Endometriosis is a painful condition in which uterine tissue from the uterus attaches itself to other organs. The uterine tissue may appear in the fallopian tubes or the ovaries, or it may implant itself on the outer walls of the uterus itself. In rare cases, the tissue travels outside the pelvic region and appears in organs like the bladder, the lungs, and other areas.
These masses of tissue can be painful, in and of themselves, but to make matters worse, they continue to behave as if they're inside the uterus. They continue to fill up with blood over the course of the menstrual cycle, and every month, they shed blood just as the uterus does. Unlike normal menstrual blood, which leaves the body through the vagina, the blood from the abnormal growth has nowhere to go. Instead, it accumulates inside the pelvic cavity, where it often forms cysts. As menstrual cycles repeat themselves and the tissue continues to bleed each month, the cysts may grow so large that they bind organs together. Sometimes a cyst ruptures and leads to agonizing pain. Two out of three women have endometrial growth on the ovaries.
Pain in the pelvis and the lower back is the defining characteristic of endometriosis. The pain usually varies with the menstrual cycle and is at its worst during ovulation, menstruation, or sexual intercourse; sometimes it is so intense as to be incapacitating. A woman with endometriosis may experience heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, and this loss of blood can lead to anemia. Digestive problems are common in cases of endometriosis, as is nausea and vomiting. There is a strong connection between endometriosis and infertility, although it is unknown whether the excess tissue actually prevents conception, or if infertility somehow creates conditions hospitable to endometriosis.
No one knows for sure what causes endometrial tissue to leave the uterus and travel to other parts of the body. One prevailing theory is that the disorder is caused by retrograde menstruation, in which menstrual fluid fails to exit the body properly. Instead, some of the endometrial linings that is normally shed during menstruation backs up in the fallopian tubes and enters the pelvic cavity, where the tissue deposits itself and begins to grow. It is also possible that endometrial cells travel to the pelvic cavity via the bloodstream of the lymphatic system. Others believe that endometriosis is caused when the body is still an embryo. In a normal fetus, the cells that are meant to form the uterus differentiate themselves from others and begin to travel to the appropriate site. But according to this theory, the endometrial cells of some fetuses don't make the trip and end up in the wrong places. It is also thought that environmental estrogens may be a causative factor. These xenoestrogens are endocrine disrupters that have estrogenic effects in the body. This category of environmental estrogens includes plastics, detergents, household cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, and hormones found in meat products. In addition, studies have shown immune system imbalance to be a factor. Specifically, women with endometriosis have higher levels of antibodies that target their own ovaries and endometrial tissue. They also tend to have lower activity of the natural killer cells that usually keep abnormal cells in check. No matter what the cause, it does appear that all cases of endometriosis are linked to hormonal balance and that elevated estrogen levels are a problem.
It is important that liver function is optimized in women with endometriosis. The liver is responsible for breaking down estrogen (and other hormones) and secreting the metabolites into the large intestine for elimination. If the liver does not metabolize estrogen and its metabolites properly, they are recycled throughout the body.
While the liver is the dominant player in estrogen metabolism, the flora or "friendly bacteria" in the large intestine are also important in estrogen metabolism. They prevent the reactivation and the recycling of these unwanted estrogens. Conversely, "unfriendly bacteria" secrete an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase that causes estrogen to be recycled back through the body via the large intestine. A low-fiber and high-fat intake increase the activity of this enzyme.
While endometriosis is not a simple condition to treat, natural therapies often lead to significant improvement. The complementary treatments described here focus on regulating hormones and balancing the immune system and also suggest ways to provide gentle relief of pain and other symptoms.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch and Mark Stengler
Super Prescription #1 Progesterone Creme - LifeSource Product This balances out estrogen, regulates the menses, and relieves pain. Apply 1/4 teaspoon (20 mg) to your skin twice daily from days 6 to 26 of your cycle (stopping during the week of your menstrual flow). It is best used under the care of a healthcare professional.
Super Prescription # 2 Vitex - Chasteberry - LifeSource Product Vitex balances the estrogen/progesterone ratio. Take 300 mg daily. Do not use Vitex if you are currently taking the birth control pill.
Super Prescription #3 Indole-3 carbinol
Take 300 mg daily. It assists the liver in estrogen detoxification.
Super Prescription #4 Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale)
Take 300 to 500 mg in capsule form or 1 ml of tincture with each meal (three times daily). It improves liver detoxification.
Super Prescription #5 Vitamin E - LifeSource Product Take 400 IU twice daily. It helps with estrogen metabolism and inflammation.
Super Prescription # 6 Omega 3, 6 9 - LifeSource Products - See All of our Omega 3 – Fish Oil Products. Take a daily combination of flaxseed, fish oil, along with gamma linoleic acid (GLA) borage oil, which is Omega 3, 6 & 9.. These essential fatty acids decrease inflammation.
Super Prescription #7 D-glucarate
Take 500 mg daily. This phytochemical assists the liver in estrogen breakdown.
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- Pain in the abdomen and the lower back, associated with menses
- Pain with sexual intercourse
- Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding
- Digestive problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain with urination and bowel movements
- Retrograde menstruation
- Endometrial cells that travel through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system
- A genetic defect
- Hormonal imbalance (relatively high estrogen and low progesterone), due to poor liver function, diet, xenoestrogens, or ovulatory dysfunction
- Imbalanced immune system
- Flora imbalance (dysbiosis)
It is important to eat certified organic foods as much as possible, due to the estrogenic effects of pesticides, herbicides, and hormone-laden meats.
Whole grains, beans, and vegetables should form the basis of your diet. All these foods are high in fiber and will help to balance the friendly bacteria involved with estrogen metabolism.
Eat plenty of cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. These fish are good sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs), substances that reduce inflammation and pain. For additional EFAs, add 2 tablespoons of flax seeds to your daily protocol, along with 10 ounces of water. Flax seeds have been shown to help balance estrogen levels.
Eat fruits and vegetables, such as apples, cherries, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. They contain the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol, which supports the liver's detoxification of estrogen.
Regularly consume beets, carrots, artichokes, dandelion greens, onions, and garlic, as these foods stimulate liver detoxification.
Eat organic cultured yogurt to increase the levels of friendly flora in the large intestine.
Once a day, have a green drink to support detoxification.
Drink a glass of clean water every two to three waking hours to support detoxification.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid red meat and dairy products, all of which contain high levels of dioxins that act as environmental estrogens.
To keep pain under control, stay away from inflammatory substances like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
Don't eat anything that depresses your immune system. Processed foods, fried food, refined sugar, and alcohol all limit your body's ability to fight your disorder.
- Moderate exercise is a natural pain reliever. Try to take a walk every morning, or fine some other activity you like well enough to perform regularly.
- Use sanitary napkins instead of tampons. Tampons may encourage retrograde menstruation.