Top Chef's Lakshmi details struggle with illness

Mon Dec 7, 2009 3:34pm EST
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By Ros Krasny

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters Life!) - Cookbook author Padma Lakshmi is hoping to raise awareness and help tens of millions of women who suffer from endometriosis, a painful illness that can cause infertility.

The 39-year-old model and host of reality cooking show "Top Chef," who is pregnant with her first child, has been talking about her two-decade struggle with the disorder, in which tissue that normally lines the uterus migrates to other parts of the body, causing pain and swelling.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she said her decision to go public with her struggle was prompted by a desire to help young women avoid the suffering she has experienced.

"I remember school dances that I didn't go to, mid-terms I failed and family occasions that I missed," she said. "Only now do I realize how much of my life was mangled and distorted by this illness."

Lakshmi has become the driving force behind the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which together with researchers at MIT, is pushing to develop new treatments for the illness.

Linda Griffith, professor of biochemical engineering at MIT and former recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," has raised $10 million in public and private grants for the new Center for Gynepathology Research to study the illness.

Griffith, who also suffers from endometriosis, which is believed to be a chronic inflammatory condition, said little is known about the illness that affects up to 90 million women worldwide.

Surgery is often required to remove scar tissue that can attach itself to the ovaries, bowels and lining of the abdominal cavity.   Continued...

<p>Television personality Padma Lakshmi arrives at the 2009 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York June 15, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>