Immunity is the Root
Endometriosis is not yet widely understood as an immune disease. Treatment focuses on hormonal therapies instead of looking at the underlying bacterial and inflammatory factors. Bacterial and fungal infections from the gut can migrate to the genitals. An overgrowth of organisms like bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections can also contribute or indicate an imbalance in the microbiome. Other causes include sexually transmitted infections or iatrogenic infections from internal gynecological procedures.
Evidence of endometriosis being an autoimmune disorder is still mixed but ultimately this doesn’t matter because treating the immune system helps. What we know is the endotoxin lipopolysaccaride (LPS) regulates the pro-inflammatory response that occurs in the pelvis and contributes to the growth of endometriosis. Female Reproductive tract infections particularly can occur in the upper reproductive tract as well as the lower. The fallopian tubes, ovary and uterus can be affected as can the vagina, cervix and vulva.
Surgery and hormonal birth control are first line interventions for endometriosis. Removing the lesions can be helpful and synthetic hormones do suppress growth but come with side effects. Natural progesterone can help normalize immune function and doesn’t have the same side effects. Reducing infections first addressing excess estrogen second is ideal because the estrogens respond to the LPS in endometriosis.
Bacteria doesn’t directly cause endometriosis but the bacterial toxins drive and worsen the disease in combination with other factors like hormonal surges and environmental toxins. Studies confirm that antibiotics are effective at treatment for endometriosis which confirms the hypothesis of bacterial translocation.
7 Immune Modulating Supplements
These have been studied or are being studied as effective supports for treatment of endometriosis.
- NAC: this has excellent research supporting its use in endo
- Zinc: immune support
- Curcumin: anti-inflammatory
- Melatonin: a powerful anti-oxidant
- Vitamin A: cod liver oil is my favourite way to get this in the form that is bioavailable
- Berberines: have an anti-microbial action.
- Estrosense: to balance estrogen
Progesterone: the Peaceful Hormone
Progesterone restores a sense of calm. For those balancing the responsibilities of home, work and family, progesterone helps you keep your cool. It acts on the gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) receptors in the brain. These are the receptors that sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and alcohol act on. Optimal progesterone levels help with:
- clearing brain fog
- allowing you to stay asleep, especially between 2 and 4 am.
- building bone
- strengthening libido
- supporting elasticity in the skin
- helping neural growth in the brain
- preventing puffiness & bloating
What’s GABA all about?
GABA is the primary inhibitory transmitter in the brain. It settles the mind and protects our brain from overstimulation. If you worry a lot or experience anxiety you may be low. GABA comes from protein we eat and some people respond well to supplementation. If you don’t, it may be a good sign. The molecule is quite large so some research has hypothesized that it shouldn’t readily cross the blood-brain barrier. However, it will still have a positive effect because we have a lot of neurotransmitter receptors elsewhere in the body. Mood can improve when GABA reaches the cells in our liver and gut.
If you are deficient in GABA, you may experience a kind of physical anxiety that is difficult to shake. Muscles may tighten and your immune system is less able to do it’s job. One of the best tips about GABA is to use it before bed on the days that you strength train. It increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels in the blood by up to 5 times with 90 minutes of taking it. The rate of muscle growth is influenced by HGH levels which are highest when you sleep. Use GABA and see the results. There are no negative side-effects from taking GABA.
Promote Peace & Calm Naturally
Here are a 6 more ways you can bump up your GABA:
- Theanine from green tea, matcha or the supplement.
- Foods high in zinc and magnesium: liver, red meat, shellfish, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, halibut, spinach, and okra.
- Chamomile tea: this has a bioflavonoid called Apigenin that binds to GABA receptors in the brain. It calms the nervous system.
- Potassium rich foods: acorn squash, spinach, brussel sprouts and yogurt.
- Ensure your serotonin levels are optimal: tryptophan in food or supplemental 5HTP support serotonin & enhance the effects of GABA.
- St. John’s Wort and Ginkgo: both these herbs have different actions in the brain to increase uptake of GABA.
Ovulation is a Important
The birth control pill means you won’t get the surge of progesterone mid cycle and near the end of your cycle. Progesterone supports your brain, thyroid, bones and breast tissue. It also reduces inflammation, We produce far more of it than estrogen. It keeps estrogen from becoming dominant in both males and females which has several health risks. Progesterone is also an essential for building block for other hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. Men produce progesterone in their testes and use it for general health as well as sexual function.
Ovulation supports estrogen to promote muscle gain, insulin sensitivity and a healthy cardiovascular system. Missing out on ovulation is an unfortunate reality that many women experience. They aren’t told the full story of oral contraception. More and more women are saying no to the pill and the long list of side effects that accompany it.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Many of my patients come to me with symptoms that could be low progesterone levels. Anxiety, sleepiness, headaches, weight gain, irrational fear, moodiness are just some. Miscarriage and infertility can be caused by low levels. So can endometriosis, PCOS and depression. Around menopause hot flashes, low libido and night sweats can be alleviated by using herbs to mitigate what is a natural drop in progesterone.
Get to Know Your Body
Fatigue, depression, and irritability can caused by a hormone imbalance. Getting to know the key players can help. Hormones rule our brain, bone and heart health. I’ll explain a little about how the key players work together. Hormone health helps in preventing disease and feeling better day to day.
These play a role in maintaining bone and muscle strength. DHEA and testosterone are two I look at closely. DHEA-S can indicate inflammation. Androgen metabolites will push one way if there are PCOS like symptoms like acne, head hair loss or facial hair growth on women. Anxiety and depression in men can be due to low testosterone. Specific botanicals and nutrients can shift the metabolism to a more favourable path. GLA, zinc and saw palmetto are some key ones I use.
Estrogens are essential for female characteristics as well as brain, bone and heart health. The pathways for estrogen have been studied extensively. Preference for certain metabolite pathways may prevent breast and ovarian cancer. Excess estrogen can cause weight gain, heavy cycles, fatigue and irritability. Depending on the pattern, we can support the 2 methoxy pathway with diet and supplements from cruciferous veggies. Boron can support estrogen or testosterone when these are low in women. Perimenopausal women will have a different healthy hormone profile.
Cortisol affects all of the other hormones so when we are looking at testosterone for example we must also assess the role cortisol is playing. Cortisol is anti-inflammatory. It manages immune function, blood glucose, energy and metabolism. Depending on the pattern there are several nutraceutical grade supplements that can balance cortisol. Adaptogens are not always the answer. In Functional Medicine we use the phrase, “why guess when you can test?”
And Finally Progesterone
Progesterone balances estrogen and also is protective of brain, bone and heart health. It’s essential for menstruation, fertility and pregnancy. Estrogen dominance is when progesterone is low in relation to estrogen. Increased consumption of healthy dietary fibres can improve estrogen elimination. Phytoestrogens like flax seeds are excellent because they block xenoestrogens from accumulating in the body. These are prolific in our environment especially if you use any conventional beauty care products or have plastics in your kitchen.
Oh wait! Don’t Forget Melatonin
You can think of melatonin as the sleep hormone. It’s secreted from the pineal gland and regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Its lesser known that melatonin is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It works with serotonin. Adequate sleep is important for reducing pain and cravings. These are actions of serotonin. Micro dosing melatonin can see better results. Trytophan or 5HTP can support serotonin.
Medications Have an Impact
Medications like opioids, steroids and Accutane can damage the endocrine system. For example, a common acne medication is known to destroy cells in the hypothalamus. Another example is thyroid medication at too high of a dose can cause increase total cortisol. Its important to do thorough testing and if you need to take a medication please have it monitored.
These work for balancing common hormone imbalances. They include nettle, broccoli sprouts, food high in zinc, inositol, fibre from whole foods. Nettle works on the increasing androgen metabolism down the 5a reductase pathway which is good for anyone with PCOS like symptoms. Broccoli sprouts contain a chemical called sulforaphane. This is one of the most potent antioxidants and detoxification substances that we know of. Inositol balances blood sugar which at the root of many hormone issues. Zinc is often deficient and can be found in oysters, pumpkin seeds, spinach and a variety of pastured meats. Fibre from root vegetables, flax and chia seed and gluten-free supplements can help clear excess hormones.