What is endometriosis?
In endometriosis bits of tissue that are like the uterine lining (the endometrium) grow in places other than the uterus. These ‘lesions’ can occur almost anywhere including on the outside of the uterus, on ovaries and fallopian tubes as well as the bowel and bladder.
There is still quite a lot of unknowns when it comes to Endometriosis, but many researchers now believe the endometrial tissue is actually laid down before birth and activated by hormones at puberty. If you have endometriosis please don’t think it is your fault and that your lifestyle has caused it.
Endometriosis as an inflammatory and immune disease
Most researchers now believe it to be an immune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. In these diseases, like with endometriosis, lesions can establish their own blood supply. We also now know that endometriosis is an inflammatory disease. Some other examples of inflammatory diseases are allergies and asthma. Endometriosis is not exclusively a hormonal disorder but there is hormone involvement which I will talk about below.
The main symptom of endometriosis is severe and debilitating period pain. It can last for days and painkillers do not give much relief. It can often be felt in places other then just the pelvis as well. It mainly happens during your menstrual bleed, but can happen at other times also, like ovulation or during sex. Some Women however may have little to no pain and may only find out they have endometriosis when they have problems trying to conceive.
Other factors to note
Many of my endometriosis clients will have digestive problems. Some have bowel problems, sometimes lesions or endometrial tissue can even block the bowel or interfere with bladder function which is why it is important to be under specialist care (gynecologist). There is a genetic influence and if you have a sister or Mother with endometriosis you are more likely to develop it.
That Hormone Connection
Most people’s immune systems would recognise and respond to endometrial lesions, which is why endometriosis is an immune disease.
Hormones are still important to consider in Endometriosis however. To simplify it, endometriosis lesions are stimulated to grow by estrogen. Estrogen is not the direct cause of endometriosis and as mentioned earlier the stage is likely set for Endometriosis at birth.
By design it is also normal for us to have high estrogen at times. On the flip side of this is that progesterone has a down regulating effect on endometrial lesions.
I touched on gut above but wanted to go a bit deeper here. With endometriosis it is important to fully assess gut health. Leaky gut, gut infections, and inflammation due to food intolerances can worsen inflammation and tax the immune system.
Bacteria does not directly cause endometriosis but bacterial toxins from the gut may drive or worsen immune dysfunction in combination with other factors. Bacteria in the gut can translocate (shift) to the pelvis. Leaky gut activates the immune system. Inflammation drives symptoms.
The number one goal of Nutritional intervention is to decrease inflammation.
Why does it matter what I eat?
When it comes to holistic treatment of endometriosis, what you eat is likely to be the most important considerations. Through our diet we can reduce inflammation which can provide a world of relief. Remember, Endometriosis really is a whole-body inflammatory disease rather than a period problem.
With my clients I am deep diving into what is going on with their digestive system. I often will do some gut tests which can cut out a lot of trial and error. A lot of the functional tests I use will not only check the bacteria balance in the gut they will test what agents (supplements or medication) will be the most responsive to the actual bacteria found.
Where necessary I treat leaky gut and identify and eliminate food intolerances which can make a huge difference. The majority of our immune system is in the gut so only after getting the gut sorted we move to general immune and inflammation support and supporting the production of progesterone and reducing excess estrogen (via diet and supplements).
I recently recorded a talk on the top 3 dietary changes you can make (in general – across the board) and thought I would share those here so you can at least give those a go.
Top 3 Endometriosis Nutrition Tips
1) Eat a balanced diet. Protein for liver detox, blood sugar balance and mood (neurotransmitters) – I have a downloadable guide which is exactly what I start my clients with, you can find the link at the bottom or side of the page.
2) Make a simple switch to A2 milk – For many people A1 dairy casein is inflammatory. The only way to know if it is contributing to inflammation and your endo symptoms is to remove it. Try A2 milk for a month and see if it helps.
3) Try a gluten free diet for a month – Ok not necessarily easy for a lot of people however look at your main source of wheat – for most it will be bread and start there.
If you are committing to balanced breakfasts in the morning then you are less likely to need toast anyway, unless that toast has hummus and hemp seeds on it to bump up the protein.
I generally give my clients recipes and do a diet diary first not just to assess their nutrient intake and whether their diet is leading to deficiencies, but so I can see what they like to eat and help them come up with swaps.
I think it is important to focus on progress not perfection as trying to be perfect can lead to complete derailment. Also you do better when you feel better so sometimes a slow and steady approach is best.
I do have some availability to work one on one with ladies now. I also have a couple of programs coming up that will help. When you download the balanced meal guide you will go onto my VIP list for monthly newsletters (after a short welcome series introducing me and what I do).
If you are self-directed and want to dive into something now, I have RESET – Which is a Whole body RESET, I have had amazing reviews from Endo ladies with this program. It is soon to be an online course where I explain how to use it as an elimination diet but in the interim you can get the guide, meal plans, recipes etc ready to go when you are in my online sore here.
References – Please contact me if you would like to see links to research.