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Endometriosis - what women need to know

This is one of those lifestyle-related conditions that plague many women. Often, women themselves hold the key to alleviation.

Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, known as the endometrium, grows outside of the uterus, in places like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder and pelvic side walls. This tissue also responds to hormonal changes, multiplying and shedding during a woman’s menstrual period, causing inflammation and pain. It can also form scars and lead to dysfunction of the affected sites.

Although the cause is not yet understood, risk factors include:

·         A family history of endometriosis

·         Early onset of menstruation (before 12 years)

·         Previous intrauterine device use or uterine scrapes

·         A diet high in fats or fried foods

·         Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals

Endometriosis is exacerbated by a stressful lifestyle, so women should remember to pay heed to their emotions, and should try not to fall prey to any undue stress. Stress management techniques could also help greatly.

Signs and symptoms

Some women are asymptomatic, but common symptoms include pelvic and abdominal pain, abnormal menstrual cycles, nausea, vomiting, bladder problems, frequent infections, lethargy and insomnia. It is also associated with up to 25% of cases of infertility. The diagnosis is usually confirmed through a laparoscopy. Factors that reduce a woman’s risk are previous full term pregnancies, breastfeeding, a low intake of caffeine and alcohol, and physical exercise.

How is endometriosis treated?

The treatment of endometriosis depends on the severity of the disease, and whether the woman still wants to have children. Unfortunately, the recurrence rate of symptoms for conventional treatment approaches is very high (20–50%). Medically, it is treated with hormones that act on the pituitary gland to make the woman temporarily menopausal, which stops the hormonal stimulation of the endometrial tissues. This suppresses the symptoms, but doesn’t treat the condition.  Surgical treatment is used to either remove the affected tissue, or do a hysterectomy, which includes the removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

If you have endometriosis, it is worthwhile to pay a visit to a qualified herbalist or homeopath. Their natural treatments focus on finding safe and alternative symptomatic pain relief, a reduction of inflammation, prevention and treatment of recurrent vaginal and pelvic infections, stress relief and support of overall immune function. Fatty foods stimulate oestrogen production, and can indirectly stimulate endometriosis. Rather follow a diet that is rich in balanced whole foods, low in fatty foods and completely dairy free – even doing this for as little as one month may help. Focus on stress reduction techniques and get regular exercise. A full-body massage at least every other week for a minimum period of two months will also bring relief for many.

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