Treating Endometriosis

by Linda Woolven

It is estimated that as many as fifteen percent of North American women suffer from endometriosis and, yet, many of them are often told by conventional doctors that there is nothing that can be done to help them deal with the extreme pain and infertility that can sometimes result from endometriosis. Fortunately, many women learn to help themselves through diet, herbs, vitamins and minerals and other supplements, exercise, hot sitz baths, and avoidance of chemicals.

The symptoms of endometriosis are: pain, irregular periods and sometimes very heavy periods, bleeding between periods, intestinal discomfort, backache, nausea, vomiting, painful intercourse, painful bowel movements and urination, tissue shreds and blood clumps in the menses and even infertility. While not every woman may experience all or even any of the symptoms, endometriosis can become an extremely painful and frustrating illness to cope with, especially if women do not look to alternatives other than surgery, which is often recommended and often does little to alleviate the problem satisfactorily and permanently.

Endometriosis is a hyperestrogenic disease (which occurs when estrogen is overproduced). Tissue that should normally line the inside of the uterus grows outside in areas where it should not be, such as: the pelvic region, the tubes and ovaries, the bowels, the bladder, the outside of the uterus and even in faraway place like the brain, nasal passages and the lungs. While no one knows for sure exactly what causes endometriosis there are many theories. Some believe that endometriosis is caused by chemicals and environmental toxins; or a back flow of menstruation which carries with it the endometrial tissue and deposits it in places that it should not be; hormones in meat and dairy, which raise estrogen levels; genetics; a bad diet that is too high in animal protein and fat; candida (an overgrowth of yeast, which can lead to food allergies, poor health and environmental sensitivities), and even that it is an auto immune disorder. Treatment consists of a proper diet, and for some this may mean a candida diet, avoiding chemicals, controlling hormone levels and supporting the liver, since the liver breaks down raw estrogen, or estradiol, into estriol, which does not cause the excessive production of endometrial tissue that estradiol does, and detoxifies the body.

It is important to avoid foods that are high in estrogen, like wheat and herbs that increase estrogen without balancing it, as an increase in estrogen can further aggravate the problem. Also avoid caffeine, as caffeine can increase prostaglandins, which can cause inflammation and pain that may aggravate endometriosis. Avoid a diet that is high in animal fat, since animal fat and protein can be hard on the liver and is often full of hormones which may aggravate the problem. Eat a vegetarian diet that is high in raw fruits and vegetables, high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals. For many women switching to a vegetarian diet alleviates the symptoms. Other items to avoid include alcohol, as it is hard on the liver and can cause the candida yeast to overgrow, and refined foods.

To help support the liver you can include foods like dandelion leaves and root, either in your salad or in a juice; beets, as a juice or as it is; chicory and endive and other bitters, as bitters stimulate the liver. A great juice to try is: 4 large carrots, which are rich in beta carotene and will help with tissue repair; 2 beets, to help detoxify the liver; a bunch of dandelion leaves; parsley, which is rich in vitamins and minerals and garlic since it is anti-candida and, as a high sulphur food, improves liver function. You may also like to add 1 tsp of spirulina, kelp or other green to your juice, as greens are rich in vitamins and minerals. Try to consume foods high in B vitamins, as B vitamins help to balance the hormones and are necessary for normal tissue growth. Foods that are high in B vitamins include: whole grains, dark leafy greens and legumes. And if you have candida, you should avoid yeast, dairy, alcohol, sugar, wheat and any food allergy that you may have, as well as using acidophilus to replace the friendly flora that will help to keep the candida in check.

To help break down estrogen, heal scar tissue and normalize hormones in the body, try taking vitamin E, at least 400 I.U. a day and working your way up to 1000 I.U.. Other items to try are antioxidants like beta carotene, vitamin E, C and selenium, all of which will help to heal and prevent scar tissue. B vitamins are also important to help balance hormones and for normal tissue growth. If you are bleeding in between periods or are suffering from heavy periods, you may need to take an iron supplement to replace the iron you have lost and to prevent anemia and low energy. To keep estrogen levels in check try taking iodine which can be found in foods like kelp. Many people are iodine deficient since much of our food is grown in poor soil and most people are cutting down on table salt, which is rich in iodine. Kelp will also help women who experience breast tenderness before their periods, help to regulate a sluggish metabolism and is rich in many minerals. Visit your local health food store for high quality natural source vitamins and minerals.

Other supplements to consider are evening primrose oil, or black currant oil, which are rich in G.L.A. and also help to inhibit chemicals in the body, reduce inflammation and regulate prostaglandins.

Evening primrose oil should help to normalize your hormone levels. You may also want to try progesterone cream to help balance estrogen levels. The cream is applied externally and is available through most health food stores. And try a green product like spirulina which contains just about every vitamin and mineral including B vitamins, iron, antioxidants and G.L.A. A green product will help to provide the nutrients necessary to keep your immune system strong.

A number of herbs and other supplements may help to control or even cure endometriosis, such as: chaste berry, which helps to normalize estrogen levels and increase progesterone; dong quay, to help regulate hormones and relieve cramping (but it should not be used in cases of heavy bleeding, without the guidance of a trained healer); red raspberry, to control frequent or excessive menstrual bleeding, to tone up the uterus and relieve cramps; pau d'arco to slow and inhibit tumors and irregular cell growth and to help wipe out the candida yeast; shiitake mushrooms, either as an extract or consumed as a part of the diet, to help stop abnormal cell growth and strengthen the immune system; and echinacea, to strengthen the immune system and decrease inflammation.

To help support the liver, which will help to break down estrogen, it is important to detoxify and rebuild liver tissue. Try milk thistle, which detoxifies and repairs liver damage; boldo leaves, artichoke hearts, dandelion, tumeric and oregon grape root, all of which will help to detoxify and strengthen the liver; and choline and inositol, which improve liver function and help to break down estrogen. You may also try using castor oil. Spread it onto the abdomen in the front and the back, covering the liver area, and cover with a hot towel. Leave on for at least half an hour to help the detoxify the liver.

Or try soaking in a hot sitz bath, which is done by submerging your buttocks and abdomen alternately in very hot water for a few minutes and then very cold water for a few minutes five to six times, several times a week. This bath will bring fresh blood into the abdomen and help with healing.

Avoid stress. Exercise is also important and may help to relieve some of the pain, as it will help the body stay strong and help it to function properly.

Also try to avoid chemicals, especially in toilet paper, tampons and pads. Many of the well known tampons and pads have been bleached, which could aggravate endometriosis, but there are bleach free alternatives available at health food stores. And try to choose underwear that is made of unbleached natural cotton and to avoid using chemicals on your lawns, gardens and in your home. Choose natural cleaning products from health food stores instead.

And by all means pick up books like Herbal Healing for Women, by Rosemary Gladstar, and Over-coming Endometriosis, available at health food stores.

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