Endometriosis affects millions of women every year. It can cause pain, bloating, and fertility issues, and it often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed. Once you know you have endometriosis, many doctors don’t give you good options for treatment.
I’ve seen thousands of women in my clinical practice over the last decade, many of whom have struggled with endometriosis. If you have endometriosis and you’ve had trouble getting good care for it, don’t give up hope! While there’s no cure for endometriosis, there are ways to manage the symptoms naturally, without surgery or prescription drugs.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where your uterine lining (endometrium) thickens and tissue that should be inside the uterus begins to grow outside of it. During menstruation, the displaced tissue still breaks down and bleeds like normal uterine tissue, but the tissue can’t leave your body and becomes stuck.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis are pelvic pain and cramping during periods, heavy menstrual flow, painful urination, rectal pain, and bloating. Sex may also become painful at times.
What causes endometriosis?
Doctors don’t fully understand the root causes of endometriosis, but there are a few different factors that seem to increase your risk of getting it:
- High estrogen levels can contribute to endometriosis. Estrogen dominance happens when your body can’t break down estrogen properly. Excess estrogen can cause unusual uterine tissue growth from peritoneal cells in your abdomen, which can then develop into endometriosis.
- Immune disorders can cause the body to ignore endometrial tissue growing outside your uterus. Instead of recognizing the excess tissue as a problem and destroying it, your immune system leaves it alone, contributing to endometriosis over time.
- Surgical scar complications can also trigger endometriosis. If you have abdominal or uterine surgery, like a C-section, endometrial cells can latch onto the scar tissue and begin to grow.
How to treat endometriosis naturally
While there’s no cure for endometriosis, there’s a lot you can do to manage it naturally.
- Lactobacillus gasseri probiotics. L. gasseri is a healthy bacterium that produces beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that breaks down excess estrogen. Breaking down excess estrogen can prevent endometriosis from getting worse and may relieve bloating and uterine pain.
- Anti-inflammatory foods. Endometriosis leads to inflammation that makes symptoms worse, and reducing inflammation can be one of the keys to feeling better . Diet is one of the most powerful ways to reduce inflammation. Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods like wild-caught salmon, fresh berries, dark leafy greens, low-sugar dark chocolate, turmeric (with black pepper to increase absorption), fresh herbs, black coffee, and green tea. They contain polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds that can help you manage your endometriosis symptoms.
- Bioidentical progesterone. Using progesterone cream can slow down and even reverse endometrial tissue growth. Bioidentical progesterone is indistinguishable from the progesterone you produce naturally, and it can be invaluable for balancing your hormones by restoring the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Bioidentical progesterone can relieve period cramps, pain, bloating, and heavy bleeding. Make sure you get your hormones tested with an integrative physician to figure out the right dose of progesterone to take.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Research in animals has found that omega-3 supplements prevent endometrial cyst formation . In humans, omega-3 to omega-6 ratio was a strong predictor of endometriosis symptom severity . Higher omega-3s correlated with significantly less intense symptoms in a dose-dependent manner: the more omega-3s people got, the less severe their endometriosis symptoms were. Try taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement or eating more fatty, low-mercury wild fish like salmon, sardines, or anchovies. Make sure you get animal-based omega-3s. Nuts, seeds, and other plant-based omega-3s don’t have the form your body can absorb.
Manage endometriosis with an integrative physician
Endometriosis can be frustrating to manage, and while lifestyle interventions can make a huge difference in symptom severity and address some of the root causes of endometriosis, there’s no substitution for working with a medical professional.
A good integrative physician or functional medicine doctor can work with you to figure out a plan that helps you relieve your endometriosis symptoms. A good doctor’s guidance will also give you peace of mind.
At my clinic, Centrespring MD, we specialize in integrative care with a focus on hormone balance and women’s health. We also offer virtual consults and personalized guidance via email. If you want help managing endometriosis, sign up for a consultation today. We’d be thrilled to talk to you.
- Jiang, L., Yan, Y., Liu, Z., & Wang, Y. (2016). Inflammation and endometriosis. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed), 21, 941-948. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27100482
- Tomio, K., Kawana, K., Taguchi, A., Isobe, Y., Iwamoto, R., Yamashita, A., … & Oda, K. (2013). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids suppress the cystic lesion formation of peritoneal endometriosis in transgenic mouse models. PloS one, 8(9), e73085. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769312/
- Khanaki, K., Nouri, M., Ardekani, A. M., Ghassemzadeh, A., Shahnazi, V., Sadeghi, M. R., … & Imani, A. R. (2012). Evaluation of the relationship between endometriosis and omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Iranian Biomedical Journal, 16(1), 38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614254/