I was diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 19 years of age. I had never heard of the condition and even when doctors tried to explain the various treatment options to me, I still didn’t quite get how that would alleviate my symptoms with the condition. I endured through it all though. I wanted to feel better after all! So, I went through all the hormone treatments they suggested. I listen to their advice about pain-killers and when to have surgery. I did all the things these experts were telling me to improve my situation. Or so I thought…
The treatment options presented to me, focused solely on the hormone imbalances which are typically experienced with having endometriosis. Hormone treatments which are designed to suppress and control the oestrogen. The idea is that, by controlling the oestrogen, we can control endometriosis and stop it from spreading. See, oestrogen triggers growths within the body and endometriosis and oestrogen dominance seem to go together. Trouble was I still didn’t feel any better.
After my seventh operation, I was tired. Tired of the life I was living with endometriosis. I was tired of the hormone treatments, of not feeling like myself and that deep dread of knowing that another operation was near – I went through a new one every year and half to have a “clean out”. I decided something had to change and the first place I looked was with the hormone treatment I was on. I was on the contraceptive pill, as it was meant to keep my endometriosis in check. Initially I was really scared to come off it as I was really worried that the endometriosis would spread all over my body and that I would lose that “control” over it, as so many doctors had suggested to me.
So, I decided to try hormone treatments but in a more natural form. I dove in deep and explored all sorts of herbs and recommendations on how to regulate my hormones naturally. It sounded like a good idea. After all, wasn’t endometriosis merely a hormone related condition? There I was, putting all sorts of different herbal remedies recommended for women to balance their hormones. I tried the ones recommended for menopause, the ones recommended for PMS and particularly the ones recommended for women with endometriosis. Initially, I did get relief. I thought I was onto something!
My cornucopia of herbs included Maca, Vitex and Dong Quai. At times I even tried a combination herbal remedy like Endo Ex and others. At first they all seemed to have benefits for me. My mood seemed to level out, I felt more calm and my PMS symptoms seemed to be under control but as I continued and kept trying to regulate my hormones with natural methods, I started to feel quite strange.
I remember one particular episode really well. I was new to Auckland and I had taken a temp job in the city. It was a busy switchboard and all I had to do was answer the phone. It was a three-day job and nothing I hadn’t done before and normally handled new situations jobs like this quite well. On this particular day, I seemed to struggle with noise. It was like everything was louder. It was like everyone was too close and as if the whole world was staring at me. I felt a huge sense of panic and anxiety.
The lady training me couldn’t work out what was wrong as I suddenly got up and felt this incredible desire to leave the room and sit somewhere quit. I was crying and shaking all at the same time. I had never experienced anything like this before! I felt my breathing become shallow and like I was having a panic attack or something.
Now, I must just say that I am someone who has lived in more than 4 countries, traveled extensively and have been placed in very weird and new situation many times. I had always coped fine and never felt any kind of pressure or anxiety around these kind of situations. Something was off and the only change had been a combination formula I had been taking for the last 6 months to try to balance my hormones.
I decided after that day, that I needed to reassess what I was taking and dig a little deeper. After more research I discovered that hormones are incredibly sensitive to change, temperature, stress and any small factor in the body can alter how they react. It doesn’t take much for us to get too much of something or for hormones to alter and adapt to a different form.
This lead me onto an important discovery about hormones.
We need to ask ourselves why they are out of balance to begin with? What is triggering this imbalance response and is focusing on hormones really what endometriosis is all about?
After years of research on endometriosis and how our bodies work, I can now concretely say that hormones are not the key to unlocking how we manage endometriosis. I prefer to think of the hormone imbalance as a symptom of endometriosis, rather than something we should make our key focus. The real reason for the imbalance lies deeper than that and relates to our liver and gut health. Women with endometriosis frequently experience poor gut health and personally I think there is a BIG connection. See, our immune system lies in our gut and after researching endometriosis further I discovered that it relates more to a poor immune function.
Endometriosis is classified as an auto-immune condition and when we treat the body holistically and appreciate what may contribute to this, we get far better results.
Some key questions I believe we need to ask ourselves when we have endometriosis:
- Why is the gut so inflamed and reactive to certain foods?
- How do we support the immune system and reduce that auto-immune response?
- What has caused the imbalances going on with our hormones?
The key to endometriosis is to dig a little deeper. To understand that the body is holistic. That hormones and ovaries and the uterus are only one part of the body and that many other parts influence our health and how we ultimately manage this condition.
If you really want to treat endometriosis and manage it effectively, we need to think holistically, explore beyond hormones and appreciate the 3 different layers of this condition.
What has your experience been like with having endometriosis? Have you also been treating hormones and not really understanding why your body is still not feeling that great? Do you see a connection with gut health?