By Dr. Alyssa Burnham
Naturopathic Doctor at Wise Woman Wellness
Severe pain during your period, bloating, and painful intercourse shouldn’t be accepted as normal. Women experiencing these symptoms could have endometriosis, a condition affecting 1 in 10 females of reproductive age. Despite its prevalence, endometriosis can be difficult to treat, and it often worsens over time. As a result, endometriosis can have an ongoing negative impact on a woman’s life. Let’s take a look at the symptoms and causes behind endometriosis and some natural ways to treat it.
What Is Endometriosis?
The endometrium is the lining of your uterus, which comes from the Greek word “endo” meaning within. When the endometrium grows outside of the uterus and spreads to other organs in the abdominal cavity like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum, it’s called endometriosis. It’s thought to be an inflammatory condition with an abnormal immune response that’s triggered by hormone fluctuations and can cause inflammation, adhesions, and eventually scar tissue around the affected organs.
Is Endometriosis the Reason Behind Your Pain
The most pronounced sign of endometriosis is pain in the abdomen, often extreme and debilitating. Severely painful periods are a common symptom, but pain can also be felt in other areas, like the back, legs, and rectum.
Other physical symptoms include:
- Painful periods
- Pelvic pain
- Painful bowel movements
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain with urination
- Digestive symptoms (constipation, diarrhea)
- Ovarian masses
The pain from endometriosis is different from regular menstrual cramps. It’s often chronic, occurring at all times of the month, and regular pain medications don’t bring relief. Not surprisingly it can also have a large impact on a woman’s mental health. Many women with endometriosis also experience anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Endometriosis can also impact fertility. One study found that as many as 50% of women seeking treatment for infertility have endometriosis.
Natural Treatments for Endometriosis
1 – Anti-inflammatory Diet
- Prioritize whole foods. To reduce inflammation, choose whole foods high in antioxidants, like brightly colored veggies, and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, nuts, and eggs. Avoid overly processed foods – try not to eat anything that comes in a bag or a box. Choose organic foods when possible to avoid added pesticide and artificial coloring. Consider eliminating the three most common inflammatory food groups including dairy, gluten and sugar.
- Avoid red meat. Red meat is also considered pro-inflammatory and has been linked to the development of endometriosis. Ideally eat a planted based diet with small amounts of high quality fish and poultry. All meat should be organic.
- Avoid xenoestrogens. Do your best to avoid plastics, including water bottles, foods wrapped in plastic, and microwaving plastic food storage containers.
- Decrease caffeine and drink green tea. Caffeine can aggravate symptoms while green tea has antioxidant properties to help with inflammation.
- Focus on fiber. Your body eliminates toxins and excess estrogen in your stool, so boosting your fiber content is a good idea. It can also help with any constipation triggered by endometriosis. Try adding 1-2 tbsp of ground flax to a smoothie or mixed into food daily.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is inflammatory and many women report it makes their symptoms worse.
2 – Exercise
Exercise has been found to be an effective natural way of managing pain and inflammation associated with endometriosis. While it might seem counterintuitive to engage in physical activity while experiencing pelvic pain, low-impact exercises like walking, yoga, and swimming can help reduce inflammation and ease discomfort.
Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can alleviate the severity of menstrual cramps and pain caused by endometriosis. Regular exercise can also help improve blood flow to the pelvic area, which may reduce inflammation and help the body flush out toxins. Incorporating gentle exercise into your routine can provide a significant relief for endometriosis symptoms. Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
3 – Targeted Supplements
Some supplements that treat endometriosis include:
- Turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory that can help reduce pain.
- DIM (or diindolylmethane) can help with estrogen metabolism.
- NAC (or N-acetyl cysteine) is a powerful antioxidant that can slow the growth of endometrial cells.
- Ginger root can also help relieve pain.
- Melatonin can decrease pelvic pain and support the body’s detox pathways. One animal study found that melatonin was able to shrink endometrial tissue.
4 – Stress Reduction
The pain associated with endometriosis can take a large toll on women’s health. It’s important to prioritize self-care. Living with endometriosis is stressful. Chronic stress worsens inflammatory conditions like endometriosis. It also disrupts hormonal balance and can lead to estrogen dominance. The end result is often a cycle of worsening symptoms.
Mindful meditation, yoga, and moderate exercise can help manage your body’s reaction to stress. Take the time for relaxing activities and massages. Cognitive therapy can also help you develop strategies for coping.
I’m here to help you! Please schedule your appointment today so I can help you treat your endometriosis the natural way!
World Health Organization, “Endometriosis”
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