Endometriosis describes a condition in which the cells lining the interior of the uterus are displaced and grow outside the uterine cavity. The cells that are in the normal, regular state accumulate in the uterus every month when estrogen levels are high. Through this process, they assist in making the lining of the uterus appropriate for pregnancy. It may be thought of as a nest where the prospective fertilized egg will be implanted. If pregnancy does not occur, when estrogen levels decrease, the lining will break off and will emerge as menstrual flow. In endometriosis, the cells will attach to a variety of areas and grow. These areas include the appendix, ligaments, colon, rectum, bladder, intestinal surfaces, bladder, ovaries or the fallopian tube. There have been cases where endometrial tissues have even appeared in distant places such as an armpit or the lung.
When these cells grow outside the uterus, they will still continue their role as they were in the uterus. That is, they will grow in periods of high estrogen level and create blood when estrogen levels are low. When endometrial tissue grows in areas other than the uterus, there will be no exit for the blood especially when estrogen levels decrease. In this case, cystic structures, scarring, and other damage to the organs will result since there blood will collect in these areas. The ones that are heavily affected by endometriosis are mainly in the 20-to 40- year old age group. In the U.S., over 5 million women in the U.S. are afflicted with the condition.
Though there are no known causes of endometriosis, there are some theories why the condition may develop.
One theory posits that, during menstruation, the blood doesn’t flow outwards, but backwards. If this case is true, menstrual blood will have the ability to go through the fallopian tube to gain access of the abdominal and pelvic cavity. The cells from this blood will then have the ability to embed outside the uterus in other organs and tissues. Another possible explanation is that the cells in the uterine lining move via lymphatic channels for implantation outside the uterine cavity. There is reason to believe that there may be a genetic predisposition to endometriosis. A deficiency in the immune system can also play a role. The tissue can proliferate to anomalous places due to the hormone and chemical influence, causing endometrial tissue to become activated in different areas. Studies have linked exposure to dioxin, a chemical found in pesticides, to cases of endometriosis. Childbearing with the different methods of birth control can play a role.
One symptom of endometriosis is pain. Pain can be due to the scarring of the affected tissues and inflammation. The pain may range from very minimal to severe. The pain could happen before menstruation and be due to menstrual cramps. Some women may experience the pain during sexual intercourse. The pain may be felt during urination, which could be caused to the cell implanting into the bladder; during bowel movements as a result for rectal and colon implants.
Bleeding is also an issue. The bleeding may happen in various orifices of the body, like nosebleeds. If one gets a recurrent bleeding at specific times of the month, they can suspect endometriosis.
Other symptoms include fatigue and bladder infections.
A laparoscopy is the proven surgical method to confirm endometriosis. Through this procedure, the doctor will be able to biopsy the tissue. Though MRIs and sonograms are also helpful, they may not be completely accurate.
For the most severe cases of endometriosis, a hysterectomy will be required. A hysterectomy is a procedure in which the reproductive organs that are damaged and scarred are removed. This is a last ditch effort, though, when there are no other options.
The traditional drug therapy consists of prescription medication for pain and suppression of estrogen to reduce endometrial growth. The medications that can be given include danazol, ibuprofen, indomethacin, and Naproysym. There are side effects to these treatments which include edema, arteriosclerosis, bone loss, and weight gain.
Hormone therapy is also used to slow down and prohibit the progression of endometriosis by simulating pregnancy. This method also has many unpleasant side effects which include painful breasts, depression, nausea, weight gain, bloating, migraine headaches, and swelling.
Diet is a good method to treating endometriosis since it doesn’t have as many drawbacks and side effects as administration of medication. A good dietary strategy can help alleviate symptoms and reverse some of the problems of endometriosis. The main purpose of the diets would be to reduce estrogen levels in order to abate and diminish the endometriosis growth. A vegetarian diet is emphasized including such foods as soy products, flaxseed, alfalfa sprouts, and legumes.
Another food strategy involves consuming foods that will get rid of estrogen from the body via the intestinal tract. A high fiber diet, consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, will be very effective in this case. It is also important to have a diet that is low in fat to avoid food products high in saturated fat, food such as red meat and dairy products. The liver can also be effective lowering the levels of estrogen. It would be a good idea to eat foods high in Vitamin B, such as legumes and whole grain. It would also be a good idea to abstain from alcohol, sugar, and fat to promote a healthy liver.
Mineral and vitamin supplements can be very effective to help reduce inflammation. Such supplements include:
- Vitamin C
- Beta carotene
- Vitamin E
Hellerwork is a body technique that emphasizes refining body structure through deep tissue work. Patients with endometriosis have been shown to have muscle spasms, which is one root cause of the pain. Hellerwork instructs women to relax their muscle to ease the symptoms. By freeing misalignments in the body structure, improving everyday habits that may contribute to the problems, and working through emotional issues, the therapy serves to create a healthy body mind balance.
Oriental Medicine emphasizes natural therapies. One approach to endometriosis is decreasing the size of the endometrial mass through laser acupuncture. Oriental medicine practitioners suggest using acupuncture to release occlusion from the kidney, lung, heart, spleen, and liver so that energy can move freely within in the system. Other Oriental techniques involve injection into the endometrial nodes with common sage roots or retention enemas. Oriental practitioners suggest abstaining from sexual intercourse during the time menstruation since it may result in an imbalance of energy as it can cause the movement of endometrial tissue into the pelvic cavity.
Soya bean (Glycine max) and other beans
Natural medicine practitioners embrace the fact that soya beans are high in estrogen like plant compounds, daidzein and geinstein. Both of these compounds prevent the body from taking up estrogen, thus prohibiting its circulation in the body. They also protect the body from pollutants that mimic the actions of estrogen. Sources of these compounds include yellow split peas, black turtle beans, butter beans, anasazi beans, red beans and red lentils.
Flax (Linum usitatissimum)
Flaxseed has a copious amount of lignans, a compound which has been shown to help control endometrial cancer. Since endometriosis and endometrial both involve uncontrolled growth of endometrial tissue. Flaxseed is especially good for non-vegetarians. Some bread contains flaxseed.
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