March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, so we thought we’d give you a primer on this condition that affects about 1 in 10 people with a uterus. Turns out, it’s about as prevalent as diabetes in women. That said, a lot more work is needed to get the medical community to properly diagnose and manage Endo! So, let’s cover the basics and ways you can take control!
What is Endometriosis?
The word “endometriosis” comes from “endometrium”, which is the tissue that lines the uterus or womb. Endo occurs when tissues similar to the endometrial tissue develop outside the uterus and on other reproductive organs, where it can wreak havoc and cause a lot of pain! These cells can be found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes and abdominal cavities, but they can also develop elsewhere around the pelvis. More importantly, they cause hormonal changes to occur and can lead to inflammation and scarring.
Endometriosis Causes and Risks
No surprise, we still don’t know the exact origin of endo, but that’s why we need to keep building awareness! According to the most recent research, endo might come from retrograde menstrual flow, genetic factors, impared immune system, hormonal issues, and surgeries around the abdominal and pelvic areas.
Endometriosis is most common in genetically female people over 30, but people with menstrual cycles can develop it at any age. Women who have a direct relative with endometriosis (mother, sister, daughter), short menstrual cycles (less than 27 days), heavy periods over 7 days, began periods at a young age (less than 11 years old), or suffer from infertility are at high risk.
Symptoms vary, but the most common one is pain. This can include painful period cramps, severe pain in lower back and pelvis, pain during sex, painful bowel movements or urination during periods. Other common symptoms include digestive issues, infertility, spotting, and heavy periods.
Taking Control of Endometriosis
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s definitely time to see your gyno or healthcare provider! Painful menstrual cycles, irregular periods and infertility (no pregnancy after 1 year of TTC) are signs that should not go unseen. Advocate for yourself and make sure the healthcare provider addresses this issue to reclaim your health. This means asking for tests such as estrogen, ultrasounds and other hormonal tests for fertility, so you know exactly what’s going on. You can have both endo and PCOS or endo and irritable bowel disease, so make sure you understand exactly what conditions you’re dealing with.
There is no cure of endo. Interventions can include pain relief and surgery, but diet and lifestyle changes play a role, too! There are promising studies that show anti-inflammatory foods, pre and probiotics and phytoestrogens may help manage this condition! See my blog post for more dietary tips, and book a free nutrition chat to find out more.