Endometriosis is a progressive and chronic condition in which endometrial tissue (the inner lining of the uterus that is shed each month during a period) is found outside of the uterus and grows on different organs, usually within the pelvic cavity. It is thought that this happens as a result of “backward bleeding” where cells are pushed through the fallopian tubes during menstruation, to seed elsewhere in place like the ovaries and pelvis. Like other endometrial cells these cells respond to oestrogen and progesterone and become secretory and form cysts, which may fill with blood. Bleeding into the peritoneal cavity causes pain, and endometriosis may cause severe pain during mentruation. If the endometrium grows within the muscular layer of the womb it is called adenomyosis, which is just a different type of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is believed to affect as many as 10% of all women between 16 and 50 years of age, often without producing any symptoms. It is the third leading cause of gynaecologic hospitalisation and a leading cause of hysterectomy.
Endometriosis can affect the ovaries where so called “chocolate” blood filled cysts might appear; the area behind the womb and in front of the rectum. This space is called the Pouch of Douglas and endometriosis here often causes deep pain and painful intercourse.
Endometriosis can migrate to the bowel itself, the bladder and sites outside the pelvis including the navel or operation scars.
Endometriosis might cause discomfort or mild to severe pain during a period (dysmenorrhoea), with many sufferers experiencing chronic pain. Sexual intercourse can be painful, and women with chocolate cysts may have a feeling of fullness in the lower parts of their stomach. In severe cases, formation of connecting tissues around endometriosis near the Fallopian tubes or ovaries may reduce fertility.
Fortunately, most women with endometriosis have a mild form of disease and their fertility is not impaired. Once pregnant, most women’s endometriosis gets better under the influence of the constant high levels of female hormones produced in pregnancy.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Vitamin E||Combined with Vitamin C, both powerful anti-oxidants, may help circulation and reduce inflammation.||1200iu daily|
|Vitamin C||Combined with Vitamin E, both powerful anti-oxidants, may help circulation and reduce inflammation.||1000mg daily|
|Fish Oils||The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils have been demonstrated to have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body and help reduce the symptoms of painful menstruation, which may be caused by endometriosis.||1000mg daily|
|Agnus Castus||Agnus castus helps balance reproductive hormones and can be effective in treating the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. It is thought that it’s positive effects on oestrogen and progesterone may have a “knock on” effect on endometriosis.||As directed|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Preliminary research suggests that women who consume more than 5 grams of caffeine per month (about 1.5 cups of coffee a day) are more likely to have endometriosis. As caffeinated drinks trigger the release of adrenalin, at the expense of reproductive hormones it is worth replacing it with herb teas or drinks such as caro, barley cup or dandelion coffee.
Reduce or avoid trans fats and hydrogenated fats, refined carbohydrates.
Increase intake of fruits and vegetables, preferably organic and eat oily fish 3 to 4 times a week.
Cardiovascular exercise two to four hours per week seems to reduce the risk of developing endometriosis.
Acupuncture can be useful to help alleviate the pain of endometriosis and help regulate hormones.
Suggested further reading:
- Tips to manage endometriosis
- Endometriosis explained