Did you know that Endometriosis can have a huge impact on fertility and it’s also responsible for 35-50% of fertility issues in women?
This article reveals how endometriosis affects fertility, causes of endometriosis, risk factors and so on. You will also find in this article several factors that hinder pregnancy in women. Most of these factors are man-made and they are things we can correct by ourselves without taking any drugs.
Endometriosis is when the tissues of the endometrium lining of the uterus grow outside of the uterus. The endometrium is the inner mucosal lining of the uterus. It has two layers. The stratum functionale contains the excretory glands and is shed as menses during menstruation. It is then built-up again by stimulation of the ovaries releasing hormones. The deeper layer that resides next to the myometrium is vascular (vessels that carry fluids) and serves to regenerate the stratum functionale after each menstruation ends.
In women with endometriosis, the displaced tissues function are influenced by hormones just as a normal endometrium would. This means that these displaced tissues go through the same cycle that any endometrium would; the tissues build up as the body approaches ovulation, then begin to break down when ovulation does not occur and then the displaced tissues bleed during menses. When the endometrial lesions bleed, the blood accumulates locally and triggers inflammation and pain. Over time this may cause development of adhesion (internal scar tissue).
Endometriosis may attach to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder, ligaments or other areas in the abdominal cavity. Rarely the endometrial cells will attach to other areas in the body including the lungs and nasal cavity. If adhesions develop, this may cause internal organs to become stuck to other internal parts of the body and may even cause displacement of organs and other tissues.
Some of the symptoms are:
- Heavy menstruation with pain, large clots, long or abnormal length of cycles
- Lower abdominal pain, back pain, burning pain over the site
- Frequent or constant pain all month long
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Pain during bowel movement or urination
- Rarely bleeding after intercourse, bowel movement, or urination
- Ovarian swelling
- Swollen abdomen
There are a variety of risk factors for the development of endometriosis. Here are the main risk factors:
- Too much estrogen/too little progesterone
- Genetic predisposition
- Too much conventional meat
- Radiation and EMF’s
- An abnormality in the immune system
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Benign uterine fibroids
What Causes Endometriosis?
Doctors and Scientist don’t really know for sure what causes endometriosis. Combined theories agree that there are many different factors in the development of this condition, which makes endometriosis a complex condition with a many different origins. Because researchers cannot find one direct link to the cause, it also makes it very difficult to treat medically.
Genetic predisposition in women with a family history of mothers or sisters that have endometriosis are at a higher risk for developing endometriosis. Women who also have low progesterone often have a family history of low progesterone.
Genotyping studies have associated a link between endometriosis and individual genomic changes in certain chromosomes. This may have been passed down genetically from a parent.
Lymphatic Flow Theory
This theory suggests that the endometrial tissue is spread throughout the body via the lymphatic system.
Retrograde Menstrual Flow Theory
Researchers and doctors suggest that endometrial tissue flows backward through the fallopian tubes and into the abdominal cavity causing the displacement of endometrial cells. These cells then attach to other areas of the abdominal cavity. This is the most widely accepted theory. It is recognized though that other environmental, immunological and hereditary factors may contribute to the development of endometriosis.
Low progesterone disrupts hormonal imbalance overall. When progesterone becomes low, estrogen usually becomes too high. Estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency have been linked to the development of endometriosis. Estrogen dominance may happen from chemical toxin exposure from xenoestrogens (toxins that mimic estrogen), including hormones in foods we eat, pesticides, fertilizers, and dioxin, all of which disrupt endocrine system function.
Numerous studies have shown a correlation between dioxin exposure and the development of endometriosis. In a study using monkeys, it was shown that Dioxin increased the severity and growth of endometrial tissues as well as promoted survival of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus.
Dioxin is a group of highly toxic chemicals that are a by-product of industrial processing using chlorine to manufacture herbicides and pesticides, process pulp and bleached paper products (including the raw materials for feminine care products) as well as incinerate waste.
Dioxin is considered a Persistent Organic Pollutant, POP for short, that slowly over time accumulates in our bodies. This pollutant is carried in the air and in our water systems as well, which affects the entire food chain and planet. Dioxin is not only present in feminine care products, but most paper products we use including napkins, paper towels, tissues, make-up removal pads, toilet paper, diapers, ect.
Immunological factors have been linked to the development of endometriosis and endometriosis related infertility. In early endometriosis (stage 1 & 2) there are elevated levels of inflammatory mediators. Studies have shown elevated levels of cytokines, lymphocytes, and macrophages in the peritoneal fluid of women with early stage endometriosis.
Over time, the immune system function appears to alter and may increase the number of peritoneal macrophages, decreased T-cell activity and natural killer cells (NK), increased antibodies and altered cytokine network function. Overall, this creates depressed immune function and poor inflammatory response. This may allow endometriotic tissues to implant elsewhere in the body more easily. This is also why women with endometriosis have more pain, inflammation and are more susceptible to recurrent infections, especially yeast infections.
Cell damage from free radicals has been suggested as the leading contributing factor for development of endometriosis. This may be due to dietary factors, exposure to chemical toxins, aging, immunological and inflammatory response.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cell structures, this is known as oxidative stress. In normal everyday life, free radicals are produced from the activity in our bodies (for example free radicals are made during energy production) but chemicals in our surrounding environment can also create free radicals. It is said that each cell in our body is attacked about 10,000 times a day by free radicals, accelerating the aging process and allowing for tissue damage and the spread of disease.
How Does Endometriosis Affect Fertility?
Endometriosis also creates a situation of “congestion” where there are excess tissues growing in the uterus (as well as other areas of the body) which makes it harder for an embryo to attach and grow healthy.
Every month, the excess tissues bleed which cause inflammation to occur and scar tissue to begin adhering to uterus, fallopian tubes, the ovaries, and other organs. This causes some serious “congestion”. If endometrial cells attach to the ovaries or fallopian tubes this may alter normal ovulatory function or cause the fallopian tubes to become blocked.
As if that was not enough, some researchers suggest that the woman’s body may form antibodies against the misplaced endometrial tissue. The same antibodies may attack the uterine lining and cause miscarriages (up to three times the normal rate).
Medical Options for Endometriosis
If endometriosis is left untreated, this condition has serious negative impact on reproductive health. There are both medical options and natural therapies to help heal the body from endometriosis. Endometriosis is usually diagnosed by laparoscopic surgery.
Doctors will often suggest laparoscopic or abdominal surgery to remove the endometrial lesions, scar tissue damaged areas and clip away adhesions, if possible. In the case of severe endometriosis, a doctor may suggest a full hysterectomy (removal of uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes).
Hormonal and Pain Medications
Doctors may prescribe hormonal medications. The purpose is to stop the menstrual cycle to prevent further growth of the endometrial tissues. This may also help to reduce pain. If pain is still present, they may prescribe pain medications. Hormonal medications alter the natural menstrual cycle and may prevent pregnancy. They all come with a variety of side effects. Medications are not always effective and once medications are stopped, the endometriosis may come back or spread further.
Your doctor can help you to determine which options may be best for your particular situation. Most times surgical options may be combined with natural therapies.
Lifestyle changes are some of the most effective ways to help with endometriosis. These would be changing your diet, clearing out old tissues and congestion, balancing your hormones, and avoiding certain pollutants. The overall goal is to support proper function and health of the endometrium, endocrine and immune systems.
Step 1: Eat a nutrient dense fertility diet
To begin, you will want to build a healthy foundation for your fertility by creating a baby-friendly-body. Diet changes specific to endometriosis are important. There are several types of food you may want to avoid because they have been linked to making endometriosis worse. Certain foods may trigger flare-ups, promote inflammation, or are “congesting” to the body, feeding the congestive nature of endometriosis, while other foods may increase hormonal imbalance.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
The following foods have been linked to making endometriosis worse:
Gluten, specifically wheat
Wheat has a direct link to making pain worse in women with endometriosis. Researchers are not sure why, but nutritionist Dian Mills says, “Wheat has been genetically modified…There is also problems with gluten sensitivity, and more people are becoming gluten sensitive and I find that when I’ve taken wheat out of the diet, in 80% of the women with endometriosis, their pain subsides.”
It is suggested to remove gluten or at least wheat from the diet for a minimum of 2 months to see if pain is reduced or eliminated.
Dairy products are “congesting” to the body. Consumption of dairy products should be limited to about 2 times a week at most. Choose organic raw dairy products when possible. Homogenized and pasteurized cow milk is the most congesting and hard to digest of all dairy products. Choose dairy milk alternatives, such as hemp, almond or brown rice milk instead. Organic raw unsweetened yogurt or kefir are the best choices for dairy products. Be sure that all dairy you do consume is organic or says it does not contain any added hormones.
Red meat (especially commercially raised beef)
A study performed in 2004 compared 504 women under the age of 65 who had endometriosis to 504 women under the age of 65 who had no known fertility problems. They found that women who ate beef or other red meat seven times a week or more were 100 percent more likely to have endometriosis than women who ate red meat three times a week or less. The study did not mention what the connection between red meat consumption and endometriosis is, but that it does exist. It may very well be that most red meat contains a variety of xenohormones and antibiotics which are known to be toxic to the human body..
The same study from above showed that women who ate ham three or more times per week were 80 percent more likely to have endometriosis than those who ate it less than once a week. Pork is one of the fattiest meats a person could consume, which means pigs store more toxins than other animals.
Soy foods are highly processed and contain concentrated amounts of isoflavones. The isoflavones are known to be phytoestrogenic. In fact, soy contains more concentrations of isoflavones than any other phytoestrogen, which may contribute to estrogen dominance. Most soy is genetically modified and not organic, both of which have been linked to numerous infertility cases.
We have learned that exposure and consumption of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and GMO foods can create hormonal imbalance through endocrine disruption and suppressed immune function. Conventional fruits and vegetables are regularly sprayed with these chemicals and then not only do we eat them daily, but so do animals that are raised for meat.
If you eat non-organic meats, you are being doubly exposed to these toxins. This is because xenohormones become more concentrated as they move up the food chain. Xenohormones are often stored in the fat cells of animals. The more fatty the meats you are consuming the more xenohormones you are consuming. For example if you are eating 80% lean/20% fat beef, you may be consuming 20% toxins that cow has stored in its fat. What was that non-organic cow eating? Well, conventional beef is raised in feedlots. They are fed corn and soy feed. This is GMO corn and soy, sprayed with pesticides, fertilizers and possibly herbicides. The cows eat this everyday. Then on top of that the animals live in horrible living conditions and are given antibiotics to stave off the spread of disease.
Foods to Focus On
Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
These foods should make up most of your diet. The study from 2004 that linked red meat consumption to endometriosis also showed that women who eat green vegetables 13 times or more per week (roughly twice a day) were 70 percent less likely to have endometriosis than those who consume green vegetables less than six times per week.
Women who ate fresh fruit 14 times or more per week (at least twice a day) were 40 percent less likely to have endometriosis than those who ate fruit and vegetables less than six times per week.
This study suggests that there may be link between eating a healthy diet, low in red meat and high in fruit and vegetables and a reduced risk of developing endometriosis.
The current advice is to eat at least five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
The Importance of Fiber
Your main focus and one of the first things you should do right now is eating more fiber. Fiber helps the body to get rid of excess estrogens.
Some good sources of fiber are:
- Dark leafy greens
- Swiss chard
- Chia seeds
Essential Fatty Acids
In addition make sure to eat a diet high in essential fatty acids. EFA’s, specifically omega 3′s, reduce inflammation in the body which will help to lessen the pain that endometriosis can cause. Omegas also support hormonal balance. A diet high in Omega EFA’s and lower in trans fatty acids protects cellular integrity, which protects the cells in the body from oxidative stress.
Good sources of omegas are:
- Omega 3: Flax seeds (ground or oil), cage free organic eggs, wild Alaskan salmon
- Omega 6: Borage Oil, Evening Primrose Oil
- Omega 9: fresh seeds and nuts, avocado and sunflower oil
If you are not getting enough essential fatty acids from the foods you eat, you may want to consider taking a complete omega supplement.
Pineapple and papaya are anti-inflammatory and the naturally occurring protein digesting enzymes may help the body to dissolve abnormal tissues. You can usually find the pineapple, papaya, and mango frozen if you can’t get it fresh.
Step 2: Avoid Exposure to Environmental Toxins
We have learned that exposure to certain environmental toxins may contribute to the development of endometriosis or make it worse. Some toxins are known to be endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors, also known as xenohormones, are human-made chemicals. These chemicals have the ability to interfere with the natural functions and development of our bodies. The main function of the endocrine system is to serve as our body’s message center. Hormones deliver messages, the endocrine system coordinates hormones.
Ways to support healthy endocrine function and avoid xenohormones:
- Eat organic foods
- Avoid exposure to pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers
- Use natural feminine care products
- Use organic, natural body care products, including makeup
- Avoid food preservatives and dyes
- Use low VOC paints
- Use recycled unbleached paper products
- Use non-chlorinated oxygen based bleach in the laundry
- Avoid plastics
Endometriosis is a complex fertility issue that has been shown to have multiple causes. Because of this, there are a variety of steps that need to be taken to heal and reduce the effects it can have on fertility. The following steps can help you to support a healthy endometrium!
1. Diet is your foundation. There are many foods that contribute to the spread and pain of endometriosis, limit those. Choose foods that support estrogen metabolism and reduce inflammation.
2. Avoid exposure to environmental toxins. Exposure to certain toxins may make endometriosis worse.
3. Get the Endometriosis Remedy Kit which is vital to supporting hormonal balancing and uterine health. The Kit also support both proper inflammatory response and immune function. It also aids in the breakdown of scar tissue and adhesion and ensures complete treatment and cure of endometriosis.
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