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Endometriosis Pain Relief

The Blood Test to Diagnose Endometriosis

By | Endometriosis Pain Relief, Women's Health | No Comments

Have we been waiting for an easy way to diagnose endometriosis (well, I know I have) and it already exists?!

Endometriosis is extremely difficult to diagnose, it takes an average of 10 years to be found effectively.  Most women go unnoticed, and even ignored, for their symptoms. Wondering what endometriosis is and if you have it? Learn more about endometriosis.

The Current Diagnosis

The gold standard for the diagnosis of endometriosis is laparoscopy. That’s surgery. Surgery is no longer the recommended treatment for endometriosis, so unfortunately it’s no longer recommended for diagnosis. Trans-vaginal ultrasound can only be used to diagnose severe ovarian endometriosis. That leaves us without a way to diagnose the condition, and on the search for a non-invasive diagnostic method – like a blood test!

My problem with endometriosis is that since there isn’t an “easy” diagnosis, the symptoms are not taken seriously, the treatment is not taken seriously, and the women who suffer from it are not taken seriously. Endometriosis has severe implications. It affects the quality of life of 1 in 10 women, and is one of the leading causes of infertility.  We NEED to know if women have the condition, so that they can be treated properly. There may not be a lot that can be offered by conventional medicine, but there are a whole lot of treatment options in the naturopathic world.

CA-125 Blood Test

This brings me to the blood test we can use for diagnosis, right now! It’s called CA-125. It’s a protein in the blood associated with ovarian cancer and pelvic inflammation, particularily endometriosis.

The test is best performed in the follicular phase of your cycle, between the time when your period stops and when ovulation begins.

How do we interpret the results of the CA-125 blood test?

A positive test is anything over 36. A positive tests rules IN endometriosis, because it is a detector of pelvic inflammation. However, a negative test does NOT rule out endometriosis. You might still have endo if it’s negative, this test just isn’t definitive. Less severe and less invasive endometriosis may not be detected by the blood test. A positive test = endometriosis (as long as ovarian cancer has been ruled out with an ultrasound).

The Bottom Line:

It’s a noninvasive test that costs about $40 and it could provide you with the answers that you deserve, and will inform better treatment!

Book an appointment with me to get tested, and properly treated. Check out my endometriosis support page or endometriosis program for more info on endo treatment.

References:

 Ruan, Y. Q., Liang, W. G., & Huang, S. H. (2015). Analysis of laparoscopy on endometriosis patients with high expression of CA125. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci19(8), 1334-7.

Kurdoglu, Z., Gursoy, R., Kurdoglu, M., Erdem, M., Erdem, O., & Erdem, A. (2009). Comparison of the clinical value of CA 19-9 versus CA 125 for the diagnosis of endometriosis. Fertility and sterility92(5), 1761-1763.

de Sá Rosa, A. C. J., e Silva, J. C. R., Nogueira, A. A., Petta, C. A., Abrão, M. S., & Ferriani, R. A. (2006). The levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device reduces CA-125 serum levels in patients with endometriosis. Fertility and sterility86(3), 742-744.

Endometriosis: One of the leading causes of period pain and infertility that you NEED to know about!

By | Endometriosis Pain Relief | No Comments

Endometriosis affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide, and some women don’t even know they have it! That’s why March is worldwide endometriosis awareness month! Endometriosis is a gynecological condition that causes uterine tissue to grow outside of the uterus. The most common symptoms are significant period pain and infertility. It’s a condition I’m really passionate about treating because I don’t like anything standing in the way of your fertility AND I have it and it kind of sucks!

How do you know if you have endometriosis?

The trouble with endometriosis is that the diagnostic method is the same as the treatment method: laparoscopic surgery. Surgery is the standard way to visualize the uterine tissue growths, aka “endometriomas”, and to remove these growths. However, surgery is the last resort. If you do not respond to hormones or painkillers surgery may be an option for you. Surgery is invasive and comes with risks, I prefer to diagnose and treat endometriosis based on symptoms alone. You may have endometriosis if you experience the following:

  • Chronic period pains in your back, pelvis, and/or legs
  • Pain before and after your period
  • Period pain that developed in your 20s
  • Pain during sex and/or going to the bathroom
  • Ovulatory pain
  • Heavy periods or mid-cycle bleeding
  • A family member with endometriosis (in fact you’re 7x more likely to have it if your mother or sister has it). My mom had it, so I always knew it was coming for me!

What’s the best way to treat endometriosis?

Sadly, there is no known cure for endometriosis besides menopause. The recommended western treatment is laparoscopic surgery and suppressive hormones, but the endometriomas will grow back eventually. It’s unfortunately not the best solution; it’s a race against the clock. Luckily, there are many other treatment options for endometriosis. Naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, pelvic health physiotherapy, and osteopathy have all proven to help manage endometriosis and improve your quality of life with the condition!

Here are some of the therapies that can change your life with endo:

  • Naturopathic medicine: herbs and supplements for the prevention and management of endometriosis
  • Acupuncture: pain relief, heavy bleeding reduction, cycle regulation
  • Pelvic health physiotherapy: decrease pelvic floor tension and muscle spasms
  • Osteopathy: reduce adhesions and scar formation

Diet and lifestyle changes also make all the difference. Many of my patients have experienced reduced pain on a gluten and dairy free diet, and all of my patients feel better with daily exercise. I love exercising, but I have to admit I do love some gluten every now and then! Foundations of health like adequate sleep and stress management also play a role in the severity of endometriosis. I notice my pain is much worse when I’m stressed and going to bed too late. You overall physical and mental health always matter when it comes to endometriosis pain relief.

Now let’s get to the good stuff. My favourite three recommendations for endometriosis!

My Top 3 EASY Endometriosis Tips: Tried and true by Dr. Caleigh

 

  1. N-Acetyl-Cysteine: It’s just an amino acid. Women with endometriosis treated with NAC showed a statistically significant reduction in the growth of endometriomas compared to placebo, leading to early cancellation of surgery!
  2. The “end-endo-pain” trail mix: All you need is dark chocolate, almonds, and walnuts. The combination is the ultimate anti-inflammatory and antioxidant snack (and it’s super tasty too!)
  3. Castor oil: When applied over the uterus, it can increase blood flow and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (your resting and relaxing nerves) to calm uterine and bowel spasms. Massage a tablespoon over your uterus before bedtime.

Endometriosis can be an isolating condition, but you are not alone. I am with you and so are 175 million other brave women all over the world! If the symptoms I’ve listed above resonate with you, book an appointment with me to start getting to the bottom of your pain. You are your biggest advocate; spread the word about endometriosis so that all women can receive better care and timely diagnosis! Book an appointment here to get started 

References

Porpora, M. G., Brunelli, R., Costa, G., Imperiale, L., Krasnowska, E. K., Lundeberg, T., … & Parasassi, T. (2013). A promise in the treatment of endometriosis: an observational cohort study on ovarian endometrioma reduction by N-acetylcysteine. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2013.

Goodman, L. R., & Franasiak, J. M. (2018). Efforts to redefine endometriosis prevalence in low risk patients. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

Lund, I., & Lundeberg, T. (2016). Is acupuncture effective in the treatment of pain in endometriosis?. Journal of pain research9, 157.

Sillem, M., Juhasz-Böss, I., Klausmeier, I., Mechsner, S., Siedentopf, F., & Solomayer, E. (2016). Osteopathy for endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain–a pilot study. Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde76(9), 960.



What I Take for Endometriosis

By | Endometriosis Pain Relief, Fertility Supplements | No Comments

Endometriosis (or “endo” for short)

It’s a female condition in which uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. If you have this condition then you know it’s a real b!@*% and that’s the understatement of the century. The growth of uterine tissue on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, rectum, bladder, intestines, diaphragm….you name it….causes constant, excruciating pain. This is not your typical “period cramping”, this unrelenting and incurable pain has made headlines by the likes of fearless warriors Lena Dunham and Halsey (to name a few).

The tricky thing about endo is that there’s no known cause. It’s chalked up to be an autoimmune phenomenon, oh and yes there’s a genetic link (my mom was diagnosed in her early 20s). I care about endo because it’s one of the leading causes of female infertility, and have I mentioned enough that it hurts like hell every single day?! I’m always researching the best natural methods for endometriosis pain relief.

Conventional Treatment

So what are your treatment options? Well, there’s laparoscopic surgery, suppressive hormones, hospital stays, and a crap-load of painkillers (I’ll take the full cocktail, thank you for asking). Then there’s the integration of naturopathic medicine.

Naturopathic Treatment

Naturopathic medicine is NOT just about replacing pharmaceuticals with “natural” pills. The naturopathic approach to treating endometriosis looks at lifestyle and dietary changes. There is a significant amount of research on the avoidance of caffeine and gluten (I know, I’m Italian!), daily exercise, maintenance of detoxification pathways, and limiting exposure to endogenous estrogens. But sometimes you do need a few evidence-based supplements to take the edge off, so let me finally get to the punch line and tell you what I use to help manage my endo.

NAC

Patients treated with NAC show a statistically significant reduction in the growth of endometriomas compared to placebo, leading to cancellation of surgery

EGCG (and other antioxidants like pycnogenol)

It significantly inhibits endometrial cell proliferation, and reduces symptoms by 33% compared to drugs like lupron

Omega-3: EPA & DHA

Potent anti-inflammatory and antiangeogenic (stops the formation of new blood vessels supplying the endometriomas)

Herbs for decreasing flow:

capsella bursa-pastens & rubus idaeus

Herbs for reducing pain and spasms:

piscidia piscipula, viburnum opulus, dioscorea villosa

Want to learn more about unique pain relieving strategies for you? Check out my program on endometriosis

5 Really Simple Strategies to Reduce Period Pain

By | Endometriosis Pain Relief, Hormonal Imbalance | No Comments

If you experience debilitating menstrual cramps, just as I do, then I’m sure you remember the first time they started and the constant struggle you’ve battled in learning to cope with them. I’ve been trying to take my own pain away since age 12 and it hasn’t looked pretty. It’s been a lot of missed work, sleepless nights, tears of desperation, hormone testing, and a couple of memorable hospital trips.

I have tried so many things I’ve lost count of what I’ve tried. I even have a closet full of half empty supplement bottles to show for it. In my countless efforts to find endometriosis pain relief, I’ve found that bringing it back to the basics has helped me cope the most. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t have pain anymore, but I’ve found these really simple strategies helpful and I wish I had known about them sooner.

5 Simple Strategies that Make a Difference

  1. Go to sleep.

    I know that sounds crazy because the pain can make it impossible to sleep, but what I mean to say is get regular sleep before your period. You know you already want to nap all of the time before your period because of our trusty friend progesterone! Progesterone is the driving hormone in the second half of your cycle (after you ovulate) and it has been shown to promote and maintain sleep. But even better than sleeping before your period, get regular sleep all of the time. Regular sleep means going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. When you have a predictable circadian rhythm, you produce optimal amounts of melatonin. Melatonin is an antioxidant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory [1]. Those are all actions you want for your uterus when you have a scalding hot water bottle pressed against your pelvis and there’s no relief in sight.

  2. Say goodbye to caffeine.

    You’ve just spent the night awake in pain and now I’m taking away your coffee? It seems cruel but it helps. Caffeine can be found in pain relieving medications (like midol) but it’s not necessarily your friend when it comes to period cramps. It turns out, period pain may be more common in coffee drinkers than non-coffee drinkers [2]. Think about this, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (it constricts your blood vessels), which means decreased blood flow to your uterus. Reduced blood flow means reduced oxygen, which means muscle spasms, which means pain. I too love a good cup of joe in the morning, but I’ve found I do better when I give it up a few days before my period and during. You can have it again afterwards of course!

  3. Eat nuts, seeds & chocolate.

    What do they all have in common besides being a delicious trail mix? They decrease prostaglandins, which are fatty acids and hormone copycats that cause uterine contractions, pain, and inflammation [3]. Chocolate wants to heal our pain soooo badly, so let’s just let it! Make it dark chocolate (rich in magnesium) and add some almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds for the ultimate anti-inflammatory snack.

  4. Try castor oil massage.

    Castor oil is a wonderful oil used topically to decrease pain and inflammation. I’m not recommending that you drink it as a laxative! When applied over the uterus, it can increase blood flow and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (your resting and relaxing nerves) to calm uterine spasms and bowel spasms [4]. Use 1-3 tablespoons and massage it over your uterus when you’re in pain. The oil can stain your clothes so wear old pj’s and don’t be shy about the amount you use, it will absorb overnight. You can also rub it on aching joints and tissues, like your breasts and low back.

  5. Take ginger capsules. 

    They can be as effective as Advil. It’s just too simple. I avoided trying it for so long because I just figured I needed something fancy, expensive, and complicated to help my pain. Well, I didn’t. Now the dosing is important, you want to start taking ginger three days before the first day of expected pain. Pain reliving medications always work better before the pain starts; if you wait until it starts then you’re playing catch up. It’s also recommended that you take the ginger during the painful days of your period. The recommended dose in the study I refer to here is 250mg 4x a day [5]. Unlike ibuprofen, it has no liver or gastrointestinal toxicity.

    Super simple tips for preventing, reducing, and coping with period pain. If you’re like me and have spent years miserably trying to alleviate your pain, I hope you’re able to try out these techniques and see how you feel.

    Book an appointment with Dr. Sumner. Learn about her program for endometriosis

    References:

[1] Schwertner, A., Dos Santos, C. C. C., Costa, G. D., Deitos, A., de Souza, A., de Souza, I. C. C., … & Caumo, W. (2013). Efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of endometriosis: a phase II, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PAIN®154(6), 874-881.

[2] Unsal, A., Ayranci, U., Tozun, M., Arslan, G., & Calik, E. (2010). Prevalence of dysmenorrhea and its effect on quality of life among a group of female university students. Upsala journal of medical sciences115(2), 138-145.

[3] Awad, A. B., Toczek, J., & Fink, C. S. (2004). Phytosterols decrease prostaglandin release in cultured P388D 1/MAB macrophages. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes and essential fatty acids70(6), 511-520.

[4] Ozgoli, G., Goli, M., & Moattar, F. (2009). Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine15(2), 129-132.

[5] Arslan, G. G., & Eşer, İ. (2011). An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complementary therapies in clinical practice17(1), 58-62.