Banish painful periods and improve fertility
Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects one in ten women where endometrial-like tissue (similar to the tissue that lines the uterus) grows outside of the uterus on organs including the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the bowel. Women with endometriosis tend to experience painful, heavy periods and a range of other uncomfortable symptoms when they menstruate. Learn how to manage endometriosis naturally to banish painful periods and improve fertility.
What causes endometriosis?
Like with many hormonal conditions, the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown; however, there several factors implicated with this painful condition, including:
- Retrograde menstruation which occurs when menstrual blood (containing endometrial cells) flows back through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic area instead of out through the vagina. The endometrial cells are thought to stick to surfaces within the pelvis where they grow and thicken during the menstrual cycle. During menses when the endometrium (womb lining) sheds, the displaced endometrial cells within the pelvic cavity also shed and bleed, causing much discomfort and pain.
- Surgical scars such as after a caesarean birth or a hysterectomy have been known to leak menstrual blood into the pelvic cavity.
- Cell transformation when embryonic cells (early-stage development cells) and peritoneal cells (cells that line your abdomen) turn into endometrial-like cells due to a hormonal influence.
- Immune system disorders where the body isn’t able to recognise and destroy endometrial-like tissue that is growing in the wrong place.
- Painful periods including cramping and abdominal pain before and during menstruation. Lower back pain is also common.
- Heavy periods and bleeding in between periods.
- Painful intercourse, either during or after.
- Changeable bowel motions: diarrhoea and constipation, nausea and fatigue.
- Painful bowel motions and pain when urinating; this occurs when endometrial-like tissue attaches to the bowel and bladder.
- Fallopian tube obstruction – when endometrial-like tissue attaches to the fallopian tubes, it can prevent the sperm from fertilising the egg.
- Inflammation, damage or scarring of the organs in the pelvic area.
- Imbalanced hormones due to excessive oestrogen.
- Altered egg quality which affects implantation.
Managing endometriosis naturally
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar, refined carbohydrates (bread, cereals, pizza, pasta, pastries, cakes), processed foods, trans fats (margarine, vegetable oils, baked products) and deep-fried foods as these foods and drinks cause acidity and inflammation in the body. Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition so consuming inflammatory foods or drinks only adds fuel to the fire. Sugar also depresses the immune system.
- Consume an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich diet to support your body by reducing excess inflammation and minimising the damage caused by free radicals. Research suggests that women with endometriosis tend to have a lower antioxidant status and increasing antioxidants can reduce pelvic pain and inflammatory markers.Eat plenty of organic vegetables and fruit which contain an abundance of antioxidants including vitamin A (carrots, broccoli, chard, squash) and vitamin C (kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, cabbage, blueberries, cauliflower). Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E which is another important antioxidant (sunflower seeds, raw peanuts, almonds, wheatgerm oil).
- Increase your omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds) which are essential for reducing inflammation and pain in the body.Omega-3 alters prostaglandin production (these are pain-promoting hormones).
- Eat more fibre including vegetables, whole grains (oats, brown rice, millet), lentils, beans and chia seeds as it encourages the excretion of excess oestrogen via the bowel.
- Check your vitamin D levels and supplement if required. Vitamin D plays a key role in regulating the immune system, controlling inflammation and recognising abnormal cells such as stray endometrial cells.
- Herbs including Ladies Mantle, Calendula, Shatavari and Wild Yam are indicated in endometriosis due to their ability to:
- Reduce inflammation and excessive menstrual bleeding
- Regulate the menstrual cycle
- Cleanse and remove waste from the uterus
- Relieve cramping and uterine spasms
- Tone the uterus
Herbal medicine can be taken as a liquid tincture, capsule or tablet. Consult with a herbalist or naturopath to find the most effective herbal remedy for you.
- Avoid using tampons and use sanitary pads instead. Tampons have been linked to increasing retrograde menstruation. Only use organic cotton sanitary products which are free from chemicals, bleaches, dyes and fragrances.
- Regular exercise may help reduce oestrogen levels and improve mobility of the pelvic floor muscles which are often over-active in those with endometriosis.
- Magnesium (a mineral)is a muscle relaxant and can help reduce menstrual cramping and pain associated with endometriosis. Foods high in magnesium include avocados, leafy greens (kale, spinach), chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, almonds and cashews. Supplementation may be required for a higher dose of magnesium – consult with a nutritional therapist or naturopath to get the correct dose for you.
- Castor oil packs can help relieve menstrual cramps and pain by alleviating muscle tension and inflammation, and promoting blood flow to the uterus. You can make a castor oil pack by soaking a cotton flannel in cold-pressed castor oil and then placing it on the abdomen (or site where you feel pain). Cover the flannel with a plastic sheet and then place a hot water bottle over the plastic sheet. Leave the pack on for 45 minutes to an hour to take full effect. You can re-use your castor oil pack several times – keep it refrigerated in a sealed container.
- Seek the help of a Nutritional Therapist, Naturopath, Herbalist or Homeopath who are all trained to support women with endometriosis by balancing hormone levels, regulating menstrual cycles and relieving pain and cramps. Acupuncture is also a very effective modality for women with endometriosis, especially for pain relief and bringing the body back into balance.
Stop endometriosis pain
Despite endometriosis being a chronic inflammatory condition, you don’t need to suffer with painful periods and uncomfortable symptoms. You can manage your endometriosis naturally by increasing your intake of antioxidants, omega-3 and fibre; avoid inflammatory dietary habits such as consuming coffee, sugar and fried food. Do regular exercise and only use organic sanitary pads. Alleviate cramping and reduce heavy bleeding with castor oil packs, magnesium and herbs like Ladies Mantle and Shatavari. Seek the help of a nutritionist, naturopath, herbalist or homeopath who can create treatment plan specific to you.