What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful condition in which endometrial tissue, which lines the uterus, can appear in the pelvic cavity and elsewhere in the body where it doesn’t belong. Endometriosis is one of the most frequent diseases in gyneacology, affecting 15-20% of women in their reproductive life, contributing to 5% cases of infertility. Scientists do not know exactly how the tissue ends up where it doesn’t belong but there are a number of theories which I mention below.
Regardless of where it is located this endometrial tissue will behave in the same way as the uterus lining by responding to monthly cycling of hormones and bleeds during menstruation. In the case of Endometriosis, because the shed endometrial tissue and blood in other parts of the body can not leave the body through the vagina as the menstrual blood can, it forms scar tissue and painful adhesions. Endometrial growths are most commonly found in the pelvic cavity and can grow on ovaries, pelvic ligaments, tubes, bowel and bladder.
There are a few theories as to how the tissue manages to migrate. Some suggesting retrograde flow of menstrual blood and seeding or attaching to other tissues, while others suggest endometrial cells being laid down in the wrong places during the embryologic development of the foetus. This theory emerged as it could not be explained how endometrial tissue reached the brain though the retrograde flow of menstrual blood? Many women experience retrograde flow into the abdominal cavity via the fallopian tubes, but this is usually picked up by the immune system and cleaned up by macrophages. Yet another theory suggests that endometrial growths start from stem cells and are caused by a combination of factors. Endometriosis can cause heavy and painful periods, abnormal bleeding and infertility.
As endometriosis has been associated with the presence of auto-antibodies and the presence of other autoimmune diseases, scientists are now suggesting that endometriosis is an autoimmune disease.
Although genetic predisposition, environmental factors and altered immune and endocrine function are believed to play a significant role in endometriosis, the true cause still remains unclear.
How does endometriosis lead to infertility?
If the endometrial tissue grows within the fallopian tubes it can block them. Due to inflammation there are a high number of macrophages in the area which can destroy the sperm and interfere with implantation. Ovulation may or may not occur, and even if it does occur there may not be enough progesterone to support the implantation. The risk of ectopic pregnancy is higher than usual. Anti-endometrial antibodies may be responsible for the high incidence of miscarriages and poor implantation often associated with this condition.
Here are 8 ways you can treat endometriosis – naturally
Endometriosis is viewed as an estrogen dependent condition and the endometrial implants have been shown to reduce in size when estrogen levels in the body normalize or drop. Studies have found that inflammation resulting from bleeding of the endometrial implants each month actually increases estrogen activity. Another contributing factor is low progesterone which can lead to anovulatory cycles.
1. Eat organically grown food and avoid exposure to commercial insect repellents. Studies have found that exposure to chlorinated hydrocarbons (e.g., DDT, PCB, pentachlorophenol, hexachlorocyclohexane) has been associated with an increase in rates of miscarriage and endometriosis.
2. Avoid soft plastics. This includes drinking out of plastic water bottles, storing your food in plastic food wrappers, wearing surgical gloves, buying products in food wrap and touching printing ink with your hands. What do all these have in common? They contain Phthalates and PVC. Known endocrine disruptors and estrogen mimickers, linked to asthma, negative developmental and birth defects, immune system dysfunction, endometriosis and infertility.
3. Reduce your intake of animal products. The first line of natural treatment for endometriosis is to minimize intake of animal products due to the high content of hormones, pesticides and herbicides which are known endocrine disruptors.
4. Eat bitter foods to support clearance of estrogen via the liver. They are grapefruit, lemons, limes, rocket, endive, romaine lettuce, artichokes. To the same end drink dandelion and St. Mary’s thistle tea.
5. Avoid allergens and take immune system supplements. As you’ve seen the immune system plays a role in endometriosis. As such you want to make sure you provide your immune system with all the key elements required for optimal function. They are vitamin C, vitamin E, betacarotene, zinc and selenium and probiotics. In addition have an IgG 90 foods intolerance test. This will show you what foods you are intolerant to. These need to be avoided to help balance the immune system.
6. Exercise regularly to improve circulation, toxin and waste removal. Exercise also boosts your metabolism (which is good for your endocrine function) and immune system. Both of which are crucial in treatment of endometriosis.
7. Include foods that promote circulation and waste removal. The following foods and spices promote circulation and waste removal cayenne, basil, chives, eggplant, garlic, ginger, kohlrabi, leek, nutmeg, pepper, rice, rosemary, scallion, spearmint, turmeric, cinnamon, lemons, zest of lemon, seaweed.
8. Increase your fibre intake to improve estrogen clearance from your intestines, including: adzuki beans, psylium husks, apples, other legumes, nuts and seeds.
9. Take a high quality fish oil (make sure the one you choose is tested for mercury and stabilized with vitamin E (to protect it from oxidation)). Fish oil reduces inflammation associated with endometriosis, minimizing associated pain and improving the odds of healthy implantation. I recommend Krill oil (the plankton whales and other fish eat) as it’s less likely to be contaminated. Ideally you want to have 1000mg three times a day with food. Store it in the fridge. To see which supplement I recommend go to the site below.
10. Take an iodine supplement there is an established link between hypothyroidism and endometriosis and so taking an iodine supplement can correct underactive thyroid function.