Endometriosis occurs when tissue that resembles the uterus lining grows elsewhere in the body. The tissue is called endometrial tissue. It may, for example, develop on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel, or bladder.
Endometrial tissue gets thicker at the start of a woman's period and sheds during menstruation. When the tissue located outside of the uterus starts to drop away, it can cause pain, cramping, or scar tissue.
While there is no absolute cure for this condition, some home remedies can relieve the pain and discomfort it brings. In this article, we talk about 9 home remedies for endometriosis, causes, and when to see a doctor.
Home remedies for endometriosis pain
A hot water bottle placed on the lower abdomen often helps to relieve pain during menstruation.
Taking a warm bath, or placing a heating pad or hot water bottle on the lower abdomen can help to relax cramping pelvic muscles, which should reduce pain.
This is a common treatment for menstrual cramps that can offer immediate relief.
A study from 2001 tested the effectiveness of heating pads on 81 women with painful periods. It found that using a low-level heating pad was as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief.
2. Pelvic massage
A 2010 study found that massaging the pelvic area, including parts of the abdomen, sides, and back, was helpful in reducing menstrual pain associated with endometriosis.
Doing this type of massage shortly before the menstrual period begins may be more comfortable. It may also be useful to use massage oil.
3. Over-the-counter pain relievers
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen have been developed to fight inflammation.
Reducing inflammation will often relieve cramping and pain. A doctor can determine the best dosing levels.
Turmeric supplements are available as capsules. The spice is often found in teas and may be added to meals.
5. Dietary changes
Avoiding dairy, processed foods, and gluten may help to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Altering the diet could reduce symptoms, though more research is needed to determine the best changes.
However, minimizing the consumption of red meat and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to improve overall health.
Some experts recommend an elimination diet. This involves eating no foods that tend to cause inflammation, then reintroducing them slowly to determine which are problematic for the individual.
Potentially problematic foods include:
- dairy products
- processed foods
It is important to track symptoms so that potential triggers can be identified.
6. Light exercise
Regular exercise helps to release endorphins. These "feel good" hormones can reduce pain.
Exercise may also help to lower estrogen levels in the body and improve symptoms. Stretch before and after each workout.
Getting extra rest is important, especially during menstruation. Lying on the side with the knees pulled into the chest can help to relieve pain or pressure in the back.
8. Herbal supplements
Herbal or other supplements may help to reduce symptoms, though very little research has been done.
It is important to speak with a doctor before taking herbal supplements. Herbs are not monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for quality, dose, or purity.
9. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation. They are naturally found in fatty fish, such as salmon. They are also available as a daily supplement.
What causes endometriosis?
The medical community has yet to determine why endometriosis develops.
However, below are a few popular theories:
- The transplantation theory involves cells from the lining of the uterus travelling, either through the bloodstream or in menstrual blood that flows backward into the fallopian tubes.
- Another theory is that cells outside of the uterus change into endometrial cells, but doctors are not sure why this might happen.
- A more current theory is that endometrial tissue is implanted during fetal development.
- It is possible that genetics plays a role, because endometriosis tends to run in families.
When to see a doctor
Regular checkups are important for those with endometriosis, especially if symptoms get worse.
Symptoms of endometriosis vary. A person may be unaware that they have the condition. In other cases, symptoms may be so severe that a person requires bed rest for several days each month.
Regular checkups are important. Bring up any symptoms and report changes in menstrual periods.
A doctor should asses new or worsening pelvic pain. They will want to evaluate the pain by:
- taking a detailed history
- performing a physical exam and a pelvic exam
- possibly ordering an ultrasound, to view the pelvic organs.
A doctor may require a laparoscopy. In this procedure, a surgeon will look for endometrial implants or other potential causes of symptoms or pain.
Endometriosis can cause difficulty in getting pregnant, and anyone wishing to become pregnant may want to consult a fertility doctor. Some treatments for endometriosis may also impact fertility, so it is important to discuss options.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition affecting the lives of millions. There is no cure, but a pain management program can help to relieve symptoms.
While the home remedies listed above are often useful, a person may require additional pain management or hormonal treatments to tackle some symptoms of endometriosis.