Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial-like tissue (the tissue that normally lines the uterus) is found outside of the uterus. It is the most common cause of chronic pelvic pain in women. Endometriosis often goes undiagnosed for women until they seek fertility care or continue advocating for themselves - often for several years before they receive a proper diagnosis. This is partly because there are no easy lab tests or imaging at this point to diagnose endometriosis, just laparoscopy. Through an intake based on symptoms, we can often be pointed in the direction of this diagnosis. It is typically the cause of pelvic pain for women. Endometriosis has now been estimated to be present in upwards of 40% of women struggling with fertility and can impact fertility in different ways.
Women can have concerns with ovulation and egg development, scar tissue and adhesions, increased local inflammatory response in the fluid in the uterus and can impact the ability of the uterus to contract effectively. As you can see its impact needs to be treated or addressed to help support a healthy menstrual cycle and optimal fertility.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown but there is a combination of both an inflammatory/immune related response as well as local hormonal imbalance. There are several things that we can do to help support women with endometriosis to reduce pain and optimize function.
1. Diet Changes:
With endometriosis, the goal of your diet is to reduce inflammation and optimize nutrients. If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, or you suspect you may have it, there are several dietary changes that you can incorporate to help.
Reducing red meats.
Red meats and animal proteins have an inflammatory substance called arachidonic acid. I encourage women to try to eat plant-based at least twice per week. Then try incorporating more fish. Fish contain omega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.
Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables - aim for at least 7-10 servings a day and eat a variety of colours. This will help increase antioxidants and different nutrients that can help improve the overall egg quality and local environment in the uterus.
Some women will have an inflammatory response to a protein in several grains called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, spelt and barley. If you are someone that is sensitive to gluten, it can contribute to both immune dysregulation and inflammation. This can make the symptoms of endometriosis considerably worse.
Caffeine for some women can also contribute to pain and discomfort from endometrial tissue. If you are a coffee or tea drinker, consider switching to a non-caffeinated version. For some women even just doing this in the week before their menses helps but it is preferable to reduce for a few cycles to see what effect it has.
Supplements that can reduce localized inflammation can often be helpful to reduce discomfort. Ginger can help reduce localized inflammation and pain associated with menses. There is also some research on curcumin (an extract from a spice called turmeric). Curcumin helps reduce inflammation and supports your liver to improve overall health and reduce pain from endometriosis. PEA is a nutrient that can work on the endocannabinoid system, as both an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. This means it can help pain levels in two different pathways.
Supporting your liver’s ability to detoxify can also be helpful in some cases. Calcium-d-glucarte assists in the detoxification process of estrogen. Endometrial tissue is encouraged to grow in the presence of estrogen, so modulating the amount of estrogen can be a useful therapy to limit further growth.
To decide if any of these supplements might be helpful in your individual case, please consult with your Naturopathic doctor or health professional.
3. Castor Oil Packs:
For several women, using castor oil topically rubbed over the abdomen and applying heat will help provide pain relief and can provide benefit by stimulating localized immune function in the abdomen. Typically doing this three times a week for several cycles can start to demonstrate reduction in some of the symptom’s women experience with endometriosis.
For some women they will also need pharmaceutical interventions to either modulate pain or estrogen balance. In some cases, surgery is the best option.
The important thing to remember when it comes to your endometriosis is that no two women are the same and different women will respond well to different therapy options. As endometriosis does often go undiagnosed it is important to find a health provider who will listen to your concerns so they can be addressed properly for you.
For more information on fertility and hormonal balance, please visit our blog at https://enhancefertility.ca/.