Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus, usually in the pelvic area. But it can grown anywhere, even in the brain and lungs. Endometriosis stimulated partly by the hormones of menstruation. So pain, a characteristic of symptomatic endometriosis, is worse at ovulation and during the menstrual and premenstrual parts of a woman's cycle.
Symptoms of endometriosis include pelvic pain, abnormal menstruation cycles, and infertility. If you have endometrial tissue growing between the uterus and the rectum, symptoms can include pain during sex, pain with bowel movements (especially before a period) and pressure in the rectal area. Some women don't have any symptoms, but their doctors discover endometrial tissue growing where it shouldn't during a routine check, or a check for other conditions.
Dr Christiane Northrup writes of a link between endometriosis and the autoimmune system. She cites studies on women with symptoms of endometriosis that "show these women often have antibodies against their own tissue, called auto-antibodies. This means that at some deep level, the mind of their pelvis is rejecting aspects of itself." This is an interesting approach, the psych-spiritual one, that can help address the underlying energetic and emotional imbalances in our bodies when we are dealing with illness.
She goes on to say "When a woman feels that her innermost emotional needs are in direct conflict with what the world is demanding of her, endometriosis is one of the ways in which her body tries to draw attention to the problem." (p152, Northrup)
Managing Endometriosis Naturally
Dr Northrup suggests a treatment that supports the functioning of the immune system whilst allowing sufferers of endometriosis to find out what they need to address in their lives.
This works to decrease the effects of estrogen on endometrial tissue. Its advantages are that it doesn't have side effects. The cream is applied every day to soft areas of the skin like the face, neck and abdomen. Dr Northrup recommends using a 2 oz jar per month, alternating he areas it is applied to. She recommends applying it on days ten to twenty-eight of each monthly cycle. There are also natural progesterone capsules that are inserted into the vagina or rectum. The recommended dosage of these is 200 to 400 mg twice a day.
Castor Oil Packs
Apply a castor oil pack to the lower area of your abdomen three times a week or more, for one hour each session. Watch what feelings or thoughts come up for you during this time.
* Consider getting a massage once a week on alternate weeks for two months. Some women have reported this alleviates their symptoms
* Find ways to express your creativity, nurture yourself, meet your own needs. Discover what your needs are
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs
Acupuncture is excellent for managing pain, and using the traditional Chinese system of diagnosis, can address underlying energetic imbalances within your body. Best of all, the treatment is tailored to you exactly. The chinese herbs prescribed usually work in conjunction with the acupuncture treatment, although they can be taken on their own to great effect.
Changes In Diet
Dr Northrup has found that because symptoms of endometriosis are associated with too much estrogen, minimizing foods that encourage estrogen production can help alleviate symptoms. This means removing dairy products, even of the low fat variety, increasing fiber intake, and minimizing fats. She also recommends:
* multi vitamins - a good supplement with good levels of the B vitamins
* magnesium - 400 - 800 mg which is bout 90 - 150 mg of elemental magnesium. This helps to relax muscles.
Managing Pain Through Nutrition
The premise behind this is that "diseases which are the result of vitamin deficiency are associated with unspecific pains." (p62, Mills & Vernon). And Mills & Vernon also found research papers that showed that some vitamins have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
They suggest these vitamins as options in pain management:
* DLPA - D,L-Phenylalanine is an amino acid that has been found to relieve chronic pain. It needs to be taken consistently over time. Some people notice an immediate effect, for others it takes several weeks. If there is no effect after this time then it probably won't work for you. Take 2 tablets three times a day until pain symptoms are relieved. The maintenance dose is followed after this, which is 1-2 a day. This is based on tablets being 375mg. You may need a prescription for these.
* essential fatty acids - fish oils (omega 3), evening primrose (omega 6):
Take 2000mg per day. Make sure they are cold pressed. A combination oil, like Udo's, is effective, though a bit more expensive. To learn more about the optimal ratios of essential fatty acids, read this article on evening primrose oil.
* zinc citrate, or chelated zinc:
Research has demonstrated that zinc has anti-inflammatory effects on the knee joints. It reduces the release of histamine and leukotriene from cells during the inflammatory process.
* the non yeast form of selenium
* vitamin A, C, and E which are antioxidants:
Vitamin E inhibits the production of prostaglandins, which are involved in the inflammatory process.
* the non yeast forms of vitamins B1, B6 and B12:
These three B vitamins together have an anti-inflammatory effect
* vitamin c with bioflavanoids and enzymes that digest proteins:
Beneficial for reducing inflammation, and helps the immune system.
* proanthcyanadins (found in grape seed extract)
* probiotics (p74, Mills & Vernon)
Nutritionally, many women with endometriosis find that when they stop eating wheat, they have either less or no pain. Some people are sensitive to sugar and gluten also. If you remove these items one at a time from your diet for a period of about a month, then watch how your body reacts when you eat them again, you'll know whether this applies to you.
Many women have found relief from endometriosis by trying the different methods above. Sometimes a combination of approaches, both natural and conventional, works best. It depends on your individual circumstances, the level of endometriosis, and the nature of the journey that you are able to take with your body.
References: Endometriosus: 1. A Key To Healing Through Nutrition, by Dian Mills & Michael Vernon (Thorsons, 2002)
2. Womens Bodies, Womens Wisdon by Dr Christiane Northrup (Piatkus, 1995)