Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects an estimated 10 percent of all women. Unfortunately, most of these individuals suffer for many years before receiving a proper diagnosis. Traditional medical approaches often focus on symptom management through surgeries and hormone therapies. However, functional medicine is an alternative model that addresses the root causes of endometriosis by considering the interconnectedness of the body and uniqueness of each individual.
In this article, we will explain how we use functional medicine to treat the root causes of endometriosis to offer hope for women battling this painful condition.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when tissue normally found within the uterus grows in nearby organs like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and lining of your pelvis. This abnormal growth causes inflammation, scarring, and the formation of painful adhesions. Women with this condition can experience severe pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, digestive issues, and compromised fertility. A doctor, typically an OBGYN, may diagnose endometriosis with various methods like an ultrasound, MRI, pelvic examination, and in some cases, a minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery to look for tissue growth.
Inflammation, genetics, and a dysregulated immune system are a few suspected causes of endometriosis. Plus, some studies have linked maternal exposure to environmental toxins, like dioxin, to endometriosis development (1
). Women with endometriosis also have a greater likelihood of developing autoimmune conditions like celiac and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease
Functional Medicine for Endometriosis
Functional medicine takes a personalized approach by recognizing the interconnected nature of the body and identifying the unique factors contributing to your endometriosis symptoms. Let's explore some key elements of how we use functional medicine at Root to treat endometriosis.
Inflammation is a common denominator in endometriosis. We can lower inflammation throughout the body by using food as medicine. An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean protein. However, depending on the individual, we may recommend a short-term elimination diet
to remove potential food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, soy, and artificial sweeteners.
Here are a few tips to follow an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Balance blood sugar levels by including a protein, fat, and fiber-rich carbohydrate with each of your meals and snacks.
- Boost your antioxidant intake by aiming for 4+ cups of colorful, non-starchy vegetables per day.
- Avoid or limit foods that may worsen inflammation like alcohol, added sugar, and caffeine.
Address Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen is a sex hormone produced by a woman’s body in fluctuating amounts throughout the menstrual cycle. Typically, women with endometriosis suffer from higher than normal amounts of estrogen. This is commonly referred to as estrogen dominance. We can identify estrogen dominance by using comprehensive hormone testing
. Believe it or not, the best way to address estrogen dominance is by improving gut health
. Imbalances in gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis, impairs estrogen metabolism and may result in estrogen dominance.
While specific gut protocols are individualized, we may recommend supporting gut health with supplements in our Gut Health Bundle
. Likewise, we highly encourage those with estrogen dominance to eat a daily serving or more of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage
. These vegetables contain a compound known to support healthy estrogen detoxification in the liver.
Certain environmental toxins can exacerbate endometriosis symptoms. Functional medicine recognizes the importance of detoxification to minimize toxin exposure and enhance the body's ability to eliminate them. Supporting liver function, reducing chemical exposures, and targeted supplementation can all aid in detoxification. Start small. Choosing organically raised meat options, swapping personal care items for cleaner alternatives, and limiting exposure to plastic containers and water bottles all cumulatively reduce toxin exposure.
While food is key in setting an anti-inflammatory foundation, targeted supplements are an effective tool in further reducing inflammation throughout the body. Here are a few supplements that we commonly recommend to individuals with endometriosis (3
- Omega-3 contains two fatty acids found in fish oil, EPA and DHA, known to reduce whole-body inflammation. For endometriosis, we usually suggest 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams per day.
- N-acetyl-cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that lowers inflammation and supports optimal fertility. For best results, we suggest taking around 1,800 milligrams per day in divided doses (i.e. one capsule of the Root NAC, two times per day).
- Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric used for thousands of years in eastern medicine to lower inflammation. Curcumin is also helpful in reducing period pain. We suggest taking about 500 milligrams of curcumin twice per day.
Chronic stress can worsen endometriosis symptoms. Simply put, you cannot effectively treat any hormonal imbalance if your stress levels are uncontrolled. Mindfulness meditations, yoga, and acupuncture are a few proven tools for lowering stress hormone levels and supporting emotional well-being.
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition that often causes debilitating pain, digestive issues, and period irregularities. We use functional medicine to identify and treat the root causes of this condition. Following an anti-inflammatory diet, improving gut health, supportive supplements, and stress management tools are all effective interventions to lower inflammation to find long lasting relief.
Join the 98 percent of our members who report a reduction of symptoms in just three months with our comprehensive functional medicine membership program.