Endometriosis (pronounced en-doh-MEE-tree-oh-sis) is, according to the Mayo Clinic, a sometimes painful disorder caused by tissue cells from the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) growing outside the uterus. Most commonly this growth is on the ovaries (which is sometimes misdiagnosed as ovary cysts), but can also grow on the fallopian tubes, the bladder, the rectum, and other pelvic areas. These growths of displaced endometrial tissue can act as it normally would as a lining in the uterus – thicken, break down and bleed during the hormonal cycles. Since this tissue has no way to leave the body, it becomes trapped. Surrounding tissues can become irritated and develop scar tissue.
Thus there may be symptoms of painful periods, pain in the lower abdomen before or during menstruation, and/or cramps couple of weeks before menstruation or during menstruation. It can cause pain with vaginal intercourse. Endometriosis can also lead to a problem with getting pregnant – in other words, infertility. But there may be no symptoms at all.
An analysis of a 1988 survey conducted in the US and reported in October 2002 concluded that hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, allergies and asthma are all significantly more common in women with endometriosis than in women in the general USA population.
The results of a 1998 Endometriosis Association survey, presented at the 6th World Congress on Endometriosis, showed that the percentage of women with endometriosis reporting symptoms before the age of 15 has jumped from 15 percent during the early to mid-1980s to 38 percent in 1998. The earlier the disorder begins, the higher the correlation with increased severity.
A 1992 study funded by the Endometriosis Association analyzed rhesus monkeys exposed for four years to TCDD (the most toxic form of dioxin). Two important conclusions of the study revealed that, “the incidence of endometriosis was directly correlated with dioxin exposure and the severity of the disease was dependent upon the dose administered,” and that, “chronic exposure to the chemical toxin dioxin is directly correlated with an increased incidence in the development of endometriosis in rhesus monkeys.” Other research has followed that supports these findings, including recent studies which reveal that women with endometriosis and their families have a greater risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and melanoma. Dioxin is a group of toxic chemicals containing known and probable carcinogens. They act as endocrine disruptors; in other words, they act like hormones in our bodies and disrupt the immune system.
How do you and your family become exposed to dioxins? Unfortunately, it is not that difficult as described by the National Institute of Health.
Whether hormones are produced naturally within the body, provided through medication, or enter the body as substances from the environment that mimic estrogen (like dioxins), it is the liver’s task to break down 80 to 90 percent of the hormones in the body. The liver is also tasked to break down toxins and remove them from the body. Thus it makes sense that an optimally functioning liver is necessary for helping the body to deal with endometriosis.
The liver inactivates estrogen by creating a bond between estrogen and glucuronic acid and moving it out with bile. But some “unfriendly” bacteria in the large intestine can destroy that bond so that the estrogen is released back through the body. Thus a balance of “friendly” bacteria in the large intestine is necessary to get most of the estrogen out of the body.
Did you know that women who exercise and eat less fat and sugar produce less estrogen? And that vegetarian women excrete two to three times more estrogen than meat-eaters? So by increasing intake of vegetables, specifically those that enhance liver function, much is done to help and maybe even prevent endometriosis.
So what are the liver-friendly foods? Carrots, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, artichokes, lemons, dandelion greens, watercress, burdock root, onions, garlic, and leeks. Turmeric (curcumin) protects against environmental carcinogens, decreases inflammation, and increases bile secretion. Ginger helps joint stiffness and other inflammation as well as helps with liver detoxification. High fiber helps move the toxins out of the body. Flaxseeds are high in fiber and anti-inflammatory. Milk Thistle seeds actually help regenerate the liver!
Not so friendly foods for the liver are: sugar, caffeine, dairy, red meat and alcohol. So these need to be at least decreased, if not avoided altogether. Sugar is known to increase estrogen levels in men. So it would follow that the same is true for women. Endometriosis is found to be correlated with caffeine consumption. And the EPA estimates that 90 percent of human dioxin exposure is through food, primarily meat and dairy products. Alcohol use depletes stores of B vitamins in the liver and also has estrogenic effects on the body.
Eat a high fiber diet
Eat a high protein vegetarian diet
Increase intake of vegetables
Use turmeric, ginger, milk thistle, and flaxseeds
Omit or decrease alcohol, dairy, red meat, sugar, and caffeine.
I have described flaxseeds and how I use them in an earlier article. As for milk thistle, you can grind up the seeds and put on salads. They are so light in taste and add just a little texture.
Along with diet and exercise, there are some herbs that are helpful for dealing with endometriosis. These include Vitex aganus-castus (Chaste Tree berries), Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion root), Zanthoxylum americanum (Prickly ash), and Leonurus cardiaca (Motherwort).
Chaste tree berries regulate female hormones, thus less estrogen is available to stimulate endometrial tissue.
Dandelion root is one of nature’s most detoxifying herbs, working mainly on the liver and gallbladder to help remove waste products, and thus excessive estrogens and toxins are removed from the body.
Prickly ash stimulates blood flow which provides oxygen and nutrients, as well as, removes cellular waste products.
Motherwort, as an antispasmodic, promotes relaxation to the uterus and other regions and, as a mild sedative, helps the body to rest.
I combine these herbs in my Endometriosis Remedy Tincture.