Endometriosis is a chronic condition with no current cure that typically requires ongoing treatment for relief from symptoms. Medical treatment like hormone therapy, pain medication, and surgery can provide temporary relief from the life-altering symptoms of endometriosis.
For many patients, however, hormone therapy comes with side effects, pain medication is not sustainable long-term, and symptoms typically return within a few years of endometriosis surgery.
In light of this, many women are choosing to incorporate alternative remedies into their endometriosis treatment routine.
Keep reading to learn about the most effective alternative treatments for endometriosis.
What are The Best Alternative Treatments for Endometriosis?
When treating endometriosis, whether by conventional means or with alternative treatments, the key factors to address are reducing pain, lowering excess estrogen, and managing inflammation. It’s important to remember that endometriosis symptoms are different for each woman, therefore, building a symptom management routine that works for your particular symptoms is the best way forward.
The best alternative treatments for endometriosis are:
An Endometriosis Diet
A diet for women with endometriosis is a great place to start managing your symptoms. By simply understanding which foods can trigger symptoms of endometriosis and which ones can relieve them, you can start to lower the intensity of endometriosis flare-ups.
For instance, foods that are high in fiber are known to expel excess estrogen with each bowel movement. Red meat and dairy products, on the other hand, contain high amounts of saturated fats, which are known to contribute to a higher production of estrogen and should be avoided, or at least reduced.
Foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties like omega-3 and monounsaturated fats can help reduce the inflammation linked to endometriosis. However, drinks and foods known to cause inflammation, like alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed foods, and lunch meats should be avoided.
Sufficient amounts of calcium, magnesium, and zinc, as well as vitamins B6, C, D, and E, are also important for women with endometriosis to balance hormones, regulate menstruation, and reduce pain and inflammation.
To develop an endometriosis diet that suits you and your symptoms, schedule an appointment with a dietician or nutritionist to set up a healthy and well-balanced eating plan that includes all the necessary nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
Pelvic Physical Therapy
Along with an endometriosis diet, regular sessions with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health and pelvic conditions can provide deep pelvic pain relief. With an acute understanding of the female reproductive system and the musculature makeup of the pelvic organs, physical therapists can relax the pelvic tightness, treat inflammation, and relieve the pelvic pain associated with endometriosis.
Most pelvic health physical therapists will also teach patients with endometriosis how to self-massage the pelvic area for added relief at home.
Pelvic Massage with Pelvic Wands
Pelvic wands are ergonomically designed medical tools that can massage pelvic scar tissue, relax tight pelvic floor muscles, and relieve chronic pelvic pain. Recommended to sustain the relief experienced from pelvic physical therapy, pelvic wands are an excellent alternative treatment for women with endometriosis.
Designed to be used in the comfort of your own home for self-massage in the pelvic area, our pelvic wands are made from the smoothest medical-grade silicone that feels safe and comfortable in the body. They are also made with heat and cold therapy in mind for added relief.
Patients are encouraged to gently sweep their wand through the vaginal opening or rectum until it touches a trigger point or tight muscle. Massage is applied by softly pressing the wand's tip against pelvic tender points as lightly as one might test a tomato for ripeness. After a few minutes of gentle pressure from the tip of the wand, patients will typically experience a release of tightness and relief from pain.
To use pelvic wands correctly and effectively, it’s best to seek guidance and instruction from your pelvic physical therapist.
Dilator Therapy for Dyspareunia
Due to the pelvic pain and inflammation experienced with endometriosis, pain during or after sex can be a common complaint for patients. Once pain is experienced during sex, the mind tends to remember, and upon the prospect of future penetration, the brain will typically signal a tightening of the vaginal muscles to protect the body.
When left untreated, penetration can become so uncomfortable for women with endometriosis that getting pregnant, inserting a tampon, or even having a pelvic exam can be excruciating.
Dilator therapy for dyspareunia is the most effective treatment for relieving pain during sex and is normally performed at home with a set of dilators that incrementally increase in size. Patients will typically begin with the smallest dilator and move slowly through the set as vaginal and pelvic muscles relax to allow for the next size.
To ensure patients begin with the correct size and understand how and when to progress to the next dilator, it’s best to seek guidance from your physical therapist or gynecologist.
Relaxing Therapies - Yoga, Meditation, Breathing
Light physical exercise, stretching, and diaphragmatic breathing are also helpful alternative treatments for endometriosis. Light exercise like walking, hiking, or swimming can help to relieve pelvic pain and inflammation in addition to lifting low moods or anxiety. Regular practice of yoga poses like Child’s Pose and Deep Squats can reduce pelvic tightness and lower back pain. And diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce pain, improve blood circulation, and release tension.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that provides relief from pain when practiced on a preventative basis. Involving the insertion of small needles into the skin to connect with particular pressure points in the body, acupuncture is known to ease pelvic pain in women with endometriosis.
What Causes Endometriosis Flare-Ups?
Hormone changes, tissue growth, and inflammation are at the root of endometriosis flare-ups.
For instance, the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) in each woman responds to hormone changes every month throughout the menstrual cycle. For women with endometriosis, however, any endometrial-like tissue growing outside the uterus will respond to these hormone changes too.
After ovulation, for example, estrogen levels rise to thicken the endometrium in preparation for the implantation of an embryo. During this time, misplaced endometrial-like tissue outside the womb will thicken too, often resulting in increased bloating, cramping, or pelvic pain before menstruation.
When embryonic implantation doesn’t happen, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, signalling the endometrium to break down, bleed, and leave the body during menstruation. During this drop in hormones, endometrial-like tissue growing outside the womb also breaks down and bleeds. However, this blood is not shed from the body like the endometrium.
Instead, it forms painful endometrial implants like scar tissue, lesions, cysts (endometriomas), and adhesions on pelvic organs. In response to the formation of endometrial implants, the body sends healing white blood cells via the bloodstream, which causes inflammation and intensified pelvic pain.
Regrettably, the body cannot heal endometriosis without intervention. This means the growth of endometrial implants, pain, and inflammation continues with each monthly fluctuation of hormones.
What Is the Link Between Estrogen and Endometriosis?
Estrogen, in particular, is believed to progress the condition by feeding the growth of endometrial-like tissue outside the womb. Unfortunately, statistics suggest that the automatic synchronization of estrogen and progesterone is disrupted in women with endometriosis, causing many to produce excess levels of estrogen.
Due to the lack of scientific comprehension about the cause of endometriosis, a cure appears to be a long way off. Although conventional medical treatments can offer brief relief, many endometriosis patients require an ongoing, long-term solution to alleviate symptoms and enjoy an improved quality of life. This might include mixing alternative treatments with conventional ones, or just sticking with the natural route.
If you are suffering from endometriosis, speak with your healthcare provider about alternative treatments like pelvic physical therapy, an endometriosis diet, pelvic wand massage, dilator therapy, relaxing therapies, and acupuncture.
Endometriosis Foundation of America – Endometriosis: Defining It, Recognizing It, and Treating It -
International Journal of Molecular Science - Progesterone and Estrogen Signaling in the Endometrium: What Goes Wrong in Endometriosis? - https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/20/15/3822
National Library of Medicine - Physiotherapy Management in Endometriosis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9740037/
National Library of Medicine - Nutrition in the prevention and treatment of endometriosis: A review - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9983692/
Science Direct - Efficacy of acupuncture for endometriosis-associated pain: a multicenter randomized single-blind placebo-controlled trial - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0015028223000729