Endometriosis can be a very debilitating condition that gives rise to a host of other clinical issues, including pelvic pain of the chronic or menstrual variety. The condition occurs when tissue normally located inside the uterus grows outside of it. This displaced tissue, known as endometrial implants, causes pain as it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle.

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Common symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain with urination or bowel movements
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating and nausea, especially during menses

The cause of endometriosis is uncertain, but certain factors do place a women at greater risk of developing this condition, including:

  • Never having given birth
  • A mother, aunt or sister with endometriosis
  • Any condition that prevents the normal flow of menstruation
  • History of pelvic infection
  • Uterine abnormalities

Symptoms of endometriosis end temporarily with pregnancy and permanently with menopause.

Complications due to endometriosis include infertility (which occurs in in 35-50% of cases) and endometrial tissue developing and obstructing the GI and urinary tract. Endometriosis also slightly increases the risk of ovarian cancer.

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Management Options

Fundamental, underlying issues that we believe help cause endometriosis include the body making too much estrogen or too little progesterone, or the liver not breaking down active estrogen in a timely manner.

To manage endometriosis, we recommend a diet containing fewer inflammatory fats, especially animal fats and high-fat dairy products. These foods often contain dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which can be associated with endometriosis. Gluten must also be eliminated from the diet, as there is an association between celiac disease and endometriosis.

Nutrients that help balance estrogen include cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy. Flavones from celery and parsley, flaxseeds rich in lignans and fiber, and chasteberry or chaste tree and maca all help decrease estrogen levels by inhibiting aromatase activity.

Progesterone may relieve pain from endometriosis by slowing the growth of abnormal tissue. If progesterone cream therapy is implemented, then periodic blood or urine testing should be undertaken to monitor its effect on balancing the patient’s estrogen levels.

Excessive levels of cortisol, which is triggered due to prolonged periods of emotional stress, are found in women with endometriosis. Cortisol levels may be lowered with massage, meditation, saunas and acupuncture. Dietary changes, including reducing animal meat and decreasing refined carbohydrates can help lower cortisol. Rose hip tea, valerian root, Siberian ginseng, rhodiola (rose root) and ashwagandha are effective as well.

Stress-reducing vitamins and minerals include B vitamins, zinc, vitamin E, calcium magnesium, selenium and folic acid.

Ginkgo biloba, goldenseal, ocotillo and witch hazel all help increase pelvic flow. Black haw, cramp bark, valerian root and wild yam can all provide relief from cramps. Ginger tea can help relieve nausea. Plant stems and essential oils have also been used with some success in managing endometriosis.

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If we fill our hours with regrets of yesterday and with worries of tomorrow, we have no today in which to enjoy our existence. Seize the day, and take control of your health and life. How you are going to live those tomorrows will depend on how you act and choose today. - George Allibone M.D.