What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to the ones which line the uterus, grow on other parts of the body and follow the pattern of the menstrual cycle. These cells break down as the womb lining does, causing blood to empty on to organs, other tissue and spaces within the body creating scarring, adhesions, inflammation and often debilitating pain. Despite this, endometriosis is not a period-dependent disease; endometriosis can continue after the menopause and without the presence of a period. The disease is also thought to be oestrogen dependent, and therefore the theory is that many people with endometriosis have a hormone imbalance called oestrogen-domninace. Endometriosis is a chronic condition, meaning it is ongoing and there is currently no cure, however, there are ways to manage the symptoms and pain through surgery, hormone treatment, as well as effective lifestyle and diet choices which I explore here and through This EndoLife Podcast and events.
Symptoms of endometriosis vary from person to person and doctors do not always list the following as medically recognised symptoms, however, many women have reported experiencing:
- Pelvic/back/leg pain between and during periods
- Painful sex
- Irregular periods
- Bladder frequency and/or pain when urinating
- Painful bowel movements
- Digestive problems including IBS
- Chronic fatigue
- Immune related disorders such as allergies
Endometriosis can't be confirmed through symptoms or tests and is largely missed with ultra-sounds and even MRI. The most effective way to diagnose the condition is through a laparoscopy. A laparoscopy is a procedure where two-three 5mm incisions are made in the lower abdomen area, which is then inflated with gas so a small camera can be in inserted.
Endometriosis is still relatively misunderstood and very under researched in the medical world and so unfortunately, there is no known current cure - the most common treatment is surgery and hormonal medication. If endometriosis is found during a laparoscopy, surgeons will remove or destroy the areas with tools which apply a laser, an electric current, diathermy, helium gas or heat.
Hormone treatment can be used to stop menstruation and as a result slow down the growth of endometriosis.
Other treatment includes pain killers and anti-inflammatories such as paracetamol, naproxen, ibuprofen and codeine.
The endometriosis diet as it's been coined, is mainly an anti-inflammatory diet which serves to reduce inflammation in the body and as a result, reduce pain. The information on this website has come from my own research through the internet, nutritionists and books. I am not a nutritionist and am writing from experience only, but have found the diet to be essential to leading a better quality of life. I have covered the basics of the endometriosis under the Nutrition section.
The environment and modern life stressors can have a real impact on the development and symptoms of endometriosis, but similarly, you can make changes to reduce the risk of the condition and the symptoms. I have written an introduction to this area in the Lifestyle section.