1 in 10 women have endometriosis, it is one of the most common reasons for severe period pain. Unfortunately we see it a lot in our clinic and left untreated it can lead to issues with fertility. So what is endometriosis and what can we do about it?
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an estrogen dependent, inflammatory, gynecological condition that can result in long lasting pelvic pain and infertility. In Endometriosis, tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. It can implant in adjacent pelvic organs such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic ligaments, vagina, sigmoid colon, rectum, ureters or bladder.
This displaced tissue that comes from the uterus acts as it normally would, it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. However in these new locations the displaced tissue has no way to exit the body so it becomes trapped.
In severe cases tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and abnormal bands of fibrous tissue that cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick together. If the ovaries are involved, cysts called endometriomas can form.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
The most common symptom as we mentioned above is painful periods. Pelvic pain, lower back pain, abdominal pain and cramping can begin before the period and extend several days into the period.
Other symptoms include: pain with intercourse, pain with bowel movements, excessive bleeding/ heavy menstruation, infertility and accompanying symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and nausea.
Natural treatments for endometriosis focus on reducing pain and inflammation and correcting the estrogen dominant hormone imbalance. When treating endometriosis we notice a multi targeted approach works best.
In our clinic we use personally prescribed acupuncture and Chinese herbs to help manage endometriosis.
Acupuncture treatment can significantly decrease the severity of endometriosis and its symptoms. Effects are cumulative so longer term treatment is linked with greater improvement. Many patients report a decrease in pain after four weekly treatments and continued improvement with subsequent treatments. For changes in menstrual cycle regularity or to treat fertility often requires several months of regular acupuncture.
According to research acupuncture seems to promote blood circulation and regulate hormones. It also appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect and is effective for pain relief because of it’s effect on blood chemistry and in particular endorphin levels.
One study concluded “Acupuncture can alleviate the pain of dysmenorrhoea and reduce peripheral blood CA-125. As a result, the therapy could be applied as a complementary treatment for endometriosis-related pain.”
What can you do to help manage endometriosis?
However because of the cascade of lifestyle factors that can lead to endometriosis sometimes this isn’t enough. We need you onboard to make changes to really get the endo beast under control.
Focus on an anti inflammatory diet.
This doesn’t need to be anything strict just good quality real food. Stay away from processed, sugary foods, and increase good quality fats like olive oil and foods high in omega’s such as wild salmon. Supplements to consider to help with inflammation include turmeric and Omega’s
Eat cruciferous vegetables daily.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, bok choy and collard greens, contain indol-3-carbinol which help support the liver’s detoxification of estrogens. They increase efficient estrogen metabolism, preventing estrogens from building-up in the body and reducing free-radical production.
If you have a hard time consuming theses vegetables daily a supplement to consider is DIM. DIM is Diindolylmethane, it is the parent chemical of indol-3-carbinol and is obtained from cruciferous vegetables.
Eat foods rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C has a three fold effect on helping with endometriosis. Endometriosis has a huge inflammatory component and vitamin C is a power antioxidant which helps reduce inflammation in your body. Endometriosis is thought to have an autoimmune component, meaning the immune system is overreacting and ends up attacking itself.
Lastly Vitamin C boosts progesterone, helping balance out estrogen dominance that is associated with endometriosis!In a randomized trial, women were randomly assigned to receive either vitamin C or a placebo. Within three menstrual cycles, the group receiving vitamin C saw progesterone levels increase on average from 8 to 13 ng/mL.
The changes were seen with a dose of 750mg of Vitamin C daily.
Foods highest in vitamin C include: bell peppers, parsley, thyme, oranges, strawberies, broccolli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts.
Supplement with B Vitamins
B vitamins are particularly important for endometriosis sufferers they are needed by the liver to convert excess estrogen into weaker and less dangerous forms.
B6 is especially important an can be taken as an additional supplement on its own. B6 helps development of the corpus luteum which stimulates adequate progesterone levels helping with estrogen dominance. B6 also acts as a natural diuretic helping to alleviate bloating and improves immune function.
Supplement with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).
After one 3-month study period, endometriotic cysts were slightly reduced in size among women who took NAC, while a significant increase in cyst size was observed in the women who received no treatment. The researchers noted their findings for the efficacy of NAC were better than those reported after hormonal treatment of endometriosis.
Avoid BPA and Parabens
BPA (bisphenol A) acts like estrogen in your body, so make sure your food and beverage containers are BPA-free. Glass is often the safest choice. BPA is in the lining of most cans and on receipts so try to avoid canned foods and wash your hands after handling receipts.
Parabens are another estrogenic chemical. It is found in many personal care products like shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. Try switching to natural healthcare products that are labelled paraben free.
Use castor oil packs
Castor oil has been found to help address congestion in the pelvic floor. It increases blood flow and circulation to the uterus and ovaries and can help soften scar tissue, reduce period cramping and help with endometriosis pain. Apply the pack to the lower abdomen between your pubic bone and your belly button, cover it with a plastic bag, followed by a hot water bottle and then a towel to hold it all there and leave for up to 90 minutes. Castor oil packs should be used in the days between menstruation and ovulation.