Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue, which usually lines the uterus (the endometrium), begins to grow outside the uterus on the pelvic organs. Most often, this excessive growth affects the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and pelvic mucosa. However, in the most severe cases, it can spread outside the pelvic area.
The most common treatment options for endometriosis include surgery, painkillers, hormonal contraception like free birth control pills, and lifestyle changes. However, this condition is difficult to treat and many women resort to natural treatments to support the treatment prescribed by doctors.
Despite the fact that these natural treatments are not able to cure the disease, they can significantly ease the symptoms of endometriosis. As a rule, there is little scientific evidence in favor of using any additional therapy in the treatment of endometriosis. Moreover, the potential harm is usually low, so it will usually not be worse after their use.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Severe pain and cramps during menstruation
- Pain in the lower abdomen or lower back
- Acute, deep pain during ovulation, intercourse, bowel movements, or urination
- Heavy blood flow during periods
- Spotting throughout the cycle
- Indigestion, diarrhea, constipation or nausea
In order to avoid complications, it is better to inform your doctor if you use home remedies or other alternative treatments. This way, your condition can be monitored and steps are taken in case of unforeseen side effects or interactions. In this article, we gathered eight non-medical remedies for endometriosis.
1. Low-fat diet
Some studies show that prolonged consumption of chemicals called dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is able to raise your risk to get endometriosis and its severity if you already have it. However, you can decrease the intake of these toxins if you reduce the intake of saturated fats such as fatty milk and red meat. Both dioxin and PCBs are found in animal fats, which can be easily transmitted to humans by foods. You should also know that red meat is an independent risk factor for endometriosis. But increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables are able to lower your risk.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Prostaglandins are a class of complex fatty acids that are responsible for cramps and pain during periods that are caused by endometriosis. There are two types of them, “good” prostaglandins that relieve inflammation and “bad” prostaglandins that aggravate inflammation. However, the excess amount of one or lack of the other can cause painful sensations.
A sufficient amount of Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Omega-3 fatty acids are quite beneficial for women with endometriosis because they are able to turn into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body. Moreover, they inhibit the production of inflammatory prostaglandins obtained from saturated fats in milk and red meat.
Increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (most specifically a compound called eicosapentaenoic acid that can be found in fish oil) can change the balance of prostaglandins and reduce inflammatory signs of endometriosis.
Despite the fact that several studies have shown that women with high concentrations of EPA are 82 percent less likely to endometriosis than women with low levels of EPA, the medical community is still divided on how effective these dietary interventions are. If you can eat oily fish, you can get omega-3 fatty acids from OTC fish oil supplements in capsule form.
The herb called chamomile is often used as a “calming” home remedy for premenstrual syndrome. These properties are thought to be useful in relieving cramps and pain caused by endometriosis.
Some studies have shown that the effects of chamomile can be more direct than previously thought. Chamomile contains isoflavone (known as chrysin) that is able to trigger apoptosis (cell death) in uterine tissues that have developed uncontrollably.
Moreover, in vitro research has shown that chrysin found in chamomile and other substances (like honey) may direct the development of medications that can ease the symptoms of endometriosis. However, further research is required in order to see if the same results can work for humans.
Resveratrol is a plant nutrient found primarily in grapes, peanuts and mulberries. Researchers found that resveratrol is able to treat endometriosis by inhibiting aromatase and COX-2 enzymes that are associated with estrogen activity and pain.
Animal studies have shown that resveratrol implants in rats decrease the number and size of endometrial lesions by 60 percent. It has not yet been proven whether this can be achieved by consuming foods rich in resveratrol.
Another study found that women who received 1,500 mg of resveratrol per day in tablet form had a 23 percent decrease in testosterone in their blood after three months. However, the supplement didn’t reduce inflammation, which contributes to the development of endometriosis symptoms.
Turmeric is a spice that forms the basis of naturopathic medicine. It can offer significant benefits for women with endometriosis. Turmeric contains an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound known as curcumin, which has been shown to slow the proliferation of endometrial cells in vitro studies. This means that curcumin inhibits the production of estradiol, the strongest of the three types of human estrogen.
However, more research is required to find out if the oral use of turmeric can have a therapeutic effect in women with endometriosis. There is currently no sufficient evidence. Despite the fact that it is generally considered safe, the FDA warns that some imported turmeric supplements have been found to be high in lead. For safety reasons, it is better to buy only certified supplements.
6. Green tea
Green tea has properties similar to progesterone in that it is a powerful aromatase inhibitor. In addition, it is anti-angiogenic and inhibits the development of tiny blood vessels that nourish excess endometrial growth and contribute to inflammation.
Green tea blocks vascular endothelial growth factor C, a protein secreted by red blood cells. One study discovered that laboratory mice that were implanted with a green tea derivative get a significant decrease in endometrial vascularization (blood vessel growth) in comparison with mice that were provided with a placebo. However, it is still unclear whether drinking green tea is able to provide the same results.
Acupuncture is a technique that involves the insertion of tiny needles into the skin. It is used for many purposes but treating pain is one of the most common benefits of acupuncture. Some studies found out that acupuncture can ease abdominal and pelvic pain and the magnitude of excessive endometrial growth in women with endometriosis. However, despite the positive results, the quality of the studies as a whole was low and mostly arbitrary or subjective.
8. Chinese herbs
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners have commonly used a combination of herbs in order to treat uterine conditions such as endometriosis. Endometriosis is not classified as a disease in TCM but it is defined as “blood stasis syndrome” that is characterized by the formation of lumps of the abdominal cavity.
Chinese herbs used to treat blood stasis have been found to be comparable to steroid gestrinone in reducing pain after laparoscopic surgery. These herbs can also be used outside of surgery. Chinese herbs (taken orally and in the form of an enema) have been found to be as effective as the synthetic androgen danazol to relieve pain in woman endometriosis. Although the results were positive, more thorough research is needed to precisely assess the potential role of Chinese herbs in the treatment of endometriosis.