What Every Woman Should Know About Endometriosis

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Facts about endometriosisEvery woman of childbearing years should know about endometriosis and what can be done about it. The main thing to remember is that you are not alone and that endometriosis is a very common condition. Statistics reveal that approximately 15% of women in their reproductive years are affected; 10% is a more common guess. It is a condition where the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is found in locations outside the uterus. Such misplaced tissue may be found in a variety of places close to the uterus, including the ovaries, uterus, bowel, bladder utero-sacral ligaments (ligaments that hold the uterus in place), or peritoneum (covering lining of the pelvis and abdominal cavity).

The causes of endometriosis is not yet fully known. There are quite a few theories, from genetics to toxic environment. Natural protocols should be focused on. Surgical intervention focuses on removal of endometrial tissues, while drug therapy focuses on balancing the hormonal picture with birth control pills.

Facts About Endometriosis Symptoms

Many women have absolutely no symptoms, but there is a vast number that does. Some symptoms that indicate you may have endometriosis includes:

  • Bleeding. There are a number of bleeding patterns which tells a woman that ‘something is not right. These are heavy bleeding, irregular bleeding (irrespective of their cycle), blood from the bowel or bladder, longer than normal periods, and bleeding when it is not your period.
  • Changes in bladder and/or bowel habits. This means the need to urinate more frequency and/or a change in your bowel movements, i.e. constipation or diarrhea.
  • Increased bloating whether with or without pain.
  • Anxiety, depression, or mood swings
  • Pain. This includes pain during, before, or after sex as well as stomach, pelvic and back pain. Pain could also be felt during bowel movements or when urinating or during ovulation.
  • Lack of energy and/or constant tiredness
  • Difficulty with conceiving.

About Endometriosis and the Bigger Picture

Endometriosis, of itself, although perceived by western medicine as a problem and the symptoms treated, is not a core problem. It is a symptom of a deeper underlying issue and one that functional medicine addresses. Endometriosis is, in fact, connected to an estrogen hormonal imbalance and thus related to adrenal fatigue and responsible for many of the symptoms commonly associated with endometriosis.

When the body is under stress of any kind, it results in elevated cortisol production in the adrenal glands. If the stress continues, the adrenals crash, causing adrenal exhaustion and the body is not able to maintain the optimal levels of adrenal hormone production. This leads to different symptoms, including PMS, irritability, tiredness, anxiety, and depression, to name but a few.

The primary raw material for cortisol production, i.e. the hormone responsible for dealing with stress, is progesterone. When the adrenals are forced to produce more and more cortisol, more and more progesterone is diverted in order to fuel the adrenals and their cortisol production. Finally, the progesterone reserves fall, leading to what is known as estrogen dominance with its related symptoms of fibroids, PMS, weight gain, heavy bleeding, etc. Besides this, excessive amounts of cortisol in the body block progesterone receptors, thereby compounding the problem and lowering progesterone levels even further.

What You Can Do About Endometriosis with Natural Non-toxic Treatments

a. Dietary Changes. Many women reported some relief after avoidance of caffeine, sugar, and alcoholic beverages. A diet rich in whole and organically based foods is also helpful.

b. Soy Protein can also be helpful to provide phytoestrogen, which acts as a competitive inhibitor and reduces estrogen load. Natural progesterone cream also assists in this respect.

c. Borage oil or Evening Primrose Oil (EPO). This oil is an essential fatty acid and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to rebalance the body’s internal pool of prostaglandins, which are responsible for the stimulation and inhibition of smooth muscle tissue such as those found in the uterus, the intestines and the bladder. Borage oil is superior to EPO.

d. The B Complex Vitamins. These vitamins have been linked to breakdown estrogen in the body. They also improve emotional symptoms of endometriosis.

e. Vitamin E & Selenium. Inflammation is a key responsive action by the body. When these two nutrients are taken together, they have been reported to decrease endometriosis-related inflammation. The use of Vitamin E should not exceed 400 IU due to some reports linking vitamin E with estrogen production.

Research about acupuncture and endometriosis are showing promisef. Acupuncture/Acupressure. This treatment has received mixed reviews from women with endometriosis. For some, there is a relief of pain, probably due to the stimulation of endorphins ( internal aspirin of the body).

g. Stress-Reduction Techniques. Techniques such as yoga, biofeedback, meditation, and regular exercise have all been reported to increase the general well-being of women with endometriosis. The degree of relief depends on each person.

Facts about endometriosis