7 Natural Treatments for Endometriosis

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a chronic, often painful condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus (called the endometrium) starts growing outside the uterus. Most commonly, the growth is on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or the pelvic lining, but in some cases, it can also spread outside the pelvic area.

According to the Endometriosis Association, endometriosis affects 5.5 million women in the United States and Canada, and millions more worldwide.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Painful periods. Pelvic pain and cramping during menstruation. It may begin before and continue for several days after the onset of your monthly period. The pain can also occur in the lower abdomen or low back. It has even been known to cause shooting nerve pain in the legs, called sciatica.
  • Sharp, deep pain during ovulation, sexual intercourse, bowel movements, and/or urination
  • Heavy menstrual periods or bleeding in between periods
  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Infertility. Endometriosis can cause adhesions that trap the egg.

Natural Treatments for Endometriosis

If you are experiencing painful periods or pelvic pain, it's important to see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Here are eight natural treatments that are used for endometriosis. Keep in mind that so far, scientific support for the claim that any form of alternative medicine can treat endometriosis safely and effectively is lacking.

1) Reduce Chemical Intake

Although earlier studies in women were conflicting, there is increasing evidence that chronic exposure to the environmental chemicals dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is associated with an increased prevalence and severity of endometriosis.

One way to reduce intake of these chemicals is to cut back on animal fat, especially high-fat dairy, red meat, and fish.

Dioxin and PCBs both accumulate in animal fat, and it is our main route of exposure.

Interestingly, studies on diet and endometriosis also support this link. For example, an Italian study examined data from 504 women with endometriosis and found an increased risk with a high intake of red meat and ham. Fresh fruit and vegetables were associated with a reduction in risk.

2) Vegetables and Flaxseeds

There is some evidence that a group of plant chemicals called flavones may inhibit aromatase, the enzyme that converts androgens to estrogens. Good food sources of flavones are celery and parsley.

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and bok choy contain compounds called indoles, which appear to improve estrogen metabolism.

Flaxseeds are high in lignans and fiber, which have been found to be beneficial for estrogen-related conditions.

3) Progesterone Cream

Alternative practitioners sometimes recommend progesterone cream. Progesterone is thought to slow the growth of abnormal endometrial tissue.

Although it's not considered a cure, it may improve symptoms such as pain during menstrual periods and pelvic pain. There haven't been any studies on progesterone cream for endometriosis, so we don't know for certain about its effectiveness or safety.

Progesterone cream is derived from either soy or Mexican wild yam. A molecule called diosgenin is extracted in a lab and converted to a molecule that's exactly like human progesterone and added to back to the cream. Some companies sell wild yam cream, but unless it has been converted in a lab it is useless because the body can't convert wild yam to progesterone on its own.

Natural progesterone cream is applied to the wrists, inner arms, inner thighs, or upper chest at a dose and schedule that should be recommended by a professional. It's important to be supervised and to have progesterone levels monitored on lab tests because too much progesterone can cause such side effects as mood changes, depression, water retention, weight gain, and absent or abnormal menstrual bleeding. If you're considering it, consult your doctor first.

Natural progesterone cream is available from a compounding pharmacy or at some regular drug stores. 

4) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. They are also available in fish oil capsules, which may be the preferable form because good brands contain minimal amounts of PCBs and dioxins.

Several studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for people with endometriosis. For example, an animal study by the University of Western Ontario found that fish oil containing two specific compounds, EPA, and DHA, can relieve pain by decreasing levels of an inflammatory chemical called prostaglandin E2. Researchers also found that fish oil could slow the growth of endometrial tissue.

5) Stress Reduction

Cortisol is a hormone involved in the stress response but is also needed to make other hormones such as progesterone. Prolonged stress can lead to elevations in cortisol, which alternative practitioners say may decrease the available progesterone and result in a hormonal imbalance.

One study involving 49 women found that cortisol levels were significantly higher in women with advanced endometriosis compared to women who didn't have this condition.

Herbs and nutrients that alternative practitioners commonly recommend for stress reduction include:

Other stress reduction methods include:

6) Hydrotherapy

A contrast sitz bath is often recommended by alternative practitioners for endometriosis. It is a home remedy and has not been studied.

A contrast sitz bath involves sitting in a small basin or tub filled with hot water for three minutes, then getting up and sitting in another basin filled with cool water for one minute. The hot water cold water cycle is repeated another 3 times. It is not usually done during menstruation.

7) Ginger Tea

Ginger tea may relieve nausea that can occur with endometriosis.

Using Alternative Medicine for Endometriosis

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of alternative medicine, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.
 

 

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