In my about me page, I told you all that I live with a disease called endometriosis. It is actually quite a common disease that about 1 in 10 women live with during their reproductive years.
What is Endometriosis?
In my own words, it is when the lining of a women’s uterus (endometrium) starts growing on the outside of their organs (ovaries, uterus, stomach, intestines, etc.). That is the plain and simple version of what it is. But, for those of us who live with it know that it is much more than that.
During menstruation, the endo on the organs breaks down and sheds just like it does inside the uterus. The only difference is that it has nowhere to go inside of you but to other organs. Every month, when a woman gets her period who has endometriosis, she bleeds internally as well. This is how the disease spreads to different spots of an organ, or to other organs all together. Once the endo is bad enough, many women will begin to develop cysts and adhesions, as well as scar tissue and it increases our chances of having infertility and ovarian cancer.
The truth is that unless you have it, there really is no one way to explain it. Every woman who has it will have different symptoms and it will be in different places inside the body than the next woman. No two woman’s disease is alike, which makes it hard to explain to other people what it is and how it affects us.
Causes of Endometriosis
No one knows the exact cause of endo, but there are a few theories out there. All of which could be true and make sense.
- Sampson’s Theory of Retrograde Menstruation
This theory proposes that menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows backwards through the Fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity rather than out of the body. These cells that should have been shed during menstruation can then lead to implantation and further spreading of endometriosis lesions.
- Stem Cell Theory
Some believe that the cells responsible for regeneration of the endometrial lining during menstruation may also play a role in the development in endometriosis. The spreading of these stem cells to ectopic regions can then lead to the differentiation of endometrial cells and cause endometriosis.
This has been studied through a micro perspective in the case of changes in gene expression to a more macro level in terms of what it means to have a family history of endo.
These are just a few of the many theories out there, but unfortunately none have been proven or disproven.
In my own opinion, I fully believe that the majority of endo is caused by the crap in our food. The hormones in the plastic and tin that our food comes packaged in. The chemicals sprayed onto our food. The hormones injected into the animals we consume to be able to mass produce.
By cutting these things out of our diet, we can help ease the symptoms and how fast the disease spreads. I will write a post on this at another time and go into greater detail.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
There are many symptoms that come with endo, and not everyone has the same ones. Some of the most common symptoms of endo include:
- Painful periods
- Pain with intercourse
- Pain with urination or bowel movements
- Excessive bleeding
- Lower abdominal pain
- Lower back pain
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- chronic fatigue
Again, these are not all of the possible symptoms that you could have from living with endo. Some women experience all of the symptoms, while others experience only a few or even none. Each experience is different, which is why a lot of doctors don’t understand the disease itself. It is also why a lot of people don’t believe or understand what we go through because this is known as the “invisible disease.”
Early Warning Signs
If you know what to watch for, you may be able to catch the disease and get a handle on it before it gets too bad. Some common early warning signs of endo include:
- Heavy painful periods
- Abnormal monthly bleeding
While many women can have a lot of the symptoms mentioned above right from the beginning, some women only have the two mentioned here to start with. Many doctors will write this off as a common “woman problem” and won’t look into it any further. This is what happened to me. My periods from day one were debilitating, and I often was stuck in the fetal position for days. If you know that the pain you are feeling isn’t normal, push for someone to look further into what it could be.
Treatment Options for Endometriosis
There are a lot of options out there to help manage your symptoms of endo, but there is no cure. The route you go for managing your endo will depend on you level of comfort when it comes to hormonal treatments or surgery.
Personally, I have always turned away the drug options as the side effects are far worse and last far to long after stopping than it is worth. Some women have had great success with drug treatments, while others have experienced horrible side effects and no relief from the endo pain.
I have thrown around the idea of surgery, but still not 100% on that option either. There are always side effects to having any surgery and I haven’t decided if it will be better than the pain itself yet.
One treatment option I am sure we can all agree on though is healing naturally! I have started reading a book called Healing Endometriosis Naturally: WITHOUT Painkillers, Drugs, or Surgery by Wendy Laidlaw. She talks a lot about why the traditional options can do more harm than good, as well as how much hormonal imbalances can affect endometriosis. So, if you are willing to put in the hard work, this may be a great place to start!
There is so much information out there on what endo is and how to deal with it. But at the end of the day, you need to find what works for you. As I said above, no woman will have the same symptoms, and no woman will have the same outcome to drugs and surgery. You have to find what makes you feel good. It is a lot of work, but it is possible to live and (almost) pain-free lifestyle with this disease.
One of the best ways to manage your symptoms is by checking out your diet, and eliminating any foods that are inflammatory. There are plenty of resources out there that explain what foods are bad and why, but I just read the book called “Heal Endometriosis Naturally: Without Painkillers, Drugs or Surgery” by Wendy Laidlaw. There was a lot of good information in there and helped me to see this disease in a different light, and to create a new plan to living with it. It can be found in the Amazon Kindle app.