Women’s Health Week: Endometriosis

Once thought to affect only women above 30, and those who hadn’t hadn’t children – not anymore. It is now thought to affect 10-20% of women, but it likely to be higher. Some women with Endometriosis may be symptom free.

Endometriosis, we now know can affect women of any age after onset of menstruation. The recommendation was ‘have a baby’ or a ‘hysterectomy’. Both suggestions to a 14 year old seems ludicrous to me. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at age 18, but am certain I had it from the time of my first menses. (I’m pretty sure my mother and paternal aunty had it too, but in those days they didn’t have a name for it. Since writing this book in 2003, my sister has been diagnosed also and given birth naturally.) I have been mostly symptom free for over 10 years now and subsequent procedures have confirmed no evidence of endometriosis. (I have to add that when I go off my herbs for 6 months or so the symptoms start to return. Once back on my herbs for a month, the symptoms went.)  I was told that there is no cure. That’s just not true.

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Endo’, as it is commonly referred to, is a condition that results when the cells of the endometrium, (lining of the uterus) grows in parts of the body where it shouldn’t. These tissues may be found in or around the ovaries, bowel, bladder, pelvic floor, fallopian tubes or even in the nasal cavity’s. These misplaced tissues also respond to hormonal changes that are responsible for menstruation. Because they aren’t where they should be, that is in the uterus, there is now way they can be shed from the body, instead they are absorbed in the surrounding tissues – a painful and slow process. As each month passes, these implants grow, causing scar tissue and adhesions. This causes the organs to stick together.

The cause of Endo’ is still unknown, but one thing is for sure, the pain is debilitating and so are the associated mental symptoms.

Diagnosis is made through a laparoscope usually under a general anaesthetic. Orthodox treatment involves halting menstruation by use of the contraceptive pill, after burning off the lesions. This seems to be effective in some cases, for about 5 years at most. But it dos leave scar tissue, that can be almost as painful.

Diet is so important, as is exercise and stress management.

Symptoms           

– Pain in the uterus, lower back and pelvis. Pain before and during menstruation

– Painful intercourse

– Breakthrough bleeding

– Bleeding with intercourse

– Pain intermittently throughout cycle

– Large clots during menstruation

– Nausea, vomiting and/or constipation during menstruation

– Infertility

Mood swings and/or depression

– Iron deficiency due to a heavy flow

– Ovualtion pain

 

Who’s affected           

Women whose menstrual cycles are regularly shorter than 27 days

– It seems to be genetic.

 

Foods to Include           

– It is really important to eat a diet free of processed oils and carbohydrates. Include some whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds

– Alfalfa and kale containing Vitamin K promotes normal blood clotting

– Sea vegies contain iodine, which will aid in proper thyroid function

– Lots of green leafy vegetables

– Omega 3 oils from hemp, chia, flax, walnuts and seaweeds; and sustainably -caught seafood

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Foods to Avoid                       

– Animal meat and dairy

– Refined fats and oils

– Fried and junk foods

– Additives of any kind

– Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners

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Herbal Medicine                       

– Dan Shen for stagnant (stuck) blood

– Dong Quai for its hormonal activity and as a general reproductive tonic. Other herbs used to balance hormones are Burdock and Raspberry leaf

– Dang gui (in the West we use Angelica archangelica, as a substitute) is often taken alone in the East for menstrual difficulties

– Vitex is important here as it will regulate your cycle and balance your hormones

– Gingko increases and stimulates circulation to the reproductive organs. It will also help with scar tissue

– Turmeric is a good anti-inflammatory, liver tonic and estrogenic

– Calendula helps to keep lymphatics in good order, which seems to be a problem with Endo’

– Golden Seal and Barberry is good for reducing inflammation in mucous membranes

– Chen Pi (mandarin peel) is great for improving digestion and reducing ‘damp’ conditions

– St. John’s Wort is a good anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory

– Liver herbs are really important – Dandelion Root, Schisandra and St. Mary’s Thistle

 

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Supplements           

– Vitamin E aids hormonal balance and keeps blood flowing smoothly, thereby reducing stagnation and clotting. It is destroyed by tap water and the contraceptive pill.

– Essential Fatty Acids like Evening Primrose and Flax oil help with cell rejuvenation and are anti-inflammatory

– Iron if anaemia is present

– Vitamin C for immunity and healing, also anti-inflammatory

– Zinc for tissue repair and its immune enhancing activity

– Kelp for its mineral content and its role in thyroid function

– Magnesium for the pain involved with menstruation. Take it all month, and preferably with calcium

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Lifestyle           

– Warming your body during menstruation is important. Take long baths with essential oils like Lavender, black Pepper and Bergamot. A water bottle is your best friend for period pain

– Liver ‘stagnation’ is usually associated with Endo’. Keep your liver functioning well.

– Taking the contraceptive pill is only ‘hiding’ symptoms. Apart from that, it will cause Candida, which is not easy to control

– Avoid using tampons, as they may make Endo’ worse by preventing a good flow. (Make them organic if you do use them.) ‘Rad Pads’ are great, but somewhat impractical and messy. Try them

– Exercise is really important. Walking, yoga, qi gong and swimming are great. It must be regular

– If you suffer with painful menstruation, see a Gynaecologist. Severe period pain is not normal

– Strive for emotional clarity. Stress definitely makes the symptoms worse

– During menstruation, avoid physical, mental and emotional stress

– Read ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamond

– Keep warm when menstruating. Avoid ‘cold’ foods

– Abstain from sex during menstruation. Let it flow!

– Avoid commercially produced chicken and poultry. There are too many hormones and antibiotics used in producing poultry. Buy organic if you eat chicken

– Drink only pure water. Fluoridated water destroys vitamin E which is an essential nutrient in Endo’

– Include warming herbs like dill, marjoram, black pepper and ginger in your cooking

– Check for Hypothyroidism

– Period pain may contribute to the spread of endometrial tissue, so take steps to reduce the pain. Don’t endure it!

– Don’t put off having a baby if you’re in the position to do so.

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