Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition characterized by endometrial-like tissue found outside the uterus. This tissue is commonly found on the ovaries, and is described as a “chocolate cyst” on ultrasound. It can also be found on the uterine ligaments, in the colon, and throughout the abdominal cavity. It can even be found on the diaphragm!
Just like the uterine lining, this tissue builds in response to the monthly hormonal cycle. Unlike the uterine lining, this tissue can’t degrade and shed as a period at the end of a cycle. Instead, it causes inflammation and swelling and leads to scar tissue buildup over time. This results in symptoms of extreme pain both during and outside of menstruation. Women also experience nausea, heavy periods, pain with intercourse, pain having a bowel movement, fatigue, and infertility.
Endometriosis is estimated to impact 5-15% of all women and can take upwards of 8 years to diagnose. There is currently no cure for it, and it’s typically managed with birth control pills, IUDs, or other hormone-modulating pharmaceuticals such as GnRH agonists and aromatase-inhibitors.
There is a need for alternative and supportive treatments for endometriosis. As naturopathic doctors, we frequently use botanicals, nutraceuticals, diet, and acupuncture, and see significant improvements!
Recent research indicates that the gut’s role—specifically the gut microbiome—may be another treatment avenue that needs to be explored.