Natural Therapies to Treat Female Pelvic Pain
By Dr. Sasha Blissett
Many female reproductive health concerns manifest as pain and lead back to an imbalance of reproductive hormones. They may start soon after menarche in girls and become more problematic throughout a women’s life. Two of the most common causes of pelvic pain are endometriosis and uterine fibroids. The pain is often excruciating, debilitating, and usually associated with heavy uterine bleeding that leave many women listless. Many of my patients find themselves calling off work and disengaging from family. Pelvic pain robs women of time that could be used to focus on activities of enjoyment.
The conventional approach to pelvic pain most often entails birth control pills or surgery; which may be convenient for the doctor, but brings little peace of mind for women who are left with more questions than answers. These recommendations come in the absence of conducting measurements of the female reproductive hormones’ estrogen and progesterone. The side-effects from birth control pills include deadly blood clots, nausea, weight gain, vitamin B12 deficiency and mood-swings. The side-effects of surgery can be infertility, pain and the root cause going unaddressed. There may be no follow-up or additional recommendations. Faced with these obstacles, women may come to feel there is no reasonable solution. Fortunately, there are other ways to address female pelvic pain.
Promote Hormonal Balance with Certain Foods
Hormonal imbalances that contribute to endometriosis and uterine fibroids can be exacerbated by eating foods high in saturated fat, highly processed foods, and insufficient fiber intake. For instance, avoiding saturated animal fat, eating more produce, choosing organic when possible and choosing whole grain over processed foods will help inhibit xenoestrogen formation. This causes less hormone disruption and improves estrogen balance. Instead, nutritional intake should primarily be organic, contain as little processed foods as possible and include loads of vegetables to help offset the negative effects of excess estrogen and progesterone deficiency so often associated with endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Making the appropriate lifestyle changes lays the foundation for proper hormone balance. While these changes are required for the best hormonal balance, for some women they may not be sufficient on their own. That’s when a proper selection of botanicals and sometimes bioidentical hormone replacement therapies can help bring about well-deserved relief female sufferers of pelvic pain are looking for.
Botanicals and Supplements Promote Hormonal Balance
Assessing relevant hormones and the associated imbalances through appropriate testing of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can be required to understand the underlying cause. Endometriosis and uterine fibroids stem in part from a deficiency, an excess, or an imbalance of these hormones. Once identified, I use customized formulations of botanicals like Vitex agnus, Dioscorea villosa, and Taraxacum officinale for example. These botanicals upregulate our own progesterone receptors, encouraging a healthier estrogen to progesterone ratio. Though rare in reproductive aged women, estrogen deficiencies do exist. Phytoestrogen-like herbs such as Actaea racemosa, Angelica sinensis and Foeniculum vulgare help balance hormones as well. The benefits include a more predictive cycle and less pain associated with endometriosis and uterine fibroids. In the presence of estrogen excess, which is more commonly found, I use Indole-3-carbinol, an extract of cruciferous vegetables, that increases the breakdown of estrogen. Another noteworthy botanical is Curcuma longa, the bioactive polyphenol constituent of Turmeric. Pelvic pain caused by endometriosis and uterine fibroids both promote increased inflammation leading to oxidative stress. Curcumin works to counteract oxidative stress with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Much of Curcumin’s quality comes from it being a powerful anti-inflammatory with an affinity for the female pelvic region.
Progesterone to the Rescue
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy with Progesterone is useful when a deficiency in progesterone is not corrected with the above measures alone. Inadequate progesterone sets the stage for a more estrogen dominant imbalance. It is one of the most important reasons I prescribe compounded Progesterone. Bioidentical Progesterone is derived from wild yam or Dioscorea villosa and then reformulated. What makes it unique is that its molecular structure is identical to our own Progesterone. Progesterone is also useful for menstrual migraines, sleep difficulties, joint pain, and to promote hair growth. Because the effects are safe and almost immediate, I use it for many gynecological disorders including pelvic pain due to endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Endometriosis and uterine fibroids often result in debilitating pelvic pain for many women. Both conditions are known to result from hormonal imbalance. The solution is to address the underlying imbalance rather than treating the symptoms alone. Treatment can be a combination of botanical medicines, supplements, nutritional improvements and may even include Progesterone. My approach as a Naturopathic Doctor always relies on treating the underlying causes and then applying the best therapeutic options.
Dr. Sasha Blissett is a California State licensed Naturopathic Doctor, who found her passion for naturopathic medicine while battling her own health and skin issues. She specializes in women’s health and takes the time to listen to her patient’s health concerns so she can understand and address the root cause of illnesses. Dr. Blissett is a member of the California Association of Naturopathic Doctors, the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine and the Integrative Dermatology Learnskin.
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