Endometriosis is a health concern for many women. Over 200,000 cases occur each year, and for many women, it’s a lifelong battle. Endometriosis is when the tissue inside the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. Most of the time endometriosis involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining the pelvis. It can spread passed the pelvic organs but rarely does. Cysts and scar tissue can form, and it can cause pelvic organs and tissues to stick to each other.
There are many symptoms to look out for. Painful periods, painful intercourse, painful bowel movements and/or urination, excessive bleeding, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea are some of the most common symptoms. It is a myth that the worse the endometriosis, the worse the pain. There are many women that have a terrible case of endometriosis with very little pain and women with a less severe case of endometriosis that have extreme pain. Endometriosis can often be misdiagnosed as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or ovarian cysts or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you experience any of these symptoms, make sure to see a doctor. Endometriosis can be difficult to manage, but early diagnosis can help.
There are many possible causes. Sampson’s Theory says that retrograde menstruation, backward flow of menstrual debris, could be the cause. In recent studies, it’s been shown that 90% of women have retrograde menstruation, but only 1 in 10 have endometriosis. Although it is unlikely this is the main cause, more research needs to be done. Meyer’s Theory suggests that endometriosis is present at fetal development and gets activated at puberty when estrogen levels increase. It is likely to have a genetic compound. Girls are 5-7 times more likely to have endometriosis if a close female relative has it. Having a surgery, like a C-section or a hysterectomy could cause endometrial cells to attach to the surgical scar. The immune system is also likely involved, but more research needs to be done on that. Similarly, there are many factors that put women more at risk. Never giving birth, starting your period early, going into menopause late, having short mental cycles (less than 27 days), higher estrogen levels, low body mass index, or medications that prevent normal menstrual flow are a few things that can make women more at risk.
There are four stages of endometriosis. Infertility and ovarian cancer are two horrible complications that can come from endometriosis (I-minimal, II-mild, III-moderate, and IV-severe). The stage is based on exact location, extent, depth of the endometriosis implants, and the presence and severity of scar tissue and size of endometrial implants in the ovaries.
There are a few different ways to diagnose endometriosis. The first is having a pelvic exam. Women should get these every few years anyway. The doctor will manually look for cysts or scar tissue, although it’s usually not possible to feel. That’s where the next way comes in. An ultrasound can identify cysts. It uses sound waves to create images. The technician may press the transducer against your abdomen, insert it inside you, or both. The last way to diagnose endometriosis is for a surgeon to insert a laparoscope, a thin camera, through a small incision in the abdomen. The laparoscope will show any endometrial tissue outside the uterus. Laparoscopy is the only definitive way to know if you have endometriosis.
Although there is no cure for endometriosis, there are several ways to relieve symptoms. The first way is diet. Staying away from foods that cause inflammation will help with pain and severity. Those foods are processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol, improperly prepared soy, and carbohydrates. Several foods have anti-inflammatory properties. Adding leafy greens (like spinach), broccoli, celery, coconut oil, chia seeds, and pretty much all berries are a few of the foods to add more of to your diet. Magnesium rich foods, like pumpkin seeds, black beans, and avocado, can help relieve pain and soothe the uterus. Iron-rich foods, like beef, collard greens, and prunes can help replenish the iron that gets lost through excess bleeding. Omega-3 rich foods, like chia seeds, can help relieve pain and inflammation. Be careful about choosing Omega-3 rich foods. Fish have dioxins and dioxins can cause more problems with endometriosis. Fiber-rich foods can help relieve constipation that often comes with endometriosis. Some fiber-rich foods are quinoa, figs, and brussel sprouts. Give the new diet four weeks to notice any changes.
Essential oils are another more natural way to manage symptoms. Clary sage is an awesome oil that helps manage hormones. Non-endo related it’s good for any period related discomfort. A couple of drops of the inside of the ankle can help. Eucalyptus can help relieve some inflammation. Lavender helps with cell regeneration and scar tissue. Cyprus helps with circulation. Frankincense helps with cancer-causing cells. A recipe that could help is: 10 drops Frankincense, ten drops Lavender, 5 drops Cypress, 5 drops Tea Tree (for sensitive Uterus) OR 5 drops Rosemary (for higher tolerance to pain), 1-3 drops Helichrysum, 2 drops Geranium (for emotions), and1 oz. Carrier Oil. I’d use a roller bottle and roll it on my abdomen a few times a day. The site I got this recipe from says to put it on a tampon and leave it in overnight. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that, but ask a doctor or oil expert yourself. There are a couple more recipes for essential oils on this page near the bottom. Not all bodies react the same way to the same oils, so try different ones and see what works best for you.
*More is not better with oils. Use recommended amounts.
**Do not ingest oils and mix with a carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil).
There are several medical ways to cope. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers, like Motrin, can help reduce the inflammation and resulting pain. Taking pain medicine for too long can cause addiction or kidney or liver failure. Hormonal contraceptives can control hormone levels. Conservative surgery can clean out the endometriosis, but the endometriosis and pain could return. A total hysterectomy and an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) are a last resort solution. The uterus, cervix, and ovaries would need to be removed and there still isn’t a guarantee the endometriosis won’t return. There are benefits and drawbacks to all options. Carefully review them and choose what fits best for your life.
Here is a link to Lo’s blog about her experience with Endo.
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“Endometriosis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Mar. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656.
“Endometriosis.” There’s an Oil for That™, theresanoilforthat.blogspot.de/2009/04/endometriosis.html.
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Stöppler, MD Melissa Conrad. “16 Endometriosis Symptoms (Pain), Signs, Diet & Surgery Treatments.” MedicineNet, http://www.medicinenet.com/endometriosis/article.htm#what_is_the_treatment_for_endometriosis.
“What Is Endometriosis? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments.” Endometriosis : Causes – Symptoms – Diagnosis – and Treatment, 5 Mar. 2018, http://www.endofound.org/endometriosis.
“Endometriosis: Should I Have a Hysterectomy and Oophorectomy?” Endometriosis: Should I Have a Hysterectomy and Oophorectomy? | Michigan Medicine, http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tv7242.