by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath
Endometriosis is a very personal subject for me because when I met my wife, she had already been diagnosed with endometriosis and had endured two surgeries for this horrific autoimmune condition and was told she would have surgery every 2 years for the rest of her life.
Thankfully, even before meeting me, my wife made the choice to not “buy into” the conventional medical thoughts of endometriosis and committed to never having surgery for this again the rest of her life. Here we are 12 years later and she has not had another surgery and is virtually symptom free from endometriosis.
We’ll get into the addressing this shortly, first everybody loves statistics, so here you go.
Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that affects at least 6.3 million women in the United States, 1 million women in Canada and millions more throughout the world we live in.
Endometriosis is a painful gynecological condition in which bits of the endometrial (uterine) lining grow outside of the uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves the ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. Sometimes but rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond your pelvic region.
This displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would. It thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle and because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. Surrounding tissue can also become irritated and eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions. All of which can cause pain and often severe pain, especially during a woman’s period.
It would seem that the most important question is how this tissue becomes displaced but what really matters is how the immune system responds. In a properly regulated immune system, the immune system does not react to the endometrial tissue. In the case of endometriosis, something different happens. The immune system makes inflammatory cytokines and auto-antibodies that inflame endometriosis and promote even further growth of this tissue.
It is interesting to me that conventional treatment still looks at endometriosis as a hormone driven disease with the most common solutions being surgery to remove the tissue and/or hormone suppression via birth control. Very often the surgery is only a temporary fix and the hormone treatments provide little relief, if any, for many women.
This is interesting for me because the holistic community generally views endometriosis as an autoimmune condition and your cannot simply remove autoimmunity from the body. The challenge is not the tissue itself but actually the dis-regulated immune system, chronic inflammation and the underlying triggers for these issues.
At this point I am sure you’re wondering what the triggers are for this painful autoimmune condition.
- Food sensitivity
- Chronic mental/emotional stress
- Standard American Diet (SAD) which is high in sugar and processed food
- Gut infections
- Chronic inflammation
- Heavy metal, chemical or environmental toxicity
It is essential to get to the bottom of your triggers but this is actually just the first step for you.
It is also essential to balance your adrenal function. You may be thinking right now, what do my adrenals have to do with autoimmunity and specifically endometriosis? Let me show you just some of the direct effects of adrenal function on your body holistically.
Your adrenals will have a direct effect on the function of:
- Metabolism of protein and fat
- Regulation of body weight and fat
- Mucosal lining which is your body’s first layer of defense of your immune system
- Every level of detoxification
- Cellular energetics (everybody wants more energy these days)
- Blood sugar regulation
- Muscular/skeletal health
- Quality of sleep and mood
- Ability to learn and comprehend
- Neuronal connectivity
With this list, you can easily see how important it is to balance your adrenal function.
If you are wondering how your adrenal glands are functioning take this FREE assessment.
I also want to mention what is tied into balancing your adrenals. This is important because many people just assume adrenal fatigue and simply use supplements to support the adrenals.
Perhaps supplements such as:
- Vitamin B5, B6, B12
- Vitamin C
- Licorice root
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Siberian ginseng
- Maca root
While all of these, and more, may be beneficial in supporting your adrenal gland function, if you are in a severe to extreme adrenal burnout, simply supporting the adrenals is not the comprehensive approach needed for most.
Once your adrenal glands have lost significant vitality, support is simply not enough. At this point we would recommend to use natural liquid sublingual forms of your core adrenal hormones. The use of these can assist your body in getting back to adrenal balance and reestablish your full adrenal vitality.
For some people, this can be achieved in as little as 3 months, most in about 6 to 12 months and for some it can take a couple of years or more.
So one of the keys here is to actually test your adrenal function. If you do not know where you are, it is next to impossible to move forward in a healthy way. I’ll also share that any client that visits our wellness center with autoimmunity has also been challenged with some level of adrenal fatigue.
That is correct, 100%!
Far too many people are guessing where their adrenal function lies or they are using blood testing which does not provide an accurate assessment. We always recommend adrenal saliva testing with our clients to understand cortisol levels throughout the day, a total cortisol, a DHEA average and a ratio of the two. We also look deeper to understand our clients by also reviewing estradiol, estriol, progesterone, testosterone and melatonin. All this information provides us the comprehensive information needed to make the correct recommendations for you to assist your body in recovering adrenal balance.
Here’s more information on the typical adrenal test kit recommended at the Depke Wellness Center.
It is also essential to address the chronic inflammatory condition when dealing with autoimmunity. Chronic inflammation is one of the biggest triggers for an autoimmune response and often ignored in most autoimmune programs and protocols.
The challenge with chronic inflammation, known as NF-kB, is the fact that this leads to out conditions also, which you will recognize as creating even deeper levels of inflammation and autoimmune responses.
Here are the four chronic inflammatory (NF-kB) feedback loops.
- The NF-kB leads to an increase in fat cell production, which in turn leads to insulin resistance and insulin surges. This than leads to further inflammation.
- The NF-kB state leads to challenges with biotransformation in the liver, challenges with liver detoxification and ultimately, further inflammation.
- The NF-kB leads to an increase in cytokine production, which leads to autoimmunity and ultimately, more inflammation.
- The NF-kB state leads to a leaky gut condition, which in turn leads to an autoimmune reaction with the end result of, you guessed it, more inflammation.
When you are properly addressing a chronic inflammatory state, you are assessing and eliminating your triggers, aggressively focusing on an anti-inflammatory response as well as addressing the four feedback loops.
Missing any of these areas leaves you stuck in inflammation and autoimmunity.
Another factor to recognize is the fact that the NF-kB state can lead to immune system dysregulation. From this dysregulation, chemical intolerance is often a challenge. You may know somebody with this or perhaps even yourself. This would be recognized by the inability to be around new paint, new carpeting, perfumes, etc..
One more significant factor with immune dysregulation caused by NF-kB is the fact that this shuts down apoptosis. Apoptosis is basically cellular suicide. Understand that when a cell in your body becomes “broken”, this broken cell is designed to destroy itself. This is important because you do not want a broken cell becoming another broken cell and so on. When you get too many of these “broken” cells replicating themselves, this is the opportunity for cancer to develop.
One more point to make though. Even if you rid yourself of all the triggers of the chronic inflammation or NF-kB state, due to the feedback loops mentioned above, this condition continues.
As you can see for anyone dealing with endometriosis, it is essential to get to the bottom of the autoimmune triggers, address your adrenal function and properly focus on not only reducing your chronic inflammatory states, but also addressing the inflammatory feedback loops.
For anyone dealing with the PAIN of endometriosis, you can now see that there are answers for you. That is an important first step.