Dear readers, today I will discuss ENDOMETRIOSIS and how a better diet can affect it. I will both give some advice from a Chinese Medicine`s perspective and some of the latest research which has been found to be helpful. I will also give some advice on which complementary treatments that can help this medical state.
ENDOMETRIOSIS is very common. The known incidence is 1 in 10 women. However, the prevalence is thought to be much higher.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus where it shouldn`t be. The endometriosis tissue can appear to be red and inflamed but can also form modules and cysts. It is mostly found in the pelvic region on structures such as the pelvic lining (peritoneum), ovaries, bowel, bladder and uterine ligaments.
What causes endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis is not fully understood at present though there are several strong theories. Studies show that there are immunological and environmental factors, but it is also strongly genetically related.
One thing which is of very important, is that if you are predisposed to develop endometriosis, the more years of menstruation you have without being pregnant, the heavier the endometriosis will be. This is one of the reasons we see this medical state more often nowadays than before.
Surgery to remove the endometriosis and restore the anatomy back to normal improves the chances of becoming pregnant by about 40%, and the effect from the surgery will last from about 6-12 months.
A better diet.
A change in diet will tend to slow down the development of endometriosis. The most important key is to simply reduce inflammatory foods and adding more plants to your diet.
What are inflammatory foods?
- Processed and packaged foods
- Gluten, white bread and wheat
- Dairy products (except butter, full-fat cream and full-fat cheese which is ok)
- Red meat (many sources claim this to be inflammatory, but this is only when meat is containing hormones. Make sure you buy meat of good quality)
- Deep fried foods
- Margarine and other harmful oils. (only cold pressed oils, coconut oil and real butter should be used as fat sources)
Buy the freshest food you can find and eat it while it is fresh. Avoid processed food which is full of additives. Cook with fresh foods, but also eat some raw vegetables and fruits every day. To minimize exposure to pesticides, eat organically grown produce whenever possible.
Eat a wide variety of foods every day. Try "to be French" and make it fun to cook food and try out new dishes on weekends and expand your horizons!
Certain foods rich in key nutrients can help contribute direct effects to a diet for endometriosis.
Vegetables with B vitamins. A healthy liver with a plentiful supply of B vitamins can degrade estradiol to estriol. Estriol is the form in which estrogen can be bound to fiber and excreted. The diet needs to have sufficient fiber and B vitamins from green vegetables to help the body deal with the constant breakdown of circulating estrogens. Good vegetables are cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips, radishes, horseradish and watercress.
Iron-rich foods. With endometriosis, you may experience heavy bleeding, so replacing lost iron is very important. Two types of iron are available in the foods we eat, heme iron from protein sources and non-heme iron from plant sources. Heme iron you can find in red meats, eggs, chicken and fish, and all studies show that the body absorbs iron from animal-sources much better than from plant-based iron sources, so vegetarians really have to make sure they don't get too low in iron. Non-heme iron is available in green, leafy vegetables, beetroot, dried apricot and plain dark chocolate.
Omega 3. Sources of omega fatty acids from oily fish or a supplement of cod liver oil have shown to lower the tendency of all inflammations of the body, hence it's very necessary to include in your diet when having endometriosis.
Fiber. I suggest getting at least 30 grams of fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and some whole grains to keep your intestinal tract healthy and promote the excretion of excess estrogens.
The question about gluten?
Gluten might play a role in endometriosis. Eating a wheat-free diet seems to help many women with endometriosis symptoms. Whether this is a result of gluten or another component of what is uncertain, but it is sure worth trying to exclude gluten for six weeks to see if it relieves pain when menstruating and in general to see if it gives you a better digestion.
Chinese medicine's aspect of nutrition for endometriosis.
In Chinese medicine, the primary pattern or mechanism that causes endometriosis is Blood Stasis. This can occur from eating too much raw and cold foods, excess intake of milk and other dairy products. It is a very good advice to many times daily drink hot water with freshly cut bites of ginger, some lemon and cinnamon. It is also wise to regularly use many different herbs in the diet because these tend to increase the general circulation of the body.
When the pain is there, it is very useful to use a hot water bottle on the lower abdomen and also on the lower back. It will spontaneously increase the blood circulation and relieve the pain.
Always make sure your feet are kept warm. This is because there is a close connection between the qi-channels, nerves and blood vessels from the feet up to the uterus and bladder.
To increase the circulation, exercise like yoga, spinning, swimming and running will often have a good effect.
How acupuncture can help.
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. It has been shown that the treatment may specifically be of benefit to people with endometriosis by:
- providing pain relief
- reducing inflammation
- regulating prostaglandins
- combining acupuncture with Chinese herbal medicine for endometriosis has been shown to increase the pregnancy rate in women undergoing IVF, and in my own experience, this is also the case for women with endometriosis undergoing egg donation.
This was my pieces of advice for today, I hope you can use some of them!
In my next blog, I will show you some very interesting patient stories…