Endometriosis

a woman, in bed, in pain

Endometriosis is a chronic, painful condition in which endometrial (uterine) tissue somehow migrates outside the uterus and scatters throughout the pelvic area, attaching to the ovaries, bladder wall, intestines, and membranes in the abdomen. Though the exact cause is unknown, it is one of the most painful afflictions a woman can endure. As the condition progresses, cysts (mostly common ovarian cysts) and adhesions form between organs and intraperitoneal tissues.

Text book symptoms include: dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), menorrhagia (abnormally long and heavy menstruation), dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), infertility, severe pelvic pain, ovarian cysts, and other ailments. Sometimes women are misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, bladder infections, PMS or cramps. 

RISKS

Estrogen dominance seems to be the greatest risk in developing endometriosis, although stress and heredity can be a factor. The most concentrated forms of estrogen are birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). These drugs will likely worsen the condition over time. Other “xeno” estrogens (synthetic, man-made) from the environment (lawn and garden chemicals, dioxin, industrial chemicals, pesticides) and estrogenic-hormones that are shot into beef cattle, milk cows, poultry, and eggs in the U.S., are a continuous source of hormones. Finally, lack of a plant-based “phytoestrogen” diet may put a woman at a greater risk.

Sometimes other hormonal drugs such as Danazol and gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH) are sometimes successful in controlling the symptoms of endometriosis, but not without side effects. Birth control pills and other hormonal drugs frequently cause oily skin, acne, decreased breast size, growth of facial hair, weight gain and depression.

What is ‘Estrogen Dominance?’ 

Estrogen dominance is a term coined by Dr. John Lee in his first book on natural progesterone. It described a condition where a woman can have deficient, normal, or excessive estrogen but little or no progesterone to balance its effects in the body. Even a woman with low estrogen can have estrogen-dominance symptoms if she doesn’t have progesterone. The symptoms and conditions associated with estrogen dominance are: sluggish metabolism (weight gain without eating more), PMS, low libido, tiredness and fatigue, hair loss, foggy thinking, cancer, thyroid dysfunction, water retention, irritability, depression and headaches.

What are the causes of ‘Estrogen Dominance?’ 

Unfortunately, the causes of estrogen dominance are prevalent in our society today, not only among women, but also with men and children. The reason that just about every woman is suffering from a little estrogen dominance is because there is so much in the environment. Excess estrogen (from chemicals that mimic estrogen in the human body) come from pesticides, plastics, industrial waste, exhausts, meat, dairy foods, soaps, furniture, carpeting, petroleum products, lawn chemicals, cosmetic products, poultry, and probably worst of all, radiation. Various group sources are:

Diet – Sugars and refined starches, meat, dairy foods, poultry, and lack of green foods (good phytoestrogens.)

Stress – Increased ‘stressors’ in our lives will stress the adrenal glands, affecting cortisol release that negatively affect thyroid function, anovulatory cycles, and the pancreas.

Iatrogenic – due to the intake of drugs including birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy.

Environmental – excess chemical exposure, along with estrogen fed to cattle, steers, and poultry in the U.S. and xenoestrogen (synthetic estrogens) exposure during embryo phase of life.

Other Nutritional Factors – This category includes excessive caloric intake, impaired liver function, and deficiencies that impair the ovaries or mitochondria (energy part of the cell).

Treatment for ‘Estrogen Dominance’ 

From a dietary standpoint, it is always better to eat organic foods whenever possible. Keep in mind that nearly all poultry, beef, eggs, and dairy products in America have excessive and unsafe levels of pesticides and hormones (that mimic estrogen) and antibiotics. Decrease your intake of refined and simple sugars and carbohydrates, including refined starches. Eat a low glycemic diet and one that is primarily alkaline in pH (see pH balance). Eat high fiber foods (more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes), add some organic soy into the diet, along with healthy unsaturated fats (flaxseed and other lignans).

Exercise on a regular basis, especially add more “stress management” exercises including yoga, Tai Chi, Curves, prayer, or a walk in nature. Supplementing with magnesium, B complex, phytoestrogens, and additional antioxidants (alpha lipoic acid, vitamins C, E, A, CoQ10, green tea) are very beneficial. Also milk thistle, Vitex, and progesterone cream can be utilized for estrogen dominance treatment. See a qualified health care practitioner.

DIET

Diet is thought to play a major role in the different ways in which women experience peri- and menopausal symptoms. A low-fat, more vegetarian diet (containing no more than 20-25 grams of “bad” fats–trans fats and hydrogenated fats) is ideal for women with endometriosis. It has been proven that women from Asia (who eat more soy and plant estrogens), rarely experience this affliction. Other dietary recommendations include:

  • Eat a diet adequate in proteins (less animal protein, more soy and whey protein), complex carbohydrates and legumes. Cruciferous vegetables help to remove xenoestrogens from the body. 
  • Incorporate essential fatty acids into the diet. 
  • Eat organic produce, fruit, nuts and “free-range” poultry whenever possible.
    organic food
  • Add more dietary fiber. Remember, fiber only exists in plant foods.
  • Eliminate or greatly reduce refined and simple sugars, caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol, all of which will increase the excretion of calcium and magnesium from the body. Decrease the intake of dairy foods and red meat, both of which are inflammatory foods. 

SUPPLEMENT PROTOCOL

  1. PROGESTERONE CREAM
    When applied topically, natural progesterone cream can reverse some of the symptoms of “estrogen dominance” that are associated with endometriosis. Dosage: 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon applied 12-27 days a month, depending on age and health status of the woman. See a qualified health care professional. 
  2. CASTE TREE BERRY (VITEX AGNUS CASTUS)
    This herb can help regulate heavy bleeding and may relieve pain associated with endometriosis. Chaste tree berry also works on the pituitary to help prevent the over-production of estrogen by the ovaries. Vitex enhances progesterone thereby inhibiting high levels of estrogen. Dosage: as directed on package. 
  3. POTENT MULTI-VITAMIN/MINERAL FORMULA    A basic foundation for good health, a potent balance of minerals and vitamins lends toward decreasing the effects of this affliction. Adding green nutrients can provide additional protection. 
  4. SOY SUPPLEMENTS
    It has been shown that eating a more vegetarian diet, including organic soy, which contains more phytoestrogens will actually help the problem. Soy products are high in two estrogen-like plant compounds, genistein and daidzein. Both of these phytoestrogens prevent a woman’s body from taking up the more harmful forms of estrogen circulating in the body (xenoestrogens). Soy supplements can also be utilized if they are not attained in foods. Dosage: 500-2,000 mg daily. 
  5. BLACK COHOSH
    Although customarily taken for menopausal symptoms, this versatile herb may also help relieve pain associated with PMS and endometriosis. Dosage: 25-150 mg daily for at least 3-6 months. 
  6. OMEGA 3, 6 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
    Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids may help relieve some of the pain and inflammation associated with the affliction. FLAXSEED contains generous amounts of compounds called lignans, which help to control endometrial (and possibly breast) cancer. Endometriosis is not the same as endometrial cancer, but both involve uncontrolled growth of endometrial tissue. Dosage: 1,000-4,000 mg daily. 
  7. INDOLE 3 CARBONOL (I3C)
    I3C is found in cruciferous vegetables. Research has shown that indole-3-carbonal helps to remove xenoestrogens and balance the ration of good to bad estrogen in the body. Dosage: As directed on package or recommended by a qualified practitioner. 
  8. EXTRA ANTIOXIDANTS
    Antioxidants including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, coenzyme Q10, and selenium may be beneficial in decreasing “free radicals.”  They also boost the immune system and help to eliminate a myriad of toxins from the body. Dosage: As directed. 
  9. WILD YAM
    Wild yam can be either applied topically as a cream, or taken as sublingual tablets, to help pelvic decongestion. Dosage: See package instructions. 
  10. CURCUMIN  (TUMERIC)
    Curcumin is the yellow pigment of tumeric. Tumeric has powerful anti-inflammatory action. It also works to inhibit all stages of abnormal cell formation (with is a hallmark symptom of endometriosis). Dosage: 500-2,000 mg daily. 
  11. WHITE WILLOW BARK (SALIX ALBA ) 
    This herb can be highly effective in reducing pain associated with endometrisosis. Dosage: As directed on label. 
  12. MILK THISTLE
    This liver-cleansing herb will help cleanse toxins (including excess estrogens) from the liver more readily. Dosage: 1-3 capsules daily. Also available as a tincture.
  13. ROSEMARY EXTRACT
    A potent antioxidant that inhibits abnormal cell growth, and also helps to detoxify carcinogenic estrogens. Dosage: As directed on package. 
  14. INOSITOL
    Inositol helps the body balance the hormones by converting estradiol to a weaker, more innocuous estrogen, estriol. May need to continue supplementation for 3-6 months. Dosage: 1,000-1,500 mg daily. 
  15. ST JOHN’S WORT
    This herb induces relaxation and reduces depression that may contribute to the severity of the affliction. Dosage: 300 mg 1-3 times a day. 
  16. METHIONINE and CHOLINE
    These amino acids help to support the liver, and may aid in detoxifying the body of toxins. Dosage: Methionine 500-1,000 mg daily; Choline 1,000-1,500 mg daily. 

Adatya, T, Endometriosis: The Good News. Alive #212, June 2000.  P. 26.

Duke, JA. The Green Pharmacy. 1997. Rodale Press. Emmaus, PA.

Lee, JR, Hanley, J. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause, Warner Books, New York, NY. 1999

Lieberman, S. Nutritional Hotline. Better Nutrition, August 1999. P. 12.

Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers, S. Woodstock, CT. 1996.

Rogers, C, Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Endometriosis. The European Journal of Herbal Medicine. 4(1): 33-39.

Vanderhaeghe, L. Pain, Infertility, Hormone Problems? It could be Endometriosis. Alive #263, September, 2004. Pp 76-81.

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