Endometriosis is one of the most common health issues experienced among women and one of the leading causes of infertility. So common, in fact, that it affects an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years (usually between the ages of 15 to 49). Yet, on average, it takes 7.5 years for someone to be diagnosed with endometriosis. What’s worse, 30-50% of women who have endometriosis become infertile, yet 20-25% do not even know they have it.
Once finally diagnosed, this often-misunderstood condition is typically treated with synthetic hormones that come with a long list of side effects or invasive surgeries that render women infertile.
Understanding the connection between hormonal balance and endometriosis can help you to not only find relief for your endometriosis symptoms naturally but also offer a safer alternative to traditional medical treatment, in many cases.
What Is Endometriosis?
It gets its name from the word endometrium, the tissue that normally lines the uterus or womb. Endometriosis happens when tissue grows outside of your uterus and on other areas in your body where it doesn’t belong.
During a normal menstrual cycle, your ovaries produce estrogen, which signals the lining of the uterus to thicken. If the egg is not fertilized, menstruation will occur. For people with endometriosis, this misplaced tissue responds to estrogen in the same way as normal tissue, telling it to grow. However, unlike the tissue lining the uterus, which leaves your body during menstruation, endometriosis tissue is essentially trapped. With no place to go, the tissue bleeds internally. Your body reacts to the internal bleeding with inflammation, a process that can lead to the formation of scar tissue, or adhesions. This inflammation and the resulting scar tissue may cause pain and other symptoms, including infertility.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
A general lack of awareness by both the public and health care providers, due to a “normalization” of symptoms, results in a significant delay from when a woman first experiences symptoms until she is diagnosed and treated. Although the majority of women with endometriosis experience symptoms, 20-25% do not. In many cases, it can take up to 10 years for symptoms to develop. This statistic is extremely alarming since endometriosis is one of the main reasons why women become infertile. Knowing the symptoms of endometriosis can help early detection.
Common endometriosis symptoms include:
- painful or irregular periods
- painful intercourse
- increased pain during bowel movements
- increased pain during urination
- excessive bleeding
- spotting and bleeding between cycles
- painful digestion
- chronic lower back and abdominal pain
- pelvic pain
- joint pain
- nerve pain
- chronic fatigue
Endometriosis and Hormones
Hormones regulate everything in your body, from your metabolism to body temperature to your reproductive system. Stress, environment, lifestyle factors, trauma, and other health conditions can all impact hormone levels.
Progesterone is a fat-burner and diuretic that soothes mood, nurtures sleep, and calms both PMS and menopausal symptoms. Progesterone also inhibits the growth of tissue, including abnormal tissue formation like that of endometriosis.
Estrogen is a key hormone in ovulation and libido and supports many other functions in your body. When out of balance, it can also trigger weight gain (belly fat), fluid retention (breast tenderness, migraines, high blood pressure, leg swelling), mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, cravings, and thyroid issues. In addition, out-of-balance estrogen levels can cause female issues related to heavy periods, fibroids, endometriosis, and even some female cancers because estrogen is stimulatory in nature, causing tissue growth.
Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, meaning it thrives off estrogen. Endometriosis has been linked to estrogen dominance, a condition where estrogen levels are out of balance with progesterone. This can occur from excess estrogen or low levels of progesterone or both.
Chronic stress and inflammation also lead to a further imbalance between progesterone and estrogen, exasperating endometriosis.
Treating Endometriosis Medically
Traditional methods of treating endometriosis vary from medical treatments to surgical procedures, all of which come with risks and/or a list of negative side effects. It is important to understand all your options so that you can make the most informed decision if you are diagnosed with endometriosis or if it runs in your family.
Keep in mind that in some cases, where endometriosis is severe, surgery may be the best option. However, if your hormones are out of balance, and you do not treat the root cause, symptoms of estrogen dominance will still be present after surgery.
The most common medical therapies are:
- Hormonal contraceptives (in oral, patch, and intrauterine or injectable applications)
Possible side effects: increased pain, weight gain, depressed mood, and abnormal uterine bleeding (breakthrough bleeding and spotting)
- Synthetic hormone replacement treatments
Possible side effects: hot flashes, vaginal dryness, hair growth (or loss), acne, weight gain, cramping, and breakthrough bleeding
Surgical methods include:
- Laparoscopy or Laparotomy – an outpatient surgery also referred to as “belly-button surgery,” where endometrial tissue is destroyed with electrical, ultrasound-generated or laser energy or by cutting it out.
Risks: pelvic infection, scar tissue, which could lead to infertility, making pain worse, or damaging other pelvic structures
- Hysterectomy – removing the uterus
Side effects: Infertility
Risks: A hysterectomy alone may not eliminate all endometrial tissue. Additionally, surgery to remove the uterus may not relieve the pain associated with endometriosis.
- Oophorectomy – removing the ovaries with the uterus
Side effects: Infertility, symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, a lowered libido, vaginal dryness, and weight gain
Treating Endometriosis Naturally
At BeBalanced, we offer natural, non-invasive treatment options to address the root cause of endometriosis with no negative side effects. Using a holistic approach, we work on reversing inflammation and oxidative damage, while also supporting healthy hormone balance through a whole foods diet, customized supplementation, stress management, and one-on-one support.
If you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms of endometriosis, fibroids, or other hormone imbalances related to mood, sleep, weight, energy, PMS or menopause, schedule a free consultation at one of our centers today! To find a center near you, CLICK HERE.
Together we will customize a plan that works with your body, not against it.