If painful periods keep you curled up in bed, making it impossible to live your life, you may have endometriosis. This devastating condition can limit your ability to function at school or work, and seriously compromise your quality of life. Along with crippling physical symptoms, endometriosis takes a huge emotional toll, causing extreme stress, anxiety, and frustration.
Endometriosis affects millions of women, though many have not been accurately diagnosed. In fact, you may have to see nine different doctors over more than eight years before finally getting a correct diagnosis. And during that time, you will still suffer from disabling symptoms that interfere with your everyday life. Luckily, nature provides relief for the pain and stress brought on by endometriosis.
What Is Endometriosis?
In endometriosis, tissue similar to that lining your uterus grows in other parts of your body, such as in your fallopian tubes or on your ovaries. That rogue tissue also acts just like the uterine lining. Then when you get your period, the extra tissue thickens, breaks down, and sheds. Unlike the tissue lining your uterus, this tissue does not have an exit route and gets trapped wherever it grew.
Over time, that excess tissue causes a variety of problems, including:
- Endometriomas, a type of ovarian cyst
- Scar tissue
- Irritation and inflammation of nearby normal tissue
- Tissue bands called adhesions that make other tissues stick together
That is why it’s so important to get a proper diagnosis as early as possible. Without any intervention, endometriosis symptoms can become more debilitating over time.
7 Risk Factors
Unlike many other diseases, you cannot really control the main risk factors for developing endometriosis. Still, it is important to know what those are because they can speed up an accurate diagnosis.
Seven common risk factors for endometriosis include:
- Family history of endometriosis.
- Menstrual cycles shorter than 27 days.
- Periods that regularly last more than 7 days.
- Heavy bleeding during your period.
- Starting menstruation before age 12.
- Not having given birth yet.
- Conditions that disrupt normal menstrual flow.
You may not be able to avoid endometriosis, but there are things you can do to reduce the pain and stress this disease causes. The first step is getting a proper diagnosis, and that involves not downplaying its effect on your life.
Discomfort and cramping during menstruation are normal. Severe pain is not. Endometriosis causes several disabling symptoms, such as:
- Intense pain and cramping before, during, and after menstruation
- Excessive bleeding during your period
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain during or after intercourse
- Painful urination and bowel movements
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, during your period
- Extreme fatigue
- Overwhelming stress that does not settle down
Relieve Endometriosis Pain and Stress
Whether or not you have gotten a definitive diagnosis, having any risk factors along with these symptoms can indicate endometriosis. If you’ve been suffering with crippling period pain and unmanageable stress, you can find relief with three safe, natural solutions.
Curcumin. When it comes to reducing the pain and inflammation of endometriosis, curcumin delivers. People have relied on the pain-relieving properties of curcumin, the main compound in turmeric, for generations, and hundreds of studies have confirmed its healing abilities. Research shows that curcumin can significantly improve the symptoms of endometriosis in three important ways:
- It stops endometriosis tissue from developing its own blood supply by blocking a protein called VEGF. That action can stop disease progression.
- It delivers powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that can significantly relieve endometriosis pain.
- It supplies potent antioxidant activity to reduce the oxidative stress that can trigger the onset and drive the progression of endometriosis.
Unfortunately, your body can have a hard time fully absorbing and using curcumin. That is why it’s important to look for a highly bioavailable form of curcumin, which is listed on labels as BCM-95, a form of curcumin that has been clinically studied for its exceptional absorbability.
Ashwagandha. Endometriosis causes chronic severe stress that can worsen the disease, trapping you in an endless stress cycle. Research published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that women with endometriosis have significantly higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Ashwagandha, a prized herb in Ayurvedic medicine, has been used for centuries to calm stress and balance the body’s stress response. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in Medicine (Baltimore) found that ashwagandha reduced cortisol levels in women by an average 25 percent. Other studies have shown that ashwagandha helps calm anxiety, improve sleep, and reduce pain.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s, play a surprising part in the development and progression of endometriosis. A large part of that comes from their role in the management of biologically active lipid compounds called prostaglandins, which can either be helpful or harmful in endometriosis. A 2019 study published in Current Drug Delivery reported that omega-3 fatty acids promote soothing prostaglandins while decreasing production of inflammatory and pain-inducing prostaglandins. A clinical study published in Reproductive Sciences found that women with low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were 82 percent more likely to have endometriosis than women with high blood levels. Adding high-quality fish oil supplements to your daily routine can help increase your omega-3 levels and ease your endometriosis symptoms. To get the most from your supplement, look for one with omega-3s that are derived from North Atlantic salmon and bound to phospholipids that also provide peptides, which are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes.