Endometriosis is a complex condition. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not entirely a hormone disease, although oestrogen can play a role. Instead, it’s now considered an immune disease that involves the growth of endometrial tissue in areas of the body in addition to the endometrium, such as the bowel and lungs. Endometriosis causes systemic inflammation and pain.
The cause of endometriosis, and factors that make it worse are also complex. Researchers believe that it is a combination of genetic susceptibilities, everyday environmental toxins that we are exposed to and certain bacterial toxins from a past or current urinary tract infection.
Because all the systems of the body are interlinked, it makes sense to take a whole body approach when treating endometriosis. The best option is to work with your GP and a naturopath (nutritional therapist and herbalist) for the right investigations and treatment. However, there are also many helpful interventions you can implement yourself:
- Modulate your immune system – avoid immune-disrupting protein including casein (from milk) and gluten. Consider immune modulating supplements such as antioxidants, zinc, vitamin D3 and herbal medicine.
- Lower inflammation – Add turmeric to your cooking or take a supplement. Research shows that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and can reduce spasms during menstruation. Turmeric also supports the detoxication systems in your body. Studies have found that omega 3 fish oil reduces inflammation in endometriosis when taken in conjunction with a caffeine free and refined sugar free diet.
- Promote friendly gynaecological and digestive flora – Take a broad spectrum probiotic and eat plenty of prebiotic foods such as organic fruit and veg (skin on when appropriate).
- Support healthy metabolism of oestrogen – Increase your consumption of cruciferous vegetables (cooked) as they contain indol-3-carbinol, which helps to break down oestrogens. Also, make a special effort to eat foods high in the nutrients that are involved in the detoxification pathways. These include: B6 (white meat), zinc (seafood), magnesium (dark chocolate), iron (organic grass-fed red meat & dark leafy greens) and molybdenum (legumes & raw nuts).
- Lower your exposure to environmental toxins – xenoestrogens (synthetic chemicals that mimic the oestrogen in the body) can be found in non-natural cosmetic products, cleaning products, plastics and herbicides/ pesticides. It’s recommended that you swap to organic products, which are free from harmful chemicals. Dioxins are particularly dangerous toxins which have been linked to endometriosis. Exposure is mainly through non-organic meat which is why it’s so important to consume organic products if possible.
Endometriosis can present itself as an overwhelming, debilitating disease. However, it’s important to realise that nutrition can make a real difference to managing the disease expression. We have control of what we eat and don’t eat, which is a powerful influencer on how our body works and feels. Seek advice from a naturopath (nutritionist & herbalist) for individualised support and therapeutic supplementation.