4 Tips for Holistic Endometriosis
Although at least one in ten women struggle with endometriosis, it’s still not a well-understood condition. In fact, though root causes are often speculated, there isn’t yet a fully known root cause. Today, we’re sharing all about what endometriosis is, how it's diagnosed, and things you can do to support your treatment.
And just a note before we begin - though this particular article talks about endometriosis in women assigned female at birth, it can impact any and all bodies, including cis men.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory condition characterized by pieces of tissue (sometimes called endometrial implants and similar to the tissue found in the uterus) growing in other areas of the body, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and even the intestines.
And while these pieces of tissue may look similar to the uterine lining, they are not the same and typically feature more fibrous tissue and cysts. This tissue does, however, respond to the same hormones that your uterus does, meaning that the tissue bleeds when you have your period. As you can imagine, this leads to inflammation and a whole lot of pain, and causes the creation of scar tissue as well.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
There are some key endometriosis symptoms, as well as some standard conventional treatment options. Unfortunately, since endometriosis involves pain that can’t be seen, many women aren’t taken seriously or have their pain downplayed with suggestions to “just get on the pill” and forget about it. In reality, this strategy does little to address the root cause of endometriosis.
A few of the main symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful periods (usually extreme pain)
- Pain during sex
- Pain in-between periods
- Heavy periods
According to Dr. Jolene Brighten, there is a new blood test that claims to detect 90% of cases of endometriosis. The test, called the Mitomic Endometriosis Test, is showing promising results for early diagnosis.
Unfortunately, most doctors won’t offer you much in the way of treatment options. They may recommend surgery to remove the lesions, which is currently considered the gold standard. However, the lesions typically grow back within five years, which is why surgery is often followed up with hormonal birth control.
Is there a root cause of endometriosis?
As of now, there isn’t one specific root cause that can be blamed for endometriosis, but there are a few factors that likely contribute, including:
- Estrogen dominance
- Gut issues, including dysbiosis and intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
- Environmental toxins, like those from PCBs (often in the seafood we eat, thanks to environmental pollution) and pesticides (pervasive in our food and water supply)
- Liver function
“Women with endometriosis have a high level of gram-negative bacteria and the bacterial toxin LPS (lipopolysaccharide) in their pelvis, which has been shown to actively promote endometriosis and is now viewed by some researchers as a possible cause of endometriosis.
Natural treatment options for endometriosis
It’s important to keep in mind that none of the below tips will fully cure your endometriosis, but they will help manage your pain and improve your symptoms. Just remember that holistic and conventional approaches can coexist - work with your doctor to choose the best of both worlds to help you feel your best. A holistic approach is so important here!
Eat a nourishing diet and remove (at least temporarily) commonly inflammatory foods. This list includes gluten, dairy, soy, and possibly eggs. The best approach is an elimination diet, where you remove these foods for 30 days, then reintroduce them one by one to see how they make you feel and how they impact your symptoms. It’s also important to eat more anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods that support your hormones, including leafy greens (and plenty of veggies overall!) and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocados. Seed cycling is an awesome option to increase nutrient-density and give your body the nutrients it needs based on where you’re at in your cycle.
Above all, it’s important to recognize that there isn’t really one solution to improving endometriosis symptoms. Instead, it’s about taking a holistic approach that may combine functional and conventional medicine approaches within the same treatment plan.