This is part 3 of a 3-part series on endometriosis, a condition that can cause extremely painful and heavy periods, infertility and more.
In this video, Dr. Egeland shares her expert tips for addressing endometriosis at its root causes with natural therapies. Thanks for watching and subscribing!
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Welcome back. Thank you for joining me – this is the third video in my 3-part series on endometriosis. If you haven’t checked them out yet, my first and second videos provided a lot of information to help you better understand the condition; including symptoms and potential causes of endometriosis.
Today I’ll be sharing more details about a natural approach to endometriosis. At the end of the video, I will provide a summary of seven action steps to get you feeling better.
So first, just a reminder that endometriosis involves multiple factors including genetics, hormones, the immune system, diet, lifestyle, infections and environmental toxins.
As a Naturopathic Doctor and Functional Medicine practitioner, I’m always looking to address the underlying cause of a person’s health concern. Let’s discuss some of the imbalances associated with endometriosis and what we can do to improve them.
As mentioned in my last video, genetics can play a role through the alteration of estrogen receptors, the immune system and impaired detoxification. Many of us think that “genes determine our destiny”, however this isn’t true in most cases.
We can actually improve how our genes work – through the action of epigenetics. In the case of endometriosis, we can support the genes that may not be working 100% by limiting toxin exposure, optimizing nutrients and supporting detoxification, hormone balance and the immune system.
As most of you know, hormones also play an important role in endometriosis. Things we can do to improve hormone balance include avoiding endocrine disruptors – these are chemicals that act like hormones such as estrogen in the body.
Diet also plays a huge role in hormone balance. For example, highly processed and sugary foods can increase insulin which then impacts our other hormones, while vegetables such as dark leafy greens and Brassicas like broccoli and cabbage contain nutrients that help the liver to process estrogen and other hormones in a healthy way.
Exercise, especially weight training helps with hormone balance by improving the function of insulin receptors. Another important way to support hormone balance is through stress management. If we are chronically stressed – this can increase our levels of cortisol, resulting in elevations of blood sugar and hormone imbalance.
Some of you may have heard the term “pregnenolone steal”. Well – pregnenolone is a hormone precursor that is used to make hormones like estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, DHEA and cortisol. Essentially, if we are chronically stressed, we will literally “steal” more of the pregnenolone to make cortisol. This can result in deficiencies and imbalances in our other hormones.
The immune system is another very important factor in endometriosis. The majority of our immune system is in the GI tract and is affected by the “microbiome” which is a community of microbes that includes bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Infections or imbalances in the microbes can lead to chronic inflammation and immune problems.
For example, increases in gram negative bacteria such as E. coli have been associated with endometriosis – these bacteria contain lipopolysaccharide (which is also called endotoxin). This endotoxin has been associated with a number of health problems including endometriosis and autoimmunity.
Certain gut microbes also produce an enzyme called beta glucuronidase which increases levels of estrogen and other toxins in the body. If you have lab testing that shows an increase in beta glucuronidase, your practitioner may recommend a supplement call calcium-D-glucurate to help decrease this enzyme. Yeast overgrowth and chronic Candida infections are also linked with endometriosis.
Ok, I know this is a lot of information, but I felt it was important to explain some of the science behind the tips and recommendations.
So, let’s summarize a natural approach to endometriosis:
First, we have an anti-inflammatory diet: The focus should be on organic vegetables, fruit, wild-caught fish and other sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
If any of you are familiar with Dr. Terry Wahls, I really like her recommendation of 9 cups of produce per day divided into 3 cups of dark leafy greens, 3 cups of sulfur-rich vegetables which includes onions, garlic and Brassicas and 3 cups of bright colors that includes things like berries, beets and carrots.
Foods to avoid include estrogenic and inflammatory foods such as conventional red meat and dairy, trans-fats, sugar and high-glycemic processed foods, gluten and alcohol. Conventional red meat and dairy can also be a significant source of endocrine disruptors and POPs (persistent organic pollutants).
These are just a few dietary recommendations to get you started. Since there is no one perfect diet that applies to everyone, you may find it helpful to work with a naturopathic or functional medicine practitioner to find what works best for you.
It’s also important to make sure that any nutritional deficiencies are addressed. For example, women with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of endometriosis.
Second, it’s very important to limit toxic exposures: There are a number of chemicals, heavy metals and environmental toxins that can disrupt our hormones and immune system; leading to chronic inflammation and oxidative damage. I’ve included a link below to a handout that we provide for all of our patients to help them avoid many of these toxic exposures.
Third, it’s important to support detoxification – because we can’t possibly avoid ALL toxic exposures. Some of my favorite recommendations include Epsom salt baths, castor oil packs, dry body brushing, infrared sauna and targeted supplementation.
There are actually several studies showing the benefit of N-acetyl cysteine for endometriosis – it makes sense since this amino acid supports the liver and helps increase an important antioxidant called glutathione.
Other studies involving antioxidants such as curcumin, melatonin, resveratrol, EGCG – found in green tea, quercetin, vitamin E and the cruciferous compounds DIM and I3C have also shown benefit in endometriosis studies.
Because these supplements may not be appropriate for everyone, I do encourage you to work with a knowledgeable practitioner for safety reasons. Fortunately, many of the food recommendations for endometriosis include these antioxidants and will also support the liver in the clearance of toxins and hormones.
Fourth, I want to stress the importance of sleep and hormones. Did you notice that I mentioned melatonin as an antioxidant? – Yes, melatonin is an important sleep hormone that also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions in the body.
We can support our own healthy production of melatonin by minimizing light exposure in the evening. It’s especially important to avoid the blue light spectrum found in our electronic devices.
One of the other important hormones I want to mention again is insulin. When insulin becomes abnormally elevated, this can lead to inflammation throughout the body and disrupt our other hormones.
Fifth, is stress management – I actually like to call is stress resilience since we will always have stress in our lives, it’s how we react to it that affects our health. There are many options that can help us to build our resilience such as deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, visualization, gratitude, journaling, yoga, spending time in nature, connecting with others or any spiritual practice you enjoy. The goal is to find what works best for you.
Sixth is exercise and activity for overall health and decreased inflammation. Weight training can be especially important for improving insulin and blood sugar balance. If you’re new to exercise, make sure to check with your doctor and work with a knowledgeable professional to insure safety.
Seventh is gut health. Fortunately, the diet recommendations for endometriosis that include fiber-rich vegetables and fruits will also support a healthy microbiome. Fermented foods such as sour kraut, kimchi and kombucha can also be supportive.
If you suffer from chronic GI issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea, testing can be helpful to identify infections or other gut imbalances. A knowledgeable naturopathic or functional medicine practitioner can help guide a personalized treatment plan.
So, just to re-cap, there are several things we can do to improve our health and address imbalances associated with endometriosis. We want to start with an anti-inflammatory diet while avoiding and eliminating toxins that can disrupt our hormones.
We need plenty of restorative sleep, while supporting stress resilience and hormone balance. It’s important to stay active and support healthy insulin levels. And finally, we want to insure a healthy gut.
I hope you found this video helpful. For anyone interested in the research, I’ve provided several links below. Feel free to comment and I look forward to seeing you next time.
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and Endometriosis:
Candida and Endometriosis:
Diet and Endometriosis:
Toxins and Endometriosis:
Supplements / antioxidants for Endometriosis:
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the professional advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Never avoid, disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice, or change any of your prescribed medical treatments because of something you have read on this blog. If you try any therapies or recommendations discussed on this blog, you do so at your own risk.
my university essay says
Every second woman struggles and tries to cope with unexpected imbalances associated with endometriosis. Your post is definitely meaningful!
Dr. Alison Egeland says
Thank you so much for the kind feedback!