Ending the Frustration With Endometriosis
Many endometriosis patients show up to our clinic feeling frustrated about dealing with their periods – their menses have been extremely heavy and painful for years, they’re anemic, they’re tired, their medical doctor just wants to do surgery and put them on the Pill, and they can’t get pregnant. We hear you!
I want to let you in on a little secret – are you ready? The reason you’ve been so frustrated is because there are actually two causes of your medical condition. Hormonal imbalance is the first, and the second is autoimmunity. Failing to treat the inflammation and immune system imbalance of endometriosis is like cleaning one side of a dirty window. It might let through a little bit of light, but you need to do the other half of the job to yield good results.
Endometriosis is a painful gynecological condition where bits of endometrial tissue (uterine lining) grow outside of the uterus. Normally, endometrial tissue is found only to line the uterus, and is shed each cycle during the menses. For endometriosis patients, the extra tissue that lies outside of the uterus is usually found at the ovaries, resulting in a specific type of ovarian cyst called an endometrioma or chocolate cyst. The tissue can also occur on the fallopian tubes, pelvic ligaments, bowels and bladder, and occasionally elsewhere. Since endometrial tissue is hormone-sensitive, during the cycle these tissues swell and then bleed, causing pain, scar tissue, and often heavy, clotted periods. It is also a cause of infertility.
The clinical approach for endometriosis has traditionally been surgery to remove endometrial tissue, followed by hormonal suppression with the Pill or other medications. However, the natural medicine community has a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to this condition. Endometriosis patients can get pregnant!
One of my mentors always says – “he who treats differently, has to think differently” – and the natural treatment of endometriosis is certainly no exception.
As I mentioned above, conventional medicine has classically treated endometriosis like a hormonal condition. Natural medicine does too, but we also consider the immune system.
In this paper from 2012, researchers explore the classification of endometriosis in the light of autoimmunity. They conclude that the condition fulfills most of the criteria, including blood markers of inflammatory cytokines and tissue autoantibodies (antibodies against self). As with other autoimmune conditions, it is true that patients with endometriosis often have a concurrent autoimmune condition - at the clinic we often see it paired with autoimmune thyroid disease or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
If you have endometriosis and you’re frustrated, we understand. And know that with natural medicine, we can address the inflammation, the immune system over-activity, and the hormonal imbalance in a gentle way that is supportive to fertility.
Some of the natural ways we treat endometriosis include:
-gluten free diet (based on this study from 2012)
-reduction of inflammatory foods in the diet
-detoxification of harmful hormones
-herbal extracts and Chinese formulae to reduce inflammation
-repair intestinal permeability (and control food sensitivities)
-replete vitamins and minerals that modulate the immune system (specifically selenium and zinc) either orally, or through IV micronutrient therapy
For very difficult cases, some of the following treatments may be required:
-surgery (often very helpful for patients trying to conceive; in the months following surgical removal of endometrial tissue, many patients will conceive and have healthy babies)
-low dose naltrexone
If you’ve been struggling with endometriosis, whether or not you would like to get pregnant, give us a call at Acubalance and ask us how we can help.
Dr. Kali MacIsaac HBSc, ND