Woman with strong menstrual pain

Can Turmeric Help Treat Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a common, chronic disorder of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). It's often a debilitating condition in the 10-20% of premenopausal women who have it. In addition, endometriosis causes infertility and increased risk of miscarriage in 30-50% of women who have it. (x.2059-61)

Causes and Symptoms

Although the exact causes are not defined, a number of factors contribute to the development and progression of endometriosis. They include: (x.20)

Experts believe that endometriosis is triggered by menstrual tissue reflux. Instead of exiting the body, some menstrual blood and tissue travels through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic area around the uterus. (x.2060)

If the immune system fails to remove this menstrual debris, it implants and causes endometrial tissue to grow outside the uterus. Usually these lesions are limited to the pelvic area. However, occasionally endometriosis is found in the lungs, brain, or around the heart. (x.2060)

Symptoms

Some women with endometriosis have no symptoms of the condition, but the majority of women do. Symptoms include: (x.2061)

  • Pelvic and/or intestinal pain
  • Painful/heavy menstrual periods
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Although noncancerous, the excess tissue in endometriosis actually stimulates growth of new blood vessels to support its further expansion and survival. (x.20)

Conventional Therapy

Currently, conventional treatment includes:

  • Drugs that block the formation of estrogens in the uterine lining. (x.20)
  • Anti-inflammatory pain medications. (x.61)
  • Oral contraceptives to regulate hormones. (x.61)
  • Laparoscopic laser treatments to get rid of lesions. (x.61)

In extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be recommended. (x.61)

Integrative medicine suggests that diet and nutrients can help balance estrogen hormone levels and reduce inflammation and other endometriosis symptoms by: (x.60-63)

Table X.8: Targets to Help Endometriosis
Target Why is this Important?
Get rid of excess iron. Excess iron contributes to the formation of especially potent and harmful free radicals.
Inhibit angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the development of new blood vessels. In endometriosis, it helps establish new lesions.
Keep the microbes, or flora, normally found in the intestines at healthy levels. Helps with estrogen metabolism.
Maintain efficient liver function. Helps break down estrogen.
Neutralize free radicals. Free radicals feed chronic inflammation and cell damage. They also play a significant role in infertility related to endometriosis.
Reduce chronic inflammation. Inflammation causes pain, promotes free radicals, and contributes to endometriosis progression.
Regulate immune system function. Dysregulated immune system responses can cause chronic inflammation. When the immune system isn't working effectively, it can also fail to get rid of excess endometrial tissue.
Relieve stress. Stress causes flare-ups and makes symptoms worse.

How Can Turmeric Help?

Lab and animal studies suggest that turmeric and its compounds may be able to help prevent and treat endometriosis: (x.42059)

Table X. 1: Effects of Turmeric on Endometriosis
Turmeric Compound/Form Results Endometriosis Treatment Target

Alpha linolenic acid (x.32)

Omega-3 fatty acids could help reduce inflammation and pain. (x.61)

Anti-Inflammatory

Pain Relief

Curcumin

In an animal study, curcumin helped delay the development and progression of endometriosis. The turmeric compound worked by:

  • Regulating enzymes involved in remodeling endometrial tissues. (x.464)
  • Inflammatory NF-κB transcription factor protein. (x.4)
  • Clearance of excess endometrial cells. (x.4)

Similar to celecoxib drug treatment, the turmeric compound stimulated p53 tumor suppressor proteins to clear out excess tissue. Curcumin also triggered cell mitochondria to help regress tissue build-up. (x.4)

Anti-Inflammatory

Immune System Function

When curcumin was applied to endometrial cells taken from women with endometriosis, the turmeric compound significantly reduced proteins involved in the condition. These include: (x.59)

  • TNF-α and other inflammatory cytokines.
  • NF-κB, a transcription factor that triggers genes to make inflammatory proteins.
  • Adhesion molecules.

Anti-Inflammatory

In a dose-dependent way, curcumin was able to suppress growth of endometriosis cells. The turmeric compound worked by reducing abnormally high levels of estrogen. (x.20)

Even though some studies show curcumin can stimulate estrogen activity, this and other research indicates the turmeric compound in fact helps regulate estrogen levels, not promote its activity indiscriminately. (x.20)

Hormone Balancing

Another animal study showed that curcumin reduced endometrial lesion sizes by blocking the growth of new blood vessels. Doses of 50-150 mg/kg of body weight also blocked growth factors in the endometrial tissue. (x.63)

Angiogenesis Blocker

Chelates iron. (x.62)

Free Radicals

Promotes production of mood-enhancing brain chemicals. (x.40)

Stress

Magnesium (x.30)

Current research indicates that magnesium deficiency is linked to many chronic inflammatory conditions. Studies suggest that increased magnesium intake may help: (x.65)

  • Block inflammation. (x.37)
  • Get rid of excess estrogen and its metabolites. (x.21)
  • Regulate immune system response. (x.65)
  • Reduce menstrual and pelvic pain. (x.6165)

Anti-Inflammatory

Hormone Balancing

Pain Relief

Quercetin (x.46)

In an animal model of endometriosis, quercetin significantly reduced the size of lesions. It also inhibited a growth factor associated with angiogenesis. (x.6366)

Research also suggests that quercetin:

  • Blocks inflammation. (x.38)
  • Chelates iron. (x.62)
  • Reduces anxiety. (x.47)

Angiogenesis Blocker

Pain relief

Free Radicals

Stress

Turmeric (whole)

The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are thought to reduce pain and swelling. Experts in integrative medicine also suggest turmeric helps maintain healthy estrogen levels. (x.722)

Anti-Inflammatory

Hormone Balancing

Pain Relief

Vitamin C (x.32)

Studies indicate that women with endometriosis have low levels of vitamin C. The antioxidant vitamin may help with endometriosis by: (x.60-6165)

  • Boosting and protecting natural antioxidant levels.
  • Quenching free radicals in the uterus and reduce cell stress caused by them.
  • Heal damage from endometriosis lesions.

Free Radicals

Vitamin E (x.32)

As an antioxidant, vitamin E could help with endometriosis by quenching free radicals. Studies in women with endometriosis showed that vitamin E supplements reduced signs of oxidative stress. (x.6065)

Free Radicals

Research shows that turmeric and some of its compounds (e.g., curcumin and ar-turmerone) have the same effects on factors that shrink endometriosis as drugs do. These include reducing growth factors and stimulating beneficial transcription factors. (x.316367)

Which can cause free radical damage and inflammation. (x.60)
Free radicals and inflammation can also cause DNA damage in eggs, sperm, and embryos. (x.60)
Compounds in pesticides, some skin care products, and certain types of plastic which can cause hormonal imbalances. (x.61)

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