Some of the symptoms experienced are painful periods, intercourse, urination and defecation; PMS; infertility; and alteration to cycles. However, endometriosis is a condition that affects each sufferer differently. While one has pain during her period, another woman may have it throughout the month. Moreover, internal pain can complicate sexual relationships.
The endometrial tissues line the uterus and respond to hormones during the menstrual cycle. Further, the endometrium thickens and swells with blood. In endometriosis, the endometrial tissue develops where it should not be, outside the uterus, where it still responds to hormonal instructions, bleeding into areas where there is no escape for the blood. Furthermore, adhesions may form, binding tissues and organs together. Areas where endometriosis may develop include the outside of the uterus, ovaries, cervix, bowel, bladder, urethra, and fallopian tubes; rarely, the lungs, pancreas, or nose.
There are several theories on why endometriosis happens. The method of retrograde menstruation holds that the menstrual blood flows back up through the fallopian tubes also into the peritoneal cavity, where the endometrial cells take root and grow. While these theories may explain the transportation mechanism, they do not explain why all women have retrograde menstruation; not all develop endometriosis.
Another more recent theory is that the immune system has failed somehow, allowing these rogue cells to grow where they should not instead of recognising and removing them. Some commentators believe in a genetic predisposition because 7-10% of sufferers have a close relative with the condition. However, many sufferers are the only ones in the family with the disease.
Perhaps the connection is more due to a shared environment than shared genes. Indeed, there is strong evidence linking endometriosis. A clear dose-response relationship showed between low levels of dioxin in the diet and the development of endometriosis in rhesus monkeys. Besides, the more dioxin, the worse the endometriosis, according to reports of experiments conducted at the University of Wisconsin. Also, most of our exposure to dioxin comes from food, the most significant source being meat and dairy produce.
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To clarify, each woman is unique and requires a specialised approach, according to her biochemistry. They also respond differently to the environment. Moreover, she may be more or less able to deal with toxicity, digests, and assimilate food differently.
With endometriosis, there are possible underlying problems that could be contributing to a worsening of symptoms. These include:
In addition, endometriosis involves an immune system deficit. Therefore, it is essential to identify all immunosuppressant factors, including toxic chemicals, heavy metals, harmful organisms, intolerances/allergies, stress, and inadequate nutrition.
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Then the immune system needs support. Taking lactobacilli improves immune function, and garlic and aloe vera juice help enhance immunity and act against Candida. 7 Essiac tea may also be beneficial.
Other useful nutrients for the immune system are
People living with endometriosis have a lower T cell count. Echinacea stimulates T cells, and selenium increases the natural killer cell activity, germanium, and vitamin C. Proteolytic enzymes also elevate T cells.
I find that hypnosis and visualisation are useful for illnesses of immunity. An ethical hypnotherapist will help her client feel more positive, confident, calm, and relaxed, which will help the immune system.
A high-fibre diet and plenty of water are helpful because the fibre absorbs oestrogen. Fibre from fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, pulses and wholegrains is the answer, not wheat-based fibre supplements. Psyllium and linseeds can form part of a bowel-cleansing programme in conjunction with beneficial bacteria and herbs such as goldenseal. Frequent exercise also lowers oestrogen as well as reducing body fat if overweight.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts have substances that activate liver enzymes and help the liver detoxify chemicals. That allows the liver to eliminate excess oestrogen more effectively. Raw cabbage juice contains indoles that affect oestrogen metabolism and decrease harmful hormones by 50%. Cruciferous vegetables along with onion and carrot also contain sulphorophanes that increase anticancer activity within the cell.
Progesterone levels are likely to be below. Increasing progesterone alleviates PMS and luteal phase deficit. Agnus castus and Life Enhancer are helpful, along with B6 in the form of pyridoxal-5-phosphate.
The salivary hormone assay is a useful tool to discover hormone levels before designing a protocol to alter hormone levels.
Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins are anti-inflammatory. Series 2 are considered pro-inflammatory, and an excess of them can cause pain and uterine contractions. They may also contribute to the luteal phase deficit leading to shortened cycles and PMT, and they paralyse the natural killer cells of the immune system. Increasing omega-three fatty acids in the diet can reduce them, and thus immune function is enhanced, the pain lessened, PMS alleviated, and the natural length of the cycle restored.
Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins increase when the beneficial fats from fish, flax, hemp, pumpkin, walnut, evening primrose and green leafy vegetables are consumed. Fish oils reduce endometrial implants in rabbits. Meat, dairy and eggs promote pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Some clients are susceptible to these and may have to avoid them altogether. A client reported her mid-period spotting stopped when she removed dairy from her diet. Avoid margarine, fried food, saturated fat, refined fats and oils (usually labelled pure). Opt for extra virgin or cold-pressed oils. Use olive for cooking because the other oils mentioned are too fragile.
Poor nutrition will undermine the synthesis of fatty acids. For example, vitamins B6, B3 and C, magnesium, zinc and biotin are necessary for converting fats to prostaglandins. Stress, saturated fats, trans fats, alcohol, smoking and sugar also affect this process adversely.
The integrity of cell membranes depends on essential fatty acids. It may be that endometrial cells can only attach to compromised tissue and that a durable cell membrane may prevent them from taking root. A healthy cell membrane also helps protect the cell contents from harm, such as free radical damage.
Free radicals are thought to be one of the causes of autoimmune disease and might contribute to endometriosis. Free radicals are a destructive molecule that comes from UV light, pollution, illness and smoking. To quench these, we need an appropriate level of antioxidants from vitamins A, C, E, selenium, superoxide dismutase, glutathione, CoQ10, vitamin B complex, and flavonoids, especially proanthocyanidins.
A nutritional programme to control pain should include fish or flax oil, evening primrose oil, vitamins C, E, K and B complex, zinc, selenium, magnesium, calcium, bioflavonoids and digestive enzymes. Fresh ginger tea is also effective against pain. Liquidise a two-inch piece, then pour boiling water over and leave to steep. Strain and add hot water to taste and a slice of lemon. Enterically-coated capsaicin tablets are also helpful if taken several days before the onset of the pain.
One of the most essential and overlooked contributions to good health is drinking adequate water. People are because of central heating, dehydrated food, lack of fresh produce and diuretics like tea and coffee dehydrated. Many people do not drink plain water at all. Transportation of substances in the body and the collection and elimination of toxins and debris require water. The policing by the immune system, via the blood, lymph and tissue fluids, relies on adequate hydration. We should drink a minimum of eight glasses of filtered water each day.