The Complete Guide to Endometriosis: What Is It and How Can Natural Remedies Help?

The Complete Guide to Endometriosis: What Is It and How Can Natural Remedies Help?

Often misdiagnosed or under diagnosed, many women who have the condition don’t even know it, yet endometriosis is believed to affect an estimated one in ten women of reproductive age. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including painful periods, pelvic pain, and infertility.

In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of endometriosis, including what it is, how it’s diagnosed, and what causes it, as well as information on the different types of endometriosis and treatments. We’ll also discuss natural supplements for endometriosis pain, dietary changes, exercise, stress management, alternative therapies, and tips for living well with endometriosis.

What Is Endometriosis and How is It Diagnosed?

This shows where endometriosis can occur.

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the uterus, known as the endometrium, grows outside the uterus, typically in the pelvic area, causing painful periods and discomfort in the pelvic area.

Endometriosis is often diagnosed during a physical examination or through imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI scan. In some cases, a biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

There are different types of endometriosis. It may be classed as ‘superficial’ meaning on the surface of the organs, or as ‘deep’, meaning within the muscles of the pelvic wall. Endometriosis can also be classified by its location, such as ovarian endometriosis or endometriosis of the bowel.

Is endometriosis painful? It can cause painful bowel and bladder movements as well as heavy and painful periods. It can make sexual intercourse painful, make you suffer from fatigue, and in some cases may lead to infertility.

Endometriosis can cause a variety of symptoms, including painful periods, pelvic pain, and infertility.

What Causes Endometriosis?

Endometriosis causes are uncertain but possible explanations include:

  • Retrograde menstruation
    • This is when menstrual blood flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of leaving the body in the usual way. The blood contains endometrial cells, and they stick to the pelvic walls and pelvic organs. The cells are then able to develop and during each monthly cycle they bleed.
  • Transformation of peritoneal cells
    • It is believed that hormones promote transformation of peritoneal cells (those which line the abdomen) into endometrial-type cells.
  • Embryonic cell transformation
    • There is a possibility that oestrogen may change embryonic cells into endometrial-like cell implants during puberty.
  • Surgical scar implantation
    • Following surgical procedures such as C-section or hysterectomy, endometrial cells may become bonded to a surgical incision.
  • Endometrial cell transport
    • This is when blood vessels or lymphatic fluids carry endometrial cells to other parts of the body.
  • Immune system disorder
    • A glitch with the immune system may cause the body to be unable to recognise and destroy endometrial-like tissue growing outside the uterus.

Risk Factors of Endometriosis

Certain factors beyond your control may place you at a higher risk of endometriosis developing:

  • Starting to menstruate at a very young age
  • Not giving birth
  • Short menstrual cycles of less than 27 days
  • Heavy periods that continue for more than 7 days
  • Low body mass index
  • Genetic such as if mother, aunt, or sister has the condition
  • Disorders of the reproductive tract
  • Late menopause

Endometriosis usually presents some years after the beginning of periods. Symptoms may temporarily improve with pregnancy, and if you are not taking hormone replacement therapy (oestrogen), the symptoms may cease altogether with menopause.

Endometriosis and Fertility

The most difficult issue associated with endometriosis is that of impaired fertility. Many women who suffer with the condition have problems becoming pregnant. The main cause of this is that endometriosis can sometimes cause the fallopian tube to be blocked and this prevents egg and sperm from uniting. It can also affect fertility by damaging the sperm or egg. Many women with a mild version of endometriosis can still conceive. Unfortunately, certain surgical procedures to alleviate endometriosis symptoms may also result in full or partial loss of fertility.

Surgical Procedures for Endometriosis

Surgical procedures are sometimes used to verify the diagnosis of endometriosis, and they are also conducted for the removal of affected tissue. Sometimes removal of parts of bowel, bladder, appendix, or womb (hysterectomy) are necessary if they are badly affected. Often these procedures are deferred to establish whether less invasive treatments will prove effective before moving on to surgery.

One of the complications of endometriosis is the difficulty conceiving. Surgery to remove endometriosis tissue may help improve your chances of becoming pregnant, but this is not guaranteed. Surgery can sometimes cause further problems such as bleeding or possible damage to affected organs. If you are considering surgery, it’s a good idea to arrange a discussion with your surgeon about possible risks.

There are several methods of surgically removing endometriosis:

Laparoscopy

Research has shown that laparoscopic surgery techniques give improvement in both pain and fertility prospects. They may also be used for initial diagnosis. Rates of success in laparoscopic surgery vary but studies have reported a 62.5% improvement of pain at 6 months with 55% of patients still showing an improvement at 12 months.

Failure to respond to surgical treatment is usually due to incomplete removal of the affected tissue, particularly when the endometriosis is affecting other organs such as bowel and bladder. In these cases, an additional procedure may be necessary involving colorectal and urological surgeons.

Laser Ablation/Excision

The laser method is very accurate and effective in accessing difficult areas. It also causes less damage to adjacent tissue. Lasers seal blood vessels and this means that surgical bleeding is minimised.

Electrocoagulation/Diathermy

This involves the use of electrical heat to destroy and remove endometriosis and control bleeding.

Excision Surgery

This technique is where areas of endometriosis are removed either with scissors or lasers.

Living Well with Endometriosis

Living well with endometriosis can be challenging, but there are some things that can help. Firstly, give priority to getting regular medical check-ups where you may be offered various treatment options.

There are a variety of non-clinical help methods and lifestyle changes that will help to reduce endometriosis pain. These include adjusting your diet, considering natural supplements, introducing the right kind of exercise into your daily routine, stress management, and various alternative therapies.

Certain forms of exercise are known to help, as do therapies such as relaxation, yoga, Pilates, and tai chi which will help reduce stress. Anxiety and stress can make symptoms worse, so tapping into stress management techniques is a huge help (more tips to follow).

Dietary Changes

An anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce inflammation associated with endomestriosis.

Eating a nutritious and balanced diet can help greatly. A healthy diet reduces inflammation and improves overall health. Avoiding inflammatory foods such as processed goods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar will also help reduce pain.

Adding plenty of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids and ensuring your diet is rich in antioxidants by including lots of fruit and vegetables will reduce inflammation and help ease painful symptoms.

The most highly anti-inflammatory foods which are great to include in your diet are:

  • Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
  • Oily fish
  • Dark green vegetables, especially broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark chocolate
  • Green tea
  • Peppers
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Grapes
  • Cherries

Foods that cause inflammation in the body and are therefore best left out of your diet are:

  • Processed and fast foods
  • Refined carbs such as white bread, pastry, white rice, biscuits
  • Deep fried foods such as fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, chips
  • Sugary drinks such as fizzy pop, sports drinks and sweet tea or coffee
  • Processed meats such as salami, bacon, ham and hot dog sausages.
  • Trans fats such as those contained in baked goods and confectionary

Exercise

Regular physical activity can help reduce pain and inflammation. It can also help lower stress levels and improve mood. Low impact exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates, swimming, and aqua aerobics are great choices for endometriosis sufferers.

Low impact exercise such as yoga are great choices for endometriosis sufferers.

If pain levels and lifestyle make exercise difficult, simply making a habit of introducing much more movement into your day will help greatly. If you work at a desk, remember to stand up as frequently as possible – try setting an alarm so you don’t forget. Take a little walk around the room or do some stretches. When at home, give extra physical effort to housework or gardening tasks. Put on some music and have a bit of a boogie around the living room. All activities and movements that cause you to be standing and moving rather than sitting still for long periods of time are extremely helpful.

Alternative Therapies

  • Acupuncture may help reduce inflammation and pain
  • Massage to relieves stress and improve circulation
  • Homeopathy to help ease pain and reduce stress levels
  • Meditation/mindfulness to help with the ability to relax, let go of anxiety and change negative thought patterns
  • Herbal and natural supplements are the preferred choice of many women with endometriosis. The anti-inflammatory and hormone regulating properties help in reducing symptoms and pain.

Natural Dietary Supplements for Endometriosis

Natural supplement can help to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with endometriosis.

Because the search for optimal medical therapy for endometriosis is still ongoing, science is now focussing on assessing the benefits of natural supplements to help with this condition. Successful results of clinical and laboratory trials and studies are attracting widespread interest in the use of dietary supplements to help prevent and ease the symptoms and pain of endometriosis. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of certain natural supplements are proving their worth in reducing symptoms.

Some of the most acclaimed herbs and dietary supplements to help ease the symptoms of endometriosis include:

Omega 3

Research has shown that including omega-3 fatty acids in the diet has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. These essential fatty acids have been found to alleviate endometriosis symptoms, particularly pelvic pain, and to shrink endometrial lesions.

See our blog on Omega-3.

Whilst including such foods as salmon, sardines, and mackerel in the diet is very beneficial, for women suffering with endometriosis it is recommended that an omega-3 dietary supplement is also taken.

In a major review of studies examining the effectiveness of natural supplementation on endometriosis, published on PubMed in 2022, it was shown that in trials, women diagnosed with the condition, who took omega-3 as a supplement, had decreased endometrial lesions.

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may not wish to take fish oil supplements. Our high-quality and powerful Omega-3 supplement is made from algae cultivated in a pharmaceutically graded environment using tanks of pure, filtered water which is unpolluted by ocean-borne toxins and heavy metals.

Product information: Vegan Omega-3.

Probiotics

The inclusion of probiotic foods or supplements in your regular diet supports your immune system and this helps to keep chronic inflammation at bay. Studies have found that taking the right kind of probiotics has a positive effect on reducing inflammation such as the kind leading to symptoms of endometriosis and other inflammatory diseases.

When you begin using the right probiotic foods or supplements you should begin to feel a difference in various aspects of your health by between two and three weeks. Probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium offer broad gut-specific benefits. They will have the following benefits:

  • Alleviating gut problems
    • Bloating, gas (flatulence), and stomach cramps are all indications that you have an excess of bad bacteria in your gut and the addition of good bacteria will help to correct this imbalance.
  • Encouraging better quality sleep
    • Studies have found a relationship between bad bacteria in your gut and the ability to fall asleep. Probiotics can help you achieve sleep habits which will have far reaching health benefits.
  • Boosting Immunity
    • Over 70% of your immune system stems from your digestive system, so it’s vital to ensure it gets the best protection and support. Probiotic supplements can replenish the gut with helpful bacteria and so help your body resist falling prey to viruses and other infections.
  • Brain Health
    • Research has found that when bad bacteria have the upper hand in the gut, confusing signals are sent to your brain via neurons in your spinal cord, causing stress, brain fog and memory lapses.

All these factors combine to help your body withstand and fight back against the onslaught of inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis.

See our blog on probiotics.

Product information – Probiotic Gold.

Curcumin

Within the root of the turmeric plant is an active compound called curcumin which has been successfully used in traditional and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Curcumin has been the subject of a great many clinical trials and studies and has been proven to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The findings of several studies into its effectiveness in treating endometriosis have highlighted its beneficial properties to act on inflammation, oxidative stress, invasion, and scar tissue, all issues relevant to endometriosis.

See our blog on Curcumin and its ability to prevent and reduce inflammatory conditions.

Our curcumin extract is of the finest quality, sourced from its native India and manufactured into supplement form in the UK. Our supplement contains black pepper extract, which when combined with curcumin enables the body to absorb 80% more curcuminoid than if taken alone.

Product information: Curcumin (Turmeric Extract) With Black Pepper.

Trans-Resveratrol and Quercetin

Both are polyphenols with powerful antioxidant properties which will help fight antioxidant damage and inflammation within the body. It is preferable to take a supplement including both, as when quercetin is taken in combination with trans-resveratrol, it creates a more bioavailable supplement.

Resveratrol is available as either trans-resveratrol or cis resveratrol. In clinical trials trans-resveratrol came out on top due to its potency, stability, and greater bioavailability

The trans-resveratrol in our supplement is sourced from Japanese knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum). The resveratrol in this plant is mainly trans- rather than cis, and this creates a superior supplement, as opposed to products sourced from berries and grapes.

Our quercetin is extracted from the flower buds of the Japanese pagoda tree (sophora japonica). Although trans-resveratrol is a powerful supplement in its own right, we combine it with quercetin, which is a flavonoid from citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, tea and red wine. This combination gives a highly bioavailable supplement.

Product information: Trans-Resveratrol & Quercetin.

NOTE: Curcumin, quercetin, and resveratrol have been the subject of a clinical systematic review, including a trial, to specifically establish the effectiveness of these supplements on symptom relief in cases of endometriosis. The review reported positive findings.

The Link Between Stress and endometriosis

Clinical studies have found that stress has a negative effect on endometriosis. It has not yet been verified that stress can be the primary cause of the condition but it is certain that stress can impair the immune system, increase inflammation, and interfere with hormone balance.

Clinical studies have found that stress has a negative effect on endometriosis.

When you are suffering from stress you will soon notice that your general health begins to suffer. Suddenly you catch colds more easily and other symptoms may present themselves. Many sufferers have noticed that their endometriosis symptoms coincided with a period of high stress in their lives.

Scientists working on research into the link between endometriosis and stress in 2011 and again in March 2018, conducted laboratory trials that showed that when stress is present, existing endometriosis lesions increase in size and vigour. They concluded that stress makes the condition much worse. Findings also showed that an excess of cortisol (the hormone produced during times of stress) is likely to damage the immune system’s ability to function and can leave you vulnerable to inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis.

These findings indicate that lowering stress levels will help you experience less pain, but anyone who has struggled with stress knows that it is not as easily achieved as that. If you suffer with stress, it is almost certainly due to either one very specific cause or to several worries adding together to put you into a state of almost permanent anxiety.

Having endometriosis is a catch-22 situation because the symptoms themselves are a cause of stress that can impact on relationships. Stress can also affect your social and working life. Fertility worries may also preoccupy you. These factors, possibly combined with other anxieties, are bound to cause high levels of cortisol to be streaming through your body, wreaking havoc with your immune system, and creating too much inflammation.

Making stress management a part of your everyday life can bring rich rewards in health terms. There are some excellent apps available to help you give just a few minutes of your day to mindfulness and although you may be sceptical at the outset, you will almost certainly find that it is helping you more than you may have imagined.

It has been found that rather than trying to avoid stress altogether, it’s very helpful to develop tools for dealing with it. Techniques such as

  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Deep-breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Self-expression through writing a daily journal
  • Tapping into the support given by friends

These are things that you can do without needing formal treatments, although the support of a therapist or health care professional may prove to be extremely beneficial.

Natural supplements can also help to alleviate some of the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Read more about how Nootropics can help.

Support for Endometriosis Sufferers

Help and support is available from Endometriosis UK. They offer a helpline, a support group, community chatline, and information via webinars and blogs:

The helpline is available on: 0808 8082227

Directory of local support groups

Webchat

A further branch of support is available in the form of an online community on HealthUnlocked which provides help for all women affected by endometriosis.

Our Promise

When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we’re here for you and aim to help where we can.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.