Treating Endometriosis from a Dietary Perspective
Endometriosis, commonly mistaken as “just PMS” is an incredibly painful condition, affects 5-10% women of reproductive age (1). It occurs when endometrial tissue that usually lines the uterus, is found outside of it.
The most common three symptoms associated with endometriosis are: painful periods, pain or difficulty with intercourse and infertility. Diagnosis of this condition can be difficult as it can mimic other conditions or may simply be asymptomatic. Women whose first-degree relatives have endometriosis are at higher risk of also having this disease (2).
Currently, the scientific area isn’t exactly sure why endometriosis occurs (3). Nevertheless there are many theories including inflammation, endocrine disruption, backwards flow of menstrual blood, etc.
Let’s take a look at some simple ways to decrease your pain, and improve your overall health:
- Reducing Toxic Load
Endometriosis lesions contain higher levels of estrogen receptors than normal endometrial tissue (4). It’s thought that decreasing toxic load may help decrease the amount of exogenous estrogen within our body (and prevent that estrogen from binding to receptors and activating).
Exogenous estrogen can come from anything and everything. They can be found in your food, makeup, even feminine hygiene products! Research has theorized that dioxin might be the biggest contributor to estrogen (5). Dioxin is an endocrine-disruptor that can accumulate within the body with repeated exposure and cannot be broken down. Women are exposed to dioxin every month if they are using tampons. Dioxin can also be found in foods products – such as eggs, diary and meat.
What can you do? Switch to a menstrual cup and consider decreasing your animal product intake or choose organic and grass-fed products. Check out my blog post for more ideas on how to decrease your toxic load.
2. Supporting the Immune System
Our immune system becomes active when something foreign enters our body. You’ll notice this during cold and flu season if your body is trying to fight off a bug. Your immune system may even activate after you eat particular foods – the most common being gluten, diary, eggs and soy. When this happens it leads to inflammation within the body, and the release of many chemical compounds.
What can you do? Begin to track your diet , and pay attention to any unfavorable symptoms after meals. You might be able to connect the dots and determine if you have any food sensitivities.
3. Support Liver Function
When it comes to detoxing, the liver is the body’s most important organ. We want to make sure that all the exogenous estrogen entering the body is getting eliminated. If a person has a healthy diet, the liver will detox estrogen and send it to the bowel to be eliminated. However, a diet low in fibre ( which is typically used to feed “healthy bacteria”) may lead to “unhealthy” bacteria freeing estrogen and causing it to recirculate into the body (6).
What can you do? Adopting a diet that is rich in fibrous fruits and vegetables (7), as well as fibrous grains can help promote a healthy gut microbiome and promote estrogen elimination.
In addition to the above, Naturopathic Doctors can help support a healthy immune system and promote liver detoxification using a tailored protocol unique to your health. Moreover, there is emerging research which has shown particular herbs and nutrients to be efficacious in decreasing pain and the presence of endometriotic lesions. If you’re wondering how a Naturopathic Doctor can support your health, book an appointment with Dr. Alexsia Priolo, ND so you can start living pain-free!
(1) Waller KG, Lindsay P, Shaw RW. The prevalence of endometriosis in women with infertile partners. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 1993;48:135-9
(2) Leyland N, et al. Endometriosis: Diagnosis and Management. JOGC. 2010;32(7):S1-S3.
(3) Bulun SE. Endometriosis . N Engl J Med. 2009;360:268-79
(4) Bulun S, Monsavais D, Pavone M et al, Role of estrogen Receptors-β in Endometriosis. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine. 2012;30(01):39-45
(5) Rier S. Endometriosis in Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) Following Chronic Exposure to 2,3,7,8 – T.etrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. Fundamental and Applied Toxicology. 1993;21(4):433-441.
(6) Hill M, Goddard P, Williams R. Gut Bacteria and Etiology of Cancer of the Breast. The Lancet. 1971;298(7722):472-473.
(7)Parazzini F. Selected food intake and risk of endometriosis. Human Reproduction. 2004;19(8):1755-1759.