Imagine living with debilitating, chronic pain.
Intensely painful periods. Painful urination and bowel movements. Pain during sexual intercourse. Pain that feels like period pain even when you’re not having your period. Pain that keeps you from being able to go out and enjoy life on a regular basis. Basically, being in excruciating pain almost all the time.
And this is your normal.
If you can imagine this then you have an inkling of what it’s like to live with endometriosis.
I couldn’t let March go by without writing something about endometriosis. March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.
I don’t suffer from endometriosis, nor do I know much about it, so writing this post is a way for me to increase my own awareness.
I do know the basics: that endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the uterine lining (called the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. This tissue should only contained only in the uterus, but in women with endometriosis, can be found in the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the pelvic wall, and even on the intestines and colon, as well as other locations in the body.
Some 176 million women worldwide grapple with endometriosis. This equates to roughly 1 in 10 women of reproductive age.
Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of female infertility, and about 30-40% of women with endometriosis have trouble getting pregnant. The reasons for this aren’t known, but theories abound about why endometriosis negatively affects fertility:
- It decreases the quality of the eggs
- It inhibits ovulation
- It causes blockages in the fallopian tubes, making it difficult for the egg and sperm to meet and facilitate fertilization
- It leads to a hostile environment for sperm to survive
Traditionally, treatment for endometriosis includes hormone therapy (many women with the condition are put on synthetic birth control pills or other hormones to reduce the pain), laparoscopic surgery to remove the tissue from the locations where it’s not supposed to be.
Neither of these treatments, however, are long-term fixes. After a woman goes off of hormone therapy, her pain and symptoms will likely return, and while surgery can remove tissue, sometimes for up to two years, it often comes back.
If I had endometriosis, I’d want to get to and address the root cause.
- Get the inflammation under control. Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition, meaning that it causes intense inflammation in the body. This inflammation is likely what causes the pain. Therefore, the most important thing to do is get the inflammation under control.
An effective way to do this is through diet. I’ve said it before, food is the best medicine that we have for treating virtually any condition. Minimize or eliminate the main inflammatory foods from your diet – dairy, sugar, gluten and red meat.
A plant-based diet, with leafy green vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grains, is ideal for women with endometriosis. If you eat meat, make sure it’s organic as the chemicals in conventional meat could exacerbate your condition.
- Repair tissue damage. Fruits like berries will give you antioxidants, which can help prevent damage caused by inflammation. Other great sources of antioxidants include grapes, kale, red bell pepper, green tea, and foods with turmeric.
- Minimize your exposure to toxins. Avoid plastics, switch to natural and organic cleaning and personal care products, and do an occasional detox.
- Balance your hormones. One contributing factor to endometriosis is excess estrogen in the body. Estrogen also exacerbates the inflammation. You can lower estrogen by improving your diet and gastrointestinal health, and by making sure you get enough fiber to ensure complete and regular elimination.
- Treat the pain. Rather than hormone therapy or surgery, I’d recommend natural remedies. Herbs, supplements and acupuncture might all help.
While there is no cure for endometriosis, these steps may help you get some relief. I hope this helps you work with your doctor to create a natural healing plan that works for you, eases your pain, and helps you reclaim your life!