A Pain You Can't Ignore: Endometriosis
Treatment Options for Endometriosis
Beyond regular physical activity, endometriosis treatment depends on how aggressive the condition is. Doctors often suggest ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Naproxen for women with mild cramps. Also, "hormones that suppress ovarian function are highly effective" for severe cases, says Beth Rackow, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. Extended-cycle or continuous hormonal birth control options can reduce the number of periods and are often prescribed. Other doctors recommend aromatase inhibitors, generally used to treat breast and ovarian cancer. "These drugs suppress aromatase, an enzyme your body produces that promotes more potent estrogens, which contributes to endometriosis," explains Ken Sinervo, MD, a surgeon at the Center for Endometriosis Care in Atlanta and an expert in the field of advanced laparoscopic excision. "Limiting aromatase production in the body with drugs like Letrozole temporarily suppresses endometrial growth," he adds. Natural progesterone creams and the Mirena IUD are often prescribed, as are drugs like Lupron, which send the body into a menopause-like state for six-month periods.
In the do-it-yourself realm, dietary adjustments may make a big difference. Resveratrol in wine may reduce the growth of endometriosis, according to a 2009 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists study. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, so eating salmon and other fatty fish that contain them is key. Researchers believe the lycopene in tomatoes may stop the production of proteins that contribute to endometrial adhesions, and some studies suggest that flavones in celery and parsley can inhibit aromatase. Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and bok choy contain compounds called indoles, which might improve the body's ability to moderate estrogen levels, and flaxseeds are high in lignans and fiber, which studies show may also ease estrogen-related conditions. What to avoid? Red meat: Women who ate it at least daily had twice the risk for endometriosis as those who ate three or fewer servings per week, according to research done at the University of Milan. Some experts attribute the link to the high levels of PCBs that can accumulate in animal fat via contaminated feed, which in turn may trigger symptoms by altering hormone functions and the immune system.
This is the place I now find myself, after finally being diagnosed and treated. Scott and I are trying for a baby, with the bonus that pregnancy may suppress my endometriosis symptoms. In the meantime, I continue to exercise, see an acupuncturist, and follow an anti-inflammation diet to manage my condition. I'm also eating plenty of Thai food again -- bring on the salmon and bok choy!
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