Treating Endometriosis Naturally: Why Conventional Treatment Doesn't Work
Endometriosis is not purely a hormonal condition – it’s driven by hormones particularly oestrogen but endometriosis is an immune disease marked by high levels of inflammation.
Current evidence is still unclear as to whether endometriosis is an autoimmune disease but regardless of whether it gets termed autoimmune there is without doubt an underlying immune dysfunction.
The successful treatment and management of endometriosis should focus primarily on the immune dysfunction and inflammation with hormonal treatment being second. When the true cause of endometriosis is addressed and treated many women have great success treating their endometriosis naturally. Below I discuss what I believe are the key natural treatments when addressing endometriosis. But let’s first recap on just what endometriosis is…
What is endometriosis
Endometriosis is characterised by the implantation and growth of endometrial-like tissue outside of the uterus. It is referred to as ‘endometrial-like’ tissue as it is similar but not the same as the endometrium. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus which grows and sheds each month in response to your hormones. Endometriosis tissue contains hormone producing enzymes and hormone receptors that respond differently to hormones and inflammatory molecules when compared to the endometrium. Overtime this endometrial-like tissue can develop scarring, adhesions, endometriomas and cause dysfunction to the organs they are attached to (including the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, intestines and even the lungs).
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age with the most common symptoms being:
chronic lower abdominal pain
pain during sex
bowel or urinary pain or dysfunction
boating, nausea or vomiting
allergies, migraines or fatigue that worsens around period
You would think something so common would be easy to diagnose. WRONG! Sadly, it can take women years to get the correct diagnosis, on average 10 years. Endometriosis cannot be diagnosed by symptoms alone nor are there any diagnostic blood tests. The only way to diagnose endometriosis is by laparoscopic surgery.
ultrasound cannot diagnose endometriosis
Although there is no cure for endometriosis, natural medicine holds the key to reducing pain, improving quality of life and restoring fertility, without the side effects of conventional medicine.
There are so many elements of endometriosis; immune, inflammation, gut health, oestrogen dominance, therefore it is important that all aspects are addressed when treating endometriosis. Just focusing on the hormonal imbalance, which is commonly how it is treated, will not provide you with the results you are after. The focus of endometriosis treatment should include:
Reduce Inflammation: Should be the first aim of any treatment plan! As endometriosis is an inflammatory condition reducing inflammation is key. Avoid inflammatory foods (sugar, gluten, dairy, refined and processed foods) and increase anti-inflammatory rich foods (salmon, sardines, walnuts, garlic, turmeric and ginger).
Balance Immune System: With new research linking endometriosis to an autoimmune disease it is important to address immune issues and possible autoimmunity. Avoiding gluten is the first step to rebalancing the immune system. Also consider eating more salmon, sardines, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts and garlic.
Reduce Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s): Research shows that exposure to EDC’s including phthalates, BPA and dioxins is associated with an increase in endometriosis diagnosis. They also act like oestrogens within the body further fueling endometriosis. Avoiding them is essential. Read Are Plastics Affecting your Fertility? for top 10 tips on avoiding BPA.
Reduce Pain: Specifically treating pain in addition to reducing inflammation is important for improving quality of life. Herbal medicine along with acupuncture, an anti inflammatory diet and castor oil packs are all beneficial.
Support Hormonal Balance: Endometrial tissue contain a high ratio of oestrogen receptors when compared to the endometrium. And is often associated with oestrogen excess further driving the inflammation and immune disruption. For tips on how to reduce oestrogen excess read 9 Signs You’re Struggling with Oestrogen Excess and How to Fix It.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC): is a natural anti-inflammatory that has shown to reduce the diameter and volume of endometriomas and reduce endometriosis associated pain. In a recent study 24 of the 47 women in the NAC treatment group cancelled their laparoscopy due to a decrease in size of endometrioma, decrease in pain or pregnancy. The study concluded that NAC treatment of endometriosis was an effective treatment without the side effects of hormonal treatment and safe for women trying to get pregnant.
Curcumin: Curcumin is the active constituent of turmeric and is well known for its anti-inflammatory effects. In the treatment of endometriosis, it doesn’t just reduce the inflammation but also suppresses the growth of endometrial cells by reducing the growth promoting effects of oestrogen.
Bromelain, Lipoic Acid & NAC: A clinical trial looked at the role of a supplement containing bromelain, lipoic acid and NAC and its effect on endometriosis pain. The 398 women in the treatment group experienced significant improvement in endometriosis associated pain and required a lower intake of pain medication. The combination was safe and effective for long term use and use by women with endometriosis wishing to become pregnant.
Pycnogenol: Is an antioxidant plant extract from pine bark. A recent study compared pycnogenol to hormonal treatment in the treatment of endometriosis and found that pycnogenol significantly reduced symptoms of endometriosis by 33% from severe to moderate. When compared to hormonal treatments pycnogenol provides a safe and effective long term treatment of endometriosis.
Have you successfully treated your endometriosis naturally? Comment below and share what has helped you.