Endometriosis is a potentially debilitating condition that affects roughly 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years. This condition is characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue (tissue that lines the uterus that is shed during a monthly period) outside of the uterus. This tissue can be found anywhere in the body but it is most commonly seen on the ovaries, around the ligaments or nerves, within the muscle of the uterus and on the walls of the pelvic cavity. The symptoms of endometriosis will depend on where the lesions are located but often include pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, pain with bowel movements, fatigue, infertility and period pain. Most symptoms are also worse before and during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
The cause of endometriosis remains unknown but in recent years there have been many research developments. We now know that this is not a hormonal condition, but an inflammatory condition that is affected by hormones. We now believe that gut bacteria, environmental toxins such as dioxins, and other immune mediated processes are involved. Additionally, research has made it clear that dietary changes have an impact, along with targeted supplement use and acupuncture.
Did you know…?
Endometriosis can be hard to diagnose, as it requires a laparoscopic surgery to get a fully accurate understanding of what is happening in the pelvic cavity. In my opinion this is leaving a lot of women suffering with ‘undiagnosed’ pain occurring both during and away from their menstrual cycle. Endometriosis is also associated with chronic fatigue and many other conditions.
New testing is being investigated to more accurately diagnose endometriosis and allow those women to receive treatment. We also have access to blood markers, specifically CA-125, that can be an indicator of pelvic inflammation and has been associated with endometriosis in the literature.
What does this mean for you? If you are struggling with pelvic pain, period pain, pain with intercourse, bowel movements or infertility there are ways we can help to figure out what is going on and start to get you on a path to improvement.
The Advanced Women’s Health Endometriosis Support Program
At AWH we realize that you are unique and therefore you need a plan that is customized to your individual needs. This means that if you have had surgery, are on hormone suppressing medications, have had no treatment or aren’t even diagnosed we can still support you.
Phase 1 – Understand and Customize
The first step to properly treating endometriosis is properly recognizing the symptoms. This does NOT mean that a woman needs a surgical confirmation of endometriosis to start to feel better. We have women come in all the time who have been cultured into believing that their debilitating period pain is ‘normal’ and just part of being a women. This is absolutely not the case and we always begin a thorough investigation.
In the first appointment you can expect that your Naturopathic Doctor will take time to hear your unique symptoms. We will also help you to understand what is happening in your body so that you can understand what we will do to fix it. As we spoke about above, the path to treating endometriosis includes not only hormonal support but also treating your digestive system, immune system, making dietary changes and avoiding environmental toxins. Additionally, we are always looking for thyroid hormone issues, underlying infections, stress hormone imbalances, liver dysfunction and much much more!
At the end of this appointment you can expect to leave with:
- Basic diet and lifestyle recommendations
- Personalized herbal and nutrient recommendations
- Where appropriate, in house testing for your adrenal health, gut health, and/or bio-impedance analysis
- Lab test recommendations may include FSH, LH, AMH, female sex hormones such as estradiol and progesterone, CA-125, gut bacterial testing and inflammation investigations. We use both functional tests and standard blood tests to come to understand your health better.
After we receive the results of your testing your ND will explain all of the findings. No blanket normal statements here, we want to ensure you understand what it all means. From that point we will customize supplements to your specific needs and create a plan that will likely include acupuncture treatments, pelvic physiotherapy and other modalities.
Phase 2- Tweak and Monitor
After we have begun to minimize exposure to food and environmental triggers and worked to reduce bacterial inflammation we need to tackle residual symptoms and continually support inflammation. When a woman has experienced long term inflammation it is common that other areas of the body are affected. In this phase we will support the following areas, and of course anything else specific to your unique case
- Fertility support: help coming off of the birth control pill (or other hormonal therapies) and/or supporting egg quality and implantation
- Thyroid hormone balance
- Chronic fatigue
- Interstitial cystitis or bladder pain
- Allergies, rashes and hives. These can be associated with histamine intolerance.
- Yeast infections
Some or all of these concerns may have been taken care of by this phase but any remaining issues are tackled head on!
Within 3-6 months of starting treatment we will be retesting CA-125 and inflammatory markers. Gut bacterial testing may also be repeated. If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts or ‘chocolate cysts’ then repeat ultrasounds are commonly ordered at this point. The goal with these tests is to ensure that you are progressing in the right direction!
Phase 3- Flourish and Maintain
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. This means that maintaining your diet and lifestyle will be important to ensuring that we minimize possible symptoms. But life happens, right? We all fall off and experience setbacks so this phase helps to keep you on track, judgement free! For some this is regular acupuncture or manual therapies, a semi annual check up or kick start community program. For others they move right into our Healthy Mom, Happy Baby program. No matter what this looks like for you we are here 100% of the way!