Endometriosis: a misunderstood disease
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an individual’s disease and it can be an extremely lonely condition because it means such different things for different women. Thats the problem with a one-size fits all approach to this condition. Whilst one woman may suffer agonising pain, another may have little or no pain but find her fertility is affected. Someone could have mild endometriosis and not even know about it unless it was discovered incidentally. Other cases can be so severe as to be life threatening: endometrial tissue can even be found in the eyes, the spine, the lungs or brain!! To further complicate matters, the pain suffered is not necessarily related to the visible extent of the disease. Sadly for such a common condition many women struggle to get help and instead are faced with late diagnosis.
Most common in women between the ages of 25 and 40, endometriosis is a condition where cells from the womb lining are found outside of the womb, often attached to the ovaries, bladder, bowel or other organs. As oestrogen stimulates womb cells each month, these stray cells also fill with blood and become engorged causing pain. As with every hormonal condition, every woman’s experience is entirely unique but for some women endometriosis can cause pelvic pain, often worse with periods but also on intercourse or bowel movements. Endometriosis can also affect fertility.
Many endometriosis sufferers feel isolated because all too often work colleagues or friends may seem unsympathetic purely through lack of understanding of this diverse and complex condition. Novelist Hilary Mantel wrote an important article in the Guardian in which she talks about her experience of endometriosis: her mother didn’t know what it was and she herself didn’t know what was normal (how does one know what’s ‘normal’?). A feature length documentary called Endo What? describes the struggle faced by some sufferers.
An individualized approach to treatment is critical.
What lifestyle changes should you make?
Foods that help healthy oestrogen metabolism include artichokes, broccoli, kale, green tea, garlic, pomegranate, shallots, and watercress. Eat enough vegetables to avoid constipation which can worsen the situation.
Take probiotics, calcium-d-glucarate 1000mg three times per day, and diindolmethane 100mg twice per day to improve gut health and eat flaxseeds 2 tablespoons per day to improve constipation.
Maintain a healthy weight – visceral fat increases the enzyme aromatase, which increases oestrogen.
Decrease inflammation through eating a pescatarian diet, eating organic eggs and organic fat free dairy and supplementing with omega 3 essential fatty acids 2g per day and curcumin 2-4g per day.
Avoid sugars, agave nectar and artificial sweeteners to normalise insulin levels. Eat a low-glycaemic-index diet and try supplementing with alpha lipoic acid 50mg twice per day and chromium 1000mcg per day, both of which have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity.
Try to avoid pesticides and plastics which have long been known to have oestrogenic effects.