Endometriosis is a painful gynaecological condition that affects about 1.5 million in Australia, similar to the number affected by diabetes in the UK alone [1,2]. Worldwide, it is estimated that 176 million women (10% of us) have the condition , which even health experts agree is poorly diagnosed, with no definitive cause or cure . Hence - the true figure is likely much higher.
Consequently, endometriosis carries an increasing personal, health and economic burden - in terms of lost work, vitality and treatment costs .
There is no doubt that endometriosis owns some fairly alarming statistics for us all as females. And, as a female doctor, I am involved in the imaging diagnosis of endometriosis, observing the often lengthy suffering that occurs before a diagnosis is eventually made, on average about 7.5yrs .
So why is it that this debilitating condition still flies under our radar?
To answer this, we must go back to the condition itself, and ask what it reflects about the daily quality we live in, as ‘modern’ women. And, what energy we use to do what we do. If we are willing to ‘join the dots’ between this enigmatic condition and its reflection of our living quality, we may find ourselves on the way to a ‘DIY’ approach to our female body and its true re-harmonisation. So, let’s explore the what, how and why…
Endometriosis occurs when the specialised tissue cells that line the inside of the uterus (the ones that bleed each cycle) start to leave their natural place and wander outside the womb. The cells migrate onto the ovaries, bowel and other pelvic tissues, sometimes even beyond, e.g. the liver. These cells continue to grow and bleed with each menstrual cycle, causing irritation, scarring and fibrous bands to form between other body tissues (called ‘adhesions’). These ‘endometrial’ cells then become trapped or ‘stuck’ outside of their most supportive physiological environment, leading to several debilitating symptoms.
The symptoms tend to affect women of reproductive age. Severe yet vague, they often mimic other pelvic or bowel inflammatory conditions. They include :
Painful periods: excessive or prolonged pelvic cramping
Lower back and abdominal pains, often with diarrhoea or constipation, nausea and bloating.
Pain during or after sex (common)
Pain on passing urine or bowel movements, worst during periods.
Excessive menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods.
Inability to fall pregnant. This is often the trigger for investigations, when a woman seeks infertility treatment.
So to recap, what we have is a situation where well-orchestrated, uniquely designed uterine cells, move away from their supported physiological environment, become trapped or ‘stuck’, wreak bodily havoc in neighbouring tissues and significantly sabotage the correct energetic environment for a baby to grow.
It is as if our woman’s body is telling us (which, of course, it is) that we have allowed an introduced species of emotion, stress, overwhelm, anxiety and or hardness to invade the natural settlement that connects us to our body, that very same quality of self-connection that many of us (including myself) feel when pregnant. And, the feeling of divine connection that comes from the female bodies’ cycles, the cycles of nature and of the universe itself.
This energetic ‘back-story’ of endometriosis becomes even more compelling when we consider the mechanisms proposed by researchers to explain ‘the how’ of endometriosis . For example:
Bleeding ‘Backwards’ from the uterus via the fallopian tubes into the pelvis instead of from inside the uterus ‘out’ into the vagina.
Transformation of other abdominal tissue cells into endometrial cells, due to hormonal or immune disorders (This is poorly understood by specialists and researchers alike).
Transport of endometrial cells via blood or lymph fluid to other parts of the body (much like cancerous cells) or during surgery when they may attach to scars.
These explanations all seem to point to excess or dis-harmonious movement, whether within each cell itself (e.g. by genetic or hormonal decree) or, on a larger scale, when the cells leave ‘en-masse’ (backwards or via the blood and lymph systems) in response to overall dis-harmony.
Why are these specialised cells so movement-full when their energetic and design function is to provide:
connection for each woman on a monthly basis
nurturing for each new life to grow
Could it be that the constant motion of today’s society (fuelled by the cocktail of stimulants like caffeine and sugar, misplaced ideals of the 24/7 ‘superwoman’ and male stereotyped work patterns) is sabotaging our female health on a very real, cellular level?
Far-fetched? Possibly not. Most women will admit we have felt the imposing expectations of our demanding and motion-based society to some degree during our lives. But are we ready to be aware of just how much we have incorporated it into our very daily expression? And that it is having dire monthly consequences for our bodies?
The budding science of Epigenetics tells us, in essence, that our repeated lifestyle choices affect which segments of our DNA (and the cells they influence) will be expressed at any given time, including our hormonal and immune expressions . Join the dots again and we see that the choices we collectively make as women, are made in response to an imposed sense of societal ‘Motion,’ a rhythm that compels us to repeat movements that are not in line with the true rhythm that comes from within.
The links in this chain may be many but they are robust, and they start with our simple daily choices of being aware and, to the best of our ability, choosing to put our inner rhythm before the outer societal rhythm.
Have we become ‘trapped’ in motion-based rhythm like the errant endometrial cells that continue to baffle modern science?
And if so, is it possible that we have been fooled by our society that glamorises putting the female body into excess motion and hardness in all forms? Such as;
Mind-over-matter pursuits (e.g. competitive sports of all types and goal-driven fitness regimes)
The relentless pursuit of mental knowledge at the cost of personal well-being (e.g. the world of Academia)
Nervous system stimulants (e.g. caffeine, sugar, nicotine and alcohol)
E-motional pursuits of every size shape and colour. Such as: anxiety-driven eating, excitement driven shopping sprees and desperation-driven romance
In my twenties, as a busy doctor, I felt as if drive and excess ‘doing’ was my default state of being, even when my body was ‘at rest’ I was not settled. I don’t feel it was just coincidence that I developed painful periods and symptoms that in hindsight may have been the beginnings of endometriosis. It certainly did not dawn on me that my frenetic quality of being may have been behind the fertility issues I was experiencing also. Since giving up my over-stimulated lifestyle (including those foods and pursuits that did not support a feeling of stillness), my menstrual cycles have become regular and significantly, painless. And more interestingly, they now support a sense of personal flow and emotional clearing that I was not previously aware of.
Do we really need to wait for the science to catch up with our natural intuition up here? High school quantum physics tells us that all matter and its atomic components, is in motion anyway, to varying degrees and with variable consequences in our ‘real’ world. Why do we so casually discount this fact? Doesn’t this science equally apply to our physical body?
Could it be that our simple choices influence our DNA (the epigenetics) and thus affect movement of our atoms (as postulated in quantum physics) such that our endometrial cells then express dis-harmony and become seriously wayward (as is the case in endometriosis)?
I can’t help wonder that if all of us, as women, chose our innate quality of stillness over excessive stimulation and motion (as we used to do aeons ago) that our endometrial cells, the statistics on endometriosis, and the world in general might benefit immensely. Not to mention the billions saved on costly research and work vitality! I for one, am willing to experiment further with embracing the quality of Stillness.
Written by Dr Fiona Williams
University College London Hospitals. General information about Endometriosis. Accessed February2018.
Diabetes UK: Diabetes prevalence 2012 (April 2012). Diabetes affects around 2.9 million people, of which slightly less than half of this are women.
Rogers PA, D’Hooghe TM, Fazleaba A, et al. Priorities for endometriosis research; Recommendations from an international consensus workshop. Reprod Sci 2009; 16 (4):335-46
Simoens S, Dunselman G, Dirksen C et al. The burden of endometriosis; costs and quality of life of women with endometriosis and treated in referral centres. Human Reprod 2012; 27(5):1292-9
Diagnosis Survey. Endometriosis UK. February 2011. A total of 2890 women with endometriosis took part in a public awareness survey for endometriosis UK. The average time given for diagnosis time from symptoms to diagnosis was 7.5years. A similar finding of 74 years was found in: Arruda MS, Petta CA, Abrao MS, Benetti-Pinto CL. Time elapsed from onset of symptoms to diagnosis of endometriosis in a cohort study of Brazilian women. Hum Reprod 2003;18 (4):756-759
Endometriosis-Symtpoms and causeds-Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosisAccessed Feb 2018
Epigenetics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EpigeneticsAccessed Feb 2018