Endometriosis – symptoms, causes, consequences – and what to do about it.

hormone imbalanceFemale health conditions associated with hormone imbalance – No 3 Endometriosis




What is it?

Endometriosis is the conditions that occur when tissue which should belong in the womb (endometrial tissue) grows outside of the uterus and in other parts of the body. With this condition endometrial tissue is often found in areas such as  the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the bladder and the bowel. It can also occur in the lungs, the brain, the spine and the eyes.

The problem with this is that this extraneous tissue responds to hormonal influences in the same way as the tissue in the lining of the womb, and because it is in the wrong place it can have serious consequences. During the first part of a monthly cycle the endometrial tissue will grow, but when it is time to shed that tissue during the menstruation phase it will have no outlet. This can lead to adhesions and inflammation, cysts, kidney damage, and severe pain.

Symptoms and consequences

Symptoms can be many and varied. Pain is very common and can occur with painful periods, pain during sex, pain in the back or radiating down the legs, or pain associated with passing urine or a bowel movement. Other signs can include:

  • Heavy periods and bleeding between periods
  • Bloating
  • Bleeding from the bowel, bladder, lungs or eyes
  • IBS type symptoms – constipation and diarrhoea
  • Fatigue

Endometriosis is a common reason for infertility or problems with pregnancies. It can be a very debilitating condition leading to chronic pain, monthly misery and depression.

A conservative estimate suggests that in the UK, about 1.8 million women are affected, but  since the condition often goes undiagnosed, or more likely misdiagnosed, the number of women suffering with endometriosis is likely to be much higher.


As with most hormonal conditions the causes are multi-faceted and unique to the individual but common factors include oestrogen imbalance, immune system behaviour and inflammation, genetic expression and environmental influences. Often the whole hormonal system is involved. For example Endometriosis is more prevalent in hypothyroidism. If you are experiencing prolonged or severe stress this will affect adrenal function, leading to excess cortisol, further hormone imbalance and compromised immune function.

How to manage the condition

The natural health approach to treatment focuses on 4 key areas:

  • Balancing hormones (mainly dealing with oestrogen excess)
  • Removal  of pain
  • Dealing  with inflammation and immune system over-activity
  • Detoxification of body tissues and ensuring eliminatory pathways are working efficiently.

 Balancing hormones (mainly dealing with oestrogen excess)

Follow a hormone balancing diet, i.e. one which contains plenty of plant material (fruits and vegetables) and phyto-oestrogens (pulses and beans and traditional soy foods). Fresh fruit and vegetables provide a good range of nutrients, including anti-oxidants and fibre. Cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and cauliflower) are particularly beneficial because they help balance out the excess oestrogen.

Pulses,  beans, linseeds and traditional soy foods contain plant oestrogens which help to reduce toxic oestrogens in the body. They also help to stimulate the liver into producing substances which are responsible for controlling the amount of oestrogen and testosterone circulating around the body. Therefore these foods have a balancing effect on our hormones.

See here for more information http://dothurleyblog.co.uk/2012/10/hormone-balancing-through-diet/

Detoxification of body tissues and ensuring eliminatory pathways are working efficiently.

Make sure you have a healthy bowel function – and that means passing stools 1-2 times daily. If you follow the recommended diet then your bowel function is likely to improve due to the increased fibre and water. If you need extra help with maintaining a regular bowel then adding flax seeds and psyllium husks into your diet can help. If you have a history of poor bowel function then good bowel flora will need to be encouraged and a pro-biotic supplement will help.

Your liver is responsible for detoxifying and eliminating excess hormones  as well as other toxins in the body, and therefore it is important to ensure good liver function. Alcohol and smoking will be detrimental to this process. The liver requires various nutrients to carry out its function efficiently, such as B Vitamins, Zinc, Magnesium, Sulphur, Selenium, Cysteine, Taurine and various fats. A good multi vitamin and mineral complex will satisfy this requirement. Lecithin powder is another useful supplement for supporting liver function.

Finally you need to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins such as those found in the following products: plastics (bottles, food containers, food wrap, packaging), personal toiletries and make-up, household chemicals and cleaning agents. There is no point cleaning up your body and being careful with your diet if you then re-introduce toxins from these sources.

Dealing with pain, inflammation and immune system over-activity

Make sure you are getting enough essential fatty acids, mainly Omega-3, in your diet. These oils have an anti-inflammatory action. A distinct relationship has been found between low levels of omega-3 oils and the severity of endometriosis. Most people require supplementation with a good fish oil or krill oil.

Aloe Vera has many properties which can help. It is anti-inflammatory, healing to body tissues, encourages the proliferation of good gut bacteria, supports liver detoxification and enhances nutrient absorption.

Vitamin D regulates inflammation. During the summer, your vitamin D levels are not usually a problem, providing you actually get exposure to sunlight, and do not completely cover your skin with protective sun creams. However in the winter it is usually a good idea to supplement.

If you have allergic tendencies then histamine intolerance might be a contributory factor in endometriosis. In this case supplementing with  B6, Vitamin C and Vitamin E can help.

Get help

If you have tried to manage your condition without success, or you find it difficult to know what dietary measures to adopt or which supplements might be good for you then get help from an expert in women’s health and natural therapies. As with most hormonal conditions the causes are multi-faceted and unique to the individual so there is not one magic solution, but there will be a solution which is unique to you.


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