Last week I discussed endometriosis in detail. This condition should be taken seriously as it can lead to infertility and permanent damage of the Fallopian tubes and ovaries. It can also lead to cyst formation which puts you at risk for a ruptured cyst. If you want to learn more about Endometriosis and your risk, please read the article here.
If you have been struggling with Endometriosis, there’s a good chance you have been given little direction beyond surgery, birth control pills and pain killers.
I understand your frustration if you feel that these options are not right for you. Practitioners rarely discuss diet and lifestyle changes when it comes to this condition.
Thankfully, from a Functional Medicine prospective, there is a lot you can do to manage or even reverse your endometriosis. The first step to relief involves eating the right foods.
As you know, I generally recommend the Paleo diet as nutrition template for many hormone conditions. This recommendation mostly has to do with the fact that Paleo is a great tool for balancing blood sugar levels.
You can learn more about the Paleo diet and how it can help balance your hormones in this article.
Paleo isn’t your only option. Some women do better on different variations of Paleo (ie. less meat and more carbohydrates) or some women thrive with some gluten-free grains or beans and legumes in their diet. It really depends on your unique biochemistry, activity levels and carbohydrate tolerance.
The most important thing is that you eat real food. Your choices should be free-range, organic and local whenever possible. You food should not come from a box, bag or package. It should be chosen as you shop the perimeter of the grocery store, avoiding the nastiness of the isles in between.
Once you got the real food diet mastered, you can start being strategic with your food choices to optimize your body’s ability to prevent endometriosis from continuing to occur.
Cruciferous vegetables are a top choice when it comes to reversing endometriosis. The endometrial lining grows due to the effects of Estrogen (a potent growth hormone). Elevated estrogen is often at the root of Endometriosis.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radish, cabbage, Brussel sprout, collard greens and bok choy contain Diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM is a powerful tool in lowering estrogen levels.
When estrogen is broken down, it can head down the 2-OH, 4-OH or 16-OH pathways. The 2-OH pathway is thought to be a protective pathway. 4-OH is thought to be a damaging pathway, causing DNA damage and a possible cause of estrogen dominant cancers. The 16-OH is not damaging like the 4-OH but can lead to symptoms of estrogen dominance (ie. endometriosis).
DIM consumption actually shifts these pathways and helps you break your estrogen down that protective 2-OH pathway and away from the 4-OH and 16-OH. It also has the effect of reducing estrogen levels overall.
I find DIM to be one of the most powerful tools when it comes to dealing with estrogen dominance and endometriosis.
I have heard that fermented cruciferous vegetables are even more powerful in these effects. So eat your sauerkraut!
One way that estrogen can become elevated is due to poor liver clearance. It is the liver’s responsibility to clear excess hormones from the blood. The liver is one of the areas where the estrogen metabolism mentioned above occurs. In fact, 50% of estrogen metabolism occurs in the liver.
This means if liver function is not optimal, you might have excess estrogen floating around your blood, leading to nasty symptoms.
Liver friendly foods include:
Approximately 50% estrogen metabolites that enter the liver, are then excreted in the bile, sent to the intestine and then hydrolyzed by intestinal microflora. Following this process, hydrolyzed estrogen is either excreted via poop or are entered back into portal circulation.
From here it goes back to the liver for further metabolization. They are either sent back to the bile or pushed back into circulation.
Enter the Estrobolome. The estrobolome is a set of gut microflora that produce beta- glucuronidase, an enzyme that influences this metabolization. Claudia Plottel, MD, a Clinical Associate Professor at N.Y.U., and her team looked at how intestinal flora affects estrogen circulation
Plottel believes your microbiota species can create beta-glucuronidase that increase estrogen– allowing it to re-enter circulation in the body.
This makes your intestinal flora crucial to healthy estrogen levels. Some unfavorable microflora carry this enzyme and thus creating not only a dysbiosis in the gut but elevates estrogen levels.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt (if tolerated), pickles, kombucha and other fermented veggies contain a full spectrum of bacterial communities. Eating these foods on a regular basis can help repopulate your gut and increase the beneficial flora in your gut.
Another way your estrogen can become too high is due to something called aromatization. Aromatase is the enzyme which causes the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
Inflammation can increase the presence of aromatase in the body leading to elevated estrogen levels. If you were to run a hormone panel and you had aromatization, you would see average DHEA with low testosterone and elevated estrogen.
Additionally, inflammation can negatively affect your adrenal glands leading to imbalanced hormones. It can also stress the immune system which is usually a reason excess endometrial tissue cannot be cleared from the body.
Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
If the immune system is strong and healthy, the body should be able to fight off the overgrowth of endometrial tissue. This is at least the thoughts of many of the practitioners I have spoken with.
It appears that many women with endometriosis also have reduced immunity. Most of the research suggests that low immunity is a result of endometriosis rather than a cause. Both ways, boosting immunity can likely help improve this condition.
Top Immune System Boosting Foods:
Collagen is my new favorite thing. I’m totally stoked on it. Wanna know why?!
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It can be found in bones, muscles, skin and tendons. You can think of it like the “glue” that holds everything together. It gives skin it’s elasticity and repairs damaged tissues.
When collagen production starts to decline, you notice wrinkles, saggy skin and weak cartilage. Aging is a process that contributes to collagen breakdown but other things like sugar consumption, excessive sun exposure and smoking cigarettes can also cause collagen to break down at a faster rate. This is why it’s not only important to consider adding collagen into your body but also to consider the lifestyle factors which may be reducing your collagen levels.
Collagen and gelatin are often used interchangeably. Gelatin is actually derived from collagen. When collagen breaks down it becomes gelatin. You might know about my intense love for bone broth. I just love the stuff. I may be a bit of a broth pusher. Bones contain loads of collagen and when you cook broth, that collagen turns to gelatin. You know that jiggly stuff that look like jello? That’s gelatin. You may think it’s gross but I think it’s beautiful.
Collagen is packed full of amino acids like arginine, glutamine, glycine and proline. These are “nonessential” amino acids which means your body makes them on its own but when you are sick, stressed or unhealthy, your body becomes less efficient at producing these important amino acids.
These “nonessential” amino acids are critical to having a healthy body. Without them things don’t run smoothly. For example, proline helps release fat build up in the blood stream. This is crucial for keeping arteries clean maintaining heart health.
Glutamine plays a decisive role in keeping the acid-alkaline balance in the body. It is also needed for muscle recovery and keeping the skin firm.
Glycine makes sure the cells function properly and builds healthy DNA strands. It also helps create creatinine which boosts muscle production and sustains healthy energy levels
Collagen is important stuff. Without it you would be a saggy, floppy, weak, exhausted sorry excuse for a human being. And that’s not sexy!
I don’t mean to alarm you but as you read this your collagen production is slowly declining! That means you are slowly getting looser skin and more wrinkles. Ark! Taking collagen can help slow this process and keep your skin looking smoother, tighter and more radiant. It can also keep your hair strong and healthy. Extra collagen can enhance cell renewal and repair which means quicker wound and scar healing.
If you have noticed your body getting stiffer as you age, collagen deficiency may be your problem. Too little collagen can also lead to swollen joints that prevent you from doing all those awesome activities that you love.
Ingesting extra collagen can reduce your risk of joint deterioration, bring down joint pain and help your joints glide more easily. There is research that shows that collagen can also help with osteoarthritis.
Leaky gut is a condition where the gut is broken down and inflamed. Food, toxins and pathogens can easily move into the bloodstream. The result is ongoing immune reactions that can lead to chronic inflammation, allergies and so many other symptoms.
If you suffer from this syndrome, collagen can be super helpful. It is fantastic at repairing and generating gut cells which can heal the damaged lining of the gut and prevent particles from leaking into the blood.
Collagen also helps your gut absorb more water which can keep things moving and help you produce that perfect morning poop (you know, the one that is so fabulous that you want to take a picture of it and show it to your friends!
You can boost your metabolism by adding extra collagen into your diet. Glycine, a component of collagen, can help move sugar out of the cells to increases energy levels. Glycine also plays a role in muscle development. More collagens equals more muscles! Da beach is dat way!
Do you have weak nails that split and peel easily? You may be lacking collagen. Do you have unhealthy teeth that are dull and susceptible to cavities? Again, it could be collagen! Supplementing with collagen can keep your teeth healthy and keep your nails strong.
Detoxification is a process that your body is continually doing. Sometimes the liver absorbs foreign substances that can be damaging. The glycine component of collagen can help minimize damage to your liver. If you’re looking to detox, collagen is extremely helpful. That’s because glycine helps minimize damage to your liver. Since we are constantly being exposed to toxins, no matter where we live in the world, having a well functioning liver is important for overall health and avoiding chronic disease.
When skin loses its elasticity as a result of decreased collagen, it can make cellulite more visible. When you lack collagen, your skin becomes thinner and cellulite is more obvious. Taking collagen may be the most important thing for reducing cellulite. Of course, this also needs to be combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Collagen is no magic pill but it can be extremely helpful in ridding yourself of this annoying problem.
Collagen was a huge component of ancestral diets. Since primitive people ate the whole animal including skin, tendon, ligaments and bones, they were constantly exposed to collagen. These days we stick to boneless muscle meats which means we don’t get nearly as much collagen as our ancestors did.
My favorite way to get more collagen is by consuming bone broth. I have an intimate relationship with bone broth. Click here to see my super awesome bone broth recipe. You can use bone broth for cooking or just drink it hot and salted in your favorite mug.
Anytime you cook a turkey or a chicken, keep the carcass and turn it into broth. You can also get bones inexpensively from your local butcher.
If you want to keep things simple, you can take collagen supplements. It’s important that you get collagen powder from grass-fed, naturally raised cows. Make sure they are free of antibiotics and hormones. Collagen powder is easy to take. It mixes into any liquid (hot or cold) and has no noticeable flavor. I drink collagen every morning in my tea or sometimes in a smoothie.