Inside Padma Lakshmi's Experience With Endometriosis

"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshi knows pain management. From shattering her arm in a car accident to being diagnosed with scoliosis as a teen, she's no stranger to living with physical pain, according to an interview she gave with Women's Health. And when she was 36, she finally understood why she'd been experiencing severely painful periods since the age of 13 — she had a condition called endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a medical condition in which tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus (via Mayo Clinic). It can be present anywhere in the body, but most often affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining the pelvis. This tissue acts just like the lining of the uterus, breaking down and shedding each month in a period. However, it's different in that it has no way to exit the body, sometimes building up and creating cysts called endometriomas.

Endometriosis can cause inflammation and scar tissue in the surrounding areas, leading to severe pain, especially during menstruation (via Mayo Clinic). It can also cause fertility issues, pain with intercourse, pain with bowel movements or urination, and excessive bleeding. Experts don't have a clear idea of what causes endometriosis to happen, and while there are effective treatments, there is no cure for the disease.

How endometriosis impacted Padma Lakshmi for decades

Many women with endometriosis struggle to get diagnosed, as symptoms can vary and painful menstrual cycles are so common (via Healthline). For Padma Lakshmi, she had to endure 23 years of severely painful periods before being diagnosed, missing out on life for one week every month throughout her teen years (via Women's Health). Her mother had a similar history with menstrual pain, so she never questioned it and accepted her experience as normal. She was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis at the age of 36, requiring laparoscopic excision surgery to remove the tissue.

Her relief quickly gave way to anger, understanding that she could have gotten relief so many years earlier (via Women's Health). Her anger inspired her to co-found the Endometriosis Foundation of America with her endometriosis specialist, working to bring awareness of the disease. They also partnered with Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create a gynepathology research center aiming to explore women's reproductive issues. Now in her 50s, Lakshmi says her endometriosis is much more under control as her hormones are calming down, which is typical for the disease (via Prevention).