Recently a dear friend of mine told me that she was being tested for Endometriosis, and while we were walking and talking I didn't really have a chance to talk to her about herbal and other natural remedies as we had so much to catch up on. I planned on emailing her some information later but I thought I would share with all of you as well.
What is Endometriosis? It is a condition that affects about 15% of North Americans and here is a simple breakdown: Endometrial tissue lines the uterus, where it normally builds up each month. During menstration this excess tissue is shed and would normally be expelled; however for some the tissue detaches from the uterus and spreads to other parts of the body where is can cause severe issues. These tissues have commonly been found in ovaries, fallopian tubes, and bladder and less commonly in the lungs, elbows, head, brain and nasal passages. While these tissues may not be attached to the uterus they do continue to respond to hormonal fluctuations and can still bleed during the menstral cycle. When this happens it collects and stagnates causing major inflammation, pain and sometimes forms cysts and scar tissue.
Not a whole lot is known about the cause. Some have tried to link it to an immune system deficiency but like other theories this is only an educated guess. They have even found endo tissue in the pelvic regions of infant girls leading to theories of genetic defects or environmental concerns. As it is a hyperestrogenic disease (produced by the oversecretion of estrogen) there are concerns about the effects of hormones used in beef cattle, dairy production and chicken farming as these are products we often consume. Another estrogenic food that is consumed more and more is soy, not only favored by vegan and vegetarians there is soy found in most processed foods. The most accepted theory currently is that of "retrograde menstration" which states that during menstration; especially if accompanied by excessive cramps endometrial tissue is forced out of the uterus cavity and back up through the fallopian tubes. It is beleived that the tissue travels through both lymph nodes and blood as it is found in different places in the body. These, however; are only theories as currently no cause has been properly determined.
With no certain cause it is hard to detect, the process for testing is a very invasive laproscopy (where a surgeon will open you up and look for signs in your abdomen). Symptoms include very painful cramps during menstration, pain during sex, painful urination or elimination, excessive bleeding and infertility. Basically it sucks.... Sorry.... but here is the good news. Natural Therapies have been shown to offer great help. Working to find a balance in your entire system can help your body to heal itself. These methods do require time and patience and dilligence, which isn't quite as simple as some of the allopathic methods and depending on your situation you may need to combine both temporarily but do remember that often allopathic medicine in relation to endometriosis does not generally equate a fix but more releif of symptoms so choosing to adopt natural practices will benefit you greatly in the long run.
Now as this is estrogen based the goal is to reduce the overall amount of estrogen in the body so lets look first at our dear old livers and our endocrine system. I have talked before about how our livers work so hard as the bodies filter and have even discussed that particularily for women they work extra hard to filer our excess hormones but here is the full breakdown of what happens: Our liver takes the raw estrogen secreted from the ovaries and fat cells (fat stores hormones!!) and breaks it down into estriol, a safer form of estrogen. Estriol does not cause the tissue proliferation that raw estrogen (estradiol) does. A high ratio of the 'good' estrogen to the 'bad' will work to limit the amount of endometriol tissue produced and therby decrease the painful symptoms. It also works to protect against cancer of the breat and uterus. This is great news! And relatively simple if you are serious about treating this condition and being diligent with nourishing your body properly to acheive balance and heal yourself.
Here are some suggestions:
*Drink a tea daily that is designed to strengthen and cleanse the liver including herbs like dandelion, wild yam, burdock, pau d'arco, barberry, vitex and dong quai (email for an exact recipe, I would be glad to provide it for free )
*Take Pau D'Arco tincture three times a day for 6 weeks, take a weeks break then repeat.
*Cleanse the liver with Liver Aid tincture (Milk Thistle and Dandelion)
*Vitamin E is a natural antagonist to estrogen and helps to break down excess in the body. It can also help to balance hormone production and nourish the reproductive organs. It can also help to keep the scar tissue caused by endometriosis soft and flexible and so reduces the painful symptoms.
*Gamma-linolic acid (GLA) can be found in evening primrose oil, black current seed oil, flaxseed oil and borage oil as well as Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to help regulate the production of prostaglandins in the body which often aggravate the levels of pain and inflammation relating to endometriosis.
*Let food by thy medicine, and nourish your liver! Avoid processed food, sugar, alcohol and caffeine
*Avoid food that raise estrogen levels such as wheat, citrus, yams, parsnips and soy. Be careful to choose herbs that regulate hormones instead of producing them.
*Include Shitake Mushrooms in your diet several times a week. The help to inhibit abnormal tissue growth.
*Chickweed is fantastic as dissolving that which should not be there! A tincture can be great but it is best if you can include it in your diet whole. Dried should be avoided as it is so delicate that when dried it becomes less effective.
*Nettles help to nourish the endocrine and reproductive systems
*Seaweed is incredible nourishing for the endocrine and reproductive systems as well and have also been known to aid in the dissolving of cysts, fibroids and lumps in the breast and womb
*Red Clover helps to balance hormones and has been known to help women with endometriosis and many other conditions decreasing their fertilty to conceive and have healthy pregnancies.
I know this is a lengthy post but I wanted to be thorough. Please if you are going to try natural therapies for this allow 4 - 6 months as you will notice it most during your cycle it can take that much time to properly cleanse and for your body to return to balance. I would love to hear any experiences positive or negative with various therapies if you are willing to share!