Endometriosis

Samantha, the founder of levelfooting, was originally diagnosed with endometriosis in her early twenties, after several years of pain and inflammation. After trying the hormonal route, the pill, the coil, menopause inducing drugs, she had an operation to remove the adhesions. However, the symptoms returned within 6 months.

Frustrated at tackling only the symptoms of the disease and not the fundamental cause, she started to research diet, lifestyle impacts and discovered reflexology.

She worked for several years with an endometriosis support group and changes made to her lifestyle and diet combined with regular treatments have led her to be disease free for almost a decade.

Many women with endometriosis are told that there are no cure and are given tools to manage the disease, not to deal with its cause.

When we are chronically ill, we feel that illness is something that happens to us, we feel powerless at times to control it and become passive. However, this is never the case. We have the power to change anything in our body, we just need to discover the tools to do so.

By working together, you can reclaim control of your body, by giving you the tools to create the right environment for you to grow and expand to your full potential.


What is it?
The womb is an amazing place. A place which acts as a food source and nest area for a fertilised egg.

Each month, the womb is prepared for pregnancy. The endometrial tissues (tissues found in the womb) grow, however if no egg is fertilised then this tissue is shed (during your period) and then reforms in preparation for pregnancy next month.

In endometriosis, the tissue normally expelled by the body during menstruation, does not leave but attaches to other parts of the body. The most common adhesions are to other organs, like the ovaries, bowels, fallopian tubes, bladder and pelvic floor. Migration to places outside of the pelvic area is uncommon.

This misplaced tissue will respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the endometrial tissue does: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds, causing a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms
These endometrial deposits outside of the uterus can grow and eventually bind organs of the pelvic area together, resulting in much pain and discomfort.

Endometriosis can have many symptoms, which makes diagnosis difficult. It is commonly misdiagnosed and research has shown that it can take 7 years to obtain a correct diagnosis.
  • Uterus pain
  • Lower back pain
  • PMS
  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • A history of frequent vaginal infections.
  • "Chocolate" Cysts
  • Painful intercourse
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Urinary pain or problems
  • Bowel pain or problems
  • Infertility
  • Anaemia
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic Pain
  • Hidden symptoms
  • Thrush
  • Cystitis
What can be done?
Although, no-one is really sure why endometriosis exists, many women fully recover, either through surgery or alternative therapies or a combination of the two.

However, according to Dian Mills (a leading nutritionist in the field of endometriosis) endometriosis symptoms normally return within 18 months after the drug and surgery treatments are stopped. Therefore, it is vital to support any drug and surgical treatments with a more holistic approach.

Regular reflexology combined with lifestyle and dietary changes are very succesful in combating the disease.

Endometriosis needs to be tackled both on a physical and emotional level. The following sections detail factors which can improve endometriosis.

Why does reflexology help?
Reflexology works. Why? Because it works on many different levels addressing the root causes behind the problems, not just tackling the symptoms.

Endometriosis is an auto-immune disease (when the body attacks itself) and as with many other auto-immune diseases, it is quite difficult for conventional medicine to deal with.

Immune system problems tend to be quite complex, often caused by a build up of stress in the body due to physical and emotional factors. Our bodies normally cope very well with what is thrown their way, however after a while, if the burden continues to grow, it can be very difficult to maintain a balance, which will result in illness and fatigue.

Our body is full of nerves and without it we would not survive, since it is the main communicator with the brain. It is like an extension of our brain. We wouldn't feel, see, hear, touch or feel pain or pleasure. Our body would not be able to respond to any of our commands. It regulates our "essential processes" such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion etc

But why am I talking about nerves and reflexology?

Reflexology is a wonderful way of allowing the nervous system to return to balance, allowing functions in the body to return to normal. Once the body is balanced and relaxed it can repair and renew itself. There are approximately 7,000 nerve endings in your feet and reflexology uses specific nerve reflexes (pressure points) to stimulate these nerves and create positive change in your body. It is fantastic for calming the mind, relaxing, balancing hormones and allowing stress to fade away.

As part of the reflexology treatment, we discuss in detail your current health and lifestyle habits to provide you with information and tools to improve your own self awareness of your body's needs to help accelerate the healing process.

Reflexology has also been shown to be very beneficial for many gynaecological conditions including endometriosis. For detailed information of these research studies
click here

If other changes are made alongside regular reflexology treatments, this will maximise a woman's chances of eliminating the disease.

80% of the body's immune response is believed to come from the colon. Therefore, our digestive health and diet is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system, imperative for dealing with an auto-immune disease like endometriosis.

The following have been found to be very beneficial:

1. Increase water levels to 2.5L per day.
I know this sounds like a lot of water, but given we are 75% water, our bodies need it to function properly. Fatigue is one of the key symptoms of dehydration. So instead of reaching for that coffee which in fact is a diuretic (which makes us lose more water from the body) try having a glass of water instead.

However, drinking large quantities during a meal is not advisable since it will dilute the digestive enzyme concentration in the small intestine thereby reducing the effectiveness of digestion.

2. Increasing the amount of "good oils" in the body
Essential fatty acids are vital since as their name suggests, they are essential for the body, but cannot be produced internally, they can only be eaten.

They make up about a third of our brain and are the major component of our cell wall, affecting every cell in our body. Our cell wall is our defence network, our transportation gateway to move toxins out from the cell and bring in the good substances.

Why is that so important?

We are just a collection of cells. Our health is determined by the health of our cells. Looking at our body on a cellular level this helps to simplify things and show the fundamental processes.

We need water, food, light, warmth and movement to survive and to have a good transportation system in and out of the cell. If you have a good cell wall, this would allow all these functions to occur. However, if the cell wall is mainly made from saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated oils, the cell wall becomes a more solid, dense structure, no longer flexible enough to allow the light in, to allow things to move in and out quickly and easily, creating stagnation. With decreased light, we become colder and body temperature and metabolism become affected.

Saturated fats include: animal fats, dairy fats and coconut oil. These have been found to increase menstrual cramps.
(see Study 1 - below)

The best forms of essential fatty acids are found in fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Herring and Sardines), flaxseed, linseed, walnut and green leafy vegetables, which are all examples of Omega 3. There are other types of oils (Omega 6 & 9), however, most modern diets have sufficient levels of these but insufficient levels of Omega 3.

Essential fatty acids are easily destroyed and light can cause the oils to become rancid. They are very delicate and can easily become unstable.

Therefore, it is vital to not fry or heat to high temperatures any oils which are liquid at room temperature. At high temperatures, oils such as olive oil, change biochemically and become are no longer healthy for us. For more information - Fats that heal, Fats that kill by Udo Erasmus is an excellent read.

If you chose to take these oils as supplements it is vital to also take "sulphur proteins" to make sure that these oils are best absorbed by the body. The best form is bee pollen and can be found at www.summerbee.co.uk Alternatively, take them with a protein rich meal.

3. Exercise and weight
Women with endometriosis often have an imbalance of oestrogen in their body. It is the liver's job to break down our hormones into less harmful forms and be excreted from the body. The liver is like our main detox plant, our main organ of elimination. If this becomes sluggish then toxins will struggle to be released.

Exercise is wonderful at helping the liver let go of these toxins. Exercise helps to reduce oestrogen levels, stress and depression.

The key point to exercise is doing something you enjoy. If you hate the gym don't go!

Try other things, tennis, horse riding, buying a dog and going for long walks, trampolining... make sure you chose something that you can have fun and enjoy, then you will be more likely to keep it up.

Fat cells produce a form of oestrogen called oestrone. Therefore, keeping our weight within our
BMI levels, should help to reduce excess oestrogen levels in the body.

4. High fibre
High fibre levels help eliminate excess oestrogen.When the oestrogen reaches our liver, enzymes (chemicals in our bodies which act as catalysts) use B vitamins to change this into a less harmful form of oestrogen. In this converted form, it can be bound to fibre and then excreted. Therefore, it is important to have sufficient levels of fibre and B vitamins in the body for this elimination to occur.

Recommended sources are unrefined whole grain cereals, nuts, seeds, berries, peas, beans, lentils and green vegetables.

5. Improving digestion
If we have poor digestion, absorption problems or have food intolerances we are not allowing our body to work as well as it should. Even if we have the best diet in the world, if we are not obtaining the goodness from our food, it means that our cells and organs do not obtain the nutrients they need to do their job efficiently.

Experience has shown that many women with endometriosis often suffer from food intolerances. Common ones include: wheat (which is very challenging for the body to break down) and dairy (since we are not designed to have dairy past the age of 2).

Food intolerance testing can be undertaken via a blood test or through kinesiology (which uses muscle testing). It is vital to eliminate foods which strain our digestive system since it places a significant burden on our immune system whose proper functioning is key to addressing endometriosis.

Research studies in Denmark and China back up the positive changes seen in the digestive system with regular reflexology.

For more information-
see digestion

6. Other
The following conditions can impair the functioning of our immune system, therefore, we need to ensure that the following conditions do not exist:
  • under or over active thyroid (hypo/hyper thyroid)
for more information on how high oestrogen levels can impact the thyroid (see thyroid)
  • adrenal fatigue
  • diabetes
  • mercury fillings
  • high levels of toxins (these can be checked by doing a hair analysis test)
  • sluggish liver function
  • xenoestrogens (see below)

Emotional
Many women who suffer from endometriosis also feel a conflict between their emotional needs and what the world is demanding from them. Many women drive themselves rarely resting, not allowing themselves time to slow down and listen to what their inner most needs and desires are telling them.
  • Learn to relax, take time for yourself (reflexology is excellent for this)
  • Listen to your own needs and desires NOT what is expected of you socially, culturally.
What do you enjoy doing? Do you enjoy your job, or do you feel trapped, bored, frustrated, and stressed? Do you have a lot of competition in your life? Are you getting enough rest? Can you switch off?

The word emotion stems from the word motion. Emotions should be seen as our inner guides. Anger, fear, frustration, guilt are all things which tell us we are on the wrong road or just ignoring our own emotional needs/ not addressing certain events that need to be resolved. If we change our outlook, see our emotions as guides telling us what we really want and need, this can often change the helplessness and powerless feelings and turn them into something positive.

A small exercise
This is an exercise which you can try; it doesn't take very long and may help you to see patterns of behaviour in your life.

Take a sheet of paper and divide it into 2 parts.

On the left side write a list of all the things which make you tired, frustrated, angry, stressed anything which drains you of energy. Don't feel embarrassed to write about people or things which you feel should make you happy. This list is for you only.

On the right hand side, note all the things which make you smile, laugh, fill you up with good energy and positivity, it doesn't matter how small or insignificant these are.

Examine your lists. Become aware of what these factors/things/people cause you to feel sad or happy, drained or energized.

Each week try to slowly eliminate one thing from your "bad (draining) energy" list and do more of the things from your "good (energizing) energy". Keep doing this. Concentrate on doing the things that make you happy. I know it sounds so simple, but it is vital to protect yourself and your energy and do the things that feel right for you. As those energy suckers are eliminated this should improve your overall energy levels and general wellbeing.

Xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are chemicals which mimic oestrogen. These can be found in pesticides and compounds which migrate from plastic wrappings and leak into the foods we eat (especially high fat/oily foods). Research indicates these can adversely affect the reproductive system of animals and humans.

Rier published research showing that a group of rhesus monkeys exposed to dioxins (a type of xenooestrogen) developed spontaneous endometriosis. The pattern of disease found was in direct correlation with the amount of dioxin they had been given, research is indicating that these monkeys are still affected by the dioxins up to 10 years after the original exposure.

What can be done about this?

Try and buy organic if possible to avoid the pesticides and chemicals used in foods. Use "friendly" cleaning products, avoid wrapping meat, dairy and foods in plastic/cling film.

Avoid tampons since they are often bleached thereby containing dioxins and it is far healthier to allow the blood to flow out naturally.

Independent Endometriosis Support Group:
Levelfooting presented an endometriosis support meeting, the talk was called " " a copy of this can be downloaded by clicking on the file.

Endometriosis Research Studies
Study 1-
Research published in the Human Reproduction Journal showed that increasing the daily intake of fresh fruit and green vegetables seems to reduce symptoms of endometriosis, whilst the consumption of red meat and ham increases the risk. There was a 40% relative reduction in the risk of endometriosis in women with a higher consumption of green vegetables and fresh fruit. Those with a high intake of red meat and ham, had an increase in the relative risk of 80-100%.

The researchers used interviews and structured questionnaires to compare the medical and reproductive history, lifestyle and diet of over 500 women with clinically confirmed endometriosis with a group of over 500 matched controls with no history of the disease.

Study 2-
Research has shown that Vitamin C when combined with bioflavonoids and digestive enzymes is more effective at reducing inflammation than non-steroids anti-inflammatory drugs, whilst having a beneficial effect on immune cells. Vitamin C given to seriously ill cancer patients in a double blind study reduced pain significantly. (taken from Endometriosis - A healing guide through nutrition).

Sources include: Berries, green vegetables - Herbs include alfalfa, cayenne, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, peppermint, nettle, paprika, parsley, skullcap.

Depletions of Vitamin C: Alcohol, pain drugs, antidepressants, anticoagulants, oral contraceptives, steroids, smoking and stress may reduce vitamin C levels in the body. Diabetes medications and sulfa drugs may not be effective if taken with vitamin C. Avoid taking aspirin and vitamin C together in large doses since it may cause stomach irritation to occur.

Recommended Reading
Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom - Dr Christiane Northrup
Heal Your Life - Louise Hay

All material provided on the levelfooting web site is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program