Most people do not know what endometriosis is. Unless you or a woman in your life has it, you probably have never heard about it. Here, we will discuss what the condition is and the probable root causes of it.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus grows outside of it. It can touch any mucosal membrane in your body. This painful, chronic condition affects over 10% of women worldwide.1
While not all women with endometriosis will be in pain, it has a wide range of physical, social, and psychological effects on the affected women and her family. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, painful periods, pain during intercourse, pain during bowel movements or urination, excessive bleeding, infertility, and exhaustion.
When I discovered that I had endometriosis back in 2011,the most shocking news for me was that it takes 10 years on average for its diagnosis in women because there is so little known about it. So I’ve made it my mission to help women understand that—before or after diagnosis—there is a lot that they can do to get better and potentially get healed. This is where understanding the different potential root causes of endometriosis plays a huge role.
There are many theories on this subject. Some are more respected in the scientific community than the others. The more we explore these theories, the closer we come to finding better ways to manage endometriosis—and to possibly healing it altogether.
Commonly Discussed Theories
1. Retrograde Menstruation
This occurs when the endometrium (the tissue lining the inner cavity of the uterus) flows backward through the fallopian tubes and travels into the abdomen instead of being shed through a period. The theory here is that this tissue doesn’t just get expelled through digestion; it instead imbeds itself in areas in both the stomach and the pelvis, depending on where the tissue travels. 2 3
This isn’t a specific disorder but a concept. Metaplasia occurs when a drastic, abnormal change occurs in a tissue. You may recognize the “meta” prefix here as being similar to “metastasis,” and the similarities are certainly there. Instead of being necessarily cancerous, however, this drastic change in the tissue can instead cause something like endometriosis.
Some scientists believe that the body’s environment is what leads the uterine tissue to develop into endometriosis. Too much or too little of a specific hormone can cause metaplasia or retrograde menstruation, or the hormones themselves can alter the tissue.
4. Oxidative Stress And Inflammation
This is a simple explanation that the tissues that leave the uterus become chronically inflamed. Because they imbed themselves outside of the uterus, what they touch becomes chronically inflamed too. This can be caused by oxidative stress and can be responsible for some chronic illnesses like diabetes and cancer.
5. Autoimmune Disease Or Immune Dysfunction
Some doctors theorize that endometriosis is actually an autoimmune disease, that is, it spawns from a deficiency, problem, or abnormality in a person’s immune system. This theory spawns from the idea that endometriosis can be managed with natural methods like herbs and diet changes.
Another reason a woman may have endometriosis is because she inherited it genetically. This may explain where the condition comes from in a general way, but it doesn’t exactly explain its origins.
7. Embryonic Cell Growth
Endometriosis may be caused by an abnormality in embryonic cell growth. These are part of what is sloughed out during a period, but because of their abnormality, they act as inflamed tissue, causing endometriosis.
8. Stem Cells
As you may know, stem cells are lauded for having a very large regenerative property, which is why they’re so coveted as a method of treatment today. The endometrium contains progenitor stem cells, and they may be why the tissue reproduces rapidly in the case of endometriosis.
9. Post-Cesarean Scar Endometriosis
Women have reported developing endometriosis after giving birth via cesarean section. Scientists attribute this to the scar tissue created by the cesarean section. Studying this rare condition may uncover secrets about endometriosis in general.
Some women have also reported developing endometriosis after pelvic surgeries. These are called surgical scar implantation.
To me, there is no one explanation that makes more sense than the other, as they can equally contribute to the development of endometriosis. Additionally, we will also discuss how to start managing your endometriosis pain.
|↑2||van der Linden, Paul JQ. “Theories on the pathogenesis of endometriosis.” Human reproduction 11, no. suppl 3 (1996): 53-65.|
|↑3||Sourial, Samer, Nicola Tempest, and Dharani K. Hapangama. “Theories on the pathogenesis of endometriosis.” International journal of reproductive medicine 2014 (2014).|