Women's Health | August 16, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
Endometriosis is a chronic disorder in which endometrial tissue normally lining the uterus (endometrium) starts to grow outside the uterus. The endometrium is the surface layer of the uterus which is shed each month during menstruation. Endometriosis can begin in teenage years but is most likely to affect menstruating women aged 25 to 44.
The exact cause of endometriosis is unclear but it is thought that the endometrial tissue that is shed each month flows backward through the fallopian tubes towards the ovaries and into the abdominal cavity.
These cells may also reach the blood stream or lymphatic vessels where they can be transported to other locations in the body, most commonly the ovaries and the ligaments surrounding the uterus. Less common locations include the ureters, the bladder, the vagina, surgical scars in the abdomen and the outer surface of the small and large intestine.
Another theory referred to as "coelomic metaplasia", is that stem cells located outside the uterus may change into endometrial cells. This could be triggered by excessive oestrogen levels or decreased excretion, menses, environmental toxins that mimic hormones in the body or autoimmune factors with inflammatory mediators.
There is also a genetic component to endometriosis as it has been linked to abnormalities in embryonic development.
Pain. For many women it can cause no symptoms but most women describe unbearable pelvic cramps and pain during menstruation. This is due to the endometrial cells located outside the uterus responding to the same hormones oestrogen & progesterone which cause bleeding during menstruation.
Heavy Bleeding. It may also cause menstrual irregularities such as heavy bleeding and spotting before a period.
Bloating. Endometrial tissue located on the intestine or bladder may cause bloating, pain above the pubic bone during urination and pain during bowel movements.
Mass. An endometria (blood-filled mass) can also occur if there is endometrial tissue on the ovaries or surrounding tissues. Occasionally an endometria can rupture or leak, leading to sudden sharp abdominal pain.
Scar tissue, sometimes in the form of fibrous tissue (adhesions) can also result in the abdomen causing interference with the proper functioning of nearby organs.
Approximately 1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis with diagnosis often occurring 7-10 years after the condition has been present.
Exactly how many women suffer from endometriosis is unclear as definitive diagnosis requires direct viewing of the endometrial tissue under a microscope during a surgical procedure referred to as a laproscopy. Other methods such as ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be useful to determine the extent of endometriosis but they are usually of limited value. Most times diagnosis is often based on the patient’s history who display characteristic symptoms of endometriosis with or without unexplained fertility. Occasionally a doctor may feel a mass of tissue behind the uterus or near the ovaries during a pelvic examination. The patient may also experience pain & tenderness.
Key treatment protocols include modulating oestrogen levels, decreasing inflammation, improving the body’s detoxification process, reducing symptoms and exacerbating factors. It also includes addressing dietary & lifestyle issues that are also driving the condition.
Eat More Greens. A study conducted in 2004 found that a diet high in green vegetables showed a reduction in risk for endometriosis while a diet high in ham, beef & other red meats showed an increase in risk.
Oils to avoid include soy, corn, safflower, sunflower, vegetable oil & margarine. Try instead coconut or olive oil for cooking.
Another study showed that a diet high in inflammatory vegetables & polyunsaturated fats rich in omega 6’s increased symptoms.
Omega 3. Animal studies have found that omega 3 supplementation reduced inflammatory prostaglandins & decreased endometrial surface on tissues. Epidemiological data of fish oil consumption in women with endometriosis found that an increase in consumption reduced the symptoms.
Include fish, walnuts, linseeds and chia seeds in your diet
Vitamin E has also been specifically found to reduce adhesions in women with endometriosis. Include dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, almonds, wholegrains, brown rice, wheat germ, sesame seeds or tahini and eggs.
Vitamin D has shown to decrease adhesion weight and is found in fish liver oils, fatty saltwater fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring & halibut, dairy products eggs and sunlight.
Cruciferous food such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy and Brussel sprouts are highly recommended. They contain indoles (indole-3-carbinol and di-indolyl-methane) that help to increase oestrogen excretion via the liver and help convert oestrogen to less active forms. They may also inhibit activation of oestrogen receptors by oestrogen or oestrogen-like compounds.
Increase fibre - this allows the body to remove excess oestrogen and xenoestrogens via the bowel. Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains to ensure adequate consumption.
Reduce consumption of phytoestrogens (soy, red clover, hops, wild yam, linseeds, lentils, barley and beans). Consumption over a long period of time has been associated with endometrial hyperplasia. It is ok, however, to enjoy these foods in moderation.
The obvious - Eat a balanced diet with a high intake of a variety of fruits & vegetables, wholegrains, omega 3, protein and healthy fats and avoid high carbohydrate and sugar rich foods and obvious unhealthy food choices such as processed foods, foods containing preservatives, artificial colours and flavours.
The herbsmay help to restore proper functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) is released by the anterior pituitary which encourages the production of oestrogen from the ovaries.
Normally there is a feedback loop which regulates the release of the hormones but in reproductive disorders such as endometriosis this process is disrupted.
Excess oestrogens may be linked to excessive exposure to xenoestrogens which are synthetic industrial compounds that mimic our endogenous sex hormones causing disruption.
These compounds include dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) & bisphenols found in plastics, pesticides, food additives & petrochemicals.
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Lastly, it is important to exercise daily as studies have shown that exercise helps to increase clearance of excessive oestrogen and inflammatory mediators.
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