Endometriosis* is a painful, hormonal and immune system disease in which tissues similar to the mucous membranes lining the uterus (endometrium), end up in “strange” locations, places that these sorts of tissues are not typically found. The pockets of tissue react to monthly surges of estrogen and progesterone just like the uterus. These cells can be found, for example, outside the uterus, around the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the abdominal cavity, bladder, cervix, or bowels, and can become irritated and inflamed during the reproductive cycle. Eventually the condition may result in scarring and adhesions, abnormal tissue that binds organs together like a spider web.
Some scientists suggest that in endometriosis the immune cells of the woman are unable to recognize the presence of these “displaced” tissues and that the cells are not destroyed as they normally would be. Women with endometriosis, besides having greater inflammatory responses, often produce autoantibodies (antibodies against healthy tissue) and immune factors that lead to inflammatory conditions.
Endometriosis is a complex disease in which many factors, including genetic, one’s anatomy, and one’s environment all contribute to the problem. Endometriosis is associated with a disrupted inflammatory and hormonal environment in which growth factors and immune factors, such as cytokines, exist at increased levels. Women with endometriosis may exhibit excessive growth of blood vessels and nerve cells in their pelvis, which may “feed” the pain.
Endometriosis may be accompanied by heavy bleeding at anytime during the menstrual cycle, with severe pain becoming especially acute during menstruation. Pain and cramping may begin before, and extend several days into a women’s menses, and she may experience lower back and abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, and malaise. Pain may be present during or after sex, and with urination, or bowel movements.
The severity of the pain experienced is an unreliable indicator of the extent of the condition. For example, women with mild endometriosis may have extensive pain, while others with advanced endometriosis may experience little or no pain.
Endometriosis can develop in girls as young as eight, or years after the onset of menstruation. While many women find that symptoms of endometriosis temporarily stop during their pregnancy, and/or completely with menopause, this is not always the case.
The main complication of endometriosis, besides excruciating pain, is infertility. Thirty to fifty percent of women suffering with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant.
Endometriosis is associated with an inflammatory environment of the pelvis. Different types of cytokines, immune factors, and growth factors are elevated in these individuals. For example, IL-8 is an inflammatory cytokine associated with inflammatory responses. The amount of Il-8 present in the body is strongly correlated with the severity of the disease, and contributes to the formation of adhesions.
Lean vs. Obese Women
In a study of younger women, the risk of endometriosis later in life was 40% lower in morbidly obese women as compared to lean women. The latter group had a nearly 3-fold greater risk of developing endometriosis than the obese women. This finding is contrary to expectations, since typically, obese women are at greater risk of inflammatory-mediated diseases than leaner women, and therefore would be expected to be at greater risk of developing endometriosis.
[As an aside, heavy women that engage in regular, moderate to vigorous physical activity, lower their risk for endometrial cancer and other diseases. This result is expected, since every time muscle cells contract, they release potent anti-inflammatory molecules which balance the amount of inflammation generated by fat cells.]
Toxic Chemical Exposure
Dioxin is a toxic byproduct of industrial and consumer processes that involve chlorine or incineration of chlorine-containing substances, such as PVC, polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as “vinyl” plastics.
Exposure to dioxin and dioxin-like compounds have been shown to disrupt immune and hormonal balance and such chemicals have been implicated in the development of endometriosis and other diseases.
Physicians commonly recommend surgery and pharmaceutical approaches for endometriosis, but “alternative” approaches have been found to be helpful to others. For example acupuncture has been shown to be an effective pain treatment for some individuals. Additionally, eating a healthful diet, regular exercise, and certain amino acids may prove helpful.
I would be negligent if I did not mention that over a decade ago, a young researcher from West Virginia reported to me that a large number of women in a West Virginia community had been diagnosed with endometriosis. She was researching this problem, and unfortunately, she herself had endometriosis. I suggested a gradual introduction of a daily administration of 9-12 grams of polyvalent hyperimmune egg, a whole-egg protein from specially treated hens.
After a number of weeks the researcher reported back to me that her quality of life had improved dramatically. Unfortunately, I have lost contact with the investigator, so cannot report further on any changes she may have experienced.
Importance of Immune Homeostasis, Immune Balance
The key to endometriosis, as with most disease, is run-away inflammation. Therefore, achieving immune, inflammatory, homeostasis (balance) in individuals with endometriosis, may result in major differences in their quality of life.
Dr. Hellen can be contacted at: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/ or 1.302-265.3870 [USA, ET].
*Interested parties may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a free information packet on endometriosis.