Please also see Lara's latest 2016 blog post about endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a painful condition in which the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus. The condition affects millions of women worldwide and is a major cause of infertility.
Endometriosis is becoming more common
Endometriosis is the result of damage by environmental toxins to the hormone system and immune system. This has been demonstrated by experiments in which endometriosis was induced in laboratory animals by minute exposures to PCB's and dioxins. (1,2) The results have been confirmed by subsequent experiments, and in one recent study, the researchers were able to produce endometriosis with dioxin-contaminated food, exactly at the dose that humans are exposed to in our normal food supply.(3)
It is probably an autoimmune disease
Some research suggests that endometriosis is an Autoimmune disease. Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system attacks the body's own tissue. The result is inflammation.
It is an inflammatory condition
Certainly, inflammation is a key feature of endometriosis. Inflammation causes pain and interferes directly with fertility.
Chronic inflammation may also be why endometriosis sufferers may have an increased risk for certain cancers including ovarian, breast and lymphoma. This conclusion is based on a number of studies and was presented at a symposium of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. (4) According to Dr. Louise Brinton from the National Cancer Institute, "women whose site of origin of endometriosis was the ovary ... had a particularly high risk for ovarian cancer."
The reason is not fully understood but may be linked to the oestrogen and inflammatory cytokines produced by endometriosis lesions. Both factors are known to promote cancer.
Dr Brinton advises endometriosis sufferers not to become overly anxious. "Even though we see a 2- to 3-fold increase in the risk for ovarian cancer, it's still a very rare condition," she said. "The absolute risk is low."
Natural treatment is effective
It is critical to address the inflammatory aspect of endometriosis, and natural treatments can do just that. The following natural anti-inflammatories reduce pain, reduce inflammatory cytokines, and may, therefore, reduce the cancer risk associated with endometriosis.
- Anti-inflammatory diet: This includes vegetables and protein. Healthy fats like fish, avocado and coconut milk. Avoid sugar, refined flour, and food additives.
- Anti-inflammatory supplements such as magnesium, turmeric, bupleurum, and fish oil.
- Avoid cow's milk. The protein casein in cow's milk disrupts immune function. This factor is very strong in endometriosis: Clinically, most cases improve when cow's milk products are removed from the diet.
- Promote healthy intestinal bacteria. Unhealthy bacteria - Gram-negative bacteria - produce a toxin called Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) that has been linked with endometriosis (see the link below).
- Avoid environmental toxins including pesticides (fly sprays), microwaving in plastic. Filter your water. Eat organic when you can.
- Nutrients that assist with detoxification of oestrogen and environmental toxins: vitamin B6, selenium, turmeric and methionine.
- Progesterone cream or pessaries. Progesterone is anti-inflammatory and reduces the stimulatory effect of oestrogen on the condition.
- Physical treatment such as acupuncture, Bowen therapy, massage, yoga.
- Castor oil packs (castor oil applied to the lower abdominal skin with heat). Stimulates lymphatic drainage, and reduces adhesions.
- If endometriosis is severe, surgery may be necessary and can improve fertility outcomes.
- Reduce stress to normalise female hormones.
For professional advice regarding endometriosis, please make an appointment with one of our naturopaths.
Sydney CBD • North Sydney
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- 1. Mayani, A et al. Dioxin concentration in women with endometriosis. Human Reprod. 1997, 12: 373-5 20.
- 2. Rier, Set al. Endometriosis in rhesus monkeys following chronic exposure to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin. Fundamental and Applied Toxicology 1993. 21:433-441
- 3. Rier, SE, et al.. Serum levels of TCDD and dioxin-like chemicals in rhesus monkeys chronically exposed to dioxin: correlation of increased serum PCB levels with endometriosis. Toxicological Sciences 2001. 59:147-159
- The Link Between Endometriosis and Cancer. Medscape online. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/722605. Viewed 8/11/10
- Iba Y et al. Lipopolysaccharide-promoted proliferation of endometriotic stromal cells via induction of tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-8 expression. Fertil Steril. 2004 82 3:1036-42. PMID: 15474070