• Kim Hood, MD

3 Natural Treatments for Endometriosis

Endometriosis is where the lining inside the uterus somehow gets displaced outside of the uterus, and grows inside the pelvis, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries, causing pain and infertility. It's also been found between the muscle layers of the uterus causing heavy, painful periods, and even been found growing on bowel, brain, liver, and lungs; although, the latter locations is not as common.

As you may know, the lining of the uterus grows throughout the month, and due to natural hormonal shifts, the lining bleeds off, thus creating a period. Endometriosis, where ever it may be growing, does the same. This along with scarring and chronic inflammation is what leads to the pain for sufferers of this disease.

No one really knows what causes endometrial tissue to grow outside the pelvis. There are various theories, leaving doctors perplexed. Treatment strategies can be just as perplexing. Some patients require pain management with a chronic pain specialist. Most gynecologists will do surgery to diagnose and remove the endometriosis, which may or may not help the pain. Surgery has been shown to improve chances of pregnancy, but endometriosis can be microscopic and difficult to see, and therefore, cannot be removed. Recurrence rates of regrowth is very high. Medications, like birth control pills, Lupron, or Orilissa, can be used to suppress the growth of the endometriosis, but this type of treatment is not conducive to pregnancy.

For treatment of endometriosis, it is important to use as many available means as necessary to help with pain or with getting pregnant. You need a multi-medical approach possibly with surgery, suppression, and natural therapies. I have listed 3 natural options that may help you in the fight of this disease. They are as follows:

1. Use vitamins/supplements with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit chemical reactions which produce free radicals that go on to cause cell damage or death in the body. Free radicals and cell damage/death leads to chronic inflammation. Anti-inflammatories reduce that inflammation, thus reducing pain.

Researchers have shown that there is a large immune mediated component to endometriosis. Vitamin D has been found to be concentrated in the uterine lining and influences the immune system within the endometrial tissue. The lower the vitamin D, the more pain the woman will have, the higher the need for analgesic drugs, like ibuprofen or Tylenol. Adding vitamin D appears to alter some of that immune dysfunction and decreases inflammation in the endometriosis implants. When checked the optimal range for vitamin D needs to be 110-120 range. This is also good if trying to achieve pregnancy.

Anti-inflammatory supplements, like turmeric, resveratrol (high in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, dark chocolate), and omegas (high in fish, flax) are also good options to add. Basic dietary levels of vitamin E and C have been shown to reduce pain and need for analgesic use, and the use of ginger and melatonin, which are both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, have been shown also to reduce the need for analgesic use in this disease process.

2. Use natural progesterone.

Women with endometriosis may metabolize hormones differently. For example, the progesterone receptors in the endometrial tissue do not work as well in patients with endometriosis. The lining of the uterus does not mature at an appropriate rate as women without endometriosis. Using progesterone (not progestin) during cycles can improve chances for becoming pregnant and staying pregnant, and it may help with pain. If you want to become pregnant, using suppressive hormonal therapy for 3-6 months prior to attempting pregnancy to dampen the inflammatory environment does seem to improve chances of pregnancy also.

3. Change your some of your diet and lifestyle to minimize toxin exposure.

Women with endometriosis usually eat more saturated fats (high fat dairy, fatty cuts of meat, and processed meats like sausages). They have less polyunsaturated fats (walnuts, salmon, avocado, flax) in their diet. They eat more refined carbohydrates, eat less foods rich in antioxidants (berries, nuts, artichokes, kale, carrots, red cabbage), and drink more alcohol. Thus, they have a higher exposure to environmental toxins and estrogen like compounds, like dioxins. Endometriosis LOVES estrogen.

A word about environmental toxins, we can’t live in a vacuum sealed glass container. However, we can limit our exposure and do our best to help our liver detox us. Diet improves liver detox and going #2 daily, helps get the toxins out of our bodies and to not reabsorb them. Dioxins are produced in high heat situations. Burning leaves in the back yard or putting ceramics in a kiln. It’s also produced in the manufacturing industry. Animal fats can carry it, as well as fruits and vegetables. Eating organic helps, but it’s in our soil. So, you’re not going to eliminate it completely. Chlorine bleach is another source. When bleach mixes with organic materials, dioxin in a byproduct. So, watch paper towels, coffee filters, disposable diapers. Again, this is to just make you smarter but not to have you go insane with worry and paranoia.

Endometriosis is a painful enigma that can be difficult to manage for both the practitioner and patient. There is no cure except a complete hysterectomy; i.e., removal of uterus, tubes, cervix, AND ovaries. Sometimes, this doesn’t always help the pain. Using surgery and suppressive therapies can help, but consider speaking to a physician with experience using natural agents to add to your therapy for improved pain control and/or pregnancy chances.

Disclaimer: Content is used for information and education. While I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This is not intended to be medical advice.

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