The Women’s Health Issue No One Talks About: Endometriosis
With International Women’s Day just around the corner, there’s no better time to write about, and advocate for women’s health!
There is a whole side of women’s health that is rarely talked about, especially when it comes to the experience of painful conditions like endometriosis.
As Naturopathic Doctors, we talk pretty extensively about the menstrual cycle. There are a vast number of topics that align with conversations around the menstrual cycle such as hormone regulation and reproductive rights. But what isn’t talked about, is what happens when the menstrual cycle doesn’t seem quite right, is cripplingly painful and/or doesn’t come at all.
Endometriosis is a shockingly unspoken and under diagnosed women’s health issue that’s characterized by the growth of uterine tissue in places that it shouldn’t be – outside of the uterine cavity. Because painful menstrual cycles are so common, endometriosis is one of the most challenging conditions for doctors to identify and diagnose. It is estimated that 10-15% of menstruating individuals between 25-44 experience this condition, and so many fight for years to uncover the real reason why they are consistently feeling so much pain and discomfort!
(While we are addressing endometriosis in light of International Women’s Day and endometriosis awareness month, it is important to note that there are many individuals who suffer from endometriosis that do not identify as a woman.)
Do you have endometriosis? If so, and what can be done?
Each month, the abnormal endometrial tissue that is found outside the uterus behaves in the same way as the normal tissue within the uterus. That is to say, it responds to estrogen and is shed each month with the menstrual cycle. Because the symptoms of endometriosis align so closely with the timing of the period, it can really impact how a woman experiences their menstrual cycle. While every woman, and menstrual cycle is unique, some of the characteristics of endometriosis are:
- Heavy or very painful periods
- Pain with intercourse
- Pelvic pain
- Potential for infertility
- Gastrointestinal problems like nausea, bloating, vomiting
There are varying degrees of this condition and the more advanced the stage does not always equate to the severity of the symptoms.
Remember, every woman and her experiences are independent of the next!
Depending on the stage, the severity and long-term fertility goals an endometriosis sufferer has, this will determine the treatment options available. Later stage endometriosis may require surgical intervention. If you suspect you may have this condition or are suffering from a combination of the above, please seek support from either your Naturopathic Doctor or Medical Doctor so that you can get the help you need to ease the pain no matter what stage you find yourself in. If the condition is identified in the earlier stages, more holistic and alternative treatments can be taken advantage of through optimizing the body’s innate ability to heal itself. This is done by ensuring hormones are balanced, and the liver and immune functions are boosted.
Treating endometriosis the Naturopathic way
Personally, I believe that food should always be the primary form of medicine. We are what we eat! If you choose organic foods that nourish your body you have a better chance of recovering from illness and restoring imbalances. Regardless of the stage of endometriosis perhaps you or a loved one may be suffering from, know that there is always something that can be done to help alleviate the symptoms. Here are some of the suggestions that I give to my patients, or anyone who is experiencing endometriosis:
Sticking to a predominantly vegetarian/pescatarian diet
If an individual with endometriosis consumes more sources of things like: vegetarian proteins, soy, nuts, seeds and in particular salmon, and less animal products like egg yolks, red meat and poultry the inflammatory pathway shifts from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory. This in turn contributes to pain reduction and even a possible decrease in endometrial tissue growth.
Eat to optimize the body’s functioning
For those that experience these challenging symptoms, fiber is your friend because it keeps you regular and supports your gut flora by metabolizing and aiding in estrogen excretion. This will help to balance your hormones overall. Another key nutritional aspect of endometriosis is that you want to consume foods that support the liver, like cruciferous vegetables, and decrease or eliminate all things that may decrease the liver’s capacity, like caffeine alcohol and sugar.
Create other healthy lifestyle habits that support a healthy hormone balance
Along with nutrition, exercise, supplements and herbs are all fundamental to contributing to the overall improvement of this condition. Remember, this condition responds to estrogen and those who incorporate more exercise and eat less fat and sugar produce less estrogen overall.
With issues like endometriosis being talked about so little, we need to do what we can to empower women to both speak up about their experiences, and to prompt them to take charge of their health. When it comes to alleviating symptoms of this illness and optimizing health, I hope that these suggestions inspire you to choose foods and engage in activities that support your wellbeing, no matter the severity of the symptoms that you personally experience.
For further information on specific nutritional supplements and herbs that are helpful in treating endometriosis, book in for a Naturopathic consult with Dr. Kaylee Driedger, ND.
Call 604-974-8999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today to make your appointment.