What is Endometriosis?
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It’s a condition where tissue that is similar to but not the same as the lining of the womb, starts to grow in other places in a woman’s body like in her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
- Pain in her lower abdomen or back which worsens during her periods and during or after sex.
- Pain when urinating or defecating during her periods.
- Nausea, constipation, diarrhoea or blood in her urine during her period.
- Really heavy periods.
- Period pain that is so bad, it stops her from doing her normal activities.
Some women don’t experience any symptoms at all.
Sadly, there is no cure for this condition and the cause of it is unknown.
It can affect women of any age, even teenagers can develop it. It’s a longterm condition that can significantly impact a woman’s life.
Over time, it can lead to depression. If untreated, severe endometriosis could lead to infertility in about 30% to 40% of cases and increase the risk of developing certain cancers.
The only way for women to know if they have definitely got it, is by them having a laparoscopy; a procedure where a small camera (laparoscope) is inserted into her abdomen.
10% of women worldwide have it. That’s approximately 176 million women.
Unfortunately, because of a lack of awareness by both women and health care providers, it can take up to 10 years before they are diagnosed and treated. In fact, many women have been told that a severe period is normal, (it isn’t), ‘it’s in their head’ or worse still, ‘you have a low pain threshold!’
Eventually, when they are taken seriously, they can have surgery, which cuts away patches of the affected tissue. However, this is not a complete cure. Women that are affected, often continue to experience symptoms after their surgery.
Strategies that Can Help Women to Manage their Symptoms.
First of all, if you are a woman reading this, please see your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms. And don’t be fobbed off. Perhaps take someone with you for support, if you can?
In the meantime, obviously you can take painkillers like Ibuprofen and some women have tried acupuncture and chiropractic treatment.
Having a warm bath, placing a heat pad on your lower abdomen can help to relax cramping pelvic muscles. In fact, a study of 81 women from 2001, showed that using heat pads was as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief.
A 2010 study found that massaging the pelvic area which included parts of the abdomen – sides and back, helped to reduce menstrual pain.
Gentle exercise like walking helps to produce endorphins which can reduce pain. Also, exercise may help to lower oestrogen levels in your body and improve symptoms. Yoga can be effective for pelvic pain. Check out this short video for more.
Or, lying on your side with knees pulled into your chest can help to relieve pain or pressure in your back.
Foods and Drink that can cause inflammation to Reduce or Avoid.
Eating a diet with too much trans fat; fried, processed and fast foods. Research has found there are higher rates of endometriosis diagnoses among women who regularly eat those foods.
Red meat. It has been linked to an increased risk of endometriosis.
Gluten. Research is minimal in this area but a study of 207 women with endometriosis had a 75% reduction in their pain after eliminating gluten from their diet.
If you decide to cut down or eliminate the above to help your symptoms, perhaps, keep a food diary to track any changes you notice. If you decide to cut out gluten, I’d suggest speaking to healthcare professionals for advice.
Foods to Include in Your Diet.
Plenty of Fruit and Vegetables.
Iron-rich foods like dark leafy greens, broccoli, nuts and seeds and fortified grains.
Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, oranges, peppers, spinach, beets and dark chocolate.
Turmeric. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. More research is needed but a study in 2013 revealed that turmeric may inhibit estradiol, a form of oestrogen which could help to prevent growths. You could have it in curries, of course, or I like adding it to my rice and in a milk drink. Or, again, you could take supplements.
I hope this essential guide to endometriosis will help women who are suffering with it.
I’m shocked that women have been told they have a low pain threshold by health care providers when they seek help for their pain.
If you’re one of these women, don’t give up. It isn’t normal that be in that much pain.
If any men are reading this and maybe have a female member of their family suffering with the above symptoms, please encourage them to get help and support them.
Sources: nhs.uk, healthline.com, mayoclinic.org, medicalnewstoday.com, webmd.com, endometriosis-uk.org, endometriosis.org, endometriosisnews.com, nutritionist-resource.org.uk