After navigating my own journey with endometriosis, I was inspired and focused on wanting to help and educate anyone going through the same journey. If you are dealing with endo, you are not alone – 1 in 10 women have this painful condition and unfortunately, a diagnosis which typically takes between 7-10 years, leaving many women searching for answers.
In this blog, I’ll share my own story and insights, shedding light on the complexities of female reproductive health and offer practical tips that will help you take control of your own journey with endo.
I had always struggled with heavy periods from the early age of 11 years. Yes, I got my period when I was 11 years old. I remember in high school not being able to go to school because of heavy flooding, pain and nausea. My lower back was excruciating. It was so awful. As a teenager, this was thought of as normal. I had the ‘normal’, ‘textbook symptoms’ of a period.
Fast forward to my 20s when I came off the pill, surprisingly my periods weren’t an issue. I had no pain, a regular 28-day cycle, a 5-day bleed and no PMS. It wasn’t until in my late 20s that things started to change. My periods stopped, I had digestive issues, low moods, chronic back pain and low iron. This was when my investigation into my hormones really began.
I knew as a practitioner myself, that the only way to diagnose my thoughts and prediction of endometriosis was through a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy. I was hesitant, scared and nervous.
The verdict: stage 4 endometriosis with adhesions to my right and left ovaries, my fallopian tubes were twisted and blocked, I had adhesions on my bowels and was told that there was, unfortunately, no way fertility would be easy for me – IVF was my only option.
While waiting for IVF, I began to prepare my body for assisted treatment. I began using nutritional supplementation, herbal medicines, appropriate diet and changed the way I exercised, all with the goal of healing and long-term management. Endometriosis is an estrogen-dominant, inflammatory disease of immune dysfunction and possibly microbial disease. With all these in mind, a holistic approach was needed.
What is endometriosis or endo?
Endometriosis is a disease that involves the growth of endometrial tissue in places other than the uterus. This tissue, meant to only be in your uterus, can grow in your ovaries, fallopian tubes, on your bladder, on your bowels, bladder and can even go as far as your lungs. It can range from minimal, to mild, moderate to severe.
What are the symptoms?
- Pain with intercourse
- Low iron
- Fertility issues
- Bladder problems
- Bowel issues (bloating, constipation and food sensitivities)
The role of bacteria, LPS and immune dysfunction should also be investigated
The inflammatory mediator Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) which is derived from gram-negative bacterial contamination could be the cause of the growth regulation of endometriosis.
Exposure to LPS from the gut can flare or drive endometriosis, linking endometriosis with gut problems. Women with endo are more likely to suffer small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or IBS. Studies have found that endo sufferers are much more likely to have intestinal permeability issues and require further testing into their gut microbiome. I love to use this to get a wider picture of immune and digestive markers, also great to screen for pathogenic and commensal bacteria, virus, parasites, fungi and the overall health of the GI microbiome. LPS can cause toxins and immune dysfunction, showing us that a big focus needs to be on repairing intestinal permeability and reducing inflammation via support of the immune system.
The traditional medical approach
The medical approach for endo involves anti-inflammatory drugs for pain and hormone drugs such as the oral contraceptive pill. Unfortunately, both options come with an array of potential side effects, including deficiencies in folate, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Thankfully, there are more natural ways to manage endometriosis and other natural contraceptive options that won’t take your hormones offline and suppress ovulation.
My dietary and lifestyle tips for managing endometriosis
- Consider the role of LPS and restore gut microbiome;
- Adopt a gluten-free diet: studies have found that women who follow a gluten-free diet have a decrease in menstrual pain, fewer digestive issues, and better. The protein gliadin in gluten, can be inflammatory and cause digestive issues;
- Avoid A1 dairy: this includes cow’s milk, ice cream, whey protein and soft cheeses. Dairy has been found to cause inflammation in the body;
- No soy! Soy can increase oestrogen in the body. Oestrogen stimulates the growth of tissue and in excess has been associated with many hormone-driven diseases, endometriosis being one of them;
- An anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet, rich in fibre: to reduce inflammation and help remove oestrogen excess through the bowels;
- Low – FODMAP diet if needed for 6 weeks;
- Stress management: deep breathing, journaling, yoga, Pilates, reading, baking, music, laughter, me time;
- Appropriate exercise. Everyone agrees that exercise is good for both physical and mental health. Physical activity can lower oxidative stress which can play a role in the inflammation of endometriosis. Research shows low impact, like swimming, walking, stretching, pilates, yoga and short 20 minute bursts of high intensity (HIIT) may be beneficial without causing pain and inflammation. Remember to listen to your body, and do what feels right.
Specific supplements and herbs that help endometriosis
Every person is different, but my top faves are:
- Omega-3 fish oils: studies have found supplementation with fish oil helps to decrease pain and reduces inflammation. Omega 3s also have a positive impact on moods and brain function.
- Magnesium: studies have shown magnesium reduces menstrual cramps, improves moods and can help with sleep.
- Curcumin (Turmeric): turmeric is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to decrease pain and can prevent the growth of endometrial tissue and improve your digestive health.
- B Vitamins: B vitamins help with the production of energy and support the detoxification of estrogen through the liver.
You are not alone! If you suffer from endometriosis or have recently been diagnosed with this disease, please know you are not alone and there are ways to manage it.
To learn about working with Steph P, please book your complimentary 15-minute consultation here.
Oliveira CR, Polonini H, Marcucci MC, Vieira RP. MiodesinTM Positively Modulates the Immune Response in Endometrial and Vaginal Cells. Molecules. 2022;27(3):782. Published 2022 Jan 25. doi:10.3390/molecules27030782
Ensari I, Lipsky-Gorman S, Horan EN, Bakken S, Elhadad N. Associations between physical exercise patterns and pain symptoms in individuals with endometriosis: a cross-sectional mHealth-based investigation. BMJ Open. 2022;12(7):e059280. Published 2022 Jul 18. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-059280
Marziali M, Venza M, Lazzaro S, Lazzaro A, Micossi C, Stolfi VM. Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of painful endometriosis related symptoms?. Minerva Chir. 2012;67(6):499-504.
Kobayashi H. Gut and reproductive tract microbiota: Insights into the pathogenesis of endometriosis (Review). Biomed Rep. 2023;19(1):43. Published 2023 May 29. doi:10.3892/br.2023.162
Khan KN, Fujishita A, Hiraki K, et al. Bacterial contamination hypothesis: a new concept in endometriosis. Reprod Med Biol. 2018;17(2):125-133. Published 2018 Jan 18. doi:10.1002/rmb2.12083