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Let’s Take Menstrual Health Seriously – Everything You Need To Know About Endometriosis

Posted: October 28, 2020

According to Endometriosis Society of India, 25 million women suffer from Endometriosis. Here is everything you need to know about it!

Women’s health and the issues related to menstruation often take a backseat, thanks to no or little awareness about issues women face. No wonder, often medical issues related to periods/menstruation, are a hush-hush topic in our society. You know why? Because of taboo and convenient labelling it as ‘Aurton ki bimari’ or ‘ladies problem.’

Let’s take menstrual health seriously

So many questions go unanswered and are easily replaced with misconceptions, leading to a barrage of other problems. In this blog, we shall try to fill in the blanks and provide information about a menstrual health issue, that’s not known. An issue that is easily ignored under the garb of ‘haan theek hojaega,’  and ‘hota hai.’

Pain during menstruation is normal. However, unbearable pain or pain that stops you from undertaking daily chores isn’t to be shunned or accepted as normal. If it restricts you, it is time to take charge of your health and talk to a gynaecologist about it. It should no way hide under the umbrella of ignorance and ‘sab chalta hai.’

Menstrual health needs to be taken seriously! Once and for all. One such topic, that needs to see the light is endometriosis. Let’s understand what endometriosis is.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a menstrual health disorder where a pseudo-lining or a tissue similar to the endometrial lining (this lining is present within the uterus and a woman sheds it every month during periods) is formed outside the uterus. The pseudo-lining might form on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and around the pelvis.

In endometriosis, the pseudo-lining behaves like the endometrial lining which means it thickens, breaks down, and even bleeds. However, unlike the endometrial lining which sheds every month and finds a way to exit the body, the pseudo lining is unable to exit the body and ends up trapped.

This often leads to irritation, scar formation, excruciating pain during periods, adhesions, and even, fertility issues, if untreated or left ignored.

What are the causes of Endometriosis?

While the exact cause of endometriosis is not known a few studies/theories have suggested the following.

  • Retrograde Menstruation (when the menstrual blood containing endometrial cells enters the pelvic cavity via the fallopian tubes rather than exiting the body).
  • Transformation of the peritoneal cells (as per induction theory, hormones may bring about a transformation of peritoneal cells, that line the inner part of the uterus leading to a pseudo-lining).
  • Embryonic cell transformation (hormones like estrogen may transform embryonic cells at an early stage into endometrial like implants during puberty).
  • Surgical scar implantation (During Surgical procedures like hysterectomy or C-section, the endometrial cells may attach to the surgical incisions, thereby creating a pseudo-lining).
  • Endometrial cell transport (The blood vessels or lymphatic system or tissue fluids, may transport the endometrial cells to other parts of the body. This may lead to the formation of a pseudo-lining.)
  • Immune system disorder (your immune system may be unable to recognie the pseudo-lining and ultimately won’t be able to destroy it, so issues with your immune system can predispose you to endometriosis).

What are the symptoms of Endometriosis?

  • Heavy or Excessive bleeding
  • Painful periods (it may obstruct your daily routine).
  • Pain during bowel movements or difficulties in urination.
  • Painful intercourse
  • Infertility
  • Extreme pain in the lower abdomen before and during periods.
  • Cramps one or two weeks before menstruation.
  • Bleeding in between periods.

If you have been suffering from the following symptoms, do see a doctor. As stated above, don’t neglect your health and make it your priority.

According to the Endometriosis Society of India, about 25 million Indian women suffer from endometriosis and very few realise it, due to lack of awareness.

Endometriosis is known to affect 10-15 percent of women of the reproductive age and as always it goes by ignored, leading to future problems.

The risk factors of Endometriosis

  • Family history of endometriosis.
  • Menarche at an early age (under 12 years).
  • Short Menstrual cycle (less than 27 days).
  • Long durations of Menstrual flow/bleeding ( more than seven days).
  • Delayed conception or childbearing.
  • Heavy bleeding during periods.
  • Defects in the fallopian tubes or uterus.
  • Iron deficiency and hypoxia may contribute to the early onset of endometriosis.
  • A health issue that obstructs the normal flow of Menstrual blood during periods.

How is Endometriosis diagnosed?

If you have the symptoms listed above, then based on your condition the gynaecologist might ask you to get the following done.

  • Pelvic Examination (as pelvic pain is the first thing your doctor would ask you).
  • Ultrasound (to assess endometriomas, a type of ovarian cyst seen in women suffering from endometriosis).
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Diagnostic Laparoscopy

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medications or surgery, however, it may vary from person to person. While endometriosis is hard to diagnose, it is not impossible to treat. In some cases, pregnancy may provide temporary relief, however, it’s not a sure shot solution of the same.

Studies are underway to understand how a lifestyle change can help with endometriosis that doesn’t have a sure shot cure. However, studies have also reported that including and excluding certain foods can help you to some extent.

What to eat to help with Endometriosis

  • Foods rich in B complex vitamins (a healthy liver with enough supply of B vitamins can degrade estradiol to Estriol. Estriol can then be bound to fibre and excreted from the body). Include milk, cheese, eggs,  green leafy veggies, fish, beans, nuts and seeds, chicken, etc. to the diet.
  • Iron-rich foods (as there is excessive bleeding in endometriosis, adding iron-rich foods to the diet can help). Include green leafy veggies, legumes, lentils, nuts, and seeds, etc to the diet.
  • Omega 3 rich foods (these foods can reduce inflammation in the body, thereby providing some relief). Include fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, flaxseed oil, etc, to the diet.
  • Fibre (it keeps the gut healthy, removes excess estrogen from the body, and reduces inflammation, hence extremely important). Include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds to the diet.
  • Adequate water (keep yourself hydrated and replace your sugary drinks, caffeine with water or herbal teas).
  • Foods rich in antioxidants (these can reduce free radical damage in the body and prevent inflammation). Include fresh fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, beans, etc.

Foods to avoid if you’re suffering from Endometriosis

  • Fried foods
  • Processed foods
  • Red meat
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Packaged foods

All the above foods can lead to inflammation in the body and to reduce exposure to estrogenic Pesticides, these foods are best avoided.

The studies around the consumption of soy (as it contains phytoestrogens), gluten, and High Fodmap foods remain controversial. Some studies say that these can be consumed whereas some say these shouldn’t be consumed. We would need enough studies to understand which claims are correct and which aren’t!

All we would say is, consume these foods in moderation only.

How to stay healthy with Endometriosis

  • Add a variety of foods to the diet.
  • Consume fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Add good quality protein to the diet.
  • Stay away from trans fats or saturated fatty acids.
  • Try yoga and mild exercises.
  • Vitamin A, C, and E may help but seek help from your doctor or dietitian.
  • Stay away from stress.

In the end, every woman’s body is different. If you are suffering from endometriosis it is best to see a doctor and dietitian for the best treatment and diet advice.

Stay healthy and make your own health your priority. Women’s health matters!

Picture credits: Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

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A Nutritionist, Clinical Dietitian, Speaker, health/fitness blogger, online show host, menu planner, menstrual health,

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