Endometriosis: How Naturopathic Medicine Helps
By Georgia Hartmann
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease where there is the presence of endometrial tissue outside of the uterine cavity. Unlike PMS and PCOS, endometriosis is not a hormonal condition. It is an inflammatory condition that is affected by hormones.
10 to 15% of women of reproductive age have endometriosis, of which approximately 80% experience the following symptoms:
- Painful periods
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Painful defecation or constipation
- Constant pelvic pain (even when you are not menstruating)
Endometriosis also affects reproduction, with up to 50% of women with the condition of experiencing infertility .
What Causes Endometriosis?
This is a great question and one that is still unknown. Accumulating evidence suggests that endometriosis is caused by a combination of epigenetic, hormonal, inflammatory and immunological (including autoimmune) factors.
Natural Treatment of Endometriosis
Natural treatment of endometriosis is completely individualised as each woman experiences the condition differently. Nonetheless, it is important to reduce inflammation, improve immune function and optimise hormone levels. Natural treatment of endometriosis is achieved through diet and lifestyle modifications in conjunction with herbal medicine and nutritional supplementation.
Adopt a gluten-free diet
In susceptible individuals, such as women with endometriosis, gluten stimulates the release of inflammatory cytokines and therefore promotes inflammation in the body. Research shows that after adopting a gluten-free diet for 12 months, painful symptoms of endometriosis decreased in 75% of the patients .
Minimise dairy (A1 casein) intake
The problem with dairy is not the fat or the lactose, the problem is the protein known as A1 casein. In susceptible individuals, such as women with endometriosis, A1 casein stimulates histamine and inflammatory cytokine release, therefore promoting inflammation in the body. A1 casein is found only in the milk of Holstein (Friesian) cows, which are the main herds in Australia, the UK, the US and Canada. The easiest way to detect if casein consumption is contributing to your symptoms, try avoiding it for at least three months.
Minimise red meat intake
Recent research from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology shows that the consumption of animal products has the potential to influence the risk of endometriosis. The study found that women who consumed 2 or more servings of red meat per day had a 56% higher risk of endometriosis compared to those who consumed 1 or fewer servings per week .
Exercise. And I mean actually exercise
A systematic review published in the Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology journal has shown that regular physical activity reduces inflammation and is beneficial in normalising hormonal levels in women with endometriosis. 30 minutes of medium-to-high intensity exercise, including running, bicycle riding or weights, 3 times per week is a great start. It has been shown that women who exercise 4 hours or more per week reduce the risk of endometriosis by 65% .
The Impact of Herbal Medicines
As mentioned, endometriosis affects each woman differently. Some women may experience severe pain, some may have heightened stress or digestive complaints, and the list goes on. The point is, that herbal medicines will be dispensed depending on the symptom picture. Some common herbal medicines used in endometriosis include:
- Green tea – has been shown in animal studies to reduce the size of endometriotic lesions and inhibits the progression of endometriosis .
- Resveratrol – is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and supports the immune system. It has been shown in combination with the OCP to completely reduce painful periods and pelvic pain in 82% of patients after 2 months .
St John’s Wort – is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic, effective in decreasing pain associated with endometriosis. Due to the chronic nature of endometriosis, it is common for women to experience depression, anxiety, psychological stress and poor quality of life. For this reason, St John’s Wort may be indicated .
- Turmeric – is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to reduce oestrogen levels, therefore reducing the advancement of endometriosis .
There are many other herbal medicines, lifestyle modifications and dietary interventions including nutritional supplementation that is effective in the management of endometriosis. Always seek the guidance of a Naturopath before taking any herbal medicines or nutritional supplements. Book in to see Georgia or one of our other student naturopaths or nutritionists and take charge of your health today!