And a new discovery that could speed diagnosis and relief
If you suffer from unbearably painful periods – so bad that you can’t even get out of bed some days – you may have endometriosis. This disease is (unfortunately) much more common than most people realize, mainly because it’s greatly underdiagnosed.1
For women who struggle with it, endometriosis seriously interferes with their quality of life.2 The debilitating pain often leads to missed school or work. It also takes an emotional toll. Many women struggle with anxiety, fear, frustration, and even embarrassment over their condition.
Worse, women with undiagnosed endometriosis often face disbelief from people in their lives – including their doctors. The combination of endometriosis itself and the struggle to get a good diagnosis causes unnecessary misery for millions of women.
Whether you‘ve been officially diagnosed or not, endometriosis takes a huge and lasting toll. Fortunately, there are specific things you can do to minimize your symptoms. And new research points to a simpler way to diagnose this awful condition… and may finally offer real relief.
More Than Painful Periods
Endometriosis can cause severely painful periods, but that’s not where it stops. With this condition, tissue that’s just like the inner lining of your uterus (the endometrium) grows in other places. That tissue can grow on your ovaries, in or on your fallopian tubes, and inside your pelvis.
And because it’s so similar to the lining of your uterus, it acts the same way. Every time you get your period, that wayward tissue gets thicker, breaks down, and bleeds. But unlike the lining of your uterus, this tissue has nowhere to go. It gets trapped wherever it grew.
Over time, that abnormal tissue can cause all sorts of long-term issues, including:
· Irritation of the surrounding healthy tissue
· Ovarian cysts (called endometriomas)
· Scar tissue
· Adhesions (bands of tissues that make other tissues stick together)
This nasty disease affects up to 15% of American women ages 15 to 44, especially women in their 30s and 40s.3 Unfortunately, most of those women don’t know that they have endometriosis.
8 Symptoms of Endometriosis
It’s normal to experience some cramping during menstruation. But if your period pain is off the charts, that could be a sign that you’re dealing with endometriosis, though not all women suffer with this symptom.4
You may have endometriosis if you struggle with one or more of these common symptoms:
1. Intense pain and cramping during and surrounding menstruation
2. Excessive bleeding during period or bleeding between cycles
3. Lower back, abdominal, and pelvic pain and cramping
4. Pain during or after sex
5. Painful urination or bowel movements
6. Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, bloating – especially during periods
Even if you have no noticeable symptoms, you could still have endometriosis. Some women don’t find out that they have the condition until they have trouble conceiving. But if endometriosis goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can disrupt your life.
You’re Not Crazy – You’re Just Undiagnosed
The vast majority of women who suffer from endometriosis don’t know, at least not officially. The disease can be difficult to diagnose, and it’s frequently misdiagnosed as other conditions, like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or PID (pelvic inflammatory disorder).5
It can take more than 8.5 frustrating years of living with unbearable symptoms to get a correct diagnosis.6 Millions of women end up going to several doctors – sometimes as many as 9! – and enduring numerous tests without being properly diagnosed.7 Worse: Many women, especially younger women and women of color, report having their concerns dismissed by doctors… even when they’ve specifically asked if they could have endometriosis.8
So far, there’s only one way to officially diagnose endometriosis: surgery.9 But cutting edge research has uncovered another option, one that’s far less invasive and much easier to deal with.
A Promising New Possibility for Diagnosis and Treatment
Scientists still struggle to pinpoint the underlying cause of endometriosis. But a new discovery may lead to quicker diagnosis and a pathway to effective treatment: a specific biomarker that shows up in women with endometriosis.
Biomarkers10 are measurable factors that can help identify or predict disease states. Examples include fever, cholesterol levels, and C-reactive protein (CrP, a measure of inflammation). Researchers have now identified a potential biomarker for endometriosis called Galectin-3, or Gal-3.
Gal-3 is a protein that’s been associated with countless chronic inflammatory diseases, including heart disease, arthritis and cancer.11
Recent research shows that Gal-3 also plays a clear and consistent role in the development and progression of endometriosis.12
This groundbreaking discovery could make diagnosis of endometriosis much simpler, as Gal-3 levels can be measured with a simple blood test. That could lead to millions of women getting diagnosed correctly much sooner.
Even better: Gal-3 offers a promising potential target for treatment. Inhibiting Gal-3 could significantly decrease inflammation, relieve or lessen endometriosis symptoms, and possibly even slow or stop disease progression.13
5 Safe Natural Ways to Relieve Endometriosis Symptoms
As it stands, there’s no complete cure for endometriosis – not even surgery offers lasting relief. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help minimize your symptoms and get back to enjoying your life.
1. Inhibit Gal-3 with the only proven natural Gal-3 blocker. Modified citrus pectin is the most researched and only proven natural Gal-3 blocker. It blocks Gal-3 activity, and keeps it under control,14 which can help manage endometriosis and its symptoms.15,16
2. Eat a primarily plant-based anti-inflammatory diet. Red meat,17 high-fat foods, and alcohol can increase symptoms and may speed disease progression,18 while fruits, vegetables, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids help ease symptoms and slow progression.19
3. Exercise regularly. Studies show that regular aerobic exercise (at least 2 hours every week) protects against endometriosis, however highly strenuous exercise can have the opposite effect.20
4. Use stress reduction techniques. Try meditation, deep breathing, or any combination of stress-reduction techniques to reduce endometriosis pain and other symptoms.21
5. Try acupuncture for symptom relief. Clinical studies show that acupuncture can help relieve endometriosis pain and improve quality of life within 8 to 12 weeks.22
Endometriosis is widespread, and can cause serious impacts to life-quality and day-to-day function. But with targeted support, including the integrative strategies listed here, more women can regain control over their lives, reduce the struggle and ease the pain—for greater long-term vitality in all areas of health.
Barbieri, RL. As leaders in women’s health care, we can do much more to improve the timely diagnosis of endometriosis in women with pelvic pain. OBG Manag. 2017 March;29(3):8, 10-11
Marinho MCP, Magalhaes TF, Fernandes LFC, Augusto KL, Brilhante AVM, Bezerra LRPS. Quality of Life in Women with Endometriosis: An Integrative Review. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2018;27(3):399-408. doi:10.1089/jwh.2017.6397
Parasar P, Ozcan P, Terry KL. Endometriosis: Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Clinical Management. Curr Obstet Gynecol Rep. 2017;6(1):34-41. doi:10.1007/s13669-017-0187-1
DiVasta AD, Vitonis AF, Laufer MR, Missmer SA. Spectrum of symptoms in women diagnosed with endometriosis during adolescence vs adulthood. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218(3):324.e1-324.e11. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.12.007
As-Sanie S, Black R, Giudice LC, et al. Assessing research gaps and unmet needs in endometriosis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2019;221(2):86-94. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2019.02.033
Bontempo AC, Mikesell L. Patient perceptions of misdiagnosis of endometriosis: results from an online national survey. Diagnosis (Berl). 2020;7(2):97-106. doi:10.1515/dx-2019-0020
Fourquet J, Gao X, Zavala D, et al. Patients’ report on how endometriosis affects health, work, and daily life. Fertil Steril. 2010;93(7):2424-2428. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.09.017
Moradi M, Parker M, Sneddon A, Lopez V, Ellwood D. Impact of endometriosis on women’s lives: a qualitative study. BMC Womens Health. 2014;14:123. Published 2014 Oct 4. doi:10.1186/1472-6874-14-123
Zanelotti A, Decherney AH. Surgery and Endometriosis. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2017;60(3):477-484. doi:10.1097/GRF.0000000000000291
Strimbu K, Tavel JA. What are biomarkers?. Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2010;5(6):463-466.
Dong R, Zhang M, Hu Q, et al. Galectin-3 as a novel biomarker for disease diagnosis and a target for therapy (Review). Int J Mol Med. 2018;41(2):599-614. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2017.3311
Noël JC, Chapron C, Borghese B, Fayt I, Anaf V. Galectin-3 is overexpressed in various forms of endometriosis. Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2011;19(3):253-257.
Hisrich BV, Young RB, Sansone AM, et al. Role of Human Galectins in Inflammation and Cancers Associated with Endometriosis. Biomolecules. 2020;10(2):230. Published 2020 Feb 4.
Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic Effects of Modified Citrus Pectin. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2619. Published 2019 Nov 1. doi:10.3390/nu11112619
Mattos RM, Machado DE, Perini JA, et al. Galectin-3 plays an important role in endometriosis development and is a target to endometriosis treatment. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2019;486:1-10.
Caserta D, Di Benedetto L, Bordi G, D’Ambrosio A, Moscarini M. Levels of Galectin-3 and Stimulation Expressed Gene 2 in the peritoneal fluid of women with endometriosis: a pilot study. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2014;30(12):877-880. doi:10.3109/09513590.2014.943728
Simmen RCM, Kelley AS. Seeing red: diet and endometriosis risk. Ann Transl Med. 2018;6(Suppl 2):S119. doi:10.21037/atm.2018.12.14
Jurkiewicz-Przondziono J, Lemm M, Kwiatkowska-Pamuła A, Ziółko E, Wójtowicz MK. Influence of diet on the risk of developing endometriosis. Ginekol Pol. 2017;88(2):96-102. doi:10.5603/GP.a2017.0017
Halpern G, Schor E, Kopelman A. Nutritional aspects related to endometriosis. Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992). 2015;61(6):519-523. doi:10.1590/1806-9282.61.06.519
Bonocher CM, Montenegro ML, Rosa E Silva JC, Ferriani RA, Meola J. Endometriosis and physical exercises: a systematic review. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2014;12:4.
Armour M, Sinclair J, Chalmers KJ, Smith CA. Self-management strategies amongst Australian women with endometriosis: a national online survey. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):17.
Xu Y, Zhao W, Li T, Zhao Y, Bu H, Song S. Effects of acupuncture for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0186616.