For many women, the monthly cycle is a minor inconvenience to an otherwise amazing life. For others, their period – and the run up to it – can feel like a living hell. They put up with long, very heavy and incredibly painful periods. If this speaks to you, your symptoms could be linked to a number of conditions, one of which is endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a long-term chronic condition that occurs when uterine tissue grows in other areas of the body, causing inflammation, scarring and pain. This is problematic because those cells are hormonally active, just like those that line your uterus, and when womb cells shed every month (your period), the other cells do, too. The blood can’t flow out of the body, and this leads to the build-up of scar tissue and cysts. Because these endometrial cells can grow almost anywhere, women experience different symptoms, ranging (in addition to heavy painful periods) to painful bowel movements, pain during sex, back pain, fatigue and depression.
Endometriosis affects approximately 176 million women worldwide. Most are diagnosed between 25 and 40, and it’s more common in women over 30 who haven’t had children.Some women don’t experience any symptoms at all and may not even know they have endometriosis until they struggle to have a baby (infertility is a common symptom).
Doctors don’t yet know what causes it. It may be one of a number of causes or a combination of several. We do know that it can be hereditary, and that retrograde menstruation might play a role (this is when the womb lining stays inside the body rather than leaving it as your period). Or it might be an immune system problem. Doctors do know that oestrogen dominance (where there is an excess of oestrogen compared with progesterone) plays a part.
The only way to officially diagnose endometriosis is by laparoscopy, an operation during which a tiny camera is inserted into the pelvis. On average, it can take 7.5 years for a woman to be diagnosed with the condition, so if you have any concerns, you should see your GP right away.
There is currently no cure for endometriosis, but an anti-inflammatory diet can be an effective way to help you manage your symptoms.
If this is something you have been suffering with, I warmly invite you to book a free female health check with me. During our call, you can tell me about your experience and we can work out the next best steps for you.