When I first started on the natural path to healing my endometriosis, I was convinced that we could simply replace the contraceptive pill with a natural alternative hormone treatment, and that would solve my problems with endometriosis. I was constantly told by doctors that endometriosis was ultimately a hormonal problem and many websites also indicated that endometriosis was aggravated by estrogen dominance. So, this was naturally where I started.
I explored all the various options and as I dug deeper, I discovered some clashes in the information about estrogenic herbs. Some websites were promoting estrogenic herbs for endometriosis. There are also herbs which are progesterone stimulating and they were also being suggested for endometriosis.
Here is a list of high dose estrogenic based herbs/foods/oils:
- Red Clover
- Black Cohosh
- Dong Quai
- Papaya fruit
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Tea Tree
Please note: Just about every plant, fruit or nut has estrogenic properties.
Here is a list of progesterone stimulating herbs:
- Wild Yam
Please note: they don’t contain progesterone but will encourage the body to produce more progesterone.
First off, we need to understand the balance that exists between estrogens and progesterones. They work together in a yin yang relationship. We don’t want to have either being too high or we will get symptoms of dominance. They need to be perfectly in balance. In most women with endometriosis, we suffer from estrogen dominance. So, to alleviate this, we can approach our healing in two ways:
1. Increase the progesterone levels in the body, which will level out the high estrogens
2. Replace the xenoestrogens with weaker plant-based estrogens. Xenoestrogens are estrogens that have been formed within the body from unnatural sources. Plastic bottles, toxins in our environment and the contraceptive pill are a few of them. They are called xenoestrogens, as they have a negative effect on the body. The reason is that they are more powerful than what they should be and therefore create an imbalance between the estrogenic and progesterone activities in the body. The theory behind taking plant-based hormones is that we replace the receptor sites in the body with these “lower dose” estrogens and thereby essentially “kick out” the xenoestrogens.
My personal thoughts on this, to date (this may change with further discoveries):
I am hesitant to use estrogenic based herbs for endometriosis. I still feel that we are essentially adding more of a particular type of hormone into our bodies. This would be fine if there was actually a way for our bodies to flush out the excess hormones! Unfortunately, most of us endo women have a stagnant liver, so it is unlikely that the excess will be able to leave the body.
It is impossible to avoid all of them—every fruit and vegetable will contain some element of estrogenic properties! You can only make a point of not taking them in high doses or as a supplement.
What about progesterone based stuff?
I have taken maca and would still highly recommend it to anyone with symptoms of estrogen dominance. It alleviated a huge amount of my personal PMS symptoms like hot flushes, moodiness etc. I still would not recommend taking it for longer than 6 months though…
At the end of the day, we are not fixing anything concrete with these methods. Sure, we might be able to play and alter with the hormone levels with endometriosis. It is true that many of us have estrogen dominance but personally I have found that since going off the pill, avoiding plastics and xenoestrogens in my environment, my estrogen dominance symptoms have gone down significantly. What we really need to do though is focus on getting the toxic load down in our bodies. This will help the liver regulate all our hormones for us.
I have never been a fan of playing with the delicate balance of hormones. Not sure why…. just feels way too sensitive to be played with!
What are your experiences with plant-based hormones? Do you think they work? Disagree with me? Feel free to share…