What Causes Endometriosis & Natural Treatments That Help

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Menstrual Cycle Leave a Comment

Endometriosis is a very common condition for many women. Here, we'll discuss the condition, how it works and the symptoms you can expect. But we'll also go further and look at natural treatments for endometriosis.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is the growth of endometrial tissue in irregular areas of the body. Endometrial tissue is normally only found lining the uterus, but this condition is caused by endometrial growth in fallopian tubes, ovaries, intestines and other tissues.

The number one symptom women with endometriosis report is pain — with their period, with sex, and for some women, their pelvic pain is constant.

Because the endometrium responds to the same hormones that result in your period, these tissues also bleed when you have your period, regardless of where it is in the body. The blood causes irritation and inflammation, which results in a whole lot of pain and scar tissue. Overtime, adhesions begin to form in the reproductive organs, intestines, bladder, and other organs.

But not all women are symptomatic. In fact, 20-25% of women with endometriosis are without symptoms, which makes getting an early diagnosis more difficult.

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What Causes Endometriosis?

While science is not exactly sure of the cause of endometriosis, research suggests correlations between the condition and the following:

1. Environmental Toxins and Endometriosis

We are not entirely sure what causes endometriosis, but some experts have begun to question the role of environmental toxins in the disease. Chemicals like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are thought to increase the risk of endometriosis by altering cytokines, immune function, hormones and growth factors.

2. Estrogen Dominance and Endometriosis

We also know that endometriosis is estrogen dependent, which is a hormone that is sensitive to environmental endocrine disruptors. It may be possible that the effect of environmental toxins on hormone balance contributes to disease progression.

Endometriosis does have a relationship to estrogen dominance and getting estrogen back in balance is one of the keys to treatment.

Read more on Detoxing Your Hormone for Better Hormones. 

Is Endometriosis Autoimmune?

And while the exact cause of endometriosis has yet to be found in medicine, it is looking like this one may be autoimmune. Yes, endometriosis may very well be an autoimmune disease. As I explain in my book, Beyond the Pill, there is still an estrogen dominance component, as there typically is with most autoimmune disease, but it appears that the immune system may be driving the condition.

Research has identified tissue-specific antibodies and inflammatory cytokines, which are present with endometriosis. Or in other words, the immune system is definitely involved.

One thing we know about autoimmune disease is that leaky gut is a risk factor and present in those who develop autoimmune disorders. Leaky gut is also commonly caused by the use of pain killers and birth control pill—two commonly used groups of drugs. 

Leaky Gut, Autoimmune Disease and Endometriosis

The analogy I use with my patients is the recipe for autoimmune disease. The recipe has 3 ingredients — intestinal hyperpermeability (aka leaky gut), a triggering event and the right genes.

When intestinal hyperpermeability is present, large proteins, which should be kept within the intestine, are allowed to escape. Your immune system doesn’t take kindly to strange proteins wandering through the body and so it attacks. With 70-80% of your immune system present in the gut, it is easy to see how these proteins can cause a big issue for your immune system and your body.

Chronic stress, food sensitivities/ allergies, bacterial infections, parasites, viral infections, antibiotics, and some drugs (including NSAIDs and hormonal birth control) can cause a breakdown of your gut’s integrity at the cellular level. 

This is how food sensitivities develop and is at the heart of autoimmune disease.

It's concerning that the pill is one of the main treatments for women with endometriosis when it has the ability to cause leaky gut and reduce microbial diversity. These two things alone can drive estrogen dominance and autoimmunity. I go into detail about this in Beyond the Pill and provide solutions to help women with endo support their health if they do choose to use birth control.

Learn more about Leaky Gut here.

Natural Treatments for Endometriosis

Women with endometriosis are given little treatment options by their conventional doctors — painkillers, hormone therapy like birth control, surgeries, and a hysterectomy are all aimed at managing symptoms. And while they can offer short-term symptom relief, these therapies have many side effects. They can be dangerous and do nothing to address the root cause.

As an holistic doctor, who focuses on educating and empowering women with practical tools, I have helped many women successfully manage their endometriosis symptoms without the need for harmful medications.

By utilizing natural endometriosis treatment we can alleviate the discomfort that keeps you from being able to enjoy life and engage in activities that would ultimately help you resolve your root cause.

Here’s my 5 Step Approach to Endometriosis that we use at Rubus Health, my Root Cause Women’s Medicine clinic:

9 Steps to Heal Endometriosis Naturally

We’ve got two major priorities here: 1. Getting you out of pain. 2. Minimizing or eliminating the need for pain medications.

Healing endometriosis naturally is about making sure you're comfortable in your body, but also have the energy, the stamina, and the motivation to do the self care it takes to heal. And yes, you can heal, but there are several factors to consider.

Remember, NSAIDs perpetuate leaky gut, plus they suppress ovulation, which leads to estrogen dominance. Easy to see why we want to ditch those. Instead, consider the following endometriosis natural treatments:

1. Melatonin

Melatonin has been shown in the research to help reduce menstrual pain, pain with sex, and pain with urination or having a bowel movement. While the research suggests higher doses are needed, I recommend starting with a lower dose around 3 mg. If you're wanting to try melatonin, check out my Sweet Dreams formulation.

For now, boost your own melatonin and naturally treat your endometriosis:

    • Sleep in a completely dark room
    • Eat pineapple, bananas, and oranges as they may increase melatonin levels

2. Pycnogenol 

For women with endometriosis, pycnogenol (an extract from pine bark) has been shown to offer a 33% reduction in pain symptoms when taken at 30 mg twice daily. 

For solutions to menstrual and pelvic pain read Natural Remedies for PMS & Cramps.

3. Root Cause Investigation

You need a partner who understands how to support you with short-term and long-term solutions and who knows how to dig to find your root cause. 

There is a root cause to endometriosis and although your other doctors may have told you that there is no hope because we aren’t sure what the cause is, I want you to know that I’ve assisted many women in healing their endometriosis naturally and living symptom free.

Healing is possible.

Part of the healing process includes getting necessary lab testing and exploring your unique journey to identify what may have triggered your condition and what you must do to heal.

We recommend lab testing on an individualized basis in my clinic. In the case of treating endometriosis naturally, we always investigate hormones and gut health.

Read more about the Autoimmune Hormone Connection.

4. Physical Therapy

In our clinic, we also partner with Physical Therapists—because how you move in your body every day is incredibly important in your healing. Most women with endometriosis don’t even recognize how the way they walk and move their body may have changed since the disease began. Muscle imbalances can result from your body compensating and avoiding pain and can it can make symptoms worse.

Getting an evaluation by a physical therapist is an important part of your root cause resolution to endometriosis.

Depending on a woman's history or her symptoms, we may also prescribe sessions with a bodyworker. Bodyworkers can help resolve the pelvic and abdominal adhesions that are common, as a natural treatment for endometriosis.

5. Rubus Pelvic Care

Rubus Pelvic Care™ is a therapeutic approach to pelvic health that integrates myofascial pelvic floor therapy, energetic work, and custom blended herbal remedies to support female energy and wellbeing.

This service allows women to deepen their connection to their pelvic floor and helps increase circulation to aid in healing. We teach our patients how to perform self massage and techniques to practice daily to improve their pelvic health.

Read more about Rubus Pelvic Care here.

6. Lifestyle Therapy

At Rubus Health, our Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaches help women totally rock this part of the treatment plan! Lifestyle therapies are powerful medicine and they are what will keep you out of the doctor’s office for good!

7. Dietary Changes

An anti-inflammatory elimination diet coupled with gut healing therapies can make a serious impact on your pain and periods.

I typically have patients increase their consumption of certain spieces and foods. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, fermented foods, cooked cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, and consume lots of leafy greens. This not only supports detox, but also lowers inflammation.

Here are some other ways we use lifestyle therapies to reduce estrogen dominance and to boost progesterone

Do you love meal plans? Who doesn't, right? These meals plans are designed to support healthy hormones and reduce inflammation…perfect for endometriosis! Download your FREE Hormone Starter Kit with 7 Day Meal Plan & Recipe Guide Book.

8. Stress Reduction

Stress makes pain worse and it leads to hormone imbalances.

Try meditating for 5 minutes a day for 30 days and see how you feel. If you want to really up your meditation game and reap the benefits at a faster pace, consider the Muse meditation device.

9. Exercise

Engaging in both stress reducing activities and short HIIT sessions can help with balancing your hormones and your immune system. Try alternating gentler activities like walking, gentle yoga, pilates, Qi Gong and Tai Chi with 7-15 minute HIIT sessions 2-3 times per week.

Keep in mind that if you have adrenal or other health issues you’ll need to modify your exercise to best suit your body’s needs. This is one of those times it can help to talk with an expert. My good friend Steph Gaudreau is an excellent resource if you’re looking to keep it safe with exercise while treating endometriosis naturally. Plus, she also has endometriosis and is one of the strongest women I know…and she lives a pain free life.

Individualized Root Cause Resolution as a Natural Treatment for Endometriosis

What we know is women with endometriosis are likely to have estrogen dominance, immune system dysfunction, and a need for detoxification support. But each person is an individual when it comes to healing endometriosis. Sometimes we need to spend more time healing the gut and the liver before the estrogen will balance. Other times we have to focus heavily on clearing infections and reducing stress to gain traction in healing. In my clinical experience, it is different for each woman.

This is where digging in and investigating comes in. Having necessary lab testing, along with a thorough evaluation of your story is essential to understanding your individualized needs.

Natural Treatment for Endometriosis Case Study:

When Elle first came to see me for her debilitatingly painful periods she was also experiencing some pretty serious digestive issues that were the result of her non-stop ibuprofen use. At 36, she had already gone through multiple surgeries, which offered only temporary relief.

For about a week and a half every month she'd find herself alone. She was missing family events, work meetings, and social events with her friends. Her endometrial pain was causing her to feel isolated and it was taking a toll on her mood and her life.

Elle was diagnosed with endometriosis just after she turned 33. She is one in ten women who are diagnosed with this condition, although the number may be higher due to undiagnosed cases.

Like Elle, many women use NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen and Motrin, to cope with the pain, Unfortunately, these are often not enough and can cause damage of their own. And pain killers do little to treat the other symptoms that often accompany endometriosis, like chronic fatigue, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, low back pain, ovarian mass, heavy periods, and urinary issues.

The above list shows many of the steps taken to help Elle manage her endometriosis:

Free Estrogen Balancing Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan. Download your FREE Hormone Starter Kit with 7 Day Meal Plan & Recipe Guide Book.

As for Elle… I'm happy to report she is no longer at the mercy of endometrial pain and she is living a much fuller life thanks to the strategies discussed in this article.

Are you a woman living with endometriosis? What have you tried that has helped? Leave a comment below to share with us.

What Causes Endometriosis | Heal Naturally | DrBrighten.com

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.