Written by Lesley O'Connor | Wednesday, 1 March 2023
Looking for ways to naturally manage your endometriosis? March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, so there’s no better time to learn more about endometriosis and some ways to naturally manage it to reduce those debilitating and all too frequent endo symptoms.
First let’s discuss a few key elements of what endometriosis is to raise awareness of this common condition.
So what is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a complex disease that involves the immune system, hormones, inflammation, genetics, and environmental factors. Endometriosis affects one in ten Australian women – that's more than one million women in Australia alone! It occurs in women between the ages of between 15 and 44, and is especially common among women in their 30s and 40s.
Endometriosis is characterised by endometrial-like tissue growth outside of the uterus. Typically, this tissue can be found in small pockets on ovaries and fallopian tubes, and sometimes can even be found on the lungs and intestines.
The gold standard is a diagnostic laparoscopy with biopsy in order to confirm the growth of endometrial-like tissue. Conventional treatment options include surgical removal of the endometriosis lesions (via laparoscopy), pain relief medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, and hormonal therapy such as the Pill, or an IUD to reduce symptoms. If you’re looking for ways to naturally manage your endometriosis then naturopathic medicine has a lot to offer! Naturopathic medicine approaches include dietary changes, immune system modulation, improving gut health, and supporting detoxification of hormones.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The symptoms of endometriosis can have a severe impact on quality of life. A large percentage of women need to take time away from social and work activities for up to a week at a time.
Signs and symptoms include:
What is the cause of endometriosis?
The exact cause of endometriosis is not known. It is thought that there a number of contributing factors such as genetics, retrograde menstruation, gut health (with the presence of Lipopolysaccharides (LPS)), immune system dysfunction, environmental factors, and nutritional influences.
In clinical practice, endometriosis can be approach like an autoimmune condition. Research shows that endometriosis responds to the same anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and gut repair methods as when managing autoimmune conditions.
Here are three ways to naturally manage endometriosis
Get your vitamin D tested
Vitamin D deficiency has been reported to play a role in the development of endometriosis. You might not know that vitamin D plays an important role in how your immune system functions and it’s also important for repairing your gut lining. An optimal level of vitamin D is > 100nmol/L. Vitamin D testing has been taken off from the Medicare rebate, so it’s definitely a key consideration to talk to your naturopath or clinical nutritionist about to arrange private testing.
Increase dietary intake of zinc
Zinc is an important trace mineral that is essential for the growth of new cells, healing damaged tissue, and supporting a healthy immune system through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory affects – these actions are important for mitigating the growth of endometrial lesions.
Research shows that women with endometriosis are commonly deficient in zinc when tested. Due to this link, it’s important to consume enough dietary zinc to help reduce the symptoms of endometriosis and to stop its progression. Oysters, seafood, oats, pumpkin seeds, lentils, sardines, brown rice, and eggs all contain zinc, so including them regularly in your diet is a must. Vegetarians and vegans can find it difficult to reach the recommended dietary intake of zinc so, in the case of endometriosis, a good quality zinc supplement is recommended.
Consume more turmeric
Turmeric is beneficial because it’s been shown to reduce the size and activity of endometriosis lesions. It works by reducing inflammation markers, and by blocking oestrogen stimulating effects on lesion growth. Turmeric can be added to your foods, in eggs, curries, smoothies, pasta sauces and so much more (you might like to try this anti-inflammatory drink or these turmeric popsicles too). I often recommend turmeric supplementation to my clients to help reduce symptoms as quickly as possible.
There is still a lot to understand about endometriosis and awareness to raise. I hope that this article has helped you learn more about endometriosis and natural ways to manage your endometriosis symptoms.
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Lesley O’Connor is a Naturopath (BHSc) who helps support women with their fertility, energy and vitality, and metabolic health, through herbal, nutrition, and lifestyle medicine. Lesley values a 'food as medicine' approach to health, while also assessing environmental factors for a holistic view of women’s health.
Lesley offers a client-centred approach where women feel validated about their health concerns and encourages women to work with their bodies for optimal health and the best health outcomes. Educate and empower is top of the list in Lesley’s clinical practice, where she provides women with the tools to improve their health that are so sorely lacking in our current health care system.