Endometriosis Specialist Paola KS
Obstetrics & Gynecology
Medical School: St Louis Univ Sch Of Med, St Louis Mo 63104
Graduation Year: 1992
Bringing an End to Endometriosis
By Einav Keet
Imagine two women. One has irregular periods, debilitating menstrual pain, and can’t seem to get pregnant. The other has normal cycles with little cramping and has conceived with ease, although she suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and painful intercourse. These women may have different symptoms, but their doctors have given them the same diagnosis: Each has endometriosis.
The Endometriosis Association estimates that nearly 6 million American women have this condition, in which the tissue that lines the uterus, or the endometrium, spreads to other parts of the pelvis, where it forms lesions. Bad enough, you say, but like the uterine lining itself, these lesions swell up each month, often causing all the pain of horrible menstrual cramps, but with no way for the body to relieve them. Such growths occur most commonly on the ovaries, in the fallopian tubes, and near the rectum. In rare cases, endometrial tissue has found its way to the lungs, limbs, and other areas relatively remote to the womb. “It’s really important that we understand how multifaceted this disease is,” says Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, adding that endometriosis “isn’t even the same disease in two different people.”
Heredity, that old reliable link, plays a role in the onset of endometriosis, but researchers have now zeroed in on many more of the factors governing the condition. Retrograde flow, the reverse flow of menstrual blood, has for many years received much of the blame, but this occurs in 90 percent of all women, and only a small percentage of them develop endometrial lesions. Among the other explanations proffered: Modern American women, most of whom work, have fewer children and more periods in their lifetimes, and that’s led some to label endometriosis the “working woman’s disease.” That’s a quaint notion that the medical community has all but shot down.
“Where the pay dirt is for my way of thinking is that endometriosis is actually an immune system disorder,” says Northrup. This falls into step with research showing an increase in the number and size of lesions in those with immune deficiencies. So maybe there is a link to our careers after all, as stress and decreased immunity go hand in hand—and our job strains rank among the worst. Adding to the impact of stress, the extra cortisol and norepinephrine our adrenal glands produce under all that pressure can actually inhibit the body’s breakdown of estrogen, thus setting off an endometriosis flare-up. We need the normal levels of these hormones our bodies produce to get through the day, but most of us suffer from overload as we live in a near constant state of fight-or-flight syndrome.
We also happen to live in virtual soup of estrogen. “Everything about our culture right now pushes women towards estrogen dominance,” Northrup says, noting that some of the chemicals in plastics and detergents can act like the hormone once they enter ...
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