'Top Chef''s Padma Lakshmi Gets Personal for a Cause

Lakshmi appeared at MIT to raise awareness about endometriosis.

ByABC News
December 4, 2009, 6:00 PM

Dec. 7, 2009— -- Padma Lakshmi, author, model and co-host of Bravo's series "Top Chef," opened up to students and scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Friday, where she traveled to raise awareness of endometriosis, a disease of the uterus that affects millions of women.

Lakshmi said endometriosis has interfered with her work for decades and threatened her ability to have children.

Now triumphantly pregnant after receiving treatment, Lakshmi was at the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research shortly after it's opening to tell young women not to ignore the pain of endometriosis.

The center is run by MIT professor Linda Griffith, an expert in tissue engineering and winner of a prestigious MacArthur "genius'' grant.

"A lot of women are delaying their motherhood from their 20s to their 30s, or even their 40s," said Lakshmi. "Often you find out that you can't have children until it's too late because you never got it treated. And that is a real tragedy."

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus begins to grow outside of the womb for unknown reasons. These lesions of uterine lining can spread to other organs in the abdomen and respond to a woman's hormone cycles -- causing much pain, cramping, scar tissue, and infertility.

Lakshmiwas diagnosed with endometriosis in her 30s, after her acupuncturist told her that he was concerned about her ovaries. "How he knew, I had no idea," she said.

But Lakshmi suspected all along that something was wrong, she just never had the support from her doctors to figure out why she was in so much pain.

"I always wondered why it was that I suffered the worst out of any girl in my class from cramps," said Lakshmi, who added that her own mother suffered from severe period symptoms and tried to prepare her to deal with the pain.

"When I went to a women gynecologist, ironically, she said 'oh it can't be that we all have our periods dear'," said Lakshmi.