Every month the female body goes through a cycle of hormonal changes. Endometriosis is a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body.
Endometriosis cells follow the hormonal cycle in the same way as the womb lining. During the monthly cycle, hormones stimulate the endometriosis, causing it to grow, then break down and bleed. This internal bleeding, unlike a period, has no way of leaving the body. This leads to inflammation and pain, and can result in the formation of scar tissue.
Endometriosis is most commonly found inside the pelvis, ovaries and fallopian tubes. It can also be found in the bowel, the bladder, the intestines, the vagina and the rectum. In rare cases it has even been found in other parts of the body such as the skin, the eyes, the spine, the lungs and the brain.
Some women experience symptoms while others do not. The symptoms of endometriosis can vary in intensity and may include:
- Painful, heavy or irregular periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Problems on opening bowels
The amount of endometriosis does not always correspond to the amount of pain and discomfort. A small amount of endometriosis can be more painful than severe disease. It can depend upon where the endometriosis is actually growing inside the body.
The cause of endometriosis in still unknown. Current theories include:
Retrograde menstruation: during menstruation, some of the womb lining flows backwards, up into the fallopian tubes and into the abdomen. In a healthy body this tissue is cleared out, but tissue can implant itself on pelvic organs and grow, causing endometriosis. However, this theory does not explain why endometriosis has developed in some women after hysterectomy, or why, in rare cases, endometriosis has been discovered in some men when they have been exposed to oestrogen through drug treatments.
Genetics: endometriosis seems to run in families, indicating a possible genetic link.
Womb cell spread through the blood or lymphatic system: this theory could explain why endometriosis has been found in areas such as the eyes and brain.
Toxic load: certain toxins in our environment called xenoestrogens can affect the reproductive system and cause endometriosis. Research studies have shown that animals exposed to high levels of these contaminants have developed endometriosis.
Metaplasia: this is the process of one type of cell changing or morphing into a different kind of cell. Metaplasia explains how endometriosis cells appear spontaneously inside the body, and in areas such as the lung and skin. It would also explain the appearance of endometriosis cells in women with no womb, and in men who have taken hormone treatments.
Poor diet: a healthy, balanced diet is essential for all of us. A diet high in saturated fats, caffeine and alcohol or low in fibre and essential fats has been linked to a greater risk of endometriosis. Whilst proper nutrition helps to improve our general health, for women with endometriosis it can be very effective in managing some of the adjunctive symptoms such as low energy, poor bowel function and compromised sleep, as well as minimising the effects of their condition.
If nutrition may be playing a part in your condition, the NutrEval Test gives a comprehensive overview of your nutrient status and can be used to target key problem areas.
Smart Nutrition can also help you to manage endometriosis symptoms using diet, nutrition and supplements. Please use the link at the bottom of the page to book a consultation.
Hormonal imbalance: the menstrual cycle is run by a delicate balance between the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Endometriosis is thought to be exacerbated by higher than normal oestrogen levels – which explains why some men treated with oestrogen drugs develop the condition.
Imbalance in female hormones can be detected using in a Female Hormone Profile. Using a clear picture of your hormonal profile, Smart Nutrition can put together a specific diet and supplement plan to help redress the balance, aiding your condition.
Stress: high stress levels have also been identified as a possible risk factor for endometriosis. Stress leads to high levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol. Since cortisol and progesterone compete, high cortisol levels lead to progesterone being unable to properly communicate with cells. This leads to a progesterone/oestrogen imbalance, which is implicated in endometriosis.
If you think stress may be contributing to your endometriosis, an Adrenal Stress Test can help pinpoint precise imbalances that can then be targeted thorough a nutrition consultation.
Poor liver function: the liver regulates and removes oestrogen from the body and helps to eliminate harmful external chemical such as xenoestrogens. If the liver’s function is compromised then serious health problems can emerge, including endometriosis. A buildup of waste products and toxins from a sluggish liver can also lead to fatigue.
Immune dysfunction: endometriosis may arise when the immune system doesn’t properly mop up the escaped womb cells. Many women with endometriosis appear to have reduced immunity to other conditions.
If you’re susceptible to infections and feel that immune dysfunction may be a factor in your condition, nutrition advice from Smart Nutrition can help you to rebuild and re-educate your immune system, for sustained wellbeing.
Allergy or intolerance: research shows that in some people, food allergies or intolerance may affect endometriosis. Particular foods have been seen to have more of an effect than others.
If you feel your symptoms may be linked to a food allergy or intolerance, a simple finger prick blood test assesses this. Once any allergens are identified, Smart Nutrition can advise you on practical ways to cut out or reduce these foods. We can also provide menu ideas and alternative foods to make the transition as painless as possible.