Every month the female body goes through a cycle of hormonal changes. These hormones cause the lining of the womb to thicken in preparation for a fertilised egg. If a pregnancy does not occur, this lining breaks down and bleeds. The blood is then released from your body as a period.
Endometriosis is a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) 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, pain, and can result in the formation of scar tissue.
Endometriosis is most commonly found inside the pelvis, ovaries, fallopian tubes and outside the womb. 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 depends, largely, where the endometriosis is actually growing inside the body.
The cause of endometriosis in unknown, though a number of theories do exist
- Retrograde menstruation – When women have a period, 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 when this doesn’t occur this tissue can implant itself on organs in the pelvis 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 so scientists think there may be a genetic link.
- Spread through the blood or lymphatic system – One theory is that the womb cells spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream or lymphatic system. This could explain why it has been found in areas such as the eyes and brain.
- Toxic load – The theory is that certain toxins in our environment called xenoestrogens can affect the body, the immune system and reproductive system and cause endometriosis. Research studies have shown that when animals were exposed to high levels of these contaminants they developed endometriosis.
- Metaplasia – This is the process where one type of cell changes or morphs into a different kind of cell. In the case of endometriosis, metaplasia would explain how the endometriosis cells appear spontaneously inside the body, and how they appear in areas such as the lung and skin. It would also explain the appearance of endometriosis cells in women with no womb, or 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. 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. This explains why some men treated with oestrogen drugs develop the condition. Imbalance in female hormones can be detected in a female hormone profile. Once a clearer picture of your hormonal situation has been obtained Smart Nutrition could then put together a specific diet and supplement plan to help redress the balance, aiding your condition. A Female Hormone Profile.
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. The problem with high cortisol levels is that cortisol and progesterone compete in the body, so when cortisol levels are high progesterone can’t properly communicate with cells. This leads to a progesterone oestrogen imbalance that is implicated in endometriosis. If you think stress may be contributing to your endometriosis, an adrenal stress index saliva test can help pinpoint precise imbalances that can then be targeted thorough a nutrition consultation. An Adrenal Stress Test.
Poor liver function – The liver regulates and removes oestrogen from the body and helps to eliminate harmful external chemical such as xenoestrogens. If the function of the liver is compromised then serious health problems can emerge, including endometriosis. A build up of waste products and toxins from a sluggish liver can also lead to fatigue.
Immune dysfunction – It has been proposed that endometriosis may arise because 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 are susceptible to infections and feel that immune dysfunction may be a factor in your condition you may like to consider getting nutrition advice to discover ways of rebuilding and re-educating your immune system, for sustained wellness.
Allergy or Intolerance – Research shows that for some people food allergies or intolerance may affect endometriosis and 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 you may want to consider a simple finger prick blood test to assess this. Once any allergens are identified, Smart Nutrition could advise you on practical ways to cut out or reduce these foods and a list of menu ideas of alternatives could also be provided to make the transition as painless as possible. Food Allergy or Intolerance Testing.