Functional Nutrition for Endometriosis
The ins and outs of endometriosis: what it is & how to manage with functional nutrition.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition in which endometrial tissue (or the tissue that lines your uterus) is present & proliferating in places outside of the uterus. In endometriosis, the immune system sees this tissue as problematic and begins to attack it - causing the hallmark symptoms of pain and inflammation.
Unlike the majority of women’s health issues, Endometriosis is not caused by a hormonal imbalance BUT it is exacerbated by estrogen dominance (1). Here’s why: estrogen is responsible for building up the endometrial lining inside of your uterus to make the nice, cushy environment for a baby. During times of heightened estrogen levels, endometrial tissue grows rapidly. In endometriosis, this tissue isn’t just located inside the uterus but no matter where it is in the body, it all responds to estrogen in the same way. This means that if you have endo lesions on, let’s say, your intestines, you will experience growth and inflammation in that lesion any time estrogen is high.
This is why resolving estrogen dominance is a big part of the management of this condition. If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to check out this post I did on the topic.
Signs & Symptoms of Endometriosis
It is estimated that 1 in 10 women in the US have endometriosis but that total is likely much higher because so many women never get a diagnosis. The main reason is that the only way to officially diagnose it is through laparoscopy. For many women, endometriosis lesions are only found by accident during an unrelated procedure.
The primary symptoms of Endometriosis are:
PAIN (can be isolated to around your cycle or ovulation or may be all month long)
What causes endometriosis?
This is largely up for debate. There have been a handful of different theories over the years but experts haven’t agreed upon just one cause. Rather, it seems like a constellation of things create a “perfect storm” for this condition to occur. The image below (+ some genetic influence) summarizes the likely culprits that lead to the development of endometriosis. (2,3)
Though it has not officially been classified as such, Endometriosis runs in a similar crowd as many autoimmune conditions. The main overlap is in the overreaction of the immune system and the coinciding GI issues that are seen with this condition. (4)
Functional Nutrition Solutions:
Eliminate dairy (especially cow’s milk) (5)
Eliminate gluten (6)
Focus on real, minimally processed foods (stay clear of artificial sweeteners and chemical additives)
Prioritize organic (especially for animal products)
Consider a custom anti-inflammatory eating plan via MRT/LEAP
Gut Health: (7)
Explore the health of the gut (microbial balance, pathogens, inflammatory markers)
Remove inflammatory foods and chemicals
Support good gut bugs via diet and quality probiotics
Nourish the GI lining to prevent future incidence of leaky gut
Rule out Histamine Intolerance
Consider assessing estrogen metabolism via DUTCH testing
Support the proper metabolism and elimination of estrogen by checking out this post.
Consider castor oil packs for liver support
Limit chemical exposure: (2)
Stop using plastic (especially if heating food or storing water bottles in a hot car)
Opt for organic (especially animal products)
Get rid of non-stick pans and opt for cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic
Limit canned foods and beverages
Switch to safer beauty products & household cleaners (want to avoid phthalates, PFCs, heavy metals, parabens, and fragrances) My friend Laura of Detox Me Tuesday has a wealth of information about this on her site.
Consider Targeted Supplementation:
NAC (N-acetyl Cysteine) (8)
Want more support?
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