Who has Endometriosis?
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women; including teens. About 35% to 50% of women that experience chronic pelvic pain or infertility have endometriosis.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a medical condition where tissue that normally lines the uterus is also found outside of it – where it’s not supposed to be.
This tissue bleeds like you do when you have your period, and this can be painful, and irritating to the surrounding tissues. This can also lead to the formation of scar tissue or adhesions – which can glue structures together . Adhesions can be problematic as they impair the proper movement of various structures leading to pain and inflammation.
Many factors are involved in the development of endometriosis and there are currently four theories as to how it develops.
Typically, endometriosis is diagnosed later, and treated once other causes for someone’s symptoms have been ruled out, or treated once several therapies have been tried. Laparoscopy, a surgical procedure, is required to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis.
Symptoms typically include: chronic pelvic pain, pain during intercourse or menstruation, pain with bowel movements, and infertility. Some women with endometriosis do not have any symptoms; and for some the symptoms are severe.
The goal of conventional medical therapy is relief of pain and preservation of fertility using pain killers, various hormonal therapies, and potentially surgery.
A whole-person approach
Because endometriosis involves many factors including: inflammation, adhesions, hormone balance and environmental contaminants among others, a personalized and whole-person approach is often helpful. Most of the time, we use your symptoms as a guide as to how things are improving. Some of the tools we might use are listed below.
A personalized approach to an anti-inflammatory diet addresses the root causes in your particular case. A Mediterranean diet with plenty of fruits and veggies, healthy fats and adequate protein can be a good base, along with eating for blood sugar balance, and plenty of soluble fiber (and adequate water to prevent constipation) can help with detox and hormone balance. In some cases, investigating food sensitivities can be helpful, along with supporting the immune system.
Promoting hormone balance
There are many hormone disrupting chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis including: plastics (especially cooking or freezing with them, or using the softer plastics), pthalates (in many personal care products), pesticides, heavy metals and Bisphenol A (BPA). Many of these contaminants are called xenoestrogens, because they act as a stronger version of our natural estrogens. It can be important to learn practical, low cost ways to limit or avoid exposure to these and support the body’s natural detoxification pathways. Cruciferous veggies like brocoli sprouts can also help with hormone balance, along with soluble fiber – in combination with adequate water as mentioned above. Other treatment options to promote hormone balance might include herbal medicines or supplements such as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) or melatonin.
Proper stress management and adequate sleep can also help to promote hormone balance.
Addressing scar tissue and adhesions
Since scar tissue and adhesions can cause pain and impair the proper movement of pelvic structures, it can be important to address them with manual therapies or herbal remedies. These two approaches can complement eachother.
Reducing pain, and reducing the need for pain medication can really increase quality of life.
One approach that can be quite helpful in this regard is Acupuncture. The World Health Organization has found that Acupuncture can be effective for pain management and can decrease the need for pain medication.
The use of melatonin has also been shown to decrease the need for pain medication.
A treatment plan as individual as you are
Because the factors in each case are different, at Valley Naturopath, we take a whole-person approach. We treat the whole person rather than one health condition and work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that fits your lifestyle and helps you reach your health goals.
We are here to help, and we provide a neutral, professional and confidential environment for you to explore conventional as well as, complementary and alternative healthcare options. You don’t have to choose one over the other.
For more information, feel free to call, e-mail or come in for a free introductory visit.
Originally published in the Valley Naturopath clinic newsletter October 2015.Related to: endometriosis . hormone balance . pain . pain management . pelvic pain . women's health