Top 3 Tips for Healing Endometriosis and Adenomyosis Naturally
Top 3 Tips for Healing Endometriosis and Adenomyosis Naturally
Both adenomyosis and endometriosis — which really should be considered the same disease — have debilitating symptoms no woman should have to suffer through. So far Western medicine has found no cure, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.
When the nurse practitioner told me over the phone, after giving me my diagnosis of adenomyosis, that I’d probably have to have a hysterectomy, I was devastated. But within a year, using logic and my research skills, I was able to get back to a healthy uterus without hormones or surgery. I now have completely symptom-free periods.
There’s lots that can be done to treat endometriosis and adenomyosis, naturally. Diet and lifestyle have a much bigger impact on health, including the health of your uterus, then most Western doctors will discuss with you. While it will take a book to tell you all that I learned in that year after my diagnosis, if you’re visiting this page today, you’ve either been suffering now for too long, or you’ve just been frightened by the prospect of hysterectomy or heavy synthetic hormones, and may be eager to get started right away.
So let me give you my surface-level, top three tips for healing endometriosis and adenomyosis, naturally. Please keep in mind this is my first post for this website, and I’ll be delving more into each of these subjects, complete with medical references, in the days and weeks to come.
1. Rethink your diet
There’s much discussion and some controversy over what constitutes the best diet for someone with endo or adeno, and I address the science behind endometriosis diets in this post. In the meantime, I highly suggest going “paleo.” At the very least, please eliminate gluten (and other grains if you can), refined sugar, dairy, and soy. Each of these are either inflammatory, contain hormones or hormone-like substances, or both.
Please do not go “low-gluten.” If you’re gluten sensitive (like me), and there’s a chance you are, since both endometriosis and adenomyosis have links to autoimmunity, then even the tiniest, minuscule crumb of gluten can be problematic. And since many gluten-free foods still contain up to 19ppm of gluten, please eat either whole foods that are naturally gluten-free, or if you must choose gluten-free processed foods, please look for the “certified gluten-free” symbol which tests for levels up to 10ppm. Still not ideal, but a good place to start.
Many websites define a paleo diet as one that incorporates lots of vegetables and “lean” protein. However, that’s not always been the definition of paleo, and I think it’s a mistake to avoid fat. Fat is our friend—it’s good for our organs, for energy, and for cell growth, among other things. Don’t let the low-fat campaign of last century lead you to believe it’s bad for you. If you’re worried about its effect on your waistline, reduce your carb consumption. Then, go ahead, enjoy the bacon, the fatty hamburger, the oily smoked salmon, the dollop (or two) of mayonnaise (unless you’re like my son and hate mayonnaise). Or for plant-based options, how about almond butter or coconut oil? Avocado? Fats are satiating, so you won’t walk away from the table hungry, fighting the urge to give into your craving for carbs.
What about going vegan?
Many people tout the benefits of a vegan diet for health, and while I support the diet for moral reasons, when we’re talking nutrition, I don’t think its the best. If you are going to go gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free (which, again I highly recommend), then also eliminating meat makes for a very restrictive diet. It’s not only difficult to find enough to eat, but it may also be nutritionally inadequate, making it hard to sustain over the long term.
So far, there hasn’t been much evidence that red meat is actually problematic, and in fact it has a lot of nutrients that can’t be found in plants. At the same time, relying on only plants for your nutritional needs, means you’re consuming a lot of carbs, which, as I explain a bit below, has its own set of health issues.
However, please do choose high quality meat—meat that is not factory farmed, which is full of hormones and antibiotics (and just plain cruel). Support your local farmer and healthier ecosystems.
For more discussion on diet, including consumption of fat, anti-inflammatory foods, a discussion on soy, and more, please see The Best Diet for Endometriosis and Adenomyosis. It includes a free dietary cheat sheet you can post on your fridge!
When your diet isn’t enough
Sometimes going gluten-free or paleo is still not enough. It may not be what you want to hear right now, and that’s fine. Start with paleo first, then reassess. But don’t give up, if the diet hasn’t made you feel better.
You might have strong autoimmune issues and have to adopt the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet. Or you might have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Fructose Malabsorption, or Candida, causing issues with too many carbs or specific carbs. If that’s the case, you may have to either adopt the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or the low FODMAPs diet. Some go completely ketogenic. Others, like a few women in our Facebook Group, have even found relief through a carnivore diet, along with countless others for their non-endo chronic diseases. I’m not surprised, as carbs can cause so many issues, but I do wonder how sustainable an all-meat diet is over the long-term, too. At any rate, it can’t hurt to experiment and see what works best for you.
At the same time, you should work with a functional doctor who can test your gut for bacterial issues. If he or she can resolve them, maybe you won’t have to be on a terribly restrictive diet forever.
2. Rebalance your hormones
Both endometriosis and adenomyosis are “estrogen-dependent” diseases. So logic dictates, reduce your exposure to estrogen. That means avoid phyto-estrogens, plants with estrogen-like compounds, such as soy. Avoid xeno-estrogens, foreign substances that act like estrogen in your body, like plastic (especially when heated) or strong household chemicals, pesticides. And wean yourself off birth control. You can also take Diindolylmethane, aka DIM, a natural substance generated from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale (although not recommended for everyone). Or drink dandelion root tea to clear your liver of excess estrogen and toxins.
Of course, its best to become informed before you start messing around with your hormones. If you can, work with your naturopath or functional doctor who can test your hormones levels. Or, if you can’t find a functional doctor, you can also order at-home tests and download your results directly from the lab.
While the amount of estrogen and progesterone in your system are important, the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is also important, because even if your estrogen and progesterone are in the normal range, you could still have a higher amount of estrogen relative to progesterone. When this happens you are estrogen dominant. You could also be low in estrogen and low in progesterone, but still be estrogen dominant. Here’s a good calculator to help you determine this estrogen-progesterone ratio.
The optimal ratio of estrogen to progesterone is considered to be between 100-500. But keep in mind this is when the E2 is within a normal luteal phase range. If your estrogen and/or progesterone are out of range, it’s harder to predict the optimal ratio. That’s when evaluating symptoms come into play, and why its best to work with your doctor on this.
Once you know your hormone levels and ratio to one another, there are natural ways you can increase or decrease one or the other. I’ve already mentioned some ways to reduce estrogen in your body. Here are also some tips on increasing progesterone without the use of hormones.
Either way, I don’t recommend using synthetic or natural hormones, especially without knowing what your hormone picture already looks like. I will discuss more ways to rebalance estrogen and progesterone in another post.
There are other hormones to consider besides estrogen and progesterone
If you can, test all your sex hormones. Us women even have testosterone, and that, as well as DHEA can tell you something about your energy levels and contributions to your gynecological symptoms.
Thyroid is another hormone to consider. Many women who have adeno or endo also have a thyroid condition. The relationship between estrogen, progesterone and thyroid is too complicated to discuss in today’s post, but suffice it to say, they’re in a delicate balance with one another, and when one is out of whack, it will affect the other. Keep your thyroid levels in their optimal range, and be sure when you do check your thyroid, you do a full thyroid panel. Testing only for TSH does not provide a complete picture of what your thyroid is doing, and your TSH can often show up within optimal range, even if your free T4 or free T3 do not. The thyroid is a complicated gland that affects almost every cell in your body, so I’m sure I’ll be talking about the thyroid more in another post.
In the meantime, be sure that when your doctor discusses your lab results with you, he or she also looks at your symptoms, because optimal thyroid levels can be different for every individual.
3. Realize your stress
Speaking of hormones, cortisol is ultra-important in considering the health of not just your uterus, but pretty much everything. And in case you didn’t know, cortisol is the hormone most associated with stress.
We all know stress can be problematic at times, but how many of us really take it seriously? Some of us even take offense to the idea that any of our symptoms could be stress-related. As if its all in our heads! But no, it isn’t at all just in your head. Long-term, unalleviated stress has real and serious complications. It’s the subject of my memoir, so I won’t go there now, but to put it in terms related to the subject of this post, cortisol competes with progesterone. So if you have constant spikes of stress that you never fully recover from, you can bet its affecting your estrogen-progesterone ratio. I suggest getting your cortisol tested along with all the other hormones I mention.
Please read more about the link between stress and endometriosis, here.
Identifying my stressors was one of the key factors in turning around the progress of my adenomyosis. It took time for me to unravel them, because I didn’t think I had any stress. But stress can be caused by so many things, from obvious job- or relationship-related issues, to ancient, hidden trauma that you’re still carrying around. Only you know what causes you stress. And sometimes you may not even realize that you’re stressed.
If you can, get a new job, take on less work, or break it off with that person who isn’t respecting your boundaries. But for things you can’t change, such as your past, or the loss of a loved one, it’s your job to learn how to accept them. This is not easy, I know, as I had to go through it myself. But meditation and self-compassion can go a long way in helping. So can working with the right therapist.
I urge you to embark on the journey to discovering your sources of stress, as well as changing your diet and understanding your hormones. Sooner than later, if you want to make progress in healing your endometriosis or adenomyosis. None of this easy. I know. This will all take work. But it will be so worth it the end!