Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of cells that form in the lining of the uterus. Some of these cells may, instead of being expelled from the body during the menstrual process, actually end up continuing their cycle elsewhere in the body. They then have no way of leaving the body, so the material builds up and may attach itself to other organs in the lower abdomen, such as the ovaries or bowel.
Growths of endometrial tissue outside of the uterine cavity occur most often in or on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the urinary bladder, the bowel, the pelvic floor, and/ or the peritoneum (the membrane that lines the walls of the abdominal cavity), and within the uterine musculature. The most common site of endometriosis is believed to be the deep pelvic peritoneal cavity, or the cul-de-sac. The presence of endometrial implants outside the pelvic area is uncommon.
During the normal menstrual cycle, a continually changing hormonal environment stimulates the endometrium to grow in preparation for a possible pregnancy. This same cycle causes a follicle within one of the ovaries to ripen, and an egg is released. Finger like tissues on the fallopian tube grasp the egg, and the tiny, hairlike cilia inside the tube transport it toward the uterus, the lining of which is now spongy and well supplied with blood. If the egg is not fertilized within twenty-four hours or so of being released, the uterine lining proceeds to “die,” to be sloughed off, and to pass through the vagina during the menses.
Though not inside the uterus, the abnormal implants of endometriosis also respond to the hormonal changes controlling menstruation. Like the uterine lining, these fragments build tissue each month, then break down and bleed. Unlike blood from the uterine lining, however, blood from the implants has no way to leave the body. Instead, it must be absorbed by surrounding tissue, which is a comparatively slow process. In the meantime, the blood accumulates in body cavities. The entire sequence, from bleeding through absorption, can be painful.
As the menstrual cycle recurs month after month, the implants may get bigger. They may seed new implants and form localized scar tissue and adhesionsscar tissue that attaches to pelvic organs and binds them together. This contributes to the pain of endometriosis, and it can cause extreme pain in a subsequent pregnancy, as the uterus enlarges and the organs within the abdomen are pushed into different positions. Sometimes a collection of blood called a sac or cyst forms. Endometrial or “chocolate” cysts are common on the ovaries. These are usually found to contain moderate amounts of oxidized blood, which looks something like chocolate syrup. If a cyst ruptures, it can cause excruciating pain. No one knows what causes endometriosis, but several theories have been proposed.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Symptoms, including in capacitating pain in the uterus, lower back, and organs in the pelvic cavity prior to and during the menses; intermittent pain throughout the menstrual cycle; painful intercourse; excessive bleeding, including the passing of large clots and shreds of tissue during the menses; nausea, vomiting, and constipation during the menses; dyschezia (difficulty in passing stools due to weak pelvic muscles and anal sphincter); dysuria (pain while urinating); and, sometimes, infertility. Because menstruation is typically heavy, iron-deficiency anemia is common. Women whose cycles are shorter than twenty-seven days and/ or whose periods last longer than one week are at increased risk of anemia.
Herbal home remedies for Endometriosis
Treatment for endometriosis has varied over the years but no sure cure has yet been found. Here are some herbal remedies:-
- Alfalfa is a good source of vitamin K (necessary for blood clotting and healing) and needed minerals,
- Vitamin E is an important vitamin in endometriosis because it has been shown to relieve menstrual cramps in 70 percent of women within two menstrual cycles
- Astragalus, garlic, goldenseal, myrrh gum, pau d’ arco, and red clover have antibiotic and antitumor properties.
- Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and has been shown to have a beneficial effect on painful periods and lower back pain so it is worth taking as a supplement.
- Herbs such as chasteberry, false unicorn root, crampbark and black cohash play various roles in promoting the relief of symptoms by treating the underlying causes.