There are several theories on why endometriosis happens. The theory of retrograde menstruation holds that the menstrual blood flows back up through the fallopian tubes and into the peritoneal cavity where the endometrial cells take root and grow. Whilst these theories may explain the transportation mechanism, they do not explain why even though all women have retrograde menstruation at some time, not all develop endometriosis.
Another more recent theory is that the immune system has failed in some way, allowing these rogue cells to grow where they should not instead of recognizing 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 one in the family with the condition.
Perhaps the connection is more due to shared environment than shared genes. Indeed, there is strong evidence linking endometriosis. A clear dose-response relationship was shown between low levels of dioxin in the diet and development of endometriosis in rhesus monkeys. The more dioxin, the worse the endometriosis, according to experiments conducted at the University of Wisconsin. Most of our exposure to dioxin comes from food, the biggest source being meat and dairy produce.
Each woman is unique and requires a specialized approach according to her individual biochemistry. She responds differently to her environment, may be more or less able to deal with toxicity, and digests and assimilates food differently.
With endometriosis there are possible underlying problems that could be contributing to a worsening of symptoms. These include:
Endometriosis involves an immune system deficit. It is therefore important to identify all immunosuppressant factors including toxic chemicals, heavy metals, harmful organisms, intolerances/allergies, stress and inadequate nutrition.
Then the immune system needs support. Taking lactobacilli results in improved immune function and garlic and aloe vera juice both help enhance immunity as well as acting against Candida.7 Essiac tea may also be beneficial.
Other useful nutrients for the immune system: zinc, quercetin, bromelain, cysteine, vitamins A, C, E and B complex, sambucol, ginger, dried and aged garlic, bee propolis, goldenseal, echinacea, astragalus, panax ginseng and dandelion leaf.
Endometriosis sufferers have a lower T cell count. Echinacea stimulates T cells and natural killer cell activity is increased by selenium, germanium and vitamin C. Proteolytic enzymes also elevate T cells
I find that hypnosis and visualization are useful for illnesses of immunity. A good hypnotherapist will help her client to feel more positive, confident, calm and relaxed, all of 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 is also thought to lower 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. This allows the liver to eliminate excess oestrogen more effectively. Raw cabbage juice contains indoles that affect oestrogen metabolism and decrease harmful hormones by as much as 50%. Cruciferous vegetables along with onion and carrot also contain sulphorophanes that increase anticancer activity within the cell.
Progesterone levels are likely to be low. 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 generally thought of as anti-inflammatory. Series 2 are considere pro-inflammatory and an excess of them can cause pain and uterine contractions. They may also contribute to luteal phase deficit leading to shortened cycles and PMT,and they paralyse the natural killer cells of the immune system. Increasing omega 3 fatty acids in the diet can reduce them, and thus immune function is enhanced, 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 consumed. Fish oils have been found to reduce endometrial implants in rabbits. Meat, dairy and eggs promote the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Some clients are very sensitive 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 needed are needed for the conversion of fats to prostaglandins. Stress, saturated fats, trans fats, alcohol, smoking and sugar also affect this process adversely.
Integrity of cell membranes depends on essential fatty acids. It may be that endometrial cells can only attach to compromised tissue and that a strong cell membrane may prevent them from taking root. Having a strong 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 be a contributing factor in endometriosis. Free radicals are 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, super oxide 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. Liquidize 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 prior to the onset of the pain.
One of the most important and overlooked contributions to good health is drinking adequate water. People are dehydrated because of central heating, dehydrated food, lack of fresh produce and diuretics like tea and coffee. Many people do not drink plain water at all. Water is required for the transportation of substances in the body, as well as the collection and elimination of toxins and debris. 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.