Endometriosis is a condition that occurs in 1 in 10 menstruating women. The only way to accurately diagnose the condition is via biopsy of the endometrial lining, therefore it is likely many more women are suffering in silence.
This debilitating condition occurs when pieces of the womb lining (endometrium) is found outside of the womb. This displaced tissue responds the same way as it does in the womb.. it sheds and bleeds each month causing severe pain.
Often associated with oestrogen dominance, which is true - that this condition is dependant on oestrogen, however there is more to it than just oestrogen dominance.
Chances are that if you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, your mother, aunty, sister or grandmother have been suffering too. Talk to them. Reach out and connect. You are definitely not alone. Polymorphisms or gene mutations within the inflammatory response has be been associated with endometriosis, suggesting a similarity with other hereditary autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
Autoimmunity is when your immune system is simply not functioning the way it should. In endometriosis there are elevated macrophages (immune cells) within the peritoneal area (where endometrial lessons are found), however their role of clearing up foreign tissue is dysfunctional. Instead, they produce chemicals to promote inflammation, pain and growth.
So why are the immune cells there? One of the reasons is bacteria. Specifically gram-negative bacteria that produce endotoxins. Endotoxins have been found in the menses of women with endometriosis from contamination of Escherichia coli (E.coli), as well as being present in the peritoneal cavity.
INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY
This is when your gut is “leaky” - larger particles from food that should not pass the intestinal lining, do. Not only does this initiate an immune response (inflammation, gut disturbances, skin complaints, headaches etc), the allows pathogenic (harmful) bacteria, such as E. coli) to transfer into the peritoneal area and create an inflammatory response on the outside of the womb.
A by-product of industrial practices that is present throughout the environment from the air we breathe, water we drink, food we eat, and tampons we use. Dioxin exposure during pregnancy has lead to progesterone resistance (an abnormal progesterone response) in female offspring, contributing to the risk of endometriosis and oestrogen dominant conditions.
Whether bleached or unbleached, dioxins can be present in tampons. Aside from the local exposure to this hormone disrupting chemical, tampon use increases the risk of retrograde menstruation, causing blood to flow back in into the pelvic cavity where endometrial cells are implanted into the outside of the womb.
SO, HOW TO TREAT ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Conventional approaches include hormonal therapy with the oral contraceptive pill, IUD; recurrent surgery to remove the lesions, or a complete hysterectomy and/or oophorectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries). Our reproductive hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone also influence thyroid function, mood, sleep, weight, and bone health.. therefore a treatment that focuses primarily on hormones, will result in these side effects.
A NATURAL APPROACH
Endometriosis is a oestrogen-dependant condition, so finding ways to reduce levels of oestrogen within the body is definitely warranted. This can include reducing exposure to soy products - not just soy milk, but soy isolate found in most commercial foods; supporting the liver to metabolise oestrogen, bowel function to excrete it; weight loss (as oestrogen is stored in fat cells); and increasing progesterone through foods, herbs and support of the adrenal glands.
A holistic approach is to consider everything - the immune system, a key factor in endometriosis; the gut wall, the gut bacteria; reducing inflammation through food, herbs and nutrients. Finding the foods that cause inflammation of the gut: gluten, dairy (specifically A1 dairy). STRESS - this is big. Prolonged stress and a constant rise in cortisol goes on to create havoc within the communication of all other hormones and the immune system. Time to slow down, take a step back and assess all areas that impact health.
WHAT TO DO?
Pain is associated with inflammation. The pain is debilitating. Anti-inflammatory foods, nutrients and herbs can all work at reducing pain. It is essential for anyone suffering from period pain to adapt a high-anti-inflammatory diet: less meat, no A1 dairy or gluten, and in some cases FODMAP foods.
Food journaling: How is your gut responding to foods? How do certain foods aggravate endometriosis? Link your symptoms to your foods.. over time you will see a connection.
Support healthy oestrogen metabolism via the liver and bowel - eat plenty of brassica veg! These are your broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage family and are high in a compound called indol-3-carbinol that acts on the liver to break down oestrogen. Also high in fibre for healthy bowel movement, brassica should be your go-to on a daily basis.
There is no cure for endometriosis, however working holistically to target all areas associated with this condition can, over time, reduce the severity so you can go on living without the severity of symptoms crippling you over.
Reach out. Get in touch.