Endometriosis 101


Endometriosis is a gynecological condition where the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows in areas outside of the uterus (the bowel, the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the bladder, ligaments, etc.). Endometrial tissue, regardless of whether it grows inside ]or outside the uterus, is stimulated and proliferated by the release of reproductive hormones, specifically estrogen. Endometrial tissue swells with blood as ovulation approaches and then sheds if pregnancy does not occur. When the uterine lining sheds during menstruation, the endometrial tissue outside the uterus also bleeds. However, this blood has nowhere to go (like with regular menstruation); instead, it becomes trapped inside of the body. The trapped blood causes local inflammation and can be very painful. The longer endometrial tissue is hormonally stimulated, the more severe the growth of this excess tissue becomes. Continuous internal bleeding and inflammation increases the development of scar tissue, which can lead to more pain, as well as infertility.

What are the symptoms?

  • Heavy, painful menstrual bleeding
  • Long or irregular cycles
  • Large “clots” in the menstrual blood
  • Lower abdominal pain or back pain that can have a burning quality
  • Pain that can last the entire month
  • Painful intercourse
  • Painful bowel movements/urination
  • Abdominal or ovarian swelling
  • Bleeding after intercourse
  • Infertility

What are the causes?

There is no common consensus from researchers as to what actually causes endometriosis. There are several different factors that have been implicated in the development of the condition. The most common theory is that of “retrograde menstruation”, which states that endometrial lesions are caused by menstrual blood that has traveled “backwards” up the fallopian tubes and migrated to areas outside the uterus. There is also a strong genetic link – women who have a family history of endometriosis have a higher risk for developing the condition than those that do not. Low progesterone/high estrogen, oxidative stress as well as immunological factors have also been linked to the development of endometriosis.

How does it cause infertility?

Endometriosis can have a significant effect on fertility. It is attributed to 35-50% of infertility in women. This is over double the infertility rate in the general population. Since endometriosis is an estrogen dominant condition this causes an imbalance of hormones and proper hormonal balance is vital for fertility. Additionally, the out-of-place endometrial tissue growing in parts of the body outside the uterus can make it more difficult for an embryo to implant correctly. When endometrial lesions grow on the ovaries or fallopian tubes, it can disrupt ovulation and cause the fallopian tubes to become blocked.

Western medical treatment options:

Traditional western medical treatments are very limited: either laparoscopic excision surgery or pharmaceutical hormone management is offered to patients. Surgery is often recommended shortly before a woman plans to become pregnant. This removal of endometrial tissue outside the uterus can temporarily enhance previously reduced fertility – therefore, women wanting to get pregnant are often urged to try to get pregnant immediately after surgery, as endometrial lesions will generally re-grow over time.

Natural treatment options for endometriosis:

At Denver Holistic Medicine, we specialize in the holistic treatment of many women’s health conditions, but endometriosis is by far one of the most common conditions we treat. After an initial comprehensive intake and any necessary hormone testing, we will design an easy-to-follow, effective, individualized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs and goals. A wide range of modalities from the field of holistic, functional and Traditional Chinese Medicine will be combined to give you the best results. Please call our office today if you suspect you have endometriosis, are suffering from pain related to previously diagnosed endometriosis or are having issues with fertility due to endometriosis. We can help with any of these conditions and look forward to guiding you on your path of healing.