Have you been diagnosed with endometriosis? Or do you experience symptoms that fit with endometriosis? It is a condition we often see in clinic and can affect our clients in various ways, and it may be mild or severe.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when uterus lining (endometrium) grows outside the uterus in other parts of the body. Tissue may be found on the ovaries and in the pelvic cavity, or on the bowel or bladder for example, and the extent of the growths will vary for each woman. Due to the variety of symptoms a woman can experience,the time in which it can take for symptoms to develop and finally get a diagnosis, sometimes, a woman may have the condition for 10 years before being aware they even have it.
The endometrial tissue that is in other parts of the body continues to respond to a woman’s reproductive hormones each month. Under the influence of oestrogen for example, the tissue thickens. However because this displaced tissue cannot be expelled during menstruation (like it does when it lines the uterus) it can cause further inflammation and scarring, and depending on the severity of the endometriosis, it may cause reduced fertility.
Although there is no cure for endometriosis, there are certainly treatment options available to manage the condition.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis
- Painful periods
- Pelvic pain
- Heavy periods
- Bleeding in between periods
- Pain during sex
- Pain passing a bowel movement or whilst urinating (which you would most likely experience during menstruation)
- Pain during ovulation
- Lower back pain
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
The only way to make a definite diagnosis of endometriosis is via laparoscopy. This is where a specialist will take a look inside your pelvic cavity using a thin flexible tube with a camera attached. It is often termed keyhole surgery. Of course, before any specialist will conduct this procedure you will also need to fit the clinical picture of endometriosis.
Other less invasive techniques may also be employed (such as ultrasound) to make a diagnosis of endometriosis and may be done in consideration of the woman’s future plans (such as planning for pregnancy).
How is endometriosis treated?
Treatment for endometriosis will likely depend on the severity of the condition, the woman’s age and plans for pregnancy. Often surgery is used to remove the lesions which can improve the woman’s pain and fertility. Unfortunately, after surgery tissue growths can return in some women and therefore the use of hormonal medications which suppress oestrogen may be recommended. This treatment can also cause side effects so again any treatment plan will be guided by each woman’s experience and symptoms.
What can you do to help manage your endometriosis?
Whilst natural treatments cannot cure endometriosis, there are some great natural ways to reduce inflammation, promote healthy oestrogen metabolism and support immune function which are all implicated in the condition.
Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet such as turmeric, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, beetroot, walnuts, chia seeds and salmon.
Reach for foods high in zinc to support your immune system such as pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds (linseeds), spinach, nuts, a good quality dark chocolate, oysters and good quality lean beef.
Help your body detoxify so it can metabolise and excrete excess oestrogen by including broccoli, cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts into meals
Exercise regularly to reduce inflammation, support your immune system, remove waste and contribute to a general sense of well-being
How can a naturopath help?
In addition to diet and lifestyle recommendations to help manage your symptoms, there are herbs and supplements available which may reduce inflammation, modulate hormones and support the healthy lining of the gastrointestinal tract (which can support your immune system).
Before commencing any herbal or nutritional supplement, it is always wise to speak to a qualified naturopath to ensure any treatments are not only safe, but appropriate for you and your symptoms.