Endometriosis impacts one in ten women and a total of 176 million worldwide. Women suffering the disease live with excruciatingly painful periods, pain during intercourse or urination, diarrhea, bloating and weight gain. It can also negatively impact a women's mood, energy, appetite, sleep, stress levels, ability to exercise, blood sugar balance and cravings.
Many women think these symptoms are part of a normal period and it can often take up ten years to diagnose the condition. However, the longer endometriosis is left, the more likely it is to impact a women's fertility and impact her life.
Endometriosis is best defined as an inflammatory disease in which bits of uterine lining (that sheds when you have a period) grow throughout the pelvis on structures such as ovaries. It causes pain (sometimes severe), scarring and infertility.
Risk factors include genetics and exposure to toxins such as pesticides and dioxins. The microbiome (good bacteria) also plays a role. For example, endometriosis sufferers have high levels of gram-negative bacteria and the bacterial toxin LPS (lipopolysaccharide) in their pelvis, which has been shown to actively promote endometriosis.
Endometriosis is common and often starts young (although it can take 10 years to diagnose). One study found that two-thirds of teens reporting chronic pelvic pain will eventually go on to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
Severe Period Pain
Women can suffer extreme period pain with endometriosis causing absence from work, school or social events. Women may have vomiting or nausea and require high dose painkillers to prevent the pain.
The endometrial tissue lesions from endometriosis can block the fallopian tubes stopping the sperm and egg meeting which can cause infertility.
Diagnosis of endometriosis is quite tricky at the moment because there is no straightforward blood test (although this is very close to being available). It usually requires you to fit many of the symptoms and then a pelvic exam or ultrasound will be undertaken. If they can’t see or feel any lesions from this surgery, you may be referred for a laparoscopy. This is a surgical procedure where they make an incision near your navel for a laparoscope (camera) to fit in and find endometrial tissue. If they do find it, it can often be removed there and then so you only need the one surgery.
Below are the conventional medical treatments and functional or natural medical treatments. Many women will benefit from a combination of both conventional and functional or natural treatments.
Functional medicine focuses on treating the root cause of disease, so it focuses on the immune component of endometriosis. I have seen many cases where this works well combined with surgery. For many women, it can slow or even stop the growth of the lesions, but they most likely need to have the existing tissue removed by surgery.
Source: Lara Briden's Healthy Hormone Blog Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor with 20 years experience in women's health and the author of Period Repair Manual. Clare Goodwin, the PCOS Nutritionist has also contributed to this page.