Researchers May Have Found An Easy Way To Treat Endometriosis

woman in pain

Endometriosis is an often painful condition that occurs when the tissue similar to that which lines the uterus, known as the endometrium, forms outside of the uterus. It affects 1 in 10 women typically between the ages of 25 and 40 and can cause painful periods and ovulation, heavy bleeding during your period, pain during sex and even infertility. Actress Lena Dunham has been one celebrity who has been very vocal about her endometriosis, revealing in an essay in Vogue last year that she decided to have a hysterectomy at the age of 31 to try to deal with the chronic pain the condition caused her.

Now, thanks to a new study done by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, there may be a new, easy way to treat endometriosis. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that mice who were treated with the antibiotic metronidazole saw a reduction in the size of the lesions caused by the condition. Even more promising was that the antibiotic was effective when used before the lesions began to form and when they were already present.

“Our initial goal was to understand how these gut bacteria, or microbiota, might be connected to endometriosis, but in the process, we may have found a cost-effective treatment,” principal investigator Ramakrishna Kommagani, Ph.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University’s Center for Reproductive Health Sciences  said.

Typically, the painful condition is treated with over the counter pain medication, topical pain medications that often include essential oils, alternative treatments such as homeopathic remedies, hormone therapy and in severe cases, surgery, according to the Endometriosis Association.

Researchers already knew that young girls and women with inflammatory bowel disease are at a heightened risk of developing endometriosis, but their study also noted that the gut microbes found in women with IBD and other bowel issues "feature prominently in endometriosis." The mice who had endometriosis were low in a certain type of gut bacteria so researchers think that the addition of a probiotic may also help boost production of that healthy gut bacteria which may help reduce painful lesions.

“This study is exciting as it opens new frontiers in identifying bacterial candidates that can promote endometriosis in reproductive-age women, and it enables us to conduct future studies aimed at developing simpler ways to diagnose endometriosis,” co-author Indira Mysorekar, PhD, the James P. Crane Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a professor of pathology and immunology added.

Dr. Kommagani added that gut health can have a big effect on your overall health, and potentially decrease the symptoms that come with endometriosis while acknowledging that many women don't realize they have the condition until the symptoms become almost too painful to bear.

“How healthy your gut is affects your disease burden,” Kommagani said. “What you eat can affect the bacteria in the gut, and that can promote endometriosis, so it’s important to have healthy habits and to make sure you are harboring good bacteria so you won’t get the disease and the pain associated with it."

“This is a silent epidemic in that often women think they are just having cramping during their menstrual cycles,” he added. “It’s only when the pain reaches a point where they can’t handle it — and it’s not contained within the cycle — that many realize something else is going on.”

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