Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent, inflammatory disease that affects women from adolescence to their postmenopausal years. Women with endometriosis experience cyclical or chronic pain that can be debilitating and can experience pain in the pelvis, bladder, abdomen, or chest. Not only does endometriosis contribute to significant pain, but for some women, it can lead to infertility.
Endometriosis is highly suspected in women who report chronic and severe pelvic pain. Diagnosis can be delayed in some women whose symptoms may be more vague. Definitive diagnosis is achieved by obtaining a biopsy via laparoscopy or laparotomy, two forms of abdominal surgery. At times surgery can significantly improve symptoms by decreasing endometrial tissue and adhesions.
Many theories have been proposed to explain the etiology of endometriosis. The cause of endometriosis is likely multifactorial, with contributions from several of the proposed mechanisms. A possible contributor to developing endometriosis may be exposure to dioxins. Dioxins are chemical pollutants known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and are found in animal fats, dairy products, fish, and shellfish. Dixons might increase inflammatory changes that may lead to the onset of endometriosis in some women. These chemicals may contribute more generally to endocrine disruption. The evidence shows that modulating estrogens and decreasing exogenous estrogen exposure from chemicals such as dioxins, are mainstays in managing endometriosis.
Supporting women with endometriosis and preventing endometrial tissue development can be achieved from dietary changes to hormonal birth controls. The intake of vegetables that support hormone metabolism and liver function may reduce the proliferation of endometrial tissue and reduce cyclical pain. Choosing foods like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale allow you to take in a constituent known as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that helps with estrogen modulation and metabolism. Supplementing with I3C may also be recommended with a dose of at least 300mg per day. Along with increasing vegetables in the diet, it is also recommended to reduce consumption of fatty meats such as beef and pork and choose leaner meats and fish. These dietary changes may seem small but will contribute to lifelong improvements in health.
Women with endometriosis have many options for treatment and symptom management. As physicians, we strive to find the cause or causes of endometriosis to guide our treatments so they may be more targeted. Be it immune linked, exposure to environmental toxin linked, or genetic susceptibility, naturopathic medicine is well-positioned to improve the lives of those experiencing symptoms of endometriosis.