Fatigue and Endometriosis

Understanding Fatigue and Endometriosis: A Practical No-Nonsense Guide

Fatigue is a common symptom these days, but for those living with endometriosis, it can be
particularly challenging. While it’s not one of the primary symptoms of endometriosis, fatigue is
often reported by women who have endo. What’s the relationship? What are some potential
causes and what can you do to regain some lasting energy, without hocus pocus “cures”, more
coffee, or energy drinks?

If you’re not sure if you have endometriosis, please remember that not all symptoms are
directly related to or caused by endo. While many can be related, something else can be
wrong. For example, you can have anemia from various causes, adrenal or thyroid disease and
many other conditions, some of which can be serious. Chronic fatigue is a very challenging
condition to treat but before treatment you first must get to the root cause or causes. This
requires either a mainstream internal medicine or family medicine doctor that is going to
carefully explore every angle with you. Most will just get basis tests and not spend much time
with you, because their time is limited by today’s healthcare mess. Alternatively, seek out an
integrative and/or functional medicine physician who is trained to approach all disease by
tracing it down to the root cause. This is critical and not just a matter of getting a few blood
tests. If you’re “lucky” something obvious might pop up on basic testing. But most of the time
it’s not that straightforward. Do it right!

If you already know you have endo and are experiencing fatigue along with other symptoms of
endometriosis, make sure your endo specialist is aware of this. They can help evaluate how root
causes may be in play that are directly related to endo or adenomyosis, provide an accurate
diagnosis or diagnoses, and develop a personalized treatment plan. Everyone is not the same.

Understanding Fatigue and Endometriosis:

The Impact of Chronic Pain:

Endometriosis, in most, is characterized by chronic pelvic pain, which can significantly impact
quality of life. Living with constant pain can be exhausting both physically and mentally, leading
to fatigue. Additionally, the stress and emotional burden associated with chronic pain can
further contribute to fatigue.

Hormonal Imbalances:

Hormonal imbalances play a role in the development and progression of endometriosis.
Estrogen, in particular, is thought to promote the growth of endometrial tissue outside the

uterus. Fluctuations in estrogen levels throughout the menstrual cycle can result in fatigue and
tiredness. Furthermore, if you are in a hormone balancing program of some kind, excess
progesterone can definitely cause fatigue. “Balancing hormones” requires an expert hand
because it is like conducting a symphony orchestra, as opposed to throwing in a few hormones
to see what happens. Beyond that, it is not just a matter of balancing estrogen and
progesterone. For example, people with endometriosis are six times more likely to have an
underactive thyroid. So, again, it’s a symphony orchestra, not a small band that needs
conducting for best results.

Sleep Disturbances:

Endometriosis often leads to sleep disturbances due to pain, discomfort, and hormonal
imbalances. Insufficient or poor-quality sleep can easily leave one feeling fatigued during the
day. It is essential to prioritize sleep hygiene and seek strategies to improve sleep, such as
creating a relaxing bedtime routine and ensuring a comfortable sleep environment.

Anemia:

Endometriosis and adenomyosis can lead to heavy or prolonged menstrual and inter-menstrual
bleeding, which can result in iron deficiency anemia. Iron is vital for carrying oxygen to the
body’s tissues, and when its levels are low, fatigue and weakness can occur. Bringing iron levels
up may mean taking iron supplements for a while or it can as simple as adjusting your diet to
include iron-rich foods, like leafy veggies.

Inflammation and Immune Dysfunction:

Endometriosis is associated with chronic inflammation and immune system dysfunction. The
inflammatory response and immune activation can definitely contribute to fatigue. Strategies
that reduce inflammation, such as a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, regular
exercise, and stress management techniques, may help alleviate fatigue symptoms.

Management Strategies for Fatigue:

Pain Management:

Effective pain management is essential for reducing fatigue associated with endometriosis. Your
doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), to help alleviate pain and inflammation. Hormonal treatments,
such as birth control pills or hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), can also be prescribed to
regulate hormone levels and reduce pain. Of course, narcotics are an option but that can lead
to feeling loopy and fatigued, defeating the purpose. Gabapentin and similar drugs can help
with central sensitization and might be used just for transition while you reduce pelvic floor
inflammation triggers using multi-modality therapies. Pelvic floor physical therapy is critical.
Integrative modalities like acupuncture and acupressure can help as well. Endo excision surgery
is always part of the conversation and requires an expert to minimize the risk of multiple repeat
surgeries.

Lifestyle Modifications:

a. Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular exercise can improve energy levels and reduce fatigue.
It might be counter-intuitive to go out and exercise if you are already feeling beat, it works.
Even low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or practicing yoga can have a positive
impact. Start with light exercises and gradually increase intensity based on your comfort level.
Consult with a trainer or a physical therapist to determine the best exercise plan for you.

b. Balanced Diet: A well-balanced anti-inflammatory antioxidant diet plays a crucial role in
managing fatigue and supporting overall health. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables,
whole grains (whole food plant-based diet), and lean proteins into your meals. These provide
essential nutrients which work together, including iron and other vitamins, which can help
combat anemia-related fatigue. Limiting processed foods, sugary snacks, and caffeine can also
promote more stable energy levels throughout the day. Given that endo is inflammatory and
the damage that is caused is based on reactive oxygen species oxidation, it is critical to keep
inflammation low and anti-oxidation high. Your body is a very complex laboratory which also
works like a symphony orchestra when tuned properly. It needs the right fuel, and an expert
nutritional “conductor” can help select and tune up the right plan for you.

c. Adequate Hydration: Drinking enough water throughout the day is important for maintaining
optimal energy levels. Dehydration can exacerbate fatigue, so aim to consume at least eight
glasses of water daily. Carry a refillable water bottle with you as a reminder to stay hydrated.
This is not directly related to endo but is a forgotten baseline critical need to maintain a slightly
alkaline, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status.

Stress Management:

a. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practicing mindfulness meditation, deep breathing
exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and improve energy levels.
Find a quiet and comfortable space and allocate a few minutes each day for relaxation
exercises. There is a lot of choose from including various forms of yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong,
mindfulness, biofeedback techniques like Heart Math, meditation and so on. These days there
are various mobile apps and online resources available to guide you through some these
techniques. But it is important to select something that resonates with you. If you are not “into
it”, it won’t help.

b. Engage in Activities You Enjoy: Participating in activities that bring you joy, and relaxation can
help alleviate stress and combat fatigue. Whether it’s reading, listening to music, taking a warm
bath, or spending time in nature, make time for activities that help you unwind and recharge.
Do something that makes you laugh. This all has psycho-biological proof behind it.

c. Prioritize Self-Care: Self-care is essential in managing fatigue and overall well-being. Set aside
regular time for self-care activities such as taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, practicing
gentle yoga, or indulging in a hobby you love. Remember that self-care looks different for
everyone, so find activities that resonate with you and make them a priority.

Support Networks:

a. Seek Emotional Support: Living with endometriosis is emotionally challenging. Connecting
with others who share similar experiences through support groups or online communities can
provide valuable emotional support, validation, and information. Sharing experiences, seeking
advice, and knowing you are not alone can help in managing fatigue and the overall impact of
endometriosis. Everyone is different and some of the solutions you hear about may not work
for you, but it is good to hear about them. The only prudent caveat might be that if something
sounds too good to be true in this setting, check it out through trusted credible sources and
your endo specialist.

b. Involve Loved Ones: Educate your loved ones about endometriosis and how it affects your
energy levels. Communicate your needs and limitations so that they can offer support and
understanding. Having a strong support system can make a significant difference in managing
fatigue and coping with the challenges of endometriosis.

c. Consider Counseling: If fatigue and the emotional impact of endometriosis are strongly
impacting your mental well-being, consider seeking professional counseling or therapy.
Everyone needs help at some point in their life. A mental health professional can provide
guidance, coping strategies, and a safe space to process your emotions.

Conclusion:

By implementing these management strategies, you can better cope with fatigue and improve
your quality of life. Remember that everyone’s experience with endometriosis is unique, and it
may take time to find the strategies that work best for you. Seek support from an
endometriosis specialist and other practitioners noted above, make lifestyle modifications,
prioritize self-care, and build a strong support network. Ideally, seek out an endo specialist who
is not only a surgeon but is also either trained in integrative holistic care or has a team that
provides these valuable support and treatment options. With the right tools and resources, you
can more effectively manage fatigue and navigate the challenges of living with endometriosis.

References:

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Hadfield R, Mardon H, Barlow D, Kennedy S. Delay in the diagnosis of endometriosis: a survey of
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La Rosa VL, De Franciscis P, Barra F, et al. Sleep quality in women with endometriosis: a
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