The Naturopathic Approach to Endometriosis
By Joanne Aponte, ND • October 29, 2018
Any woman with endometriosis knows how this disease can negatively impact quality of life. Pain associated with endometriosis can be debilitating. And this condition can greatly reduce chances of achieving pregnancy.
The cause of endometriosis is not completely understood. Predisposition may be genetic or acquired when in utero. There is some research that shows that endometriosis is driven by an overactive immune system.
The key thing to realize is that endometriosis is not just a disease of the uterus or the hormones. It is a condition that can affects the whole body as a system and needs a whole-body approach.
There are many pieces to the endometriosis puzzle. Much is going on that allows the endometrial tissue to grow in places where it does not belong. I have found this below approach to greatly improve quality of life, reduce pain and improve chances of achieving pregnancy. Although there is no cure for endometriosis and surgeries may still be needed, this approach can reduce the severity of the disease and reduce the frequency and need for surgeries.
I address the following key areas:
Balance the hormones:
Endometriosis is driven by estrogens in the body. The goal is to keep the body’s estrogen balance optimal. I often test for specific hormone imbalances using a saliva test. A natural compound called DIM is helpful to help clear and reduce excess estrogens. In cases where progesterone is low, the herb Vitex helps boost natural progesterone production. Other times a bio-identical progesterone cream is needed. In balancing hormones, it’s also important to address imbalances of the adrenal and thyroid hormones as well. I often include an assessment of all hormones including the thyroid and adrenal hormones in my initial workup.
Chemicals in the environment can lead to a dysfunctional rhythm and metabolism of hormones. PCBs, phthalates, BPA, Dioxins and heavy metals are known to be problematic. Some of these act as xenoestrogens (estrogen like compounds that contribute to estrogen induced proliferation of endometrial tissue). These substances are ubiquitous in nature and cannot be avoided completely but it is possible to reduce exposure and improve the body’s ability to metabolize and eliminate these chemicals. I often recommend a series of 4-week detoxification programs to women as part of their plan. Two simple things that you can do to support detoxification is using N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and doing castor oil packs on a regular basis. Click here to learn more ways to support your body’s detox capabilities.
Balance the immune system, calm inflammation and reduce pain:
Endometrial tissues produce inflammatory chemicals which can lead to increased pain and further growth. It’s a vicious cycle which can be broken with an anti-inflammatory diet, avoidance of foods intolerances and by incorporating anti-inflammatory foods and supplements such as curcumin, ginger, resveratrol and green tea. What’s most interesting is that these substances also have anti-cancer actions. Although endometriosis is not cancer, it does share similar behaviors as cancer. Normally the body has a checks and balance system in place. Cells are constantly being produced and to keep things in balance, cells are also dying. In endometriosis, as in cancer, the uterine cells escape the immune system clearance system and continue to multiply unchecked. Resveratrol, curcumin and green tea have been shown in studies to inhibit the biochemical pathways that allow cells to multiply in excess.
Improve digestive health:
Endometriosis in part may be driven by an overactive immune system. Since 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, starting here to balance the immune system can lead to more immune balance throughout the whole body. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, avoiding individual food intolerances and addressing imbalances of the bacteria residing in the gut may be a major piece of the puzzle for some women. In women with endometriosis who also have a lot of digestive complaints, I will often focus more on this aspect. Also, some women may be having digestive symptoms as a result of endometrial tissue adhering to the GI tract. In these cases, I focus on therapies that decrease digestive discomfort and that promote better functioning of the digestive tract.
Reduce Stress and promote Mind-Body Wellness
We all know that too much stress is bad for us and endometriosis is no exception. Stress enhances production of pro-inflammatory cytokines which increase pain. Practices such as yoga, deep breathing and exercise all reduce pain by reducing inflammatory chemicals and promoting better blood circulation in the pelvis. We often over look this mind-body connection and often times it’s one of the most important pieces to address!
This approach will take time, it is no quick fix, but do know that you have other options other than birth control pills, pain medications and surgery. A life with less pain and discomfort is possible!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.