You may have read in the news last week that the actress Lena Dunham has had a hysterectomy at the age of 31 after battling endometriosis for many years. Endometriosis is where the cells that make up the lining of the womb (the same ones that gradually build up throughout the month in preparation for egg fertilization and then break down as your period) are found elsewhere in the body.
The cells can build up on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder or elsewhere in the abdomen, and just like those inside the womb, they bleed monthly as well. Symptoms of endometriosis can vary hugely between women, but commonly they include extremely painful, heavy, irregular periods; pain on going to the loo; painful sex; infertility and severe tiredness.
There are various theories as to why some women have endometriosis but a definitive cause is as yet unclear. And it’s more common than you might think – affecting 1 in 10 women in the UK! At present orthodox medicine offers hormone therapy (drugs to control oestrogen such as the Pill or testosterone type drugs), painkillers or surgery (from removing some of the endometriosis deposits to hysterectomy in extremely severe cases like Lena’s). What can you do if you don’t want to try these options?
Some women find relief with hot water bottles, TENS machines, and physiotherapy or yoga. A diet high in fibre and fruit and vegetables can help, some find relief by going low-carb, and others find cutting out animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) makes a huge difference. It’s generally recommended to cut out caffeine and alcohol too. Supplements such as a multivitamin, and omega-3 may be of use.
Herbal medicine has a lot to offer for those suffering from endometriosis. Medical herbalists will usually prescribe herbs that help with the pain by reducing spasms or acting as anti-inflammatories. We can address any hormonal imbalances with your herbal mix too. We can help improve the circulation and the drainage to the pelvic area so the whole area is healthier and more able to function properly. In some cases, it may be possible to slow down the growth of the extra tissue. Finally, we can help with any emotional support that is often needed by using herbs to boost mood and ease stress. If your life is affected by endometriosis, why not have a chat with your local medical herbalist so they can advise how they may be able to help you?
You can get more info about endometriosis at https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/