Natural Support for Endometriosis

heracleum sphondylium pic

Natural Support for Endometriosis

Most published information describe endometriosis as the tissue that lines the womb called endometrium back flows out the fallopian tubes implanting itself outside the uterus and in the abdomen where these cells are not meant to be. Most commonly referred to as retrograde menstruation. While most women may have some retrograde menstrual flow, typically their immune system is able to clear the debris. Therefore, there is a possibility that the immune system in women with endometriosis may not be able to cope with the cyclic onslaught of retrograde menstrual fluid. The findings of anti-endometrial antibodies supports this the autoimmune theory.

Recent research however continues to question the theory of retrograde flow, and some researchers have suggested that the cells do not back flow from the fallopian tubes, but rather that the cells are already there embedded in the tissue and become active.   Estrogen, environmental toxins, and stress being the most likely activation of these cells. Estrogen dominance is a popularly coined term referring to excess estrogen due to xenoestrogens found in the environment and typical North American diet. Insufficient amounts of progesterone may also be part of the estrogen dominant symptom profile. Another purported theory for the cause of endometriosis is excess activity of an enzyme called telomerase in the uterine lining. It has been suggested that this enzyme may make the lining more adept to survive harsh conditions and implant outside the uterus, contributing to pelvic or abdominal pain. Genetics may also play a role with endometriosis, current reports show a 7 – fold increase in the condition if mothers and sisters have it.

The pain can be present throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, not just at menstruation, and can be both excruciating and debilitating. Throbbing, gnawing, and dragging pain to the legs are reported more commonly by women with endometriosis.Conventional treatment usually involves hormonal suppression and/or laparoscopic surgery. The rate of recurrence of endometriosis after laparoscopic surgery is estimated to be between 40-50% within 5 years; approximately 21.5% of women experience recurrence within 2 years.

Naturopathic Approaches to Endometriosis

General Naturopathic medicine goals for managing and preventing endometriosis are:

  1. Reducing endometrosis tissue by addressing the immune system
  2. Pain relief
  3. Enhanced detoxification and excretion of excess estrogen and xenoestrogens
  4. Optimizing progesterone levels
  5. Moderation of estrogen activity through proper diet, stress reduction, and exercise

A comprehensive approach to management includes a diet consisting of organic, whole foods that is minimally processed and rich in colourful fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on legumes and a low glycemic load. A diet that is primarily vegetarian and free of hormones, red meat, additives, preservatives and sugar. Fish and poultry should be antibiotic and hormone free.

Useful therapies to limit pain include acupuncture and castor oil packs. Herbal remedies with evidence-based support for pain relieve include ginger and curcumin. Immune supportive strategies include melatonin and vitamin D. Detoxification factors can help with phase 1 and phase 2 metabolism of estrogen in the liver, here vitamins B6, folic acid, and minerals including magnesium are important factors along with cysteine and methionine. Indole-3 carbionol helps with phase 2 detoxification of estrogen.

The microbiome and health of the intestinal lining is critical for immune optimization since over 70% of the body’s immune system resides there. Human sourced- multistrain probiotics is best suited the replenish a health microbiota. Generally, this includes non competing, non -pathogenic strains. It is interesting to note that many women with endometriosis also present with digestive issues or IBS.

Other notable mentions for treating endometriosis include: calcium D-glucarate, pycnogenol, resveratrol, vitex agnus, and progesterone.

Dietary Recommendations

Foods to Avoid
  • Gluten. Regular ingestion of gluten has been directly associated with pain in women with endometriosis. A 2012 study demonstrated significant improvement in pain after 1 year of following a gluten-free diet in 75% of patients with endometriosis.
  • Dairy. Because of dioxin content and naturally-occurring hormones in dairy products (even organic ones), and because dairy proteins are insulinogenic, dairy intake should be limited to only a couple times a week at most, and should definitely be organic with no added hormones, preferably from pastured cows.
  • Red meat. There is a connection between consumption of red meat and endometriosis. A study showed that women that ate red meat 7 or more times a week were 100% more likely to have endometriosis than those who ate red meat 3 times per week or less. Commercially-raised red meat often contains dioxin, xenoestrogens, and antibiotics.
  • Pork. The same study as above showed that women who ate ham 3 or more times a week were 80% more likely to have endometriosis. Pork is one of the fattiest meats, which means it stores more toxins than lean meats.
  • Non-organic foods. Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, and other toxins found in non-organic food can interfere with normal regulation of hormones and other bodily functions.
Foods to Emphasize
  • Fresh, Organic Vegetables and Fruits. A study from 2004 showed that women who ate green vegetables roughly twice a day or more were 70% less likely to have endometriosis than those who ate green vegetables less than 6 times a week.
  • High-fiber Foods. Fiber helps the body get rid of excess estrogens by binding to waste-carrying bile and helping remove it through the digestive tract.
  • Fatty Acids. Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s, help reduce inflammation in the body, which can lessen the pain that comes with endometriosis. A study found that the women with the highest consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis.

If you or someone you know is struggling with endometriosis and is seeking a personalized plan and course of action for pain relief, please feel free to contact me. I’m here to help.


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