What Is Endometriosis, What Causes It and What Are The Treatment Options?
In 2017 I struggled with severe dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain), acne, and fatigue due to stage 4 endometriosis. This experience drove me to research and broaden my understanding of the topic, which I now use in practice to help other women with similar experiences. Alongside dietary and lifestyle changes, I have evaluated numerous nutritional and herbal formulas, including surprisingly effective new remedies, and found relief for both myself and my clients. So what is endometriosis, what do we know about the causes and how it develops and are there any effective treatments?
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disease primarily affecting reproductive-aged women characterized by the presence of endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. It is a debilitating disease impacting the quality of life of these women. The primary symptom of endometriosis is chronic pelvic pain, other common symptoms include abnormal menstruation or an irregular menstrual cycle, acne, mood disorders, painful intercourse, gastrointestinal complaints, and infertility.
What Causes Endometriosis?
Conclusive evidence regarding the aetiology of endometriosis is lacking. It is important to note that although endometriosis is affected by hormones, it is not a hormonal condition, but instead an inflammatory immune disease. It is negatively affected by oestrogen but not caused by oestrogen. Immune dysfunction is what prevents the immune system from clearing up endometrial lesions. It is also what promotes the growth and invasion of those lesions.
Some factors associated with the increased risk of endometriosis include:
- Dietary and lifestyle factors
- Dysbiotic gut microbiome
- Immune disturbances
- Blood sugar dysregulation, involving hormone insulin
I use a variety of functional pathology such as gut and hormone tests to determine the root cause of each case. This is not always required but it will allow us to ascertain exactly where our focus should be placed to treat the condition.
How can endometriosis be treated?
Surgical excision of the endometrial lesions is effective for both pain and fertility. Unfortunately, the lesions grow back within five years in more than 50% of women.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) offer temporary symptomatic relief to some, but they do not heal the disease. Once the drug is removed, the endometriosis will likely return to its normal disease state.
Treatment of endometriosis should involve nutritional supplementation, herbal medicine, and dietary and lifestyle modifications, likely focusing on a selection of the following; improving immune function, gut repair, reducing inflammation, modulating hormones, correcting nutritional deficiencies, and alleviating associated symptoms. Amongst others, I have listed below 3 nutrients that I find myself frequently utilising in clinical practice for the treatment of endometriosis:
- N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) – a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been shown to significantly reduce pain. It has also been shown to reduce endometrial growth.
- Iodine – due to its immune-modulating and anti-oestrogen effect. Iodine works by down-regulating oestrogen receptors and promoting healthy oestrogen metabolism, and stabilising oestrogen-sensitive tissue including the uterus, ovaries, breasts, and the brain.
- Turmeric – for its potent anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and antioxidant effects. Turmeric reduces the activity and size of endometriosis lesions by reducing the inflammatory protein NF-kappa B, and by blocking oestrogen’s stimulating effect.
More about Amy Angus, Naturopath
I also have a special interest in the management and treatment of Adenomyosis, Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), Amenorrhea, Dysmenorrhea and Acne and will use functional pathology testing to guide my treatment approach to these conditions.
My approach demands continuous research into the latest in traditional evidence-based medicine and other scientific research to ensure a holistic and patient-centred approach and positive health outcomes.
I am available for consultations on Thursdays, and alternating Mondays and Saturdays at Perpetual Wellbeing in Graceville and online to help you reach your health goals.
We offer Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine consultations
at 2 convenient locations, Brisbane CBD and Graceville