The inner lining of our uterus, called the endometrium, grows, and sheds each month during a women’s menstrual cycle, due to the hormones rising & falling throughout her cycle.
During most of her cycle, the endometrium is growing & thickening and if there is no pregnancy, the endometrium will shed, and this is what is known as a “period.”
Endometriosis is the growth of endometrial-like-tissue in areas outside of the uterus, such as the ovaries & fallopian tubes, intestines, bladder etc…
This abnormal growth causes a lot of inflammation in these areas, which leads to quite a bit of pain. The abnormal endometrial tissue also responds to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and will bleed during a women’s period, much like the endometrium. This causes more inflammation and scar tissue in the areas of endometriosis, and this is what causes a lot of pain, especially around a women’s period.
There are a lot of questions, and not very many answers surrounding what causes endometriosis, but one of the proposed mechanisms is estrogen dominance.
Because of this, one of the key treatments is ensuring proper hormonal balance & excretion.
The most common treatment in Western medicine, after Laparoscopic surgery, for the management of symptoms is oral birth control.
As Naturopaths, there are lots of things we can do to help support hormonal balance and reduce inflammation.
Some of these are listed below:
Exercise reduces inflammatory mediators and estrogen production
Smoking cessation. There is a strong correlation between smoking cigarettes and increased pain in endometriosis.
Avoiding xenoestrogens in the environment (BPA, PCBs, phthalates etc…) as these bind to estrogen receptors and are stored in our cells.
Encouraging daily bowel movements to help with excretion pathways.
Consuming enough Omega 3 fatty acids was shown to be anti-inflammatory and had a 22% less risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis.
Sufficient Vitamin D status showed a reduced risk of endometriosis.
Vitamin E supplementation reduces adhesion formation.
Vitamin C reduces chronic pelvic pain in those with inflammatory markers.
Selenium was shown to decrease inflammation.
Melatonin supplementation led to reduced pain during menstruation in those with endometriosis.
Acupuncture was shown to reduce pain throughout the menstrual cycle.
It's always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider to learn which specific treatments would benefit your individual situation.
Author: Dr. Samantha Allen, ND