What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a long-term chronic condition that occurs when cells that are normally only found inside the uterus embed and grow outside the uterus, often on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, covering the top of the vagina or else on the intestines. In rare cases, it can occur in other areas of the body, such as the eyes and brain!
Those cells are hormonally active, just like those that line your uterus, and when womb cells shed every month (your period), those endometrial cells in other areas of the body do too. The blood can’t flow out of the body in the same way as they leave the uterus (your period) and therefore, people with endometriosis can suffer from pain, inflammation and the build-up of scar tissue and cysts.
What causes it?
Doctors don’t yet know what causes it. It may be one of a number of possible causes or a combination of several. We do know that it can be hereditary and that retrograde menstruation might play a role (this is when the womb lining stays inside the body rather than leaving it with your period). Or it might be an immune system problem. Doctors do know that hormone imbalance, specifically oestrogen dominance (where there is an excess of oestrogen compared with progesterone), plays a part.
What are some of the common symptoms of endometriosis?
· Very painful periods
· Very heavy periods
· Pain in the pelvis, lower back and or lower abdomen
· Pain during or after sex
· Pain peeing or pooing during your period
· Feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea
· Difficulty getting pregnant
It is worth knowing that Some women are asymptomatic and don’t even know they have the condition until they struggle to have a baby (infertility is a common symptom).
Who gets endometriosis?
According to Endometriosis UK, 1 in 10 women, including those assigned female at birth, of reproductive age suffer from endometriosis. The majority of those diagnosed are between the ages of 25 and 40, although it is more common in women over 30 who have not had children.
On average it takes 8 years from the onset of symptoms for a woman to be diagnosed so if you do have any concerns you should see your GP right away.
Endometriosis is diagnosed via laparoscopy, an operation during which a tiny camera is inserted into the pelvis.
How is it treated?
At present there is no cure for endometriosis. The treatment options aim to reduce the severity of the symptoms and improve the quality of life of those with the condition. Treatment options range from over-the-counter painkillers and the contraceptive pill or coil to surgery – depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Can Nutrition Help?
Choosing foods that help to reduce inflammation can certainly help to ease some of the uncomfortable symptoms we associate with endometriosis. Because this is a hormonal health condition taking steps to balance your hormones can also be helpful. And of course because endometriosis is also associated with heavy periods, focusing on foods that contain iron (which may be lacking due to blood loss) can help to reduce fatigue associated with the condition.
3 Foods to include:
1. Increase your intake of Essential Fatty acids (EFA)
EFA and more specifically omega 3 fats are essential for good health. They are particularly important in endometriosis as they improve insulin sensitivity & encourage good hormone balance – both of which all help to regulate ovulation and menstruation. In addition, EFA can help to reduce inflammation which can contribute to the cramps and pain associated with endometriosis.
Aim to eat plenty of oily fish (including salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies) as well as nuts and seeds.
2. Eat plenty of fibre
Fibre binds oestrogen (and other unwanted substances) so that it can be excreted more efficiently from the body which contributes to improved hormone balance. It also helps keep your blood sugar stable and may help to reduce inflammation
Good sources of fibre include: grains (eg oats); nuts and seeds (eg. Almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, flax seeds, sesame seeds); beans, lentils and peas .
3. Focus on iron-rich foods
Heavy periods are a common symptom of this condition, so it can be useful to focus on iron rich foods that may help to replace some of the iron that are lost with the blood loss.
Poultry, Fish, Dark Green leafy veggies (such as kale, spinach and broccoli) are all good sources of iron
3 Foods to reduce:
1. Cut down on processed foods
Minimising processed foods is a good idea for everyone. These foods are inflammatory as well as being low in important nutrients and fibre. Consider cutting down on processed foods such as fried foods, smoked and processed meats, white flour and refined grains and high sugar foods and replacing them with more anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, wholegrains ,fruit and vegetables.
2. Limit alcohol consumption
The liver plays an important role in maintaining hormone balance by detoxifying oestrogens which are no longer needed. Alcohol places an additional burden on the liver so limiting alcohol consumption can help to support healthy liver function. In addition alcohol is inflammatory and can imbalance blood sugar levels.
3. Minimise exposure to xenoestrogens in foods
Oestrogens in our environment, through the foods and plants we eat and the chemicals we use can also influence hormonal imbalance. These are called xenoestrogens and they have a stronger more stimulating effect on our body than our own hormone oestrogen.
They are found in commercially raised meat & pesticides (as well as plastics, fuels and medications).
Here are some simple ways to minimise these:
Use glass ceramics or PET containers to store food and water wherever possible
Never heat food in plastic containers and especially avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for microwaving.
Wash vegetables and fruits well to rid the pesticides.
Choose organic foods where possible, especially meat, eggs and dairy products.
Consider investing in a good quality water filter.
If endometriosis is something you have been diagnosed with, I warmly invite you to book a free health & energy review call with me. During our call, you can tell me about your experience, your diagnosis and we can work out the best next steps for you.