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Recipe for Success: Padma Lakshmi

The Top Chef host dishes on food, fame, and her struggles with endometriosis -- plus she shares two delectable recipes.

Padma's Struggle With Endometriosis continued...

"I thought I was hypersensitive and just being a wimp," she says. Her mother had suffered the same way. "I thought this was my lot in life."

In 2006, she had to leave a photo shoot doubled over in pain. Her internist sent her to Tamer Seckin, MD, a laparoscopic surgeon in New York City specializing in endometriosis.

Lakshmi was suffering from a severe case of the condition, which affects more than 5.5 million women in the United States. It occurs when the endometrium, the tissue of the inner lining of the uterus, grows in places outside of the uterus -- most often on other pelvic structures, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes, or behind the uterus. Researchers don't yet know what causes this condition, but one theory is that endometriosis is linked to menstruation backflow. Other possible theories include the involvement of inherited genes, the immune system, the lymphatic or vascular system, and chemicals in the body that somehow trigger the condition. 

"These tiny pieces of endometrium attach and develop their own blood supply and respond to the hormonal environment there," says Pamela Stratton, MD, chief of the Gynecology Consult Service at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md. 

Symptoms of endometriosis vary widely, but include: extremely painful menstrual cramps, pain during or after sex, ongoing pelvic and lower back pain, heavy periods, spotting and bleeding between periods, painful bowel movements, or painful urination during menstrual periods.

Endometriosis is one of the top three causes of female infertility; about 30% to 40% of women who have the condition become infertile. That's one reason early diagnosis and treatment are key.

That treatment can include medication, hormone therapy, and surgery. Treatment for infertility usually involves assisted reproductive treatments.  


Getting to an Endometriosis Diagnosis

Lakshmi was relieved to finally have her endometriosis diagnosed, but stunned that it had taken so many years to figure out what was wrong, says Seckin.

"She said to me, 'Why am I being diagnosed this late?' She'd gone from doctor to doctor at some of the best hospitals in the United States. She rewound her history and realized she could have been diagnosed much earlier." And had her condition been identified more promptly, says Seckin, she would have been spared years of agony. Not to mention major surgery.

The longer endometriosis goes unchecked, the harder it can be to treat and the more it can damage the body. Lakshmi's first surgery in 2006 to remove the wayward tissue took four and a half hours.

"I had stitches in three major organs and was bedridden from Thanksgiving to February 1," she says.

Lakshmi has had three additional surgeries since and is now better able to control the pain with over-the-counter medication.

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