Causes and Drivers of Endometriosis
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Endometriosis you don’t need me to tell you how debilitating and life-disrupting the symptoms can be, and you certainly don’t need me to tell you how frustratingly, even agonisingly long the diagnosis process can be. While incredibly prevalent (current statistics estimate around 11% of Australian women* of reproductive age are living with the condition), Endo continues to be a complex and often poorly understood condition.
What we do know about Endo is that it involves the growth of tissue similar to the uterine lining (the endometrium) outside of the uterus. This tissue responds to hormonal signals just like the tissue within the uterus, and has the potential to shed/bleed and cause considerable pain and discomfort.
What causes this growth in the first place? That’s not such an easy answer, but there are some really key drivers that we see emerge from the scientific research. This research is continuing (thank goodness!) but here is what we know so far:
Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition driven by the increase in particular types of immune cells called macrophages.
These macrophages mistake the endometrial growth as a wound, and flood the area with inflammatory responses which increases pain. As they’re working away promoting repair, these immune cells can actually encourage more endometrial tissue growth. Interrupting and controlling this immune dysfunction is key for the Endo patients I look after in the clinic.
Changes in oestrogen production and function also influences Endo.
Endo is very much considered an oestrogen-driven condition and can form a two-way relationship with inflammation – more inflammation = more oestrogen, more oestrogen = more inflammation. Understanding the role oestrogen is playing in your Endo is integral for improving your symptoms as well as improving fertility.
Our genetics play a very key role in Endo.
In fact very recent research published just this month has identified specific epigenetic changes that influence everything from oestrogen signalling, inflammatory cell production and changes in the control of abnormal cell growth. While we don’t have too much of a say over our hardwired genetic profile, epigenetic methylation or the modifiable “switches” on our genes, are influenced by environmental triggers, lifestyle habits and dietary choices.
Please be in touch if you’d like to explore genetic testing, as this is something I offer in clinic.
This article is intended to be informational only and represents the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be used as medical advice and does not take the place of advice from a qualified health care practitioner in a clinical setting. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before embarking upon any of the treatments discussed.