How to Treat Endometriosis with Diet

“Endometriosis is a major cause of disability and compromised quality of life in women and teenage girls.” It “is a chronic disease which is under-diagnosed, under-reported, and under-researched…[and for patients, it] can be a nightmare of misinformation, myths, taboos, lack of diagnosis, and problematic hit-and-miss treatments overlaid by a painful, chronic, stubborn disease.”

Pain is what best characterizes the disease: pain, painful intercourse, heavy irregular periods, and infertility. About one in a dozen young women suffer from endometriosis, and it accounts for about half the cases of pelvic pain and infertility. It’s caused by what’s called “retrograde menstruation”—blood, instead of going down, goes up into the abdominal cavity, where tissue of the uterine lining can implant onto other organs. The lesions can be removed surgically, but the recurrence rate within five years is as high as 50 percent.

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, so might the anti-estrogenic effects of the phytoestrogens in flaxseeds and soy foods help, as they appear to do in breast cancer? I couldn’t find studies on flax and endometriosis, but soy food consumption may indeed reduce the risk of that disease. What about treating endometriosis with soy? While I couldn’t find any studies on that, there is another food associated with decreased breast cancer risk: seaweed.

Seaweeds have special types of fiber and phytonutrients not found in land plants, so in order to get these unique components, we would need to incorporate sea vegetables into our diet. Seaweeds, may have anti-cancer properties, including anti-estrogen effects. Japanese women have among the lowest rates of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers, as well as longer menstrual cycles and lower estrogen levels circulating in their blood, which may help account for their low risk of estrogen-dependent cancers. We assumed this was due to their soy-rich diets, but their high intake of seaweed might also be helping.

When seaweed broth was dripped on human ovary cells that make estrogen, estrogen levels dropped. Why? It either inhibits production or facilitates breakdown of estrogen. It may even block estrogen receptors, lowering the activity of the estrogen that is produced. This is in a petri dish, though. Does it happen in women, too? Yes.

Researchers estimated that an effective estrogen-lowering dose of seaweed for an average American woman might be around five grams a day, but, apparently, no one has tried testing it on cancer patients yet. However, it has been tried on endometriosis, as I discuss in my video How to Treat Endometriosis with Seaweed.

Three women with abnormal menstrual cycles, including two with endometriosis, volunteered to add a tiny amount of dried, powdered bladderwrack, a common seaweed, to their daily diet. This effectively lengthened their cycles and reduced the duration of their periods—and not just by a little. As you can see at 3:14 in my video, subject 1 had a 30-year history of irregular periods, averaging every 16 days. Taking just a quarter-teaspoon of this seaweed powder a day added 10 days onto her cycle, up to 26 days, and adding a daily half-teaspoon increased her cycle to 31 days, nearly doubling its length. Furthermore, as you can see at 3:38 in my video, all three women experienced marked reductions in blood flow and a decreased duration of menstruation. For 30 years, subject 1 had been having her period every 16 days, and it typically lasted 9 days. Can you imagine? Then, by just taking a daily half-teaspoon of seaweed, her period came just once a month and only lasted about four days. Most importantly, in the two women suffering from endometriosis, they reported “substantial alleviation” of their pain. How is that possible? There was a 75 percent drop in estrogen levels after just a quarter-teaspoon of seaweed powder a day and an 85 percent drop after a half-teaspoon. 

Of course, with just a few women and no control group in that study, we need bigger, better studies. But, that study was published more than a decade ago and not a single such study has been published since. Millions of women are suffering with these conditions. Does the research world just not care about women? The more pointed question is: who’s going to fund the work? Less than a teaspoon of seaweed costs less than five cents, so a larger study may never be done. But, without any downsides, I suggest endometriosis sufferers give it a try.


For more on endometriosis, see my video What Diet Best Lowers Phthalate Exposure?, and, to learn about the anti-estrogenic effects of the phytoestrogens in flaxseeds on breast cancer, see Flaxseeds and Breast Cancer Survival: Clinical Evidence.

Interested in more on sea vegetables? See:

I recommend staying away from kelp and hijiki, though. Why? See Too Much Iodine Can Be as Bad as Too Little.

Learn more about other natural remedies for menstrual problems:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

What to Eat and Avoid for Women with BRCA Gene Mutations

Five studies have been performed on breast cancer survival and soy foods involving more than 10,000 breast cancer patients, and together they found that those who eat more soy live longer and have a lower risk of the cancer coming back. What about women who carry breast cancer genes? Fewer than 10 percent of breast cancer cases run in families, but when they do, it tends to be mutations to one of the tumor suppressor genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2. BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are involved in DNA repair, so if either one of them is damaged, chromosomal abnormalities can result, which can set us up for cancer. I examine this in my video Should Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer Avoid Soy?.

This idea that we have tumor suppressor genes goes back to famous research from the 1960s that showed that if we fuse together a normal cell with a cancer cell, rather than the cancer cell turning the normal cell malignant, the normal cell actually suppresses the cancerous one. Tumor suppressor genes are typically split into two types: gatekeeper genes that keep cancer cells in check and caretaker genes that prevent the cell from becoming cancerous in the first place. BRCA genes appear able to do both, which is why their function is so important.

Until recently, dietary recommendations for those with mutations to BRCA genes focused on reducing DNA damage caused by free radicals by eating lots of antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables. If our DNA repair capacity is low, we want to be extra careful about damaging our DNA in the first place. But what if we could also boost BRCA function? In my video BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy, I showed how, in vitro, soy phytoestrogens could turn back on BRCA protection suppressed by breast cancer, upregulating BRCA expression as much as 1,000 percent within 48 hours.

Goes that translate out of the petri dish and into the person? Apparently so. Soy intake was associated with only a 27 percent breast cancer risk reduction in people with normal BRCA genes, but a 73 percent risk reduction in carriers of BRCA gene mutations. So, a healthy diet may be particularly important for those at high genetic risk. Meat consumption, for example, was linked to twice as much risk in those with BRCA mutations: 97 percent increased risk instead of only 41 percent increased breast cancer risk in those with normal BRCA genes. So, the same dietary advice applies to those with and without BRCA mutations, but it’s more important when there’s more risk.


What about women without breast cancer genes or those who have already been diagnosed? See my video Is Soy Healthy for Breast Cancer Survivors?.

What is in meat that may increase risk? See:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

How Not to Die in a Pandemic Webinar Coming Up

Due to the continuing spread of coronavirus, I’m doing a webinar on the subject: How Not to Die in a Pandemic. This webinar will be April 8 from 2-4pm ET. For more information and to register, go here

The videos from my most recent webinar, Why Do Vegetarians Have Higher Stroke Risk?, are now available for digital download here

In fact, all of my previous webinars are available:

Many of the videos from those webinars are already up on NutritionFacts.org, but if you’d like them all in one place, check out the downloads. Note that these are just the videos from the webinars, and do not include the live Q&As.

New volume covers Lp(a)

Volume 50My new volume is out today and is available as a streaming video so you can start watching it immediately. As you can see below, the main focus is on the obesity epidemic and the question of whether vegetarians really have higher stroke risk and why. If these topics look familiar, it is because they were the focus of my recent webinars (see below for details on my next one!)  All of these videos will eventually be available for free online over the next few months, but if you don’t want to wait, you can watch them all streaming right now. You can also order it as a physical DVD.

Here’s the full list of chapters from the new volume—a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org:

1. The Role of Diet vs. Exercise in the Obesity Epidemic
2. The Role of Genes in the Obesity Epidemic
3. The Thrifty Gene Theory: Survival of the Fattest
4. Cut the Calorie-Rich-And-Processed Foods
5. The Role of Processed Foods in the Obesity Epidemic
6. The Role of Taxpayer Subsidies in the Obesity Epidemic
7. The Role of Marketing in the Obesity Epidemic
8. The Role of Food Advertisements in the Obesity Epidemic
9. The Role of Personal Responsibility in the Obesity Epidemic
10. The Role of Corporate Influence in the Obesity Epidemic
11. The Role of the Toxic Food Environment in the Obesity Epidemic
12. Benefits of Quinoa for Lowering Triglycerides
13. Treating High Lp(a): A Risk Factor for Atherosclerosis
14. How to Lower Lp(a) with Diet
15. What to Eat for Stroke Prevention
16. What Not to Eat for Stroke Prevention
17. Do Vegetarians Really Have Higher Stroke Risk?
18. Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Vitamin D?
19. Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Omega 3s?
20. Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Vegan Junk Food?
21. Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Saturated Fat?
22. Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Animal Protein?
23. Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Vitamin B12 & Homocysteine?
24. How to Test for Functional Vitamin B12 Deficiency
25. Should Vegetarians Take Creatine to Normalize Homocysteine?
26. The Efficacy and Safety of Creatine for High Homocysteine

Order my new DVD at DrGreger.org/collections/dvds or as a video download/streaming at DrGreger.org/collections/downloads. And remember, if you watch the videos on NutritionFacts.org or YouTube, you can access captions in several different languages. To find yours, click on the settings wheel on the lower-right of the video and then “Subtitles/CC.” 

If you are a $25+ monthly supporter and opted in to our donor rewards, you’d already be an expert on these new topics by now, having already received a complimentary link to the new download. New downloads are released every nine weeks. If you’d like to automatically receive them before they’re even available to the public, please consider becoming a monthly supporter.

Anyone signing up on the donation page to become a $25+ monthly contributor will be given an opportunity to opt in to receive the newest downloads for free as long as their contributions are current.

 

Speaking Tour on Hold

Speaking tourGiven the level of reported community transmission and the prospects of flattening the pandemic curve by preventing unnecessary public gatherings, I’m postponing my speaking tour until we have a better handle on the prevalence and spread after sufficient testing is completed. Please check our speaking tour page for the most up to date information on events. 

I’ve also been doing tons of interviews – here’s a recent one featured in British GQ

 
Top 3 Videos of the Month
 

Are Ancient Grains Healthier?Are Ancient Grains Healthier?

Ancient wheats like kamut are put to the test for inflammation, blood sugar, and cholesterol control.

 

 

The Best Diet for DiabetesThe Best Diet for Diabetes

The case for using a plant-based diet to reduce the burden of diabetes has never been stronger.

 

Benefits of Grapes for Brain HealthBenefits of Grapes for Brain Health

Grape juice and whole grapes are put to the test for brain function, including cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s.

 

Live Q&As TODAY

Live Q&AEvery month now I do Q&As live from my treadmill, and today is the day.

  • Facebook Live: At 12:00 p.m. ET go to our Facebook page to watch live and ask questions.
  • YouTube Live Stream: At 1:00 p.m. ET go here to watch live and ask even more questions! 

You can now find links to all of my past live YouTube and Facebook Q&As right here on NutritionFacts.org. If that’s not enough, remember I have an audio podcast to keep you company at http://nutritionfacts.org/audio.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos hereand watch my live, year-in-review presentations: