Endometriosis: What We Know
Did you know there’s a 17 year gap between scientific discovery of medical issues and implementation in the medical field? 17 years! That means there’s a lot more known about endometriosis (as in 17 more years worth of information) than is being practiced in the field, or what your very well meaning doc may know. And while we truly need more funding in the endometriosis field - a lot more - there’s also a lot we already know that simply needs to be better disseminated. And because the best thing to do with any disease diagnosis is learn everything you can about your situation, here are some key research take-aways on endometriosis to help you on the way to recovery.
1) Endometriosis is an auto-immune related disease
Autoimmune disorders happen when your immune system starts to mistakenly attack healthy bodily tissue instead of pathogens. The specific autoimmune disease you get will depend on which part of your body your immune system targets. So if you have coeliac your body attacks the villi of your small intestine or if you have multiple sclerosis (MS) your body attacks the myelin sheath around your nerves. In fact, there are over 100 confirmed autoimmune disorders with a wide variety of autoimmune related diseases, such as endometriosis. Yup, endometriosis is autoimmune related. That means there’s lots of evidence that makes endo look like it may be an autoimmune disorder, but nothing has been 100% confirmed yet (need more research funding!!). Thus, learning about how autoimmune disease diet + lifestyle management tips (a la Heal Endo) will help manage symptoms to even put yours in remission is key.
2) Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease. What exactly does this even mean?
Inflammation is a normal immune response, straight up. Acute inflammation is good ‘n necessary, bringing blood + lymph to an infected area or wound to help prevent infection. However, when chronic inflammation occurs it means your immune system has turned on and cannot, for the life of it, turn off. This is why endo is again immune related, we have some profound immunological malfunction going on. So do those with auto immune, cancer, and a host of other chronic inflammatory diseases.
Provoking a chronic inflammatory response out of your immune system can be spurred by many factors, from toxic overload to stress, insomnia to malnutrition, insulin resistance, gut damage and food sensitivities and more. In most cases it’s a combination of things, and is why diet and lifestyle factors will have an enormous impact in the healing of chronic disease - because we can regulate so many of these systems! I love this aspect because it puts the ball back in our court.
3) Clinical remission may be a possibility
Remission is such a loaded word, because 100% remissions may not be possible for 100% of sufferers due to organ damage, co-morbidities, epigenetic factors, etc, and I don’t want to set any woman up for dashed hopes. However, I continue to say remission is possible because of that horrid endo tag-line: there is no cure. No, there, no cure, but we need to be speaking loudly about the fact that, with targeted diet + lifestyle techniques, surgery for those who need it, and perhaps a whole life overhaul, many women may at least be able to put their worst symptoms in remission, and some maybe even the entirety of their endometriosis.
This is why early diagnosis is especially key, to avoid organ damage and preserve fertility before the disease has time to advance. So don’t let anyone tell you to learn to live with all of this forever. Keep seeking solutions, no matter what.
4) Endometriosis is fueled by estrogen dominance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have too much estrogen
Although endometriosis relies on estrogen to grow - just like your uterine lining - estrogen dominance itself doesn’t mean you necessarily have too much estrogen in your system overall. Estrogen dominance just means that your estrogen:progesterone ratio is skewed. If you think of hormones as a recipe you need a cup of estrogen to your cup of progesterone. Estrogen dominance simply means you have more estrogen and less progesterone than the ratio requires, think 1/2 cup estrogen to 1/4 cup progesterone. This is a big mental shift I hope to start the conversation around, because too little sex hormones overall is just as harmful in other ways than too many, yet most of us are always on a crusade to lower estrogen.
5) Endometriosis lesions have been shown to have more mast cells than normal tissue
Mast cells are your _____ cells. They swell when provoked by an immune agent (ie allergen) and release cytokines and histamines. Think about when you have an allergy attack and sneeze 5 times in a row - how your nose or eyes feel swollen, or when you get hives and your skin swells. This is also potentially why your painful flares happen when provoked by chronic allergens such as foods or toxins, because your endo growths did actually swell and inflame with that piece of bread (or whatever) you ate, breathed in, or slathered on. This again goes to show us just how much lifestyle can play a pivotal role in managing pain + symptoms, since we’re in control of what we put in and on our bodies.
6) 100% of women with endometriosis were shown to have gut permeability
In actuality, it’s true that gut hyper-permeability (leaky gut) is the one thing all folk with auto-immune issues have in common, across the board. And although endometriosis isn’t officially an autoimmune, this is one of the markers that is the same. In a study by EndoFound, all test participants who had been surgically diagnosed with endometriosis were found to have leaky gut. Lucky for us, we can work diligently to heal and seal this issue up and in the process start to really feel a lot better.
Extra (what I know about endo): 100% of women with endometriosis have different symptoms, issues, root causes, and therefore different solutions
So try not to compare your journey against others! Your journey may be much more challenging OR much easier to manage than you thought. Truly, your story is unique, so learn to love it :)