that are associated with endometriosis in addition to providing some clarity and understanding of the underlying cause of the condition. We work to understand what is truly going on and how we can work together on making some lifestyle adjustments in order to prevent reoccurrence.

GOALS OF TREATMENT
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Balance the immune system
  • Balance hormones (ie. estrogen and progesterone)
  • Support the liver’s function of detoxing hormones
  • Reduce stress
  • Prevent an increased production of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body
  1. DIET
    • High Fiber Diet
    • Limit red meat and consume vegetarian protein
    • High amount of vegetables
    • Reduce/Limit – alcohol, red meat, sugar, caffeine
  2. EXERCISE
    • Exercise improves circulation and releases endorphins resulting in a decrease in pain
  3. BOTANICAL MEDICINE
    • Chaste Tree – this herb has the ability to balance our estrogen and progesterone resulting in allowing the body to decrease the amount of estrogen
    • Dandelion Root – known for its detoxification properties, dandelion is great for supporting the liver to eliminate excess estrogen and toxins.
    • Curcumin (Tumeric) – has great anti-inflammatory properties which can especially help those with endometriosis
  4. ACUPUNCTURE
    • Acupuncture can be great at reducing the pain and inflammation associated with endometriosis.
    • Acupuncture can also be great for improving fertility outcomes as it enhances flow to the ovaries and uterus while decreasing
  5. SUPPLEMENTS
    • Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E, Selenium work to defend the body from cellular damage
    • Essential Fatty Acids: help to reduce inflammation
    • B Vitamins: help the liver to efficiently process estrogens.

 

References: 

Acupuncture for pain in endometriosis. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet]. 2011.

Hudson, Tori. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.

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