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Endometriosis

General characteristics

General characteristics

Endometriosis is a condition that can affect women of menstruating age. The condition very often resolves itself after menopause. In endometriosis the cells that line the inside of the womb (called the endometrium) also begin to grow in patches in other parts of the body (usually within the pelvis area) such as around or in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, outside of the womb, inside the muscles of the womb, surrounding the connective tissues of the womb, the bladder, vagina, rectum and bowels. Very rarely these patches can occur in the lungs, eyes, skin and other remote places.

The stray patches of endometrium behave in the same way as those in the womb, they are influenced by the normal rhythmic hormonal cycles; growing and filling with blood in preparation for pregnancy and then shedding the blood and extra tissue during menstruation. These out of place patches may not be shed as normal endometrial cells are, as they do not have the natural outlet of the vagina and the released blood can become trapped in the body, often causing inflammation, scarring, cyst formation, pain and in some cases difficulty becoming pregnant. Symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, abdominal pain, 'spotting' between periods, infertility, bloating and fatigue.

The exact causes of endometriosis are unclear but explanations include the transfer of endometrial cells via the blood or lymphatic system to other parts of the body, 'retrograde' menstruation where some menstrual blood flows back up the fallopian tubes towards the ovaries, oestrogen excess (oestrogen encourages endometrial growth), exposure to toxic chemicals in the diet and/or environment, lowered immunity, metaplasia (the process where one type of cell morphs into a different type) and genetic predisposition.

Natural and herbal treatments aim to minimise the intake of additional hormones via the diet and other means, regulate the hormonal balance within the body through diet and herbs and improve the circulation and elimination of the reproductive system.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Foods rich in phytoestrogens appear to protect the body from the negative effects of excessive oestrogens and other hormones. Isolated oestrogens, such as those used in HRT, some contraceptive pills, in certain plastic products and even those found in plants and foods such as liqourice root and soy beans, have been suggested as promoters of the development of female and gynaecological cancers. Phytoestogens however are hormonal precursors found in combination with many other components within plants and can be converted by the body into hormone like complexes which appear to help the body deal with and remove excess oestrogen from the blood. As such, the following phytoestrogen rich foods can be eaten daily; seeds such as flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coriander, cumin and caraway; wholegrains like rye, millet, wheat, buckwheat, oats, barley, corn and rice; beans such as lentils, adzuki, kidney beans; all dark leafy greens; fruits such as berries, apples, strawberries, grapes, plums; root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and beetroot.

Many women have found an improvement in the condition by following a candida type diet. Often people with endometriosis also have candida overgrowth but even if you don't this type of healthy diet will serve to benefit.

If you are carrying excess body fat try to loose some of it with proper diet and exercise, just a small reduction can make a difference as excess oestrogens are stored in body fat.

Use warming spices and foods like ginger, horseradish, mustard, chill etc in your food to keep your inner warmth alive, especially in the colder months.

Avoid non organic dairy products and meats are they contain many added hormones, instead eat organic animal products only.

Avoid food, drink or anything that goes in or on your body that has been stored for long periods in plastic containers. Never heat foods that are in plastic containers in the microwave. Many plastics contain hormone disruptive compounds (BPA) that leach from packaging into the foods, drink or toothpaste stored within it and thus pass into the body. These chemicals have been found to enhance the groth of cancer cells in animals.

Eat organic foods. Many non organic foods are sprayed with DDT, a powerful hormone disruptor used as a pesticide in many countries and its use is growing.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

A useful generalised formula to begin with might contain the tinctures of wildyam (30ml), agnus castus (20ml), poke root (2ml), marigold (15ml), burdock root (15ml)and dandelion root (20ml). Take a teaspoonful (5ml) of the formula in water 2-3 times daily. This formula will help to regulate hormones, support the action of the liver in dealing with excess hormones, stimulate the cleansing action of the lymphatic system and enhance immunity.

For very stubborn cases of endometriosis that are slow to respond to herbs may be helped by long term doses of agnus castus tincture at a dose of 1ml, 4 times daily for up to 2 years. It has many beneficial actions including an anti-inflammatory effect on the endometrium, it regulates blood flow from it, promotes emotional balance and regulates and balances hormonal secretions and actions.

Lady's mantle tea is also well worth drinking either alone or mixed in with other herbs.

Damiana has a hormonal action that seems to help some women with endometriosis.

Daily nettle tea will promote hormonal balance and provide a myriad of other health benefits. Combine with raspberry leaves for their richness in minerals and womb strengthening effects.

Drink red clover tea if you want to increase your chances of concieving with endometriosis. 2 strong cups (tablespoon of flowers) every other day.

Echinacea, pau d'arco, astragulus, and siberian ginseng can all help to enhance the immune response and offer some protection by clearing away stray patches of endometrium.

Herbs to combat stress and calm the nerves such as vervain, valerian, chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, siberian ginseng and similar can sometimes ease the symptoms of endometriosis as many women notice that their symptoms are worse when under stress.

Crampbark can be used symptomatically to relieve painful cramping/spasm.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Avoid using tampons (except organic unbleached tampons) as most contain chemicals called dioxins (from the bleaching process) which may be linked with endometrial overgrowth. You may want to consider avoiding the use of conventional nappies on your daughters as these also contain dioxins from the bleaching process, use organic unbleached cotton ones instead if possible. Use unbleached organic cotton pads such as 'Natracare' if possible or try the 'mooncup'.
An online search using the term "xenoestrogens and endometriosis" for example will show many pages of information and data concerning exposure to environmental chemicals and their links with endometriosis and other hormonal dysfunctions. Research for safer alternatives as and when you can.
Stay warm in the cooler months by consuming ginger tea and other warming foods. Use warm packs and hot water bottles in bed or when cuddling up on the sofa.

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