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Learning to do some of the following relaxation techniques may help you to deal more effectively with the stress that comes along with having to deal with adenomyosis. I have added my own comments about which techniques worked for me during the time I was suffering from this disorder. Some of the techniques work better than others for different people, so just try them out and see which ones work best for you.
2. Visualization – when I was overly stressed, I would shut my eyes, focus on relaxing and picture myself on a beautiful white sandy beach, and the ocean was clear blue. I would listen to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore, feel the breeze on my face, and feel the sun beat down on me. I was the only one there, so no other sounds were heard except for the waves and an occasional sea gull calling. This was very effective in calming me down. You can picture any setting – just think about whatever place you would want to be at that particular moment.
3. Deep breathing – I used this technique when I was in the middle of an attack. I would concentrate completely on taking deep breaths, and I think this actually kept me from passing out! But it also helps tremendously in calming yourself down.
4. Chamomile tea – in addition to the presence of phytoestrogens, chamomile has been shown to be a great relaxant herb.
5. Observe your surroundings – on nice sunny days, I make it a point to go outside and just look. Look at the trees, flowers, birds in the air. The world is a beautiful place if you take the time to just look.
6. Social interaction and physical contact – spending time with others is a wonderful way to raise your spirits. Physical contact doesn’t even have to be with another person – just petting your dog or cat has been shown to reduce stress levels.
7. Classical music – research has shown that listening to 30 minutes of classical music has the relaxation effect of 10 mg. Valium.
8. Think positive – a great idea that came from my counselor is a gratitude journal. Think of 5 things that you are thankful for everyday and write them down in a journal every morning. A great way to start your day!
9. Progressive muscle relaxation – I do this in bed at night as I’m falling asleep. Focus on one muscle group at a time. Tighten that muscle and then relax. Move on to the next muscle group. The thing that shocked me about this technique is that it made me very aware of how tense I was without realizing it. My shoulders and face muscles were already tight – I just had to focus on relaxing them!
10. Yoga/tai chi – yoga is a well known technique used to reduce stress and anxiety. It improves overall fitness and health, lowers blood pressure and improves heart function. Tai Chi is also know as “meditation in motion”. In addition to its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, it has been shown to help with many different medical problems such as heart issues and arthritis.
11. Acupuncture – this technique has been shown to reduce pain and nausea. It may be a useful tool for those who do not want to rely on pain medications for pain relief.
12. Soak in a warm tub
13. Use a heating pad on your abdomen
Tens, or trascutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a technique used to treat chronic pain by using electrical impulses to stimulate nerves. Although studies on its effectiveness are conflicting, it is generally accepted as a somewhat effective way to treat chronic pain.
TENS is often confused with EMS. EMS, or electrical muscle stimulation, stimulates nerves whereas TENS actually blocks nerve pain signals.
TENS has been shown to help all kinds of chronic pain, but most importantly for purposes of this website, it has been shown to help with dysmenorrhea (painful periods).
When using a TENS unit, make sure to read all directions and warnings. Skin irritation can possibly result from use. Also, its use is contraindicated if you are pregnant or if you have a pacemaker.
Currently, the only treatment for complete resolution of symptoms is hysterectomy. However, some progress is being made in the treatment of adenomyosis. Check out the possible treatments below for more information.
Note: The Adenomyosis Information Network does not promote or recommend any of the following treatments. This information is given FYI so that you may be prepared when going through your treatment for adenomyosis. Please know that there can be side effects and/or complications from any of the treatments or medications below.
Medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Aleve are examples of NSAIDS. These medications block prostaglandins such as COX-2 and have been shown to be effective with menstrual pain. However, if the adenomyosis is severe, these medications may not be sufficient. In my case, the adenomyosis was so diffuse and severe through the uterine muscle that these medications were ineffective. If that is your case, you may want to talk to your doctor about stronger pain relievers and/or some of the other options below.
The use of natural progesterone cream has shown some promise in the treatment of adenomyosis. Dr. John Lee has coined the term estrogen dominance and has developed his own natural progesterone cream.
Continuous birth control therapy
Using continuous birth control therapy can be very effective in treating symptoms of adenomyosis. This involves being on the hormone pills continuously (no placebo pills during the week of menstruation) except about 4 times per year. With this therapy, you will usually have about 4 menstrual cycles per year instead of once per month. It is recommended that if this therapy is administered, a progesterone dominant birth control pill is used for the treatment of adenomyosis.
Progesterone (levonorgestrel)-releasing IUD
The levonorgestrel releasing IUD may be helpful in that it has been shown to reduce VEGF expression. This device can be easily inserted and can last up to 5 years. A speculum is used and a small tube is threaded into the uterus. The IUD is placed into the uterus, and a small string remains in the vaginal canal so the doctor/patient will know that it remains in the correct position. The patient may feel some discomfort after insertion including cramping and back pain. Other side effects include possible pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and pregnancy complications in case of IUD failure. Benefits include lighter periods and a decrease in menstrual cramps.
Note: I regularly read comments on adenomyosis support sites and have heard from many women that they have had severe pain when using an IUD. I therefore feel compelled to pass this information on through this website. Although the literature reports that this type of IUD may be effective in reducing adenomyosis symptoms, there have also been actual patient reports of severe pain.
Progestogen tablets or injections
This drug inhibits steroid hormone production, reducing estrogen secretion. It may also increase testosterone production. Side effects include weight gain, increased body hair, oily skin, reduced sex drive, hot flashes and an increase in blood sugar.
Aromatase inhibitors are a newer class of drugs and are typically used for breast and ovarian cancer in post menopausal women. Aromatase synthesizes estrogen, and these drugs block receptor sites for aromatase which in turn decreases the production of estrogen. Examples of aromatase inhibitors include exemestone (Aromasin), anastozole (Arimidex) and letrozole (Femara). Side effects include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, infertility, foggy thinking, muscle and joint pain, osteoporosis, arthritis, adrenal insufficiency, liver disorders, kidney failure and possible heart problems.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogs
These drugs basically modify the release of lutenizing hormone(LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). These hormones control ovulation and menstruation. And example of this type of medication is Lupron. It is given either by injection or intra nasally. They have been used in the treatment of endometriosis, leiomyomas (fibroids), infertility, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and hormone dependent tumors. In one study, these drugs were linked with a decrease in the thickness of the myometrial JZ (see “Causes”). Examples of GnRH analogs include Lupron, Synarel, Zolodex, cetrorelix (Cetrotide), and ganirelix. Side effects include menopausal type symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, headaches, mood swings, decreased sexual drive, and nausea.
Uterine artery embolization
This procedure has been shown in several studies to be helpful in the treatment of both endometriosis and adenomyosis.
The Osada procedure
Dr. Osada has developed a new procedure that help women with adenomyosis retain uterine function. This may be a viable alternative to hysterectomy.
Also known as Trental or Pentoxil, this medication is typically prescribed for those suffering from intermittent claudication, vascular dementia or other circulation problems. It improves blood flow throughout the body. Some recent studies have shown that this drug may be promising in the treatment of endometriosis and/or adenomyosis.
Another promising radiological exam that is actually able to pick up diffuse adenomyosis is now available. It is called magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS). This is so exciting to see a test that can actually pick this disorder up; however, my concern is that women generally won’t be able to access this technology due to cost and insurance requirements. That is why it is so important for EVERYONE to be aware of this condition and to know that this technology is out there. MRgUS is now being used in the treatment of fibroid tumors, but it is also effective in the treatment of adenomyosis. It has been reported that 70-90% of cases will be picked up using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Please educate everyone you know about MRgFUS!
The physical toll of adenomyosis is very clear – severe pain, heavy bleeding, infertility, etc. This is much easier to see than the emotional toll these women have to face on a daily basis. The following are some of the issues I was faced with during my 17 year struggle:
1. Co-workers and friends not supportive due to the fact that the doctors were unable to diagnose the condition.
2. My own doctors telling me I needed counseling/antidepressants because they were not able to come up with an accurate diagnosis. I was told that my condition was probably stress related.
3. Having to struggle with severe abdominal pain and not having an accurate diagnosis – wondering all the time if I had something deadly (such as cancer) and the doctors were missing it.
4. Being afraid to leave my house for fear that an attack would hit me at anytime. Being afraid to not have access to a bathroom.
5. Constantly trying to get people to understand that I was in severe pain. I could not get them to understand the degree of pain that I was dealing with.
6. Taking Midol or ibuprofen constantly even when I was feeling good, “just in case” an attack happened.
7. Going through medical tests to have the doctors tell me that they found nothing – so I still didn’t have an answer to the cause of my pain. Knowing that I was going home and nothing was going to change.
As you can see, all of this can severely impact the emotional health of those struggling with adenomyosis.
Since doctors cannot diagnose adenomyosis easily, some of them are likely to tell you that it is stress related and may be quick to try and prescribe an antidepressant. My suggestion is to get a second opinion….or third or fourth!!
I remember watching Montel Williams one day discuss the problems when getting his correct diagnosis. It took 9 doctors before finding out that he had multiple sclerosis!! We now know through the show Mystery Diagnosis that a diagnosis by a doctor can be wrong. Thank goodness for Discovery Fit and Health and this show for bringing this fact to the forefront!
As far as my experience, I was told that it was “all in my head”. I was told that I needed to go to counseling for stress management. I was given a slew of antidepressants over the 17 years that I struggled with this disorder. Actually I probably did need the antidepressants for the stress I was going through in not getting an accurate diagnosis!! Everyone who is involved with an individual who is sick and not getting properly diagnosed needs to remember this one vital piece of information: the person going through it is suffering not only physically probably on a daily basis but also mentally. Treating a real disorder such as adenomyosis as if it is “in their head” just compounds the mental suffering and leads that person deeper into depression!!
“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras”
This is a popular saying among physicians. It means that when diagnosing someone, look for the expected and not for the unusual. This may be true in most cases. However, there are “zebras” out there! If someone has been complaining about any kind of problem for an extended period of time and has been tested for the usual disorders with normal results, it is time to look for the zebra! It certainly should not take 17 years (as in my case). During my research, I have found that the average time to get a diagnosis of adenomyosis is 9 years. In my opinion, this is completely unacceptable. Under no circumstances should a woman have to undergo severe abdominal pain and very heavy bleeding for that period of time. I’m asking for the medical profession to start looking for those “zebras” sooner than later.
Currently, the most effective way to get a diagnosis prior to hysterectomy is either transvaginal ultrasound and/or MRI. In my case, I had many transvaginal ultrasounds, but I never received the diagnosis of adenomyosis prior to hysterectomy; however, that was many years ago and the technology has improved since that time.
The following is a list of the tests that may be necessary as you are worked up to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. I have been through some of these, and they aren’t nearly as bad as they sound. I will eventually add descriptions of the procedures and add my own personal details of my experience. Hopefully most of you will not have to go through all of these, but in case you do, I wanted to give you an idea of what to expect.
Pelvic Exam/Pap Smear
Notes from personal experience:
I have always hated getting a pap smear basically because of the position (legs in stirrups) and the insertion of the speculum (slightly uncomfortable). The actually swabbing of the cervix is not painful at all. The good news is that it can be completed very quickly and it is over before you know it.
Notes from personal experience:
This is a very easy and completely painless test. You will be required to have a full bladder so the technician will be able to get clear pictures of your reproductive organs. This can be somewhat uncomfortable especially if you drink a lot and have to wait at the office. If you have been waiting a while and are getting really uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to let the receptionist know that you are there for a pelvic ultrasound and have a full bladder!
Notes from personal experience:
I have had this test multiple times. It is not painful and takes only a few minutes to perform. It has been reported that adenomyosis will be picked up using this test in 50-70% of cases; however, adenomyosis was never picked up in my case.
Notes from personal experience:
I had my one and only colonoscopy close to 20 years ago, and I’m sure things have changed since then. However, even 20 years ago, this test was not painful, believe it or not. The worst part of the whole thing was the prep the night before the exam. At that time, I had to drink a giant jug of medicine that tasted like salt water – 8 ounces every 20 minutes until it was gone. The purpose of this drink was to clean out the colon, and it certainly did its job! I went to the bathroom constantly throughout the night and became very cold. By morning, I was a little nauseated. However, once they gave me the sedative, I was completely out of it and the rest was a piece of cake. I have since learned that they changed the procedure from the drink to taking a pill the night before the test. That sounds a little bit better!
Notes from personal experience:
Although this test sounds like it might be painful, I experienced no pain whatsoever during the actual exam. I was pleasantly surprised! However, about 30 minutes after the test (on my way home in the car), I began to have very bad abdominal cramping and some GI distress. It lasted for about 30 minutes and then passed. This apparently isn’t very common, so it could just be my individual case….not sure about that, though.
I did not have this test performed during my struggle with adenomyosis. During my research I have learned that this test may or may not be beneficial in women suffering from this condition. Since adenomyosis is seen in only sporadic areas of the uterus, luck would play a role in whether the actual biopsy site contained the adenomyosis. If it happens that the biopsy site did not contain the adenomyosis, a women may be told she doesn’t have it when she actually does. Keep this in mind if this test comes back negative but you continue to have severe symptoms. It has been reported that this procedure will only pick up about 45% of cases.
During my struggle with adenomyosis and through my research, I have found that the following foods and supplements may improve symptoms of adenomyosis and estrogen dominance. This information may be particularly useful to those who do not want to undergo a hysterectomy.
Would you like to comment on your own experiences regarding diet and adenomyosis? See “My Blog” and tell your story!
1. Fiber – helps to rid the body of excess estrogen. Good sources include beans, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, and fresh vegetables.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids – an anti-inflammatory nutrient that has also been shown to balance hormone levels. Sources include anchovies, mackerel, wild salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed.
3. Organic foods – because of the way they are grown, these foods contain less xenoestrogens.
4. Cruciferous vegetables – contain a substance called diindolylmethane that has been shown to help the body rid itself of excess estrogen. Sources include broccoli and cauliflower.
5. Phytoestrogens – weaker estrogens than that found in the human body and they compete for estrogen receptor sites. Good sources include flaxseed, sesame seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, almonds, beans, soy, multi grain bread, rye, and barley. Sunflower seeds also have a high vitamin E content which has aromatase inhibiting action. See “Treatments” for more information on aromatase inhibitors.
6. B vitamins – help to balance hormone levels. Sources include tuna, salmon, turkey, chicken, beans, potatoes, milk, bananas, and eggs.
7. Foods high in magnesium and zinc – these nutrients help to increase progesterone production. Sources include bran, dark chocolate, pumpkin, squash, edamame, molasses, roast beef, oysters,crab, and lamb.
8. Foods high in sulfur – help to detoxify the liver by binding to estrogen and eliminating it through the GI system. Good sources include onions, garlic, lemons, and leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and swiss chard. Kale chips can be made at home by adding some olive oil and salt and baking it in the oven. Alternatively, I found some wonderful kale chips at Trader Joes. They are a nice alternative to regular potato chips.
9. Vitamin E – low levels of this vitamin are associated with high estrogen in the body.
10. White mushrooms – these have been shown to have some natural aromatase inhibiting action. Since aromatase synthesizes estrogen, eating food with aromatase inhibiting action helps to lower estrogen levels and may possibly help to reduce adenomyosis symptoms. See “Hormonal Imbalance?” and “Treatments” for more information.
11. Citrus fruits – contain d-limonene which helps in the detoxification of estrogen in the liver. Examples include oranges, tangerines, lemons and grapefruit.
12. Seaweed – an effective xenoestrogen detoxifier. Examples include dulce, kelp and nori.
13. Brazil nuts – contain high levels of selenium which is known to have aromatase inhibiting action. See “Hormonal Imbalance?” and “Treatments” for more information.
Herbs high in phytoestrogens and other useful supplements
Phytoestrogens are weaker estrogens and therefore may have a beneficial effect for those suffering from estrogen dominance. Please refer to “Different Types of Estrogen” for a full explanation. This subject is often misunderstood by the general public. Although research is pointing to the overall benefits of phytoestrogens in women’s health, there are conflicting studies. It is strongly recommended to talk to your physician before using the following herbs, especially if you have a family history of estrogen sensitive tumors (breast, uterine, ovarian).
This section has been updated as of May 5, 2016. I have done extensive research on phytoestrogens in preparation for writing my second book, and some of the previously advised herbs have been taken off this list. This list may be updated again as I learn more about phytoestrogens. I recently talked to another adeno sister who brought up an excellent point. Phytoestrogens are weaker estrogens, and in theory, if you increase your phytoestrogen intake, they will occupy the estrogen receptor sites in the body and will prevent the dangerous xenoestrogens from doing so. That sounds great, but it is also necessary to have a liver that is functioning optimally so that it can break down these dangerous xenoestrogens and get rid of them. Just as an example, let’s say a woman with adeno increases her phytoestrogen intake but still eats a lot of processed or junk food. Her liver may be sluggish, so the potent xenoestrogens are still in her body – the liver is not able to break them down efficiently, and they are not eliminated from the body. Eventually the phytoestrogens will disconnect from the estrogen receptor sites, and since the xenoestrogens are still in her body, these dangerous chemicals will then attach to the receptor cells. This, in theory, could lead to a very dangerous estrogen dominant condition. Again, this is just a theory. This topic is very complicated, and we are learning new things every day. I urge you to do your own research and talk to an expert before using phytoestrogens. I do believe they COULD help if, and only if, you change your diet and lifestyle as well.
For a more detailed discussion of phytoestrogens and herbs, please read my book, Adenomyosis: A Significantly Neglected and Misunderstood Uterine Disorder.
1. Milk Thistle – This amazing herb has been known for thousands of years to protect and nourish the liver. Silymarin is the active constituent of the plant, and this substance protects the liver from damage by toxins several ways. First of all, it is a strong antioxidant, and it has been shown to be more effective than both vitamin C and vitamin E. It also helps to prevent the depletion of glutathione which is needed for the proper functioning of the liver. Silymarin has been repeatedly shown to be beneficial in treating cirrhosis and hepatitis. Since estrogen is processed in the liver, it is vital to keep the liver healthy, so the addition of this herb to the diet of adenomyosis sufferers is an excellent idea!
2. Damiana – Known for its aphrodisiac properties, this herb may help with anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and night sweats. It may inhibit aromatase which is needed to convert androgens to estrogen. A 1998 study found that this herb had anti-estrogenic activity, and, according to Zava et al. (1998), this herb is one of the six highest progesterone-binding herbs. It has also been noted that this herb may contain compounds similar to progesterone. Damiana may interact with other herbs and supplements that alter progesterone levels.
3. Dandelion – Believe it or not, this little yellow weed is an invaluable herb. Dandelion, also known as “pee in the bed”, is a powerful diuretic which could be invaluable if you suffer from severe bloating due to adenomyosis. An additional benefit is this herb will reduce bloating without causing the body to lose large quantities of potassium, an unwanted side effect of diuretic drugs such as Lasix. According to Zhi et al. (2007), this herb may be useful “for the clinical treatment of reproductive hormone-related disturbances” (Abstract).
4. Royal Jelly – This nutritious supplement is made from bees. The major constituent is water (67%), but it also contains many nutrients such as protein, sugars, fatty acids, minerals, enzymes, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and a little bit of vitamin C. It has been used for PMS, insomnia, menopause, and liver disease, and it has been reported to decrease inflammation and nourish the endocrine system. According to Hiroyuki et al (2012), this supplement appears to increase testosterone levels in men and also appears to have no effect on the conversion of aromatase in humans. Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) is a substance that is found in bee propolis. Jung et al. studied CAPE in 2010 and found that it had binding affinity to ERβ. Also, CAPE did not increase the growth of MCF-7 estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells, and it did not increase the uterine weight.
5. Dong Quai – Zava et al. (1998) report that this herb did not inhibit the production of alkaline phosphatase, which means it does not block the activity of progesterone. In addition, this group notes that this herb has very little estrogenic activity. This herb may actually suppress estradiol synthesis since saliva levels in women who take this herb are very low.
6. Grape Seed Extract – Discovered in 1951 by the French scientist Dr. Jacques Masquelier, this amazing supplement has been shown to be a potent aromatase inhibitor. The ability of this supplement to inhibit aromatase may be very beneficial to women who suffer from estrogen dominance. In a study by Kijma, Phung, Hur, Kwok, and Chen (2006), grape seed extract was shown to possibly be a useful treatment in cases of hormone-dependent breast cancer. Grape leaves, especially the leaves of the red grape, have been shown to have astringent qualities, and this might be beneficial in treating heavy menstrual bleeding. In addition, the proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract are powerful antioxidants which can help keep the liver healthy. Although the data is insufficient, grape seed extract may also help in cases of premenstrual syndrome.
7. Melatonin – This hormone is produced in the pineal gland and is important in modulating our circadian rhythms. It is also a free radical scavenger, helps with the proper functioning of the immune system, and plays an important role in the regulation of sex hormones. Recent studies have shown this hormone may reduce binding to estrogen receptors while it increases binding to progesterone receptors. A study by Rato et al. (1999) showed melatonin interfered with the activation of an estrogen receptor by estradiol. Abd-Allah, El-Sayed, Abdel-Wahab, and Hamada (2003) showed a 59 percent reduction of estrogen receptors in rats that were treated with melatonin. In addition, this same group showed an increase in progesterone receptors of 53 percent in these same rats.
8. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – NAC is an excellent antioxidant and chelator of heavy metals. It is an excellent supplement as it aids in optimum liver function. It is derived from the amino acid cysteine and contains a good amount of sulfur.
9. Oregano – According to Zava et al. (1998), oregano is one of the six highest progesterone binding herbs. In addition, the volatile oils in oregano help to detoxify the liver.
10. Quercetin – Quercetin is a plant flavonoid and a strong aromatase inhibitor. A study done by van der Woude et al. (2005) showed that quercetin exerts phytoestrogen-like activity. The group states “the results point at the relatively high capacity of quercetin to stimulate supposed ‘beneficial’ [estrogen receptor] beta responses as compared to the stimulation of [estrogen receptor] alpha, the receptor possibly involved in adverse cell proliferative effects” (Abstract). Quercetin is found in red wine, green tea, onions, berries, and apples. It works best when taken with Vitamin C.
11. Rosemary – According to the Cleveland Clinic (2016), rosemary may lower estrogen levels. This herb is also anti-inflammatory, and its volatile oils aid in liver detoxification.
12. SAMe – Also known as s-adenosyl methionine, this substance is made in the body as a result of a reaction between methionine and ATP. Methionine must be supplied through the diet as it cannot be made by the body. SAMe is an excellent source of sulfur and helps to convert estradiol (E2) into the less harmful estriol (E3). SAMe has been used for PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS. It has also been used to help with depression and may even be useful in liver disease. SAMe is an anti-inflammatory and used to relieve pain. An interesting study by Frezza, Tritapepe, Pozzato, and Di Padova (1988) looked at the use of SAMe in women who had a past history of liver disease called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). These women have an increased sensitivity to estrogen. They concluded “The data support the belief that SAMe acts as a physiological antidote against estrogen hepatobiliary toxicity in susceptible women” (Abstract).
14. Black cohosh – A member of the buttercup family, this wonderful herb has been used extensively by the North American Indians. It has a long history of use for premenstrual syndrome and menstrual cramping, and it may also be helpful with menopause symptoms such as irritability, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness.
15. Chasteberry – also known as Vitex, this herb is frequently advised for women who suffer from PMS. Chasteberry influences the pituitary to produce more lutenizing hormone (LH) which in turn signals the ovaries to produce more progesterone. So, this herb is especially valuable in women who are suffering from estrogen dominance.
9. Resveratrol – this wonderful supplement has numerous health benefits, one being an aromatase inhibitor. Since aromatase synthesizes estrogen, eating food with aromatase inhibiting action helps to lower estrogen levels and may possibly help to reduce adenomyosis symptoms. See “Hormonal Imbalance?” and “Treatments” for more information. Resveratrol can be taken as a supplement (usually extracted from the Japanese knotwood plant) or can be consumed by eating the following foods: red grapes, red wine, peanuts, or cocoa.
10. Good Quality Probiotic – this will support the gastrointestinal tract which will ensure proper elimination of estrogen from the body.
Try to avoid the following foods:
Excess saturated fats
Xenoestrogens are synthetic (man made) estrogens that mimic the effects of estrogen found in the human body. They disrupt hormonal activity and can be extremely dangerous. These xenoestrogens can lead to the condition of estrogen dominance in which there is “unopposed” estrogen present in a woman’s body (see “Hormonal Imbalance?”). This condition has been linked to adenomyosis.
Some examples of xenoestrogens include:
PCBs – banned from use in 1979
PBBs – can be found in plastics
Pthalates – provides durability and flexibility to plastics
Petrochemicals – byproducts of oil and gasoline
Organochlorides – dry cleaning products, chemicals used in the bleaching of paper
BPAs – used in the lining of food and beverage cans
DDT – pesticide banned from use in 1972; however still present in environment
Dioxins – released during pesticide manufacturing and combustion processes
Endosulfans – insecticide
Atrazines – herbicide
Bisphenol A – food preservative
Parabens – lotions
Ethinyl estradiol – component of birth control pills
In women with known or suspected adenomyosis, it is strongly suggested that exposure to these chemicals be reduced as much as possible. Although it is impossible to completely get away from these chemicals, a few things can be done to reduce exposure such as:
1. Do not store or heat your food in plastic containers. Use glass whenever possible for food storage and heating. Avoid drinking from plastic water bottles. To drive this point home, let me tell you a true story. I have worked in a medical lab for about 22 years as a lab technologist. At the beginning of my career, I ran the acetylcholinesterase test. Acetylcholinesterase is a very important enzyme in the body that plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system. The test that I ran was used to pick up possible neural tube defects in unborn children (spina bifida and anencephaly). Sometimes the test worked fine, but at other times it did not. After trying to figure out the problem and getting quite frustrated, we were finally able to identify the problem. When we mixed the reagents in a plastic container, the acetylcholinesterase band did not show up on the gel and therefore the test failed; however, when we mixed the reagents in a glass container, the test worked just fine. So, something in the plastic container was reacting with the acetylcholinesterase! Kinda scary to think that a chemical in plastic can react with such an important enzyme vital to the nervous system!
2. Buy fresh and organic food whenever possible. Avoid as much processed food as you can.
3. Buy hormone free meats.
4. Avoid farm raised salmon because this can be a source of PCBs. Buy wild salmon instead.
5. Use natural/organic lotions or even make your own homemade lotions. Avoid lotions that contain parabens. Try to use makeup that is paraben and phthalate-free.
6. Use natural pesticides. I use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and dishwashing detergent, and it works beautifully!!
7. Try to stay away from birth control pills. This one is a hard one, though, since birth control pills do give some relief for patients with adenomyosis. Just keep this in mind as you go through your treatment. I did have to take birth control pills to control my symptoms during my 17 year struggle. You may benefit from taking other steps first before resorting to taking bcps.
8. If you are considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal symptoms, try using bioidentical hormones.
9. Invest in a good quality water filter.
It is important to understand the different types of estrogen that we are exposed to on a daily basis. There are basically three types – xenoestrogens (man-made/synthetic), human estrogen (that our own body produces) and phytoestrogens (estrogen like substances found in plants).
These estrogens are powerful and very dangerous. They can increase the estrogen levels in the human body leading to the condition “estrogen dominance”. Steps should be taken to avoid these substances although complete avoidance is impossible because they are in the environment. They can be found in products such as plastics, gasoline and pesticides. I have devoted a whole page to this subject – please check out that page for more information.
Human (endogenous) estrogen
This is the natural estrogen produced by the ovaries. The levels in the body are regulated by the pituitary gland through the action of lutenizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
These are weaker estrogen like substances that are found in plants. Please see “Helpful Diet Tips” for a list of foods that contain these substances. Phytoestrogens actually help to reduce the level of estrogen in the human body, and many studies have shown a link between these substances and a lower cancer risk for estrogen dependent tumors
So What Does This Mean?
Here is a very simplified explanation. Remember that this is basic – many more hormones are involved in the proper functioning of the reproductive tract!
Adenomyosis has been shown to be estrogen dependent meaning that it needs estrogen to grow. The body has a certain number of estrogen receptor sites and constantly “fills” these sites. If they are “filled” with too many xenoestrogens, the resulting condition is estrogen dominance. Too much estrogen can lead to adenomyosis or estrogen dependent tumors. If the sites are “filled” with a lot of phytoestrogens, the estrogen levels are lower. Not enough estrogen, adenomyosis can’t survive or at least won’t progress as fast.
There is no such thing as an absolute in medicine…..
Although many studies show that the phytoestrogens in flaxseed to be beneficial, a study done at the University of Pittsburgh has shown that the phytoestrogens in flaxseed oil actually stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. Please keep in mind that studies on any disease/disorder can have conflicting results. Based on my research, I have found many more studies showing the benefits of phytoestrogens in reducing cancer risk. However, if you have a family history of estrogen dependent cancers (uterine, breast, ovarian), please keep this in mind and talk to your doctor before supplementing your diet with flaxseed oil.
In doing research for my book, I was particularly interested in the fact that adenomyosis had been linked to a condition called estrogen dominance. This term has been coined by Dr. John Lee. It refers to a condition where there is insufficient progesterone in relation to estrogen in a woman’s body. This results in “unopposed” estrogen which has also been shown to play a role in other gynecological conditions, particularly breast cancer.
Some of the symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Fibrocystic breast disease
Irregular or heavy periods
Spotting between periods
Cold hands and feet
Headaches (including migraines)
Weight gain in the hips, thighs, and abdomen
ZRT Laboratories now offer an at home saliva test that measures estrogen and progesterone levels and also gives a ratio of estrogen to progesterone. I was intrigued by this, so I decided to have my levels tested. Sure enough, my ratio came back at 67 indicating estrogen dominance (normal range is 100-500). Others who are suffering from adenomyosis who are interested in ordering this test and learning more about Dr. Lee/estrogen dominance should refer to his website, www.johnleemd.com.
After recently listening to Dr. Drew’s ill-informed comments on endometriosis, I find it extremely important to set the record straight. I suffered from adenomyosis, a condition somewhat similar to endometroisis, for 17 years before obtaining a correct diagnosis. I find Dr. Drew’s comments damaging to the cause of bringing more awareness and education to endometriosis and adenomyosis. It is vitally important for people to know the truth about these disorders.
So let me begin by giving you some background information for those of you who haven’t heard the actual call and remarks. A young man called in to Dr. Drew on his radio show, Loveline. His girlfriend had been diagnosed with several seemingly unrelated medical conditions, one of which was endometriosis. After listening to this guy talk about his girlfriend’s diagnoses that took him probably less than one minute to describe, Dr. Drew made the statement that she had a somatoform disorder and needed a trauma specialist. He called these pelvic pain disorders “garbage bag diagnoses” and said that they could not be pathologically proven. In addition, he made the comment that endometriosis is linked to sexual trauma.
Needless to say, many women were outraged by these comments. But even better, some nurses and doctors got in on the action. Dr. Drew really ended up taking a beating over these remarks. Most significantly, Dr. Tamer Seckin, co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America called in to Dr. Drew’s show, and the two of them had about a 30 minute conversation about this topic. Dr Seckin did a beautiful job on setting the record straight, giving accurate facts about endometriosis in a very professional manner to Dr. Drew.
I have listened to both the initial call/remarks and the conversation with Dr. Seckin in full. Although Dr. Drew did apologize at the beginning of the call with Dr. Seckin, he still made some remarks that I find disturbing and inaccurate, so I would like to address these comments here.
Dr. Drew made the following comments:
“Everything you mentioned, EVERYTHING you mentioned are things that actually aren’t discernably pathological.” (This comment came after the caller told Dr. Drew that his girlfriend had been diagnosed with endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, lactose intolerance, and no stomach lining)
This is false. Endometriosis is very much a discernably pathological condition. Even more interesting, IC is commonly seen in women suffering from endometriosis.
“When people have unexplained pelvic pain, it’s called somatoform dissociation.”
Not necessarily. These two remarks are the ones I want to discuss further.
First of all, what he fails to understand here is that many women have had multiple diagnoses and are later proven to have endometriosis or adenomyosis. Many of these women have diagnoses that appear to be unrelated, as was my case. Any doctor can easily say that “endometriosis sucks”, as Dr. Drew so eloquently put it, if they have multiple visits to a doctor confirming pathologically that the woman is suffering from endometriosis. However, it takes a TOP doctor, and expert in his field, to be able to determine that a woman is actually suffering from this disorder after receiving multiple diagnoses that are seemingly unrelated. I would love to know if he has seen the Discovery Fit and Health program, “Mystery Diagnosis.”. The problem of receiving multiple diagnoses that are seemingly unrelated are evident in many different diseases, not just endometriosis!
Secondly, in my opinion, any doctor who thinks he can accurately diagnose a patient without ever talking to her or physically examining her is not one worth pursuing. No one, and I mean NO ONE, can accurately diagnose someone without doing a thorough exam on the patient. I have run into this problem during my struggle with adenomyosis, and the doctors that felt they were able to diagnose my condition without a thorough exam were unanimously wrong in their assessment of my condition. I realize that this is just a radio show, and there is limited time to respond to caller’s questions. However, in my opinion, and more responsible answer to this young man’s question would have been something to the effect of, “Well, it’s hard for me to say for sure, but there are several things that could be going on here. She COULD certainly have a somatoform disorder. However, some conditions do have seemingly unrelated diagnoses as the doctors are trying to determine the cause of the pain. My advice would be to pursue a top of the line gastroenterologist/gynecologist and see if they can narrow down a diagnosis. If they are still unable to find a discernably pathological condition, you may want to consider discussing the possibility of a somatoform disorder.”
Having been through the agony of adenomyosis, I know what these women are going through. You have no idea the number of these women who have not been able to get effective treatment for these disorders because of the lack of the medical profession to accurately diagnose these conditions. While going repeatedly to physicians over many years, a lot of these women, including me, have been told by doctors that it is “all in our head” when it, in fact, is not. This is a major reason why there was such an uproar over Dr. Drew’s comments. This is also one of the main reasons I started http://www.adenomyosisinformationnetwork.com as I want the general public to be educated about misconceptions about this disorder. Just because the doctors are unable to diagnose the cause of a woman’s pelvic pain DOES NOT necessarily mean it is a somatoform disorder. Could it be? Sure. Does it have to be? No!
In my case, I suffered from chronic severe pelvic pain for 17 years, and no, I have no history of sexual trauma. Over that time, I was put on antidepressants because I was so depressed about not getting a diagnosis and having to deal with chronic pain. I was treated many times as if the condition was in my head. But lo and behold, when my hysterectomy was finally done in 2007, I had a discernably pathological condition called adenomyosis. Once the uterus was taken, all of my pelvic pain stopped. During the years that I suffered from this condition, I had a slew of unrelated diagnoses, including peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, endometriosis, uterine polyp, and possible complication from a ruptured appendix. All seemingly unrelated – but I never even heard the word adenomyosis until after it was found during the pathological examination of my uterus.
Am I convinced that this girl has a somatoform disorder? Based on the call I heard, absolutely not. Again, I can’t say for sure what the problem is, but I am not convinced that Dr. Drew has the correct diagnosis because I’ve been down that road. Could she be suffering from endometriosis, a pathologically discernable condition? Absolutely.
I wanted to die last night. There, I said it. Ugly thing to say, right? Might even make you want to inch just slightly away from me. Feel free to. Sometimes I want to inch away from myself as well. But before you judge, try to listen to what I have to say. Assess my words with an open, empathetic heart, and think about the way you would feel if you were in my shoes. It may sound as though I am trying to pull at your heartstrings, to make you feel depressed for me and my life, but I am not. I just want you to understand what it’s like to be a woman who suffers from endometriosis. I just want you to understand. These are the realities of living with endometriosis.
Dealing With the Physical Reality of Endometriosis
Pain. Imagine your abdomen and pelvis are encased in barbed wire so that the spikes of the wire are actually piercing them, stabbing them sharply every time you move. Now imagine that the barbed wire is actually attached to some sort of electrical current that shoots electricity through the spikes, increasing the intensity of each penetration. Next, add a machine that alternates shooting the electrical spikes into the body and pulling them out again in random intervals, thus adding a surprise and shock factor to the pain. Lastly, in addition to the shocking electrical stabbing pain, there are deep, underlying waves of pain that crush and release the muscles, causing a cramp so excruciating it takes your breath away. Imagine living with that agony on an everyday basis.
I live with a veil of pain draped over my body. Not stubbed toe pain, sprained ankle pain, or even broken heart pain. The pain that I feel every day is an all-encompassing event, specially formulated to break both my body and my spirit. It is a visceral and animalistic torture that brings me to my knees in surrender. That is the reality of living with endometriosis.
Fatigue. I want you to try to recall a night during which you slept very little. Maybe you had a party the night before, or perhaps you were up doing work. Now think about the way both your body and mind felt the following day. Did you function as well as usual? Were your movements as fluid, your mind as sharp? Or did it feel as though you were moving through quicksand, your brain wrapped in cellophane? How would you deal if you felt like that every day?
I live with a crushing form of fatigue that makes my every move devastatingly cumbersome. I often feel as though I am nine months pregnant with quadruplets, constantly carrying around an enormous weight that is attached to my body, sucking whatever strength I have left. My limbs feel like they are wrapped in lead, and my eyelids covered in cement. All my body wants to do is sleep, every minute of every day, but it can’t. My life doesn’t take a nap when I do.
The Emotional Reality of Endometriosis: Depression
I wish I could say the physical aspects of endometriosis are all that plague me. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You see, for every physical malady that plagues women with endometriosis, there is an emotional component that is equally, if not more, devastating.
Guilt. Guilt is like an itchy woolen sweater that is two sizes too small: suffocating, uncomfortable, and in desperate need of being shed. It permeates the many aspects of my life and makes me miserable. I feel guilty for having endometriosis to begin with, as I sometimes wonder what I did wrong to deserve it. I also feel guilty that I cannot give my husband the emotional or physical attention he needs. I feel guilty that my close friends and family have to spend their days taking care of me when I am incapacitated and that I spend my days idling around the house while they work hard. I feel guilty for canceling plans that I made weeks ago and the lack of ability to make plans to begin with. Guilty that I cannot be a good friend to others. And guilty when I think of my children who I cannot take care of the way they deserve to be taken care of. Finally, I feel guilty that I cannot give my husband any more precious children due to the hysterectomy I had that was not even successful.
Inadequacy. Due to the symptoms of endometriosis, I often feel inadequate and obsolete. I feel like I lack the ability to do anything important, like my job, or household work. Relationships with my spouse, kids, parents, siblings and even my friends are often placed on the back burner as I struggle daily to merely exist. This inability to maintain relationships, keep my job, take care of myself or family members or even be intimate with my spouse overwhelms me with the feeling that I am incompetent, useless, and valueless. Sometimes I even feel as though my existence on this earth is pointless if I can’t be a functioning member of society. These feelings of incompetence sometimes also lead to depression, embarrassment, guilt, and rage.
Anger. Imagine being told that the agonizing pain you feel every second of every day is not real, that you are making a big deal out of nothing. How would you feel? Anger? Rage? Imagine being told that you are a “druggie” when you ask your doctor for pain medication to ease the misery you are dealing with. Anger again? Or how would you feel towards “God” or “The Universe” if you let your mind wander to the opportunities you would have if you didn’t have endometriosis? It’s hard not to be furious when you think of everything you are missing or losing due to this disease. What if you’ve tried for years to get pregnant with no success or just miscarried the child you’ve wanted all of your life. And imagine being so debilitated by your symptoms that you are unable to perform your everyday activities. How would you feel? Frustrated? Angry? That’s exactly the way I feel.
Jealousy. For me, jealousy rears its ugly head when I see other people performing activities that I am too sick or fatigued to perform. It is hard not to be jealous of a healthy person when I am stuck in bed, too exhausted to move, or lying on the couch, writhing in pain. Just seeing someone go food shopping without discomfort causes jealousy within me, as I would do anything to be able to perform everyday activities without pain. Jealousy is also inevitable when we I see other women, basking in their pregnant glow, and I know that I will never again carry a living being inside of me.
Loneliness. Yes, I am extraordinarily lucky to have a wonderful support system in my life, and I am enormously thankful for that support, but there is a profound, hollow loneliness that sometimes overwhelms me when it occurs to me that despite their best efforts, my loved ones cannot fully understand what I am going through. Even my sisters with endometriosis cannot completely comprehend my individual suffering, as every person suffers uniquely. Therefore, I am sometimes led to feel as though no one understands me, and there is no thought lonelier than that.
Loss. Endometriosis is a disease that is full of loss and mourning. On a basic level, I mourn the loss of a “normal”, illness-free life. A life that is chock-full of boring, everyday activities and errands. I am no stranger to mourning or to loss. Having a miscarriage created a deep, inconsolable hole within me that will remain with me forever. But most of all, having a hysterectomy has caused a ubiquitous feeling of loss within me as I mourn, not only the loss of potential children, but the loss of a part of my womanhood.
Depression. Oh, depression. That dark, suffocating feeling when the world looks like it has no color in it and our futures seem murky and unclear. For me, depression is caused by many different things. Being alone all the time, not being able to spend time with family and friends due to pain, fatigue or other symptoms is depressing. Excruciating pain is depressing. Feeling like my illness is misunderstood is depressing. Feeling like I need to be embarrassed of my illness is depressing. And lastly, the thought that there might not be any hope for my recovery because there is no tangible hope for a cure, that I might have to deal with the incapacitating symptoms of endometriosis for the rest of my life, is the most depressing thought of all. That is why I wanted to end my life. Yes, I contemplated suicide. Like so many of my sisters with endometriosis, I hit bottom. I was tired of the pain, tired of the despair, tired of the guilt, and tired of being tired. But mostly, I was and am, just tired of the pain.
Living with Endometriosis is Horrendous
Now that I have exposed my vulnerable and aching heart to you, my friend, you have a choice to make. I will never blame you if you choose to stay away from my complicated and sometimes depressing life. Like I said, if I had the choice, I would probably do the same. But let me say one last thing before you make your decision. Life with endometriosis is horrendous, but women with endometriosis are not. We are strong, determined women who fight fiercely and love fiercely. We try our best. We are not lazy or pathetic and we don’t give up. We may not sugarcoat the painful emotions and terrifying symptoms that we deal with. Our honesty may even frighten you. But when you meet a woman with endometriosis, you are meeting a proud, indomitable warrior. A soldier who goes into the fire on a daily basis and emerges with a thicker skin time and time again. A woman who should not be pitied for her pain, but admired for her ever-present resilience and strength. That, my friend, is who I am. Take me or leave me. It’s up to you.