Endometriosis is a complex disease that affects about 10-15% of women with menstrual cycles. It can significantly decrease a woman’s quality of life, cause severe pain, and can impair her fertility. Additionally, the diagnostic process unfortunately takes months, and mainstream treatment options are limited. There are natural therapies that are supportive, and have been shown to offer benefit to women living with endometriosis. Ultimately, taking an integrated approach to dealing with endometriosis could improve pain, fertility, and quality of life.
There are a few theories as to HOW endometriosis develops:
- Hereditary – first-degree relative with endo, increases likelihood
- Retrograde menstruation
- Immunological basis
- Environmental toxicity build up
- Altered estrogen metabolism, or “estrogen dominance”
- Other factors have been studied for their correlation (Remember that correlation does not equal causation!) to endometriosis, such as:
- red hair colour, IUD use,
- low exercise,
- poor diet,
- cycle length (shorter time between periods, and longer periods)
Endometrial tissue is responsive to estrogen hormones, and it grows in size every month, as a woman’s hormones fluctuate throughout the cycle. The endometrial lining grows thicker inside the uterus, and this blood lining is shed during menses. In endometriosis this tissue grows OUTSIDE the uterus. There can be endometrial tissues found in abnormal locations such as on the fallopian tubes, on the ovaries, in and around the pelvic organs, and in some severe, and rare cases, as far as the lungs, and brain tissue.
There are three main symptoms:
- Dysmenorrhea – painful periods
- Dyspareunia – painful vaginal intercourse
This is quite often a very painful disease, with the pain increasing before menses. This pain is often excruciating, and many women are doubled over, and bed bound for days before their period. Some may vomit or lose consciousness from the pain, or experience nausea. This pain interrupts work, social life, and daily functioning. Some experience a chronic “bearing down” sensation, low back pain, or pelvic pain.
Traditionally women are generally offered analgesics, anti-inflammatories, or estrogen blocking medications prior to laparoscopic (surgical) removal of the tissue, which can be useful in reducing pain. Laparoscopy is the gold standard of diagnosis and also can be used to tissue biopsy or surgical removal of the tissue.
Many women are offered hormonal birth control, to suppress estradiol, estriol and estrone production, from the ovaries, and therefore to reduce the amount of endometrial growth.
There are a variety of forms of these hormonal interventions: progestin containing IUDs, oral tablets (pills), hormonal injections. All forms of synthetic hormonal therapies have risks, and may not be a viable option for everyone.
My naturopathic approach to supporting endometriosis:
- Blood testing – assessing hormonal levels, and biomarkers
- Dietary changes – anti-inflammatory diet, increasing fibre, organic fruits & veggies
- Lifestyle changes – daily exercise is required
- Natural supplements – herbs, vitamins, fatty acids, and more!
- Referral to gynecologist, if wanted/warranted – laparoscopy may be needed
My naturopathic treatments aim to:
- Reduce inflammation levels
- Reduce pain level
- Support fertility adjunctive to medical care
- Balance sex hormone levels
- Ensure optimal digestion, and detoxification pathways
- Improve dietary and lifestyle factors
- Improve overall wellbeing
I have successfully supported patients with endometriosis, in reducing inflammation, and improving pain levels, naturally. I have supported women while coming off medications, and beyond!
I do acknowledge that the natural approach does take time, energy, financial resources, and plenty of effort to make the necessary changes to diet and lifestyle. I know that this may not be best for everyone, however, in my experience generally treatments are low risk, and have possible benefit to your treatment plan, whether solely through naturopathic care, or adjunctive to your usual medical care.