Full Body Approach

Remember, this is educational information only and not medical advice (and I am not a doctor nor an expert on endometriosis). Always check with your qualified medical professional before making any changes to your treatment plan.

Full Body Approach

Apart from endometriosis being found in 11 different body systems, endometriosis can affect/cause symptoms throughout the entire body. Because endometriosis is a complex inflammatory condition that can affect the full body, it’s recommended that the patient work with a multidisciplinary team with excision at the cornerstone to address the disease from a full-body approach.

At the Endometriosis Summit 2021, Dr Iris Orbuch (excision surgeon and co-author of the book Beating Endo: How to Reclaim Your Life from Endometriosis), gave a presentation about the endometriosis domino effect. The first domino is endometriosis, but as we go for years with untreated disease in our bodies, there are more cytokines and chronic inflammation, more structural changes pulling on our anatomy and fascia, more pain modulations, and more nerve fibers can go from endometriosis lesions to the central nervous system. We may start with endometriosis, and over the years the dominoes fall and we then have multiple more diagnoses and symptoms because of endo’s direct or indirect effects on the body. I myself now have SIBO, mast cell activation syndrome, fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, and pelvic floor dysfunction. Not to mention the impact that having endometriosis and any other co-conditions has on our mental health!

What does this mean for us? That even if we are fortunate enough to have excision surgery to remove endometriosis lesions at the root, we may still need to identify and address co-conditions and other pain generators to see more relief. Conversely, even if we can’t have excision surgery at this time, we still may be able to manage/ diminish our symptoms, or improve our overall quality of life, by addressing various aspects of our health.

Scroll down or click each category for resources for:

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Nutrition/The “Endometriosis Diet”

Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition, and additionally, people with endometriosis often have several food intolerances. Many foods may cause us pain, fatigue, or flares. While there is no such thing as an official “endometriosis diet,” for many people eating an anti-inflammatory diet individually tailored to their needs improves their symptoms and quality of life. Some people also find the AIP diet, low FODMAP diet, low histamine diet, Paleo diet, or some other eating style (or combination of these) to be helpful.

While we may decide to cut out foods that contribute to our individual symptoms and pain (common examples are gluten, dairy, sugar, processed foods, highly refined carbs), it’s also important to add in a variety of nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, adequate protein, and healthy fats so that we are satiated and have energy. Typically, many people follow an elimination diet over 1-3 months to figure out which foods contribute to their symptoms. It can take time to find what dietary choices make us feel nourished and energized, just as it can take time to figure out what foods may trigger symptoms for us. It can also take time to learn to cook as well as re-find a healthy relationship with food if food has typically been a source of symptoms, and therefore, fear and anxiety.

There are many websites, books, and recipes out there available on eating for endometriosis, especially if you browse the books about endometriosis on Amazon.

*Always check with your doctor before making any dietary changes!

For more info

  • Nutrition for Endometriosis – Written by Erin Luyendyk, RHN, and on the CEC’s website.

  • Whole 30 – This can be a great way to jump into an elimination diet, with resources, community, and support. This program removes many pro-inflammatory foods for 30 days. Then when you start to reintroduce them one at a time into your diet, it’s oftentimes much easier to pinpoint what foods trigger flares for you.

  • Is the Autoimmune Protocol Right for You? – Outline to the AIP diet, which eliminates pro-inflammatory foods and common foods that people are sensitive to. Many people follow this for a few months, and then reintroduce foods one at a time to see which ones cause them flares.

  • Mark’s Daily Apple – Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is very similar to the Paleo/ancestral health diet. To clear up any misconceptions, the Paleo diet isn’t about gorging yourself on meat, but rather eating local, avoiding pesticides, choosing high quality meat (should you eat meat), eating a wide array of vegetables, nuts, and seeds while avoiding pro-inflammatory foods like gluten/grains, dairy, sugar, packaged foods, and industrial seed oils. I’ve relied heavily on info and recipes from the Paleo/ancestral health community to help me navigate my dietary choices and understand the science behind how food influences how I feel.

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Hormones

For many of us, our hormones may not be in balance. For example, we may have too little progesterone or too much estrogen. We may have gone through surgical menopause (removal of the ovaries) and now are thinking about hormone replacement therapy. Our hormones are involved in body-wide processes, so if we have too much or too little of a hormone, or our body is having trouble with hormone detoxification, then it can cause us miserable hormonal symptoms.

We often hear that endometriosis is an “estrogen-dependent disease” but this is a bit misleading because it sounds like endometriosis depends solely on estrogen and therefore, if we lower estrogen in the body, the endometriosis will just disappear. But this isn’t the case, and people in a low estrogen state (be it natural menopause, medical menopause via GNRH drugs, or surgical menopause) can still have disease progression and pain, and the lesions don’t just disappear. While estrogen is important to endometriosis, it’s not the only hormone that endometriosis responds to. The interplay of hormones with endometriosis is complex, and progesterone, prostaglandins, and the aromatase enzyme are important too.

A note on estrogen dominance – many websites say that estrogen dominance causes endometriosis or that people with endometriosis are estrogen dominant, but neither is true. While estrogen may increase a person’s endometriosis symptoms (and this highly depends on the individual), high estrogen doesn’t cause endometriosis. Additionally, people with endometriosis can have a range of estrogen from low to high – having endometriosis doesn’t mean that you have excess/high estrogen or estrogen dominance.

After losing my ovary, I’m now in perimenopause and taking oral progesterone. I’ve also been learning that there are many herbs, supplements, and lifestyle habits that can help us balance our hormones and relieve symptoms like PMS, insomnia, aches and pains, fatigue, and hormonal migraines.

For more info

  • Lara Briden – The Period Revolutionary – Great website on hormones from naturopathic doctor and bestselling author Lara Briden. I highly recommend her books Period Repair Manual and Hormone Repair Manual.

  • Dr Jolene Brighten – Great website on hormones from Dr Brighten, who is a Functional Medicine Naturopathic Physician and author of the book Beyond the Pill – A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill. If you are on hormonal birth control, this is a helpful book.

  • Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, (CeMCOR) – Website on hormones and HRT by Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, who is a Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism (the study of hormones and glands) at the University of British Columbia.

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Sleep

Many of us struggle with sleep due to cortisol dysregulation, pain, hormonal insomnia, MCAS, histamine intolerance, and more. Not getting enough sleep can increase our fatigue, affect mental health, cause sugar cravings, and even make us more sensitive to pain. Getting deep, restorative sleep each night can make a huge difference in how we feel, although it’s not easy to do when your health problems interfere with your sleep, creating a vicious cycle!

For more info

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Functional Medicine/ Naturopathy

Post-excision when I got diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome, I began seeing a functional medicine doctor, and later, I changed that doctor for a naturopath. Seeing a doctor that looks at the whole body instead of each system individually and separate from one another has been one of the best things I’ve done for my health. Between them, they did a comprehensive stool sample, a hormone test, and looked at my body’s methylation and detoxification. With those results, they formulated a protocol (dietary changes, herbs, supplements, and medication) that over the next 6 months helped me immensely with my mast cell symptoms.

Prices and insurance coverage can vary for these doctors, as well as their expertise, focus, and experience. Like when finding any doctor, it’s important to interview the doctor to see if they are a good fit for you and have the experience to treat you. Important: some doctors are misinformed and believe that they can “cure” your endometriosis or that “balancing your hormones/body” will remove your endometriosis, but this is not the case. Endometriosis has no cure and the disease can still progress even if you become symptom free.

For more info

  • The Institute for Functional Medicine – They provide a comprehensive, searchable network of clinicians in various specialties and healthcare professions.

  • Dr. Chris Kresser – Dr Kresser is a functional medicine doctor and avid researcher. He provides evidence-based information on all kinds of health topics. I rely heavily on this site to learn, especially about gut health. Don’t miss his free downloadable e-books on various topics.

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Reducing Toxins

Many toxins and chemicals we are exposed to daily are endocrine disruptors and can affect our hormones and endometriosis symptoms.

For more info

  • Environmental Working Group – Excellent resource for consumer guides and information on chemicals and toxins that we are exposed to daily. They rank US skincare products, cleaning products, soaps, detergents, shampoos, lotions, etc. They have lists about pesticides on produce, like the Dirty Dozen. They also have information on US tap water (and once you find out what’s in your water, you may be horrified – I was! – and want to buy a water purification system. The one I use is listed below.)

  • Berkey Filters – Water purification system that outperforms most filters on the market. This filter system has a higher upfront cost but since the filters don’t need to be changed for a long time depending on your water usage (mine need to be replaced every 5 years), the cost per gallon is actually much lower than cheaper filters that need to be replaced often. My tap water tasted terrible and really irritated my IC, after switching to Berkey filtered water my IC flares have gone down!

  • Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve – Great for eczema/psoriasis, allergies, and mast cell activation syndrome! “Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve is a small family owned and family operated company dedicated to crafting high quality, healthy and effective skin and hair care products that will nourish your skin and be kind to our planet…Our ingredients are USDA certified organic, sustainably produced, cruelty-free and ethically traded. We will always use the best ingredients to make the best safe and effective skin care products available.”

Related Podcast Episodes

  • Reducing Toxins. Part 1 (coming soon)
  • Reducing Toxins. Part 2 (coming soon)

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