Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age (12-60 years old) in the U.S. and 176 million women worldwide, according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Normally, endometrial tissue lines the uterus, thickens, breaks apart, and eventually sheds from the body during a female’s monthly menstrual cycle.
Those women who are affected with endometriosis will have excess endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. The abnormal growth of endometrial tissue usually occurs in other areas of the reproductive system including the ovaries, fallopian tubes,and pelvic ligaments. Endometrial growths may also occur in the bladder, bowel, intestines, and rectum. Because the tissue is endometrial, it follows the hormonal “trigger” that the lining of the uterus (endometrium) follows; the endometrial growths will swell and bleed just as the lining of the uterus does, but with no means of exiting the body. The trapped blood causes an array of health problems that are chronic in nature, and many medical professionals have come to understand that there is a strong connection between autoimmunity and endometriosis.
Who Gets Endometriosis?
Symptoms of endometriosis can arise as soon as a girl gets her first period; the symptoms are not always noticeable early on but can worsen as she gets older. Any woman in her reproductive years can be afflicted with endometriosis, and the disease seems to affect women of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds equally.
There is no definitive explanation for why and how endometrial tissue forms outside of the uterus. The most common explanation is retrograde flow, which suggest that menstrual tissue flows backward through the fallopian tubes and sticks to the ovaries. In theory, the backed up tissue leads to the formation of an endometrial lesion that grows over time. However, modern research reveals that 90% of women experience retrograde menstruation, yet only 1 in 10 are affected with endometriosis (according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America). With this knowledge, experts have dismissed the retrograde menstruation theory as the cause of endometriosis. Instead, medical professionals have researched a relationship between hormonal or autoimmune problems (or some combination of the two) and endometriosis.
In fact, autoimmune disease is far more prevalent in women than it is in men. An abstract from a study entitled, “Sex Differences in Autoimmune Disease from a Pathological Perspective” notes that 78% of those affected with an autoimmune disease are women; this is a startlingly high percentage. Although there is no direct link between an autoimmune disorder and endometriosis, it is not uncommon for a woman diagnosed with endometriosis to also be afflicted with an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms are often blurred together. Each endometriosis symptom can be a sign of an autoimmune disease, which makes the disease even harder to distinguish.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
What makes endometriosis hard to diagnose are the array of chronic symptoms that can be felt in full or no capacity, with varying degrees of severity. Despite the magnitude of symptoms that can result from endometriosis, there are, generally, a few indicative signs that crop up as a result of the condition:
- Painful cramps: these aren’t the normal cramps that occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle; they are, at times, excruciating.
- Longer periods/heavy menstrual flow: any period that lasts longer than the normal 7 day cycle and/or consists of an unusually heavy flow could be a sign of endometriosis.
- Pain during sex: the abnormal lesions, with no place to shed, often break down and form a buildup of scar tissue that inflames and irritates surrounding tissue and organs. This can cause women to experience pain during sex.
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Urination and bowel problems: some women who are diagnosed with endometriosis express symptoms of painful urination and bowel movement which sometimes leads to a misdiagnosis.
- Infertility: 30-40% of women who are afflicted with endometriosis have difficulty with fertility, according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America.
The connection between autoimmunity and endometriosis has not been fully explored, but a 2012 paper entitled: “Is there an association between autoimmunity and endometriosis?” finds that endometriosis fits the bill of an autoimmune disease. The presence of autoantibodies, chronic, localized inflammation, and the difficulty that comes with differentiating the disease from other autoimmune disease makes it very likely that endometriosis occurs as a result of an autoimmune dysfunction or disease.
Nutrition, Environmental Factors and Endometriosis
Although there is a genetic predisposition for endometriosis if a 1st degree family member (sister or mother) is affected, there has been research to suggest that certain nutritional and environmental factors play a significant role in the onset of endometriosis. Research conducted by the Endometriosis Associated reports a significant connection between endometriosis and one’s exposure to the toxic chemical dioxin, which is a byproduct of the manufacturing process of bleached paper products. In the study conducted by the Endometriosis Association, 79% of rhesus monkeys that were exposed to dioxin developed endometriosis as a result.
Unfortunately, dioxin is more common than one might imagine. For example, if you’re a coffee drinker, The EPA states that 40% to 70% of dioxins found in bleached coffee filters will be transferred into your coffee and thus, directly digested.
As with many other autoimmune diseases, nutrition plays a vital role in the overall function of the immune system. Immune-boosting supplementation and the elimination of dioxin-heavy foods like dairy and meat have been reported to successfully treat endometriosis. Rebuilding the immune system with powerful, holistic healthcare has proven to be a very effective alternative to mainstream medicine.
Holistic Treatment of Endometriosis
LifeWorks Wellness Center has successfully treated patients with a variety of conditions from all over the country. Our autoimmune disease specialists effectively take all your symptoms into consideration when making a diagnosis, and every treatment is tailored to your individual and specific needs.
Our natural medicine approach takes the person’s entire body into consideration and addresses it as a whole, which often leads patients to better recovery outcomes. With this approach a patient’s body is supported and mobilized to heal itself, whether from endometriosis or any other illnesses that tends to occur with a compromised immune system.
Meet an Autoimmune Disease Doctor
If you are experiencing chronic symptoms of any kind and have yet to receive a proper diagnosis or treatment, you may be afflicted with an autoimmune disease.
At LifeWorks Wellness Center, our autoimmune disease doctors understand the array of symptoms that can occur and will devise an individualized treatment that will address your specific health issues.
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To schedule an appointment with an autoimmune disease doctor or for more information about holistic healthcare and our services, please call our New Patient Coordinator at (727) 466-6789 or submit a web inquiry online today.