What is Endometriosis and How To Treat It
Endometriosis impacts approximately 1 in 10 (or 176 million women) during their lifetime. This number is most likely much higher, as it does not accurately account for transgender people, or those who struggle to get an accurate endometriosis diagnosis in the first place.
What is Endometriosis?Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to that which lines the inside of the uterus is found on other areas in the body such as on the walls of the uterus, ovaries, pelvis, bladder, and in some extreme cases the digestive system or the respiratory system.
These displaced tissues are called lesions, and cause internal inflammation which leads to pain and cramping that is often disabling and debilitating. The pain of people with endometriosis is often chronic, meaning it lasts for months on end. Endometriosis pain occurs throughout the month and not only during the menstrual phase.
For some, the pain can be so severe that it prevents them from completing daily activities such as working, visiting with family or friends, exercise, or even simple household chores.
It is possible however to have endometriosis and not have any noticeable symptoms such as pain but have trouble with fertility and pregnancy.
Due to the extent and severity of endometriosis, it can also lead to other bodily dysfunctions such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as mental dysfunctions such as generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder.
It is common for someone with endometriosis to also struggle with their mental health or other aspects of their physical health, and experience things such as brain fog, memory loss, intense fatigue, or digestion issues.
It can be difficult for someone to get an accurate endometriosis diagnosis. In order for doctors to determine what exactly is happening when someone is experiencing pelvic pain, they may perform pain mapping and sequencing through internal pelvic exams and ultrasounds and try and predict if there are lesions.
This method of diagnosis is considered to be fairly accurate. However, the only way to determine if someone has endometriosis with 100% accuracy is by performing laparoscopic surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery is an invasive procedure where doctors operate on a patient to look for endometriosis lesions. If lesions are found they are removed via either ablation (burning) or excision (cutting).
Because menstrual and pelvic pain is often misunderstood, devalued, and disregarded within medical systems, people with chronic menstrual pain often have to convince their physicians that their pain is severe enough in order to access these tests.
This leads to long lapses in time between the onset of symptoms to formal diagnosis for people with endometriosis-like symptoms. Globally, research shows that it takes people with periods an average of 8 years to be properly diagnosed with endometriosis. In Canada specifically it takes an average of 5.4 years for people to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
The diagnosis times extend for Black people, and other people of colour, due to medical racism and eurocentric symptomatology. Black women in the United States of America are 50% less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
This delay forces many people who think they might have endometriosis to self diagnose and teach themselves how to manage their pain through online resources. Living with endometriosis has led many to build and join flourishing online communities that are united and oriented to support each other in all the ways they can and especially to make up for the gaps in medical systems.
Unfortunately, there is no “official” treatment for endometriosis, however there are many western and natural options that can be used to reduce and manage symptoms. Taking a holistic and integrative approach to healing using these options is best for those struggling with endometriosis.
Holistic means treating the whole problem (considering the whole person rather than just the symptoms). Integrative means utilizing a combination of different types of treatment (medical and natural).
Physicians often recommend various over-the-counter (and sometimes prescription) anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Naproxen to decrease pain. For longer term improvement and pain reduction, they often recommend using hormones to regulate bodily hormone levels and stop ovulation through daily birth control pills, IUD insertions, or through the use of prescribed estrogen and progesterone medications.
The drawbacks to medical solutions is that they are not cures. When people choose to stop with their contraception or hormones, the pain can come back. Occasionally, it returns worse than before.
Combining medical treatments with lifestyle changes can have a better, more sustainable impact. There are so many holistic lifestyle changes that can decrease pain levels if approached seriously and with a certain level of commitment.
Studies have shown that eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help with menstrual pain management by decreasing bodily inflammation and regulating hormone levels (such as reducing estrogen). Eating more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, grains and seeds, and fewer high processed, pre-packaged foods such as french fries, breads, treats and many animal products (especially dairy and red meat) has proven benefits.
Gentle exercises such as yoga or pilates, as well as simple aerobic exercises such as walking or light jogging can be helpful. Treatments such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, and counselling have also proven effective in decreasing symptoms caused by endometriosis.
Lastly, incorporating plant and herbal ingredients such as supplements, topical creams and tinctures, or herbal teas can prove to be effective in providing relief. We created our line of products to offer an all natural solution to period pain.
The reality is that the endometriosis population has been underserved for years. People with endometriosis often live lives filled with pain, and struggle to access the support and resources they need to find relief. However, we believe that better days are possible.
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