Endometriosis is a condition defined by the presence of lesions in the pelvis similar to the tissue found inside of the uterus. This "rogue" endometriotic-like tissue most commonly involves the peritoneum—a thin layer of tissue that lines the pelvic structures, the bowel, the bladder, and the ovaries. And while this is all very technical, the reality for most women is a disease that can be like having tens or hundreds of excruciatingly painful blisters covering the inside of the pelvis.
Common endometriosis symptoms include severe pelvic pain and pain during sex, urination, and bowel movements. Other symptoms of endometriosis may include bloating, nausea and vomiting, constipation and diarrhea, fatigue, infertility, and shoulder-tip pain. At this point in time we do not know exactly what causes endometriosis, but several theories have been proposed.
What factors contribute to endometriosis?
Although we don't know the cause, some commonalities between women with this disease and possible contributing factors have been recognized. For example, there seems to be a genetic link, and more likely an epigenetic link (how our genes express themselves depending on our surrounding environment). Things that may negatively affect gene expression and increase a woman's risk of developing endometriosis include environmental toxins (such as dioxins, organopesticides, and BPA), chronic inflammation, oxidation (from an excess of damaging free radicals), high blood sugars, a dysregulated immune system, dysbiosis (an imbalance in the bacteria that live in the gut), hormone imbalances, stress, and an inflammatory diet.
What can you do to empower yourself and take control of your health?
What we eat, our environment, and how we take care of our bodies has an enormous impact on what diseases we develop, including endometriosis. And luckily, there are many actions you can take to not only improve your overall health but lower your risk for developing endometriosis or reduce your symptoms. Below is a list of action items, based on our book The Endometriosis Health & Diet Program, that you can incorporate into your life right now:
1. Lighten your toxic load.
Lowering your body's toxic burden can be achieved by a combination of reducing your exposure to toxins and increasing your body's natural detoxification. Toxins can include environmental toxins, medications, chemicals in our foods and in personal care products. Urination, defecation, sweating, and respiration are the main ways in which our body excretes toxic compounds.
2. Practice regular stress reduction.
We are all exposed to daily stress in the form of perceived emotional or mental stress, infections, overexercising, exposure to toxins, and blood sugar fluctuations. It's impossible to completely avoid stress; therefore, practicing daily stress reduction such as meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga can greatly improve your health.
3. Get connected to the earth.
Our body is controlled and charged by electrical signals. We can measure this electricity with machines such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), which measures the electrical activity of our heart. There is ongoing research on how direct contact with the earth can improve our health. Just putting your feet in the dirt, optimally for 40 minutes daily, or walking around barefoot on a concrete basement floor can connect you with the earth's healing energy.
4. Optimize your sleep.
Many people in modern society fail to sleep the recommended seven to nine hours a night. In addition, the quality is often poor. Sleep is critical to important bodily processes such as detoxification, muscle repair, hormone balance, and brain regeneration. Practicing good sleep hygiene is imperative for optimizing health and lowering inflammation and pain.
5. Exercise and regular movement.
Inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, and its impact on health has been compared to smoking tobacco. The right kind and the right amount of exercise can help to lower inflammation, reduce stress, improve blood sugar regulation, strengthen the immune system, improve hormone balance, and enhance sleep quality.
6. Consume an anti-inflammatory diet that optimizes gut health.
Your fork can be used as a vehicle for healing, or it can be the reason for your illness in the first place. The food you consume can either aid in strengthening your body or damage it at a cellular level. Eating a diet that decreases inflammation, optimizes gut function, improves energy, and enhances your body's natural detoxification will enhance your overall health. If you have endometriosis, diet can have an enormous impact on the development and severity of the disease.
This article was co-authored by Dr. Andrew S. Cook, an endometriosis specialist and the founder and director of the Vital Health Institute.