Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition affecting 1 in 10 women where endometrial tissue grows outside of uterus.

Our endometrial tissue inflames and grows over the course of each cycle preparing the uterus to receive a fertilised egg. It sheds and bleeds as a period when pregnancy doesn’t take place.

Whether endometrial cells are located within the uterus or – as is the case with endometriosis – outside of it, the cells are subjected to the same hormonal changes across a menstrual cycle.

Women with endometriosis experience bleeding wherever rogue endometriosis cells are located – the abdominal cavity, other organs, it can be anywhere in the body – often causing excruciating symptoms such as;

  • heavy bleeding
  • terrible cramps
  • debilitating pain
  • longer periods
  • heavy clotting
  • infertility

Misplaced endometrial cells can sometimes cause adhesions (the sticking together) of organs which exacerbate symptoms. If adhesions occur to the bowel or rectum (as with 80% of women diagnosed) they will often also experience;

  • irritable bowel symptoms

Diagnosis

Endometriosis is diagnosed with a laproscopy, an invasive keyhole surgery used to examine – and usually operate – on the interior of the abdominal or pelvic cavities. It is performed under general anaesthetic by a surgeon or gynaecologist.

Cause

Although there are several medical theories, it isn’t yet known what causes endometriosis. The Endometrial Society of Australia state that there is no cure for endometriosis. It is often dismissed as “bad luck” or “bad genes”. There is new research coming out that shows a potential link to the immune system which may change how endometriosis is treated in the future.

Treatment

As the cause of endometriosis is not yet clear, many treatments will often be tried to see what works best for the individual. These include;

  • oral contraceptive pill
  • regular laproscopy surgeries to remove endometrial cells
  • synthetic progesterone medication
  • hormone inhibitors (to induce a menopausal state)

Limitations of treatment

Hormonal intervention often initially creates an improvement before symptoms begin to worsen again. This is because the underlying hormonal imbalance has not been addressed.

Ongoing laproscopy are common but pose risk due to the need for general anaesthetic. The most experienced surgeons will only remove a maximum of 10% of endometrial tissue during surgery, inevitably the remaining cells soon multiply.

Even a hysterectomy will not solve endometrial pain as cells outside of the uterus still grow and respond to hormonal changes.

As western medicine compartmentalises the body, practitioners tend to focus only on the reproductive organs when treating endometriosis. Often the overall health picture and its impact upon the body is overlooked.

Holistic considerations

Viewed holistically endometriosis is essentially a hormonal imbalance. Although it is common, it is not normal. It is often seen hand-in-hand with estrogen dominance and high cortisol levels. These imbalances can be treated with changes to diet, lifestyle and chemical exposure.

Estrogen dominance symptoms;

High cortisol symptoms;

When treating endometriosis holistically it is important to consider;

  • stress levels
  • overall hormonal health, including the adrenals
  • lifestyle
  • toxic exposure
  • good digestion
  • gut health
  • liver function

Holistic treatment of endometriosis

There are many factors that create hormonal imbalance. It can be overwhelming to see how many things may be contributing. With any change always begin simply with one thing at a time. Rather than a sudden overhaul of your life begin by choosing one thing to change and working on that until you’ve nailed it. As products run out they can be replaced with new products. This allows for manageable and sustainable change both mentally and financially.

Reduce toxins

1. Xenoestrogens.

These are compounds that mimic estrogen. Exposure can interrupt hormonal and reproductive function. They are present in products containing BPA, phthalates, dioxins, and pesticides, herbicides & fertilisers;

BPA

BPA is a chemical used to make hard clear plastic. It is commonly found in;

  • plastic food and drink containers
  • canned food (are often lined with a BPA resin)
  • plastic heated in microwaves and dishwashers
  • plastic food wraps

use instead;

  • containers, drink bottles and packaging made from glass, porcelain or stainless steel (without plastic linings)
  • hand wash plastics (at the very least put plastics on the top shelf of the dishwasher)
  • beeswax food wraps or aluminium foil

Phthalates

Phthalates are a solvent (a dissolving or softening agent) used in hundreds of products. It is commonly found in;

  • cleaning products
  • nail polish and remover
  • make up
  • perfume
  • hair spray
  • liquid soap
  • deodorant
  • shampoo
  • moisturiser
  • sunscreen
  • toothpaste
  • air fresheners
  • sex toys – especially jelly-like rubber, vinyl and PVC

use instead;

  • personal care – plant based, organic
  • perfume – essential oils, diluted with a carrier oil
  • air fresheners – essential oils
  • cleaning – vinegar & baking soda, essential oils, plant based ingredients
  • sunscreen – natural, organic
  • sex toys – silicone and glass

Dioxins

A toxic chemical created by chlorine bleaching. Avoid bleached products such as;

  • tampons
  • toilet paper
  • tissues
  • paper
  • paper towels
  • coffee filters

use instead;

  • unbleached alternatives
  • organic, unbleached cotton tampons, or
  • moon cup, or
  • period undies

Herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers

The chemicals used to grow and protect food from weeds and pests are highly toxic and can interrupt hormonal function.

avoid these by;

  • eating organic wherever possible
  • washing & peeling fruit and vegetables
  • grow your own (use companion planting methods to prevent pests)
  • keep an eye on ‘the dirty dozen’ – foods with the highest level of pesticide residue measured annually by the Environmental Working Group

2. Phytoestrogen

These are substances that naturally occur in plants. They are similar in structure to estrogen and block receptor sites. Where the is estrogen dominance it is importsmt to minimise or eliminate foods high in phytoestrogens such as;

  • soy products
  • soy milk
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • textured vegetable proteins
  • miso

Diet

  • whole foods diet
  • organic foods where possible
  • peel non-organic fruit and vegetables
  • eliminating processed and packaged foods
  • reduce sugars
  • eliminate soy products
  • increase cruciferous vegetable; broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach (they stimulates liver detoxification & contain a component that helps rid the body of excessive estrogen)
  • inflammatory foods; get tested for sugar, gluten, dairy & eliminate intolerances
  • eliminate non-organic dairy
  • choose organic, grass-fed meats (at very least go hormone-free)
  • minimise or eliminate red meat
  • good fats in your diet – increase Omega 3 & 6, minimise saturated fat, avoid trans fats
  • maintain a healthy level of body fat (fat produces its own estrogen and stores xenoestrogens)
  • minimise or eliminate caffeine
  • minimise or eliminate alcohol

Supplementation & treatment

  • B complex, vitamin C, selenium, zinc, good omegas, magnesium
  • Chinese herbs – visit a TCM practitioner
  • broccoli extract – speak to a naturopath
  • Mayan abdominal massage – with magnesium oil (anti-inflammatory & anti-spasmotic)
  • castor oil pack (reduce inflammation & promote lymphatic stimulation)

Lifestyle

Reducing cortisol is essential to regaining hormonal balance. The production of cortisol gobbles up the hormone progesterone which keeps estrogen levels in balance. This perpetuates estrogen-dominance.

  • identify and lower stress any way you can
  • exercise – to maintain a healthy level of body fat (fat produces its own estrogen and stores xenoestrogens)
  • ‘me time’ every day
  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • yoga

Emotional considerations

Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends avoiding ‘fear, anger and excessive emotions’ to manage endometriosis. Perhaps that is because they all trigger a cortisol response.

When our internal needs are in conflict with the demands of the outside world it creates conflict. Unrealistic expectations of ourselves drive fear and anger, as do the expectations of others. Women are now actively participating in the competitive masculinised world but without the support that traditionally balanced it. Learning to let go of expectations and comparisons with women who seem to ‘have it all’ is a key.

Energetic aspects

In energy medicine the uterus is referred to as ‘the second heart’. It carries the pain we’ve experienced especially around heartbreak and trauma.

Kinesiology & endometriosis

When treating endometriosis in a kinesiology session I look at the all the implcatins; toxins, diets, supplementation, lifestyle, emotions and energetic