This week I am still sticking with the theme of Endometriosis. If you aren’t sure what this is, please check out my recent article on this topic. If you have Endometriosis and are wondering where to start, read last week’s article where I discussed 5 important food strategies to help with this condition.
This week is all about supplements. Remember, if you don’t have the basics in place (ie. diet & lifestyle) then supplements are going to do little to help. They offer support and can help stimulate certain pathways in the body but if you eat junk, don’t sleep or exercise and are overwhelmed by stress, then don’t waste your money on supplements.
Start with the basics and come back to this article when those things are in place.
In the previous article I discussed cruciferous vegetable and how they contain a compound that is extremely effective at detoxing estrogen out of the body. DIM is the compound I was referring to.
I have found DIM to be one of the most powerful supplements for reducing excess estrogen. It is extremely effective, so this should only be used if you have been tested and know your estrogen levels are too high.
Not only does DIM lower estrogen overall but it also shifts estrogen metabolism to healthy pathways that protect you from estrogen dominant cancers.
Some people will recommend using Indol-3-Carbinol (I3C) instead of DIM. I3C is the precursor for DIM and in theory can be metabolized to DIM to have a similar effect. In my experience I3C is not nearly as effective as DIM and I don’t recommend it unless you cannot tolerate DIM.
My favorite products are Designs for Health DIM-Avail and Pure Encapsulations DIM Detox
Curcumin comes from Turmeric. It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Taking curcumin can help with some of the inflammation and painful side effects of endometriosis.
Curcumin has been found effective at reducing prostaglandins which promote inflammation.
In this study, researchers found that curcumin inhibited the growth of endometrial cells by lowering the production of Estradiol (the body’s most potent estrogen). This study was done in vitro so the results may be limited.
Curcumin is also powerful at detoxifying the liver. This is important as the liver is responsible for clearing excess hormones from the blood. Too much estrogen can be a result of poor liver clearance, resulting in excess estrogen floating around the blood.
N-Acetyl-Cysteine is a precursor for glutathione. Glutathione is your body’s most powerful anti-oxidant and detoxifier. It is needed to keep the liver free of toxins and reduce damage from free radical production.
Taken directly, glutathione is poorly absorbed but we can work with glutathione precursors to boost glutathione levels. NAC is a fantastic for boosting liver health and detoxification. Since estrogen dominance is tied to poor liver function, NAC is a good place to start.
This is a very powerful supplement for any women with Endometriosis or estrogen dominance. As discussed in my previous article, harmful gut bacteria can produce a lot of the enzyme Beta-Glucuronidase which can break the bond between excreted estrogen and glucuronic acid (the way in which estrogen in moved out of the body), thereby re-activating the excreted hormone and sending it back into circulation.
Calcium D-Glucarate helps keep estrogen bound to glucuronic acid so that it can be easily excreted from the body.
After the liver detoxifies hormones, it dumps them into the bile so they can be excreted from the body. If a woman has bile insufficiency then detoxification is impaired and estrogen is left to recirculate around the body.
A sign that you may have a bile deficiency is the inability to digest fat. If eating a fat meal makes you feel bloated or nauseous than you can benefit from taking a digestive enzyme with ox bile.
If you have had your gallbladder removed, you are likely struggling with bile production as well. My favorite product is Thorne Research Bio-Gest.
If you would like to be hooked up with an account to order any of the supplements I discussed in this article, please sent me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you been struggling with extremely painful periods, chronic pelvis pain or pain during sex? There are a number of reasons why periods can cause painful cramping, but endometriosis is a common culprit.
During the first half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen is the dominant hormone.Estrogen is a growth hormone and stimulates the growth of the uterine lining. Once an egg is released and not fertilized, estrogen starts to decline and progesterone becomes the dominant hormone in the second half of the menstrual cycle.
As the egg breaks down and becomes the corpus luteum, progesterone is given off. Both estrogen and progesterone reach their lowest levels just before the beginning of menstruation. This is what signals the start of bleeding where the lining of the uterus is shed for the next 3-7 days.
Endometriosis is a condition which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus instead grows outside it. The most common places in the body this tissue can grow is the abdominal cavity where it can land on the peritoneum, the thin layer that covers the inside of the abdomen, the ovaries, and fallopian tubes. This tissue has also been found in the knee and the nose, strangely enough. The body in it’s ultimate wisdom attempts to contain the growth by forming a cyst around the tissue. Then every time a woman has a period, this tissue proliferates and may lead to a ruptured cyst.
Like the lining of the uterus, the misplaced endometrial tissue is triggered by the same hormonal shift that begins the menstrual cycle (ie. low estrogen and progesterone). This tissue will then also shed and bleed. The blood, which is trapped in the abdomen, is irritating to the nerves in the abdomen, causing much of the pain associated with endometriosis. Some women experience chronic pelvic pain while others only experience pain during their periods. In certain cases, women experience no pain at all. The latter case can delay diagnosis and likely accounts for many undiagnosed cases. Statistics say 10% of women suffer from endometriosis but this is likely lower than the reality.
Over time the abnormal shedding can cause chronic inflammation and lead to scar tissue development. This abnormal cell growth will also instigate an immune response that can perpetuate the problem.
There is no concrete answer but there are many theories. In my experience, this condition is largely related to excess estrogen production. Since estrogen is involved in the growth of endometrial tissue, when it occurs in excess it can stimulate the over growth of the tissue.
Other factors that are likely involved in endometriosis are:
Dr, Stacey Roberts, natural fertility expert, mentioned that endometriosis may actually be an autoimmune process. According to this study, among 59 women who had a laparoscopy indicating endometriosis, 28.8% tested positive for antinuclear antibodies (a marker for autoimmunity).
The autoimmune connection is explored in detail in this scientific review. The authors conclude that endometriosis fits most of the criteria for autoimmune disease including blood markers of inflammatory cytokines and tissue specific autoantibodies. It seems endometriosis occurs with other autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Typically it is diagnosed through an ultrasound but this technique can often miss tissue growth that is hidden and lying deeper in the body. Some experienced physicians can find it using a physical examination, where they can pinpoint the adhesions and lesions in the abdomen. Laparoscopy, a surgical procedure, can also be used to identify lesions.
Unfortunately, endometriosis can lead to infertility issues. It can lead to scarring and damage of the filopian tubes which can make it incredibly difficult for a woman to become pregnant naturally.
If the fallopian tubes are damaged or altered in their function then this can set the stage for an atopic pregnancy. Up to 30-50% of women who have endometriosis may experience infertility, according to American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
In extreme situations it can perorate the bowel and lead to complications with digestion. This only occurs in very severe cases.
1. Surgerical Excision – This involves going in and removing overgrown tissue. This can be extremely helpful in removing adhesions and lesions but does little to address the root cause. If this is the only treatment used, adhesions may develop again. Surgery works best if it is used with natural therapies to prevent future tissue proliferation.
2. Progesterone Cream – Progesterone opposes estrogen and inhibits the growth of endometrial tissue growth. Lesions can be resistant to progesterone so typically high doses are needed. This treatment does not generally work on its own.
3. Hormonal Birth Control – This is the standard treatment as it suppresses ovulation and prevents the growth of the uterine lining. Again, this treatment fails to address the root cause and can mask other hormonal conditions. A woman cannot be on the pill indefinitely, so once she comes off it, she is likely to experience other hormone disorders that have been left untreated over the years.
4. NSAIDS OR Naproxen – This can help reduce pain associated with endometriosis but does nothing to deal with the problem. These drugs can cause many issues when used long term. They are known to stress the liver and thin the lining of the gut, even when only used once a month.
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to prevent endometriosis from continuing to occur. One of the most important starting points is to have your hormones tested via saliva or urine. I am not a huge fan of blood testing as it gives you a very limited piece of the overall picture.
In next few week’s blog posts, I will discuss some of the most effective diet, lifestyle and supplements therapies for dealing with endometriosis and preventing it from messing with your fertility. If you would like to learn more about the hormone testing I do and how it can help optimize your menstrual cycle and fertility, please book a free 20 minute consultation to speak with me directly. You can do that here.
Listen to me discuss this article in the video below!
Many women struggle with different symptoms around the time of their periods. Sometimes it’s mood swings or tearfulness. Sometimes its cravings and weight gain. And Sometimes it’s extremely painful periods. Sometimes the cramps are so bad that women have to miss work or school.
Many women suffer from menstrual cramps but have no idea what to do to fix it. Conventional information tells you to take ibuprofen, sometimes for the whole week leading up to your period. This is obviously a Band-Aid fix. And what many women don’t know is that ibuprofen can actually be dangerous.
Here is a statement from the FDA website:
“FDA is strengthening an existing warning in prescription drug labels and over-the-counter (OTC) Drug Facts labels to indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, either of which can lead to death. Those serious side effects can occur as early as the first few weeks of using an NSAID, and the risk might rise the longer people take NSAIDs.”
So what is a girl to do when she is debilitated by cramps every month, leaving her little choice but to pump herself full of these over-the-counter drugs?
It’s time to start looking at hormones. Hormones are important. When hormones are balanced, a women’s cycle should flow by effortlessly. Periods should be regular and easy and not cause excessive pain. Women who experience PMS symptoms are acutely aware of the consequences of unbalanced hormones.
It can be totally frustrating. Women often feel like their bodies have turned against them. I know how this feels. Cramps are something I have struggled with since high school. These days I still have to be careful. If I don’t follow my diet, miss out on a few nights sleep or forget to take my supplements, I often find myself with cramping.
This issue is largely controlled by hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone. And hormones are incredibly sensitive to a variety of factors, including genetics, diet, lifestyle and medications. Learning how to keep your hormones in proper balance is clearly key to getting rid of your menstrual cramps.
Throughout the month, a woman experiences fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. Too much estrogen can cause menstrual cramps. Excessive estrogen levels are thought to overstimulate the growth of the lining of the uterus. When this happens the uterus needs to contract more strongly in order to shed the extra build up of tissue and this can lead to cramping. A woman will often experience excessively heavy periods along with this.
The chemicals that cause the uterus to contract are called prostaglandins. If a women produces too many prostaglandins then this situation can cause excessively strong contractions leading to painful cramps. Prostaglandins can also affect the lining of the intestines, which means they can also cause diarrhea and constipation during a women’s period.
There is some evidence that indicates that too much estrogen can increase the production of prostaglandins which may explain why women with estrogen dominance often suffer from painful periods.
The good news is that diet, lifestyle factors and supplements can greatly influence the progesterone/estrogen balance throughout the month. Implementing some new healthy habits can have you well on your way to pain-free periods and hormonal bliss.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are mainly man-made oils that include vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.
Polyunsaturated basically means that there are a number of double bonds between the carbon molecules, instead of carbon molecules being fully saturated by hydrogen.
Humans aren’t meant to eat a large quantity of these types of fat. The human body is mainly made up of saturated (no double bonds) and monounsaturated (just one double bond between carbons) fats. Polyunsaturated fats only make up 3% of the body’s total fat content.
The body needs fat for cell regeneration and hormone production but it can only use the fats that we provide it with. When we eat foods high in PUFAs, our body has no choice but to incorporate these types of fat into our cells and body chemistry.
PUFAs, due to their structure, are very susceptible to being oxidized by light and heat. Oxidization is the process which causes an apple to turn brown when it is cut open and exposed to oxygen. So even though you might buy “cold-pressed” vegetable oils, keep in mind that your body runs very hot, on average about 98.6 F.
So if these oils haven’t already become oxidized by the heat of pressing or the light in the grocery store, they can easily oxidize once inside your body. Oxidized oils have the potential to cause the mutation of cells and inflammation.
For example, once in your body PUFAs have the ability to clog your arteries. Contrary to what we have been told for the past 30 years, arterial plaques have been found to be 74% unsaturated fats. This research dates back 20 years.
Since hormones are made up of cholesterol and dietary fat, eating inappropriate fat can produce ineffective hormones. Consumption of PUFAs may also increase your estrogen, according to this study, and thus lead to menstrual cramping
Food that increase inflammation in the body can negatively affect your monthly cycle. The following foods can cause excess inflammation in the body and should be limited:
A huge problem that we face these days is the fact that we are exposed to chemicals that contain endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors may come in the form of xenoestrogens. These chemicals basically mimic human estrogen in the body, causing estrogen dominance. They also have the ability to throw off your hormones in other ways.
The other day I heard the statistic that the average women puts over 515 different chemicals on her body before she even leaves the house in the morning. This study was performed by, Bionsen, a natural deodorant company.
This actually blows my mind. Not only are we exposure to thousands of different chemicals in our environment but many of us willingly rub even more chemicals onto our body in the form of body lotion, shampoo, toners, makeup, hairspray and deodorant.
When I work with clients to balance their hormones, I always recommend ditching chemical skin care and beauty products. This is crucial. Switch to organic and natural products or make your own with the ingredients in your kitchen (another topic coming soon!)
This is one of my all-time favorite supplements for female hormones. Maca Root has helped me tremendously and it has helped many of my clients. Maca is a tuber that comes from the radish family. It has a long history of use helping both men and women with everything from infertility to libido issues to hot flashes.
Maca root helps balance hormones with its adaptogenic properties. Adaptogenic means that it doesn’t contain any hormones but contains all the nutrients needed to support hormone production. It is naturally high in minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, magnesim, phosphorus and zinc. It also contains up to 20 essential fatty acids and many amino acids.
Maca is also a great option for people suffering from adrenal fatigue and HPA axis dysfunction. It helps nourish the stress system and can actively bring down stress hormones.
I have seen fantastic results from maca root. In my menopausal clients, I have seen it reduce and eliminate hot flashes and night sweats in a matter of weeks.
Maca root seems to have a cumulative effect and should be used for at least 3-4 weeks before expecting results.
Magnesium is needed for over 300 different enzymatic reactions in the body. It is also one of the nervous systems main relaxants which means it promotes a sense of calm, helps with sleep and can reduce muscle twitching.
There is a good reason that women often crave chocolate at the time of their periods. Cocao is very high in magnesium. Magnesium levels fluctuate throughout the month with estrogen and progesterone. Excessively high estrogen or progesterone can cause magnesium deficiency. So if you are having weird hormone fluctuations, then your magnesium levels can plummet.
Since magnesium relaxes the muscles, it can also reduce the contractions that cause menstrual cramps. One of the best ways to get magnesium is to take an Epsom salt bath in the week leading up to your period.
You can also apply trans dermal magnesium oil to your feet before bed. This is a great way to get magnesium directly into your bloodstream.
This herb is known for its fertility enhancing properties. I have found it also to be helpful in reducing symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps in some women. It contains high levels of nutrients, including calcium. The best way to take this is to brew it up as a hot tea.
Vitex has a long history of helping women with their hormones. It is very helpful especially with raising progesterone. If progesterone is too low, you can end up with estrogen dominance, even when estrogen is normal or low. Using this herb to raise progesterone can help some women with menstrual cramps. It my experience it takes about 2-3 months to become effective.
Cod liver oil is a great supplement with a high nutrient profile. It contains all the fat soluble vitamins that are necessary for building hearty hormones, including A, D and K. it is also high in Omega 3 fatty acids which can help calm and soothe inflammation.
Sleep is one of the most important things for hormone production. Without proper amounts of sleep, you will not have good hormone balance.
Create a healthy sleep routine to get yourself in bed and asleep by 10:30pm and make sure to get 7-9 hours every night.
Reducing stress may be one of the most important factors in creating happy, balanced hormones. The adrenal glands, which make stress hormones, also make a significant amount of your sex hormones.
Due to survival factors, stress hormones will always get priority over your other hormones. This means that if you are constantly stressed, your body preferentially makes stress hormones instead of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Find a way to manage your stress, whether that means daily meditation, going to a yoga class, hanging out with good friends or spending a day at the beach.
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