Endometriosis is one of the most common infertility issues in women. So how come it is so difficult to treat? Perhaps it is the way that most practitioners look at the issue; they are not getting to the root cause. Many health practitioners look at endometriosis as just a hormone imbalance- and sure it looks that way. However, evidence is pointing to the true cause of endometriosis as being immune related in nature.
So like most chronic immune illnesses, you start with gut health. By improving your gut health and changing your diet you will see decreased symptoms and inflammatory markers… and the possibility of eliminating the infertility and immune issue altogether.
Yes, this is possibly news to you that endometriosis is not just a hormone related issue like PMS can be. The most recent research on endometriosis fulfills most autoimmune related illness criteria such as blood markers for tissue specific autoantibodies and inflammatory cytokines. Because there is not a specific endometriosis auto antibody test (…yet), your doctor may have told you that endometriosis is a permanent condition which they know very little about alleviating. The popular treatment is laparoscopic surgery followed by hormonal suppression using birth control pills and other prescription drugs. This practice includes a higher chance of reoccurrence of endometriosis as well as the still existing infertility issue. However, natural immune- modulating and anti-inflammatory treatments are showing better results. And since it is common for endometriosis to occur with other diagnosed autoimmune conditions, natural treatments further improve the individual woman’s overall health.
As more and more natural remedies are used to treat endometriosis and its symptoms, outcomes are pointing to evidence that endometriosis is rooted in gut dysbiosis- which leads to an over active autoimmune response. Pair this with the liver inefficiently detoxifying and metabolizing components in blood, specifically estrogen, a case of endometriosis can result. These things can cause an endocrine imbalance; an overproduction of the hormone estrogen and the inability of the body to break this down (estrogen is metabolized in the liver).
In any chronic condition, food therapy is the first place to start. Food will change the function of your body and more specifically increase the health of your gut. Food is the most powerful tool you can use in successfully changing your current health situation. Other proven natural treatments to utilize in helping to treat and heal your endometriosis is herbs and supplements, acupuncture, and exercise.
Starting with food: you are not what you eat, you are what you absorb. To decrease your symptoms of endometriosis, you will need to reduce inflammation and inflammatory cytokine activity which will modulate an overactive immune response. This will require a nutrient dense, whole food diet. For this, gut integrity is essential. If your digestive tract is not working well and you are not able to properly absorb nutrients, you will experience fatigue, frequent bloating, acid reflux, inconsistent bowel movements, or abdominal pain after eating. If this is common for you, then your gut needs repair. Ask for help in healing your gut. Those with autoimmune disorders will tell you that with improved gut function, autoantibodies and autoimmune symptoms decrease; thereby decreasing your endometriosis symptoms.
Food choices will not only improve your gut health and reduce your negative health symptoms, changing your food choices should also improve your blood sugar. Blood sugar regulation is essential in resetting and balancing hormones. This will decrease the estrogen load on the liver and will increase the efficiency of the liver’s detoxification of excess estrogen from the blood stream.
So what foods should you concentrate on?
Squashes, root vegetables, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, fermented and cultured foods and other fiber filled foods will help to eliminate excess hormones from your body. Think butternut squash, beets, artichokes, broccoli, carrots, sauerkraut, lemons and berries!
Healthy fats make hormones. Part of balancing hormones is to ensure that you can make new hormones in healthy amounts. Healthy fats include coconut- oil, meat (grass fed, organic), or milk (organic), as well as olive oil and olives, avocado, some nuts and seeds, and oil from fish and animal sources.
Clean protein sources (hormone, pesticide and preservative free) such as grass fed beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, some pork (this may be skipped if source is unknown), and seafood. Legumes can be a great source of protein and fiber, however if they are not easily digested they could be adding to gut issues instead of assisting in the repair process.
Foods to decrease and avoid: soy, dairy, most grains- especially wheat and corn, caffeine, and alcohol.
Herbs and supplements that can assist in immune regulation and hormone balancing include:
- Probiotics to help in gut repair- certain forms are better than others
- Milk thistle and dandelion- assist the liver in detoxification (can be taken as teas)
- Turmeric- to help aid in inflammatory reactions
- B- complex vitamins- from food based supplements only
- Vitamin D- (it’s a hormone!)- try to get naturally from a little sunlight (plus you get fresh air!); otherwise look into different sources from food based supplements
Some other herbs that are common are listed below, but since every women’s immune response can be from a different source these would be used in trial and era:
- Evening Primrose Oil- helpful in inflammatory reactions and can inhibit tumor growth if that is relevant
- Vitex or chaste tree- can help to balance excess estrogen production
Exercise is important to help pump blood through the liver. Now that your diet will improve, your liver function should also improve its efficiency of removing excess estrogen and other toxins from the blood. However, when it comes to exercise, be sure that it is not further exhausting and stressing the body. Until you see your body function changing in a positive direction, exercise should include yoga, swimming, bike riding and walking. Once you notice more energy, more restful sleep, better digestion, and other positive health markers then you can include more intense workouts. Read about Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine’s success in treating endometriosis. Call us to schedule a free consultation with one of our holistic practitioners and learn how we can help you
Amy Carlson is a Holistic Nutritionist who practices a whole-foods based approach in helping the body to heal and thrive. She has a strong interest in sharing what she has learned so that everyone has the opportunity to live in a healthy body. “Each body has the ability to heal if it is given what it needs and the understanding of why it is hurting is discovered and nurtured as well.” Learn more about her approach to wellness by visiting her website.