Your Plan Of Action – The Natural Approach
- A healthy diet has been shown to reduce symptoms
- Opt for an anti-inflammatory diet high in omega-3 rich fish
- Supplements such as magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin E may be helpful for pain management
- Reduce exposure to environmental oestrogens and support metabolism in the body via the liver
Endometriosis is a very common gynaecological condition which can affect up to 15 percent of all women. Half of all women with endometriosis will have fertility issues. After fibroids, endometriosis is the most common gynaecological problem. The National Endometriosis Society in the UK estimates that between 1.5 and 2 million women in Britain have endometriosis. Endometriosis is more common in childless women over the age of 30.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of the womb (the endometrium) implants and grows outside the womb itself. These endometrial implants can grow in the pelvis, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel and bladder. More uncommonly, they can also crop up in the lung, heart, eye, armpit or knee.
Wherever it grows, the womb lining responds to the natural hormone cycle and bleeds every time a period occurs. When women bleed normally throughout menstruation, blood leaves the body through the vagina. However, in the case of endometriosis, the blood has no outlet and becomes trapped in the tissue, causing pain, inflammation, cysts and scar tissue. You may find blood in your stools or urine during your period, or experience pain in diverse areas of your body. Some of my patients experience nosebleeds during their periods because they have endometrial patches in the nasal passages.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms vary between women. In some women, endometriosis can cause extremely painful periods and painful sex, but some women experience no symptoms whatsoever.
Symptoms can occur at any time of the month – during a bowel movement, or when urinating, for example. The most severe pain can start between five and seven days before a period and last for two to three days during the period itself. Painful sex (called dyspareunia) is a feature of the condition in up to 59 percent of all women with endometriosis, and acts as a keynote symptom – something that alerts doctors to a possible diagnosis.
Symptoms often improve dramatically after pregnancy, and it is believed that having a break from the monthly cycle actually ‘quietens down’ the disease in some sufferers.
Women have talked about how the endometriosis takes over their lives. Holidays are planned to avoid periods and social arrangements are cancelled at the last minute when the pain becomes intense. Many women are forced to take days off work each month in order to cope with the condition and some women have had to give up work because their employers cannot cope with their frequent absences.
Common Symptoms Of Endometriosis
- painful periods (dysmenorrhoea)
- heavy or irregular periods
- painful sex (dyspareunia)
- back pain
- gastrointestinal problems including diarrhoea, bloating and painful defecation
- general pain in the pelvic area
Can Nutrition Help?
The aim of an ‘endometriosis diet’ is to support a reduction in inflammation. One study has shown that women were able to significantly reduce symptoms of endometriosis by adopting a healthy well-balanced diet and supplementing with anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids. In addition, it may be helpful to reduce the effect of oestrogen and hormonal signals that trigger the onset of symptoms. Balancing blood sugar is often the first step in hormonal balance and can be achieved by eating more regularly and opting for complex carbohydrates paired with protein and healthy fats. Avoiding foods high in sugar and aiming for a healthy weight may also be beneficial.
So as well as eating a healthy diet, supplementation is beneficial to help reduce the symptoms of endometriosis.
The B Vitamins are particularly important when you suffer from endometriosis as they are needed by your liver to convert excess oestrogen into weaker and less dangerous forms. One of the B vitamins, B6, has been shown to significantly reduce the intensity and duration of period pains, which will help many sufferers.
Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and has been shown to have a beneficial effect on painful periods and lower back pain.
Approximately 60% of patients tested in our clinic are deficient in magnesium.
Omega 3s are one of the most powerful food source anti-inflammatory agents. A ‘Western Diet’ does not usually provide enough omega 3s. Eating at least two portions of oily fish per week is recommended. If you do not eat fish, a supplement containing over 500mg of each of EPA and DHA is useful.
Many women attending our clinic have been taking evening primrose oil supplements, an omega 6 fatty acid, for years and have not been eating enough omega 3 oils, or taking them in supplement form, to counterbalance this. Some women are also taking combinations such as omega 3, 6, and 9 in supplement form because they have heard that we need a good balance of all the omega fatty acids. This is true, but you have to take into account what your own levels may be in the first place. It is much more common that we already have high levels of omega 6 which is found in processed foods, ready meals but also other foods like meats, breads, spreads and anything that contains or is cooked in oil. While evening primrose oil can be useful for hormonally driven breast tenderness, omega 6 oils have the potential to produce pro-inflammatory substances.
We test your balance of omega 3 and omega 6 to make sure the ratio is correct.
Tests For Endometriosis
A Hormonal Test MGL5 (blood) can look at the level of oestrogen and the balance of your other hormones.
We can also check if you are deficient in key nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamin s and the balance of omega 3 to 6 essential fats. Our Nutritional Profile MGL4 (blood) will show you what vitamins and minerals you actually need to take.
Where to Start?
Make sure you are eating well to support your symptoms. If you would like personalised advice on what to do next then request a consultation with one of our qualified nutritionists.