What Is Endometriosis And How Can It Be Treated Holistically?
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, or endometrium, migrates outside of the womb, where the tissue should not be. The result is inflammation, as the tissue responds to the monthly hormone fluctuations of a woman's menstrual cycle. The disease affects an estimated 200 million women worldwide, and many women often experience a decade-long delay in diagnosis. The most recent research and theories state that endometriosis is of genetic origin, and that predisposition to disease complications are laid down during the fetal gestation period (while one is in the womb). While there is such evidence to its existence in early life, not all those who have endometriosis will suffer with symptoms, and the only current diagnostic tool is a laparoscopic procedure. What this means is that most who suffer from endo have a catalyst that sets their symptoms in motion and determines symptom severity. This means that there are things - environmental, emotional, physical - that are likely making symptoms worse for the sufferer. Rampant 21st century pollutants (pesticides, xenoestrogens and other environmental toxins) causing food sensitivities and autoimmune disorders are a major component of inflammation that can make endometriosis and autoimmune conditions worse. Additionally, acute or chronic physical and emotional traumas may set us up for chronic nervous system dysregulation, adding to the body’s inflammatory state. This is why I work very closely with the nervous system and emotional states in women with endometriosis.
Generally, endometriosis is found in the pelvic cavity, but it can grow to attach to any of the female reproductive organs including, but not limited to, the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterosacral ligaments, peritoneum, or any of the spaces between the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. Endometriosis can also involve the bowel, intestines or appendix and has often be found as far north as the lung.
Endometriosis can affect women of all ages, as young as peri-puberty and as old as peri-menopausal. It is important to note that Endometriosis is not only a women’s disease and that there are cases reported amongst the transgender community and, more rarely, amongst cisgendered men.
what are the signs and symptoms of endometriosis?
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis vary among patients. Common symptoms may be as follows:
Heavy menstrual flow
Extreme menstrual pain/cramps
Pain with ovulation
Chronic bowel disorders or IBS complications/diagnoses
Nausea and/or vomiting during periods and flair-ups
Pain with sex
Chronic pelvic pain with “flair-up” episodes
how is endometriosis treated?
Some women see improvement in their symptoms from hormonal birth control, however it is important to note that hormonal birth control does not cure endometriosis, and is often prescribed and used as a band-aid to cover symptoms and the continued proliferation of endometrial tissue and inflammation up the pelvic bowl.
Lupron, Orlissa and hormonal treatment methods cause chemically-induced menopause. Stripping your body of its naturally occurring hormones is not the answer, and can very well cause life-long bone density loss, mineral depletion, and irreversible side effects.
Laparoscopic surgery is the only route to true diagnosis and is often only offered to endo patients if their pain is deemed detrimental enough to their quality of life. During laparoscopic surgery, endometrial adhesions may be removed from the pelvic by incision. Sometimes one surgery is enough, however the rate of recurring surgeries among the endo community is astounding evidence that tissue removal is not always a long-term fix. Ablation surgery is a method during which the endometrial tissue is not removed but cauterized (burned) in the hopes that it not proliferate further. This surgical method has proven to be far less effective than laparoscopic surgery.
Technically, there is no cure for endometriosis that is accepted in the western medical community. However, there is hope. Many women see immense improvement in their condition from undertaking diet and environmental toxicity remediation in their lives. Addressing diet, gut health, liver function and curbing external xenoestrogen influence are key in getting to the root cause of both hormone imbalance and auto-immune types of inflammation.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine help balance the internal environment of our bodies as we seek to improve chronic inflammation. Pelvic reintegration and embodiment work helps us to reconnect with our bodies on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.
i think i might have endo. what now?
Know that there is support for you if you think you may be dealing with something that is more than just a “bad period.” Support can now be found worldwide in the form of Facebook groups, podcasts, Instagram accounts, nutrition blogs and more. For a comprehensive list of help, in the SoCal area and beyond, one of my favorite resources can be found at www.bloominuterus.com.