Health expert, Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart (PhD) shares the lowdown on endometriosis and her top 5 tips to help you manage it
It’s National Endometriosis Week across the world this March and it’s a time where we can all help to raise awareness about this painful and often unrecognised condition.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory disorder that occurs in women when tissue, similar to the lining of the womb, starts to grow in other places like the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
This tissue acts like endometrial tissue and thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. But, unlike a normal period, this tissue has no way to exit the body, which can lead to cysts and scar tissue forming in the pelvic area.
How many women does it affect and what are the symptoms?
It is estimated that approximately 10% of women between 14 and 45 have endometriosis and it goes largely undiagnosed in younger years.
Symptoms of endometriosis include heavy and painful periods and can make it difficult to get pregnant and this is why more women are diagnosed in the 30’s, when they are trying to figure out what might be causing issues with infertility.
Over time, women with endometriosis can also suffer with chronic lower back and pelvic pain, pain during and after sex, an overactive bladder, intestinal pain and painful bowel movements.
What can I do about it?
Research shows that endometriosis can be genetic and that it is more common in women with a lower BMI and those who started their periods at a young age.
There is no way to completely prevent it or get rid of it, but there is a lot you can do to make it more manageable and much easier to live with.
Medical treatments for endometriosis can be effective and include surgery, the contraceptive pill and painkillers, however, there are also some holistic ways that might help you to manage your symptoms each month.
Keep calm and don’t carry on:
Symptoms of endometriosis can be triggered by chronic stress. Research has shown that the more stressed you feel, the worse your symptoms of endometriosis will be, including higher levels of pain.
For women with endometriosis, it is vital to learn early on what helps you to destress and relax best. Warm baths, aromatherapy candles and a restful bedtime routine can all help, but if you really struggle with anxiety or pain than
CBD can be a great place to start. When taken orally, CBD has not only been shown to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, but also to reduce pain through its inflammatory actions on our endocannabinoid system.
My favourite CBD oil is i-cann’s RELAX which has a delicious, subtle peppermint flavour and is infused with lemon balm, which really helps to calm the mind and promote a sense of well-being. But before you try something new, do talk to your GP if you are taking any prescribed medications.
“Symptoms of endometriosis can be triggered by chronic stress”
Don’t forget that there is also the option of gently rubbing a CBD infused body cream onto your pelvic area and lower back. I love i-cann’s Calm and Soothe CBD body lotion as it is enriched with organic hemp seed and avocado oil and has a lovely light texture that absorbs really well.
Don’t forget Omega 3’s:
Diet is often discussed as a modifiable risk factor for endometriosis, meaning that eating the right foods could really help you manage your symptoms.
One study found that polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish, phytoestrogens found in some plant foods, resveratrol found in berries and grapes, and vitamin D, might help to fight symptoms of endometriosis (e.g. pain and inflammation) and delay disease progression.
As well as this, numerous studies have shown links between intake of omega-3 fatty acids and endometriosis.
One study found that higher levels of omega-3 in the blood, the lower the risk of endometriosis.
Another study found that a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids was associated with less severe symptoms of endometriosis (4).
This is all evidence that the right foods can help to relieve endometrial pain and inflammation—surely this is reason enough to think more carefully about the impact of your diet on your health.
Spice up your life:
Herbs and spices have been used medicinally since ancient times and in recent years, turmeric has taken the spotlight in anti-inflammatory research.
One study found that curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, may help with endometriosis by reducing production of oestradiol, a form of oestrogen. In addition to this, a recent research review found that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of turmeric were associated with reducing symptoms of endometriosis.
Ginger and the adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha, have also been found to help women manage their symptoms—so, start adding fresh ginger and turmeric to your herbal teas and cooking and reap the benefits of these super spices!
You can find out more about the health benefits of spices at Herbal Reality, a great website to learn all about the medicinal benefits of herbs.
Check out which SUPER foods you need:
Most research into diet and endometriosis has focused on anti-inflammatory foods, such as those mentioned earlier in this article. But luckily, there is so much more to our diets than just eating oily fish!
One study recently found that dietary intake of the vitamins C, E and the B vitamins, thiamine and folate, were related to a lower risk of having endometriosis.
No-one is absolutely sure why this is, but these researchers believed that these particular vitamins might influence factors related to the development ofendometriosis, for example, oxidative stress and steroid hormone metabolism.
What is really interesting about this research is that these vitamins were from food sources—yet more evidence that paying attention to the foods you eat is vital when trying to manage symptoms of endometriosis.
The thing is, when you spend a fair portion of your life struggling with period pain and related digestive symptoms, it can be hard to focus on the ‘right’ foods. So why don’t you make it easier on yourself and take a look at British wellbeing brand, FOGA’s, new multivitamin smoothies.
Every FOGA plant shake now gives you all your daily vitamin and mineral needs as well as 1+ of your five a day.
Their fantastic food state multi-nutrient complex has been developed using an innovative approach that ‘grows’ vitamins into buckwheat shoots, so the vitamins and minerals are actually within food and more easily used by your body. Just add water, whizz and know that you are getting a much-needed nutrient boost.
Look after your gut:
A couple of thousand years ago, Hippocrates famously said “all disease begins in the gut”. It took modern medicine a few years to catch up and realise that he was absolutely right!
Around 90% of women with endometriosis struggle with digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Gut health is related to the development and maintenance of various chronic diseases, and based on the digestive symptoms you see in endometriosis, the gut certainly seems to have an important role to play.
“Around 90% of women with endometriosis struggle with digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea”
So, what are the gut-friendly foods that you can eat to ensure that you have a healthy and happy gut? These are foods that give you more of the good bacteria you need to maintain the right balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.
Fermented foods are the best option if you wish to add some good bacteria to your daily diet. Some dairy products, for example some cheeses and live yogurts, include live cultures of bacteria.
Fermented drinks such as Kefir and Kombucha are popular probiotic drinks. You can also try adding fermented vegetables to your meal, like kimchi or sauerkraut.
You might also want to try a supplement to support your gut health.
One of my favourite products for this is Hifas da Terra’s Bio Intestin. This supplement contains a blend of prebiotic medicinal mushrooms. Prebiotics are essential to feed the good bacteria that are already in your gut and this formula contains natural prebiotics.
The mushrooms in the formula are a natural source of beta-glucans, dietary fibre, protein, iron, zinc and other compounds that help protect you and your health. Three capsules a day of Bio Intestin will help support regular bowel function, and healthy detoxification of the gastrointestinal tract.
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