March is Endometriosis Awarness Month, and it strikes me that most people are unaware that this condition exists.
Endo is a condition that affects around 1 in 10 women worldwide – which is around 176 million women… It takes an average of 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to be diagnosed, and costs the UK economy around £8.2billion a year, due to lost work hours & treatment.
So what happens? Endometrial tissue (similar to the uterus lining) starts to grow outside of the uterus; on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bowel, intestine and/or other organs around the pelvis. It’s a long term, chronic condition, that has no known cause, and no known cure (just continuous good news am I right?!). Endo is classified in to 4 stages: I-minimal, II-mild, III-moderate, and IV-severe, based on extent and depths of the implants.
One of the main symptoms is pain. Which is what can often lead to a long diagnosis as, as women, we often accept monthly horrendous pain as part of our ‘being a woman’ tax. Endometriosis can begin as early as the first period, leading to such a high levels of pain feeling ‘normal’…
What are the other symptoms?
- Pain before & during menstruation
- Pelvic & joint pain
- Pain during sex
- Cramping or pain during bowel movements
- Chronic fatigue
- Irregular periods
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Chronic low iron
- Bleeding between periods
- Painful urination
- Digestive issues
- Lower back pain
- Difficulty conceiving
Endo is more commonly found in women who struggle to conceive, than those who conceive without issue – however, many women with endometriosis do go on to have healthy pregnancies. It’s suspected that fertility may be impacted by the production of inflammatory substances and oxidative stress that negatively influence ovulation, fertilisation and/or implantation.
How is it cured?
Whilst there is currently no cure, there is a lot that can be done to manage symptoms. As this is a progressive condition, early management can help reduce progression of the conditions and complications.
Diet & lifestyle changes can be beneficial in managing the inflammation & oxidative stress that are thought to contribute to endo symptoms. These changes have been shown to increase well-being and decrease symptoms in those suffering, but it’s vital that these changes be sustainable for long term success. Several foods and supplements have been associated with improving/worsening endo symptoms, but this can vary person to person, so it’s important to find what works for you.
This sounds like me, what do I do…?!
The best place to start is by tracking symptoms; bleeding (including spotting), pain & cramps, how heavy your period is, energy levels, gastrointestinal symptoms, bowel movements & contraception use/type.
Tracking enables us to see patterns and if these are cyclical to the menstrual cycle. Take your tracked symptoms to your health care professional who can then support you in getting the right treatment & guide you in lifestyle changes that are specific to you. A Nutritional Therapist can create a plan with you, that supports what you’re dealing with, to manage your symptoms, in a way that actually works for you.
There is still a lot that is unknown about endometriosis, but we do know one thing; you don’t have to go through it alone.
If you suspect you may be suffering, or already have a diagnosis and want support, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss how I can help you on your journey to reduce your symptoms, and get you back to yourself again.