What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis (sometimes referred to as "endo") occurs when the lining of the uterus grows on other areas of the body other than the uterus. Most commonly, endometriosis is found in the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, tissues that hold the uterus in place, and on the outer surface of the uterus. Other potential sites for growth include the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, and/or rectum.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
There are many different symptoms of endometriosis. Pain tends to be the most common symptom. This can include chronic or long-term pain in the lower back or pelvis, pain during or after sex, intestinal pain, extreme menstrual cramp pain, and/or painful bowel movements. Light bleeding or spotting in-between your menstrual cycles can be indicative of endometriosis or a variety of other ailments. Infertility (the inability to conceive) is another common symptom. Lastly, digestive issues, which might include constipation, bloating, nausea, or diarrhea, are other common symptoms.
How many women have endometriosis?
Numbers vary according to sources, but the American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that up to 10% of all women have endometriosis. Many who have it experience few or no symptoms. According to their study, it is much more common in women who have infertility and chronic pelvic pain: "Endometriosis may be found in 24% to 50% of women who experience infertility and in more than 20% who have chronic pelvic pain."
How can I take steps to prevent endometriosis?
Unfortunately, you can't prevent endometriosis. You can reduce your chances of it by lowering the levels of estrogen in your body. To lower estrogen levels, you can:
• Talk to your gynecologist or health care provider about hormonal birth control methods with lower doses of estrogen.
• Exercise more than 4 hours per week. Regular exercise and a lower body fat percentage can help decrease the amount of estrogen circulating through your body.
• Avoid large amounts of alcohol. Studies reveal that alcohol increases estrogen levels.*
• Avoid a drinks with a large amount of caffeine. Studies show that drinking more than one caffeinated beverage daily (especially green tea and soda) can raise estrogen levels.**
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2012). Endometriosis: A Guide for Patients. <http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/endometriosis.pdf>.
* Emanuele, Mary A., Frederick Wezeman, and Nicholas V. Emanuele. "Alcohol's Effects on Female Reproductive Function." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, June 2003. <http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-4/274-281.htm>.
Sayasneh, A. et al (2011). Endometriosis and ovarian cancer: A systematic review. ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140029/>.
** Schliep, K., et al. (2012). Caffeinated beverage intake and reproductive hormones among premenopausal women in the BioCycle Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 95(2): 488–497.[/expand]