I know, the first recommendation most naturopaths suggest for endometriosis is to take a plant based phytoestrogen. These include black cohosh, sage leaves and red clover. Their reason for recommending these plants is that it will drive out the negative estrogens from our receptor cells and replace them with weaker estrogens. The negative estrogens are commonly called xenoestrogens and create a more powerful estrogenic effect on the body. These are essentially toxins found in our environment which mimic our estrogens and then occupy our receptor cells. Think of parabens and drinking out of plastic water bottles and you have some idea of what a xenoestrogen is.
In terms of endometriosis, we generally have an excess estrogen problem, so driving out the xenoestrogens would certainly be a good idea.
Here is my viewpoint on this:
I have heard of women with endometriosis using these methods and having some success with them. They are certainly beneficial to the body as many of them contain many other stimulating benefits, including increased circulation and supplying the body with much needed minerals and vitamins. I personally believe the problem isn’t that the herbs don’t do what they are asked to do. I personally believe the problem is what we do with the excess xenoestrogens that are now floating around in our blood stream.
See, the reason we have a hormone problem in the first place is because the excess hormones are simply not getting out. They are staying in our system. This can be for three reasons.
1. We have excess weight in our bodies and the excess xenoestrogens can “set up camp” in those locations instead of leaving.
2. We don’t have a good exit strategy. Most of us have a digestive problem, rather than just a hormone problem. We don’t excrete well enough or often enough. We are not absorbing the right nutrients, we tend to have bacterial overgrowths, and all of this creates a leaky gut problem. Leaky gut basically means that all the stuff we are trying to excrete is landing back in our blood stream, including all those xenoestrogens we just tried to flush out of our bodies.
3. Our livers are backed up. The liver is responsible for tagging and releasing those xenoestrogens. When it is deprived of certain vitamins—B12 and vitamin K are huge— then it just can’t get to do all the jobs on its plate. It is overloaded. Us endo girls generally have a stagnant liver. This could be from years of taking synthetic stuff or it could just be hereditary, or both. (in my case!)
What is interesting is that the poor digestive health is often related to fungal and bacterial overgrowths which feed off the very nutrients we need to expel the excess estrogens properly. This is why there is such a strong link between infertility and poor digestive health.
Personally, I would only recommend eating phytoestrogens as part of our diet, which we land up doing anyway. There are certain foods that I personally avoid as their phytoestrogenic level is higher than typical foods, such as flaxseeds and hops (found in beer). I personally also avoid oils which contain tea tree and sage as aromatherapy treatment oils are incredibly powerful.
Just a side note: soy is different to a phytoestrogen; it is called an isoflavone and is a whole other blog post. I avoid soy milk and tofu but happily eat fermented soy products as the isoflavone element disappears with fermentation. Please read this article by Dr. Mercola, explaining this important difference. This would include tempeh, natto and miso Soup. Soy also affects the thyroid gland.
I would be hesitant to take a specific supplement or high content food containing phytoestrogens on a long-term basis. It can certainly offer some temporary relief and is great if you have just come off the pill or need to get your hormone balance back. I do also feel that there are better ways of achieving this same goal. We can find more effective ways of flushing out the excess xenoestrogens by detoxing the body. Doing bowel cleanses, liver cleansing and really boosting our liver is a much more effective way of keeping our hormones in balance.
To me, taking a phytoestrogen is not getting to the root of the problem with endometriosis. We are merely looking at the aftermath of having excess estrogen. The danger here is that hormones are incredibly delicate and even if we manage to get the estrogen and progesterone levels back in balance, it will only be a short-term fix. That imbalance occurred for a reason and that reason has not been fixed by taking plant-based hormones.
Here is a very interesting article on breast health and cancers relating to phytoestrogens.
Here is a great video by David Wolfe on hormone balance:
I would really love to hear your thoughts on this, on whether or not you agree. I have read so much conflicting information on the subject and somehow to me, it was just easier to cut out the flax and hops and a few oils and avoid taking specific supplements. I always questioned the rancidity of flax anyway; chia gives me the same benefits without the potential risk.
So, share your thoughts below and feel free to link to other websites to give this topic a great all-round platform.