A great article from Dr. Aviva on working with Endometriosis and a natural approach to healing. Enjoy.
A Natural Approach to Managing Endometriosis
As a natural doctor focused on women’s health, my approach is to address the root causes of a condition. In this case, to calm inflammation, support natural detoxification, and bring hormones into healthy balance so there isn’t excess triggering of the endometrial tissue to grow, as happens with estrogen dominance. Natural pain relief is also important in order to avoid regular use of potentially harmful medications.
In my approach, diet, appropriate herbs, and supplements are the primary methods of managing endometriosis.
My plan involves four steps. I recommend taking on one new step every five days, and then staying on the plan for about six to 12 months. Keep a record of how you’re feeling on a 1 to 10 scale, especially during the times where your pain is usually the worst. This will help you understand if your symptoms are improving.
One thing to note: The herbs and supplements mentioned should not be taken during pregnancy, but can be taken up until conception. They can be taken safely if you’re breastfeeding.
Step 1: Avoid Triggers
- Remove environmental triggers: Numerous environmental toxins in our food, food packaging, air, water, and homes can increase our hormone burden, cause inflammation, and also have the capacity to cause our immune cells to malfunction. Do your best to avoid foods that come into contact with plastic. Go organic with your foods to the best of your ability, and use clean and green products for cosmetics and household cleaners. When possible, avoid flame-retardant treated fabrics. My favorite source for all things green is the Environmental Working Group.
- Remove dietary triggers: In terms of diet, the main triggers of inflammation are dairy products, gluten-containing products, all corn, and sugar. Coffee can be a problem for some women with endometriosis. Plan to remove all food triggers for at least three months and observe for major improvements in pain, as well as “relapses.”
Step 2: Detoxify and Reduce Inflammation
- Eat a low-inflammatory diet: A plant-based, Mediterranean style diet rich in leafy greens and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, with minimal red meat, and small amounts of poultry and fish helps to reduce inflammation. All meat should be organic to avoid chemicals used in meat production.
- Load up on greens: Include up to a pound of combined fresh vegetables, especially leafy greens (kale, collards, broccoli, Brussels’s sprouts) and fresh fruits (especially berries) every day.
- Consider supplements to support detox: I recommend taking the following combination of detox and anti-inflammatory support supplements daily for a minimum of six months:
Step 3: Balance Hormones
- Fill up on fiber: When estrogen is running wild, it not only can increase the size and number of the endometrial tissue, but certain forms of it also contribute to inflammation. Getting enough fiber (at least 25 grams per day) and having a daily bowel movement are essential for reducing inflammation, overall body toxin load, and eliminating excess estrogen.
- Consider supplements: I recommend taking one to two tablespoons of freshly ground flax seed daily in a smoothie, or mixed into food, to support elimination of excess estrogen. If constipation is a problem, consider 600 mg of magnesium citrate before bed each night to ensure a healthy movement the next morning.
Step 4: Soothe and Heal
- Focus on antioxidants: Antioxidants can prevent and reverse local tissue damage from inflammation. Some of the best antioxidants come from foods high in vitamins E, A, and C. You can also supplement by taking a daily multivitamin. Here are some of the antioxidant supplements that have been shown to be especially helpful in treating endometriosis:
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC): This is a powerful antioxidant with some impressive data behind it specifically for endometriosis. In a 2013 study of 92 women in Italy, 47 took NAC and 45 took a placebo. Of those who took 600 mg of NAC three times a day, three consecutive days each week for three months, 24 patients cancelled their scheduled laparoscopy due to a decrease or disappearance of endometriosis, improved pain reduction or because they had gotten pregnant! In the other group, only one patient cancelled surgery.
- Pine Bark Extract: In yet another study of an antioxidant herb, this time pycnogenol from pine bark, women taking 30 mg twice daily for 48 weeks showed a 33% reduction in pain, including severe pain, and while the pain reduction was not as strong as hormonal treatment, it actually persisted without relapse, unlike the medication group. Further, five women in the pycnogenol group became pregnant.
- Find natural methods of pain relief:
- Ginger root powder (or the equivalent in extract form): A dose of 500 mg two to four times per day can be helpful in reducing pain.
- Melatonin: One study demonstrated that 10 mg of melatonin per day significantly reduces chronic pelvic pain due to endometriosis, pelvic pain during menstruation and during sex, pain during urination and associated with bowel movements — to the tune of an overall 80% reduction in the need for pain medication. In animal studies, melatonin led to regression and shrinkage of endometriosis tissue. I recommend starting at one to three mg/day, and build up. Preferably take it in the evening, as it can make you feel tired.