Endometriosis occurs when endometrial cells—the
cells that make up the lining of your uterus—travel
outside the uterus to other parts of your body. These misplaced cells are
stimulated by hormones, just like the cells within your uterus, and bleed during
your period (menstruation). Blood from these cells must be absorbed by your
body. With each period, deposits build up and form scar tissue, which can be
painful. Endometriosis affects 10 to 20 percent of American women of
childbearing age. It is found in 30 percent of infertile women.
Signs and Symptoms
One-third of women with endometriosis have no symptoms. The most common
symptoms include the following.
Pelvic pain, especially when you have your period
Heavy or irregular menstruation
Pain during sexual intercourse
Infertility or miscarriage
Pain with bladder or bowel function, or intestional
What Causes It?
The cause is unknown, but there are three theories.
Abnormal functioning of your immune system
Retrograde (or reflux) menstruation, in which some menstrual blood
flows backward through your fallopian tubes
Genetic or heredity factors
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
A physical examination may include gentle pushing on your abdomen and an
internal examination. Definitive diagnosis is made with
Because there is no cure, treatment is to relieve symptoms.
The following drugs can relieve the symptoms of
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen)
Laparoscopic laser techniques help shrink lesions. Total hysterectomy
(removal of your uterus and ovaries) is recommended only when necessary but does
not guarantee an end to your symptoms.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Providing liver support is the backbone of alternative treatment.
Eliminate all known food allergens.
Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, refined foods, food
additives, sugar, and saturated fats (meats and dairy products).
Eat only organic poultry and produce.
Increase intake of whole grains, fresh vegetables, essential fatty
acids, and vegetable proteins. Include liver-supporting foods such as beets,
carrots, onions, garlic, leafy greens, artichokes, apples, and
Vitamin C (1,000 mg three times per day) decreases
Zinc (30 to 50 mg per day) and beta-carotene (50,000 to 100,000 IU
per day) support immune function and enhance healing.
Vitamin E (400 IU per day) is necessary for hormone
Selenium (200 mcg per day) is needed for fatty acid
Iron supplementation may be necessary if bleeding is
Calcium (1,000 to 1,500 mg per day) and magnesium (200 mg two to
three times per day) are needed for hormone metabolism.
Essential fatty acids (1,000 to 1,500 mg twice a
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts).
Chaste tree (Vitex agnus cactus) taken long term (12 to 18 months) for
maximum effectiveness. Combine 2 parts of chaste tree with 1 part of two herbs
from each category below. Drink 3 cups of tea per day or take 30 to 60 drops of
tincture per day.
For liver support (include milk thistle and one other herb): Milk thistle
(Silybum marianum), dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), vervain
(Verbena officinalis), or blue flag (Iris versicolor).
For reducing pelvic congestion: Squaw vine (Mitchella repens),
motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), red root (Ceonothus americanus),
red raspberry (Rubus idaeus).
For management of severe pain and extensive endometriosis, Turska's formula
is the preferred combination and should be used only under a health care
Some of the most common remedies are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to
5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours.
Belladonna for menstruation with sensation of heaviness and
Calcarea phosphoricum for excessive periods with
Chamomilla for heavy menses with dark clotted blood and
Cimicifuga racemosa for unbearable pain radiating from hip to
Do not perform these therapies during menstrual flow.
Contrast sitz baths. You will need two basins that you can
comfortably sit in. Sit in hot water for three minutes, then in cold water for
one minute. Repeat this three times to complete one set. Do one to two sets per
day, three to four days per week.
Castor oil pack. Apply oil directly to abdomen, cover with a clean
soft cloth and plastic wrap. Place a heat source over the pack and let sit for
30 to 60 minutes. Use for three consecutive days.
Kegel exercises (contracting and releasing the pelvic
Acupuncture may be helpful for endometriosis.
Therapeutic massage may help resolve pelvic
Endometriosis often resolves during pregnancy.
Facts About Endometriosis. U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. NIH
Publication no. 91-2413.
Hudson T, Lewin A, Gerson S, et al. Endometriosis (modality specific
condition reviews) Protocol J Botan Med. 1996;1:30-46.
Kruzel T. The Homeopathic Emergency Guide. Berkeley, Calif: North
Atlantic Books; 1992:112-114.
McQuade CA. Women's health workshop: endometriosis, fibroids, PMS and HRT.
Medicines from the earth: exploring nature's pharmacy (official
proceedings). Harvard, Mass: Gaia Research Institute; 1997:182-183.
Tureck RW. Endometriosis: diagnosis and initial treatment. Hospital
Physician Obstetrics and Gynecology Board Review Manual. April
Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Dahlia Hirsch, MD, Center for
Holistic Healing, BelAir, MD; Lonnie Lee, MD, Internal Medicine, Silver Springs,
MD; Pamela Stratton, MD, Chief, Gynecology Consult Service, National Institute
of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda,
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