That’s how many American women suffer from endometriosis…and the rate continues to rise.
According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, women with endometriosis suffer from symptoms for at least 10 years before receiving the correct diagnosis.
Scientists still don’t completely understand how endometriosis develops. The most widely accepted view is that the during a woman's menstrual cycle, the blood containing uterine cells flows backwards instead of out. This results in the entry of uterine cells into the abdomen and pelvis where they're not supposed to be.
Good Cells Gone Bad
You may think cells of the uterus will act the same regardless of where they are...but that isn't the case. Once these cells end up outside the uterus, they turn into 'rogue' cells which don't play by the normal rules. As a matter of fact, they behave very similar to cancer cells in that they:
· Grow their own blood vessels
· Create their own blood supply
· Make their own estrogen
· Evade normal immune system surveillance
They also ignore progesterone, the body's main estrogen balancing hormone.
The other reason endometriosis is so difficult to treat is that immune system gets involved...and it can be very difficult to control. You see, once those uterine cells go where they aren't supposed to, the immune system recognizes them as foreign invaders and begins a strong attack and destroy mission which doesn't end unless the endometriosis cells are removed.
This means that endometriosis can be very difficult to control…so a comprehensive approach to treatment is essential.
Treating Endometriosis Beyond Surgery and/or Hormones
There are TWO main factors that fuel the growth of endometriosis cells: Estrogen and inflammation.
Conventional medical treatment mainly focuses on getting the estrogen under control…usually with some type of oral hormone, like birth control pills. However, it never addresses the inflammatory component of endometriosis which is just as big of a problem.
So, unless estrogen dominance and inflammation are corrected, women will continue to have problems. In fact, even birth control pills will eventually quit working. The next conventional medical treatment? A complete hysterectomy.
But…a complete hysterectomy, especially if done in women 40 years of age or younger, has it’s own laundry list of associated health risks, including an increased risk of heart disease.
The other problem in assuming a hysterectomy is the cure...?
· 20% and 40% of women will experience recurrent endometriosis within five years of their initial surgery
· Up to 15% of women who’ve had a complete hysterectomy suffer from recurrent endometriosis.
There is good news for women who suffer from endometriosis….
There are other ways to control endometriosis, either instead of or in addition to the conventional medical treatments. Here are just some of the other things a woman can do:
1. Maintain a health weight. Fat cells not only produce extra estrogen, they also produce at least 32 different types of chemicals that increase inflammation.
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods that contain sugar, artificial sweeteners (like high fructose corn syrup), and trans fats generate significant amounts of inflammation. Additionally, all meat, except wild caught fish and lamb, have high levels of arachidonic acid which is a very potent inflammatory chemical. Elimination of alcohol and caffeine are also important in reducing inflammation.
3. Consider adding bioidentical progesterone. Unlike the progestins found in all forms of birth control and in the Mirena IUD, progesterone is the natural biochemical equivalent. Progestins and Progesterone are NOT the same. Most conventional doctors are unfamiliar with how to prescribe bioidentical progesterone for women with endometriosis. It is very important that women work only with someone who has a thorough knowledge and understanding of the complexity of endometriosis and the proper use of progesterone in this condition.
5. Maintain optimal gut health. Much of the estrogen produced by the body is eliminated through stool. Therefore, constipation can indirectly create estrogen dominance. The bacteria living in the colon are also important for the proper metabolism and disposal of estrogen. The ideal frequency of bowel movements is at least one, formed bowel movement per day. Taking a probiotic daily is also important.
Treating endometriosis requires a multidimensional approach. It's is vital that women seek out a competent and highly experienced health care provider who understands and knows how to treat all aspects of this disease.