Healthnotes Newswire (November 15, 2001)—Endometriosis is a progressive and chronic disease of the female reproductive tissues that affects as many as 10% of all women in the United States and is the third leading cause of gynecologic hospitalization, including hysterectomy.1 The most common symptoms are pain during menses, painful intercourse, pain with urination or bowel movements, general pelvic pain, and infertility. While no cure for endometriosis exists, a review article in Alternative Therapies suggests that using multiple therapies, including diet, exercise, herbal medicine, and acupuncture, may reduce the symptoms associated with endometriosis.2
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including cold water fish, nuts, and seeds, may help decrease the inflammation caused by endometriosis. Animal research suggests that fish oils may reduce the severity of endometriosis,3 4 and fish oils have been shown to improve symptoms of painful menstruation,5 which may be caused by endometriosis. Although there is no research that investigates omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for endometriosis in humans, reasonable intake is approximately 2 grams of fish oil per day.
While botanical medicines have not been specifically studied in women with endometriosis, certain herbs may be of benefit. The fruit of the chaste tree (Vitex agnus castus) has been found to increase progesterone levels in women with short menstrual periods.6 The author of the Alternative Therapies article believes that since estrogen is known to exacerbate endometriosis, increasing levels of progesterone (which is an estrogen antagonist) may help reduce symptoms. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) and black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) have anti-inflammatory activity and may reduce painful spasms of the uterus during menses.7 8 Extract of kava kava (Piper methysticum) induces a tranquilizing effect in the brain and reduces muscle spasms.9 Because of the potential interaction with substances that act on the brain, such as alcohol or psychiatric drugs, it is recommended to avoid taking kava kava simultaneously with these substances. The author discusses using Turska’s Formula, a combination of four potentially toxic herbs (Aconite, Bryonia, Phytolacca and Gelsemium) for endometriosis. Due to the toxic nature of this preparation, this formula should only be taken under the close supervision of a physician specially trained in the use of these herbs. In addition, more research is needed to determine whether these herbs are effective against endometriosis.
Other interventions may provide additional help for women suffering from endometriosis. One preliminary report found that participating in regular meetings with other endometriosis sufferers helped women cope better with the many psychological and emotional issues associated with this condition.10 Acupuncture has been reported anecdotally to help control the pain associated with some cases of endometriosis,11 but no controlled studies have confirmed this claim.
Conventional treatment for endometriosis involves surgery, hormone suppression, or both. Neither option is without risk and side effects. Using an integrative approach may provide for relatively safe, effective relief for women who endure this devastating disease. Nevertheless, some of the treatment approaches discussed in this article remain theoretical, and need to be subjected to formal study.References