25 Jan Symptoms of Endometriosis
Severe Period Pain: So Not “Normal”
Susan would spend the first 2 days of her period in bed, downing over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication every few hours trying to dull the pain. It hadn’t always been this bad but in the past year, her periods were getting heavier and more painful. She didn’t understand why. She’d seen her Ob/Gyn, had an ultrasound and biopsy, blood tests and was told, “Everything is normal. You have painful periods and must learn to live with it like all women do.”
The pain was becoming unbearable.
She felt alone and scared. This hadn’t been the first time she’d sought help but once more, she left a doctor’s office without answers or hope. She was tired of it all, and getting more exhausted with every step she took. Her joints ached, she couldn’t sleep, and if things couldn’t get worse – her hair was falling out. She thought, “Hair loss at 35! What is happening to me and why can’t anyone help me? This can’t be normal!”.
Susan was right. It wasn’t normal.
When she reached out to me, she was at her breaking point. The stress of her “normal” condition was beginning to depress her, make her moody and as a result, her relationships were suffering. Sex had only been painful close to her period but now, she experienced painful sex all the time. She wondered if it was because she was constipated, also something new. But more importantly, she wondered how she would ever get pregnant if she couldn’t bear to have sex.
She didn’t know if alternative medicine could help her but it was her last hope.
As a naturopathic doctor, I see a lot of women like Susan. They may not have pelvic pain like Susan, but they were looking for answers and help. Too often, women’s medical issues are seen as “complaints” and they are told; “It’s stress”, “It’s depression”, “It’s because you have kids”, or like Susan, “It’s normal.” It is not “normal” to have debilitating period pain, pelvic pain, painful sex, insomnia, or exhaustion and it’s definitely not “normal” to have hair loss and joint pain at age 35!
From what Susan described to me, I suspected that she had endometriosis and that it was getting worse. Endometriosis is sadly under-diagnosed because the diagnostic tools we have miss it. On average, there is a 6-11 year delay in diagnosing endometriosis. I’ve seen women who’ve had blood tests, ultrasounds, and biopsies and told everything is “normal” despite being in severe pain and having heavy periods. In these cases when everything else has been ruled out, I suspect endometriosis.
Pain. Pelvic pain. Pain with or after sexual intercourse. Painful bowel movements. Painful urination. Nerve pain. Joint pain. Low back pain. The pain of endometriosis can be varied, unpredictable, and severe.
- Affects 1 Out Of 10 Women Of Reproductive Age
- Is The Cause of 80% Of pelvic pain
- 50% of Women With Fertility Issues Have Endometriosis
Holistic & Natural Treatments Can Help
- Hormone Balance. Hormone balancing of estrogen and progesterone using herbs and/or bio identical hormones. Identify estrogen dominance (high estrogen) and/or low progesterone.
- Immune. Reduce inflammation/pain with herbs and supplements.
- Digestion. Optimize gut health with diet and herbs. This is a tenant of naturopathic medicine.
- Environment. Reduce toxic exposure and support liver detox pathways.
- Emotional Stress. Reduce and support stress management and healthy lifestyle choices.
- Physical Stress. Hands-on techniques to reduce pain using massage, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
Is endometriosis an autoimmune condition? Yes, no…maybe. Endometriosis causes inflammation which can trigger autoimmune conditions but as of now, it is not officially an autoimmune disorder.
Perimenopause Complicates Endometriosis
Susan was also entering perimenopause. The labs I ran showed she was estrogen dominant (had high estrogen) and had lower than normal progesterone, much lower than I preferred for a woman her age. These perimenopausal hormones were most likely the reason for her worsening endometriosis.
Her high estrogen and low progesterone were causing her periods to be heavy and therefore, more painful. All the blood loss and frustration were either causing or worsening her depression, anxiety, fatigue, and exhaustion. Since starting treatment, Susan’s energy and mood have improved. Her periods are still painful but less so and she is hoping to get pregnant soon.
Upon my advice, she is following up with another Ob/Gyn to pursue additional treatments. Susan may never be pain free but I am hoping that both conventional and natural treatments will help her live a more “normal” life and eventually get pregnant.
Susan is a made up name and is based on 3 different but real endometriosis cases I’ve seen in the past 2 months. I created the story based on what these women told me. I only left out my unbridled, incredulous reaction when one of these patients told me that her doctor told her “learn to live with it”.
Dr. Kimberly Brown ND, LAc specializes in all things hormonal; adrenal, thyroid and women’s hormones. Want to learn more and see how Dr. Kimberly Brown and San Jose Integrative Medicine can help you on your journey? Schedule your free phone consultation HERE.