Saturday, November 30, 2013

Let's Talk Food! (among other things)

I love food. It doesn't always love me, but I don't care, I love it anyway.

What we eat can either help us or hinder us, especially when you have a chronic illness like endometriosis. As Hippocrates said:
So how can food, herbs, vitamins, and supplements be our medicine for endometriosis? Let's start with the basics of food. Most of us know the more fresh fruits and veggies we have the better. We also realize that a lot of processed food, red meat, sweets, etc are not good. And naturally, alcohol, tobacco, and too much caffeine are not helpful. What you may not have been told is that women with endometriosis can have a lot of food sensitivities. This can be compounded by the fact that a lot of endo ladies also have problems with irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, and other immune problems. Generally the first culprits to ferret out are dairy, wheat (gluten), corn, soy, preservatives, and food additives. Google the FODMAPs diet if you have bowel symptoms or IC diet if you have bladder symptoms for more particulars on those.

Here's a great list of vitamins and how they can help endo (so check it out!):

And they also have one on minerals (cool!):

About those vitamins and minerals. (note: the below quotes are from A good source of information on specific nutrients is World's Healthiest Foods (see Food sources are the best way to get your vitamins and minerals et al, as you get a good combo that often works in tandem for their beneficial effect (one vitamin that helps you absorb/use another are often found together in food!). Taking a pill form can be good, but these should be discussed with your health care practioner first!

Let's take them alphabetically:

Vitamin A- good for your skin, eyes (night vision!), mucous membranes, a strong man against viruses (yay immune system!), helps with inflammation, also "helps metabolize the biologically active estrogen (estradiol) to an inactive form (estrone)."

 B vitamins help convert estrogen to its weaker form (by helping your liver) and convert omega-3's into healthy and helpful prostaglandins (anti inflammatory and relaxes uterine muscle). It particular folate (B9) "regulates estrogen’s effect on genes". B6 has been shown to decrease menstrual pain and "protects genes from estrogen-induced damage thus lowering risk of hormone related cancers; Detoxifies excess estrogen via methylation pathway; Estrogen-based oral contraceptives cause B6 deficiency."

Vitamin C is great for the immune system, helps your blood vessels, prevent cataracts, and even reported to lower lead blood levels. Also "Increases the most potent estrogen (estradiol) in women on hormone therapy; Lowers aromatase (enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen) in ovaries."

Ah, the sunshine vitamin! Actually it's a steroid hormone. Vitamin D helps your bones and teeth (by regulating calcium and phosphorus by means of your parathyroid), is good for your immune system, helps prevent chronic fatigue, helps your muscles, helps inflammation- what a work horse! "Regulates synthesis of estradiol and estrone; Enhances estrogen’s protective effect on bones."

Vitamin E is a good little antioxidant, it even protects vitamin A from oxidizing! It protects your cells' DNA from being damaged, good for your artery walls, good for diabetes and your brain. "Deficiency impairs estrogen detoxification pathway; Some forms of vitamin E inhibit estrogen action, especially in breast tissue; Low levels linked to higher estrogen."

I wondered why I feel better when I eat more spinach. Now I know. It not only protects your bones, your liver, prevent calcification of your arteries, helps your blood clot, but it also "inhibits estrogen activity by binding to estrogen receptors; Lowers the ratio of estradiol (strong estrogen) to estrone (weaker estrogen)."
But enough about vitamins- time for some minerals!
Calcium- we know it's good for bones and teeth. It also is needed for muscle contractions, nerve function, hormone secretion, acid/alkaline balance, and "Calcium-D-glucarate lowers estradiol levels; Helps breakdown estrogen in the liver and convert it to a less toxic form."

 Magnesium- key in metabolism (anyone got fatigue? yes? I thought so), important in bones, energy production, nerves, controlling inflammation and blood sugar, also is a "cofactor for the enzyme that removes toxic forms of estrogen (catechol-O-methyltransferase); Estrogen alters magnesium levels throughout menstrual cycle." Magnesium helps your muscles to relax (I'll take a magsini- shaken, not stirred).

Selenium helps you produce your thyroid hormones, acts as an antioxidant, lowers joint inflammation. "Estrogen levels affect how selenium is distributed to various tissues in the body."

You may have read that zinc is good for your immune system (and it is), but did you know it helps your body "read" your genes correctly? Another interesting thing- it helps you taste and smell! It's also good for your metabolism and blood sugar. "Estrogen lowers risk of zinc deficiency; Zinc dependent proteins metabolize estrogen."
Let's broaden our scope a little bit here.

Probiotics = happy gut. But they also are good for your immune system as your gut plays a big part in your immune system.
Co Q 10 is an antioxidant and therefore good for your immune system. It helps protect your cells, produce energy, and protect your heart.

Omega 3's help decrease inflammation (specifically help reduce cytokines), supports your immune system, they are also good for those healthy and helpful prostaglandins, and are important in balancing out your omega 6 intake. (Zinc and B6 help them work even better!)
And never underestimate the power of clean, fresh, pure, delicious water! After all, we're around 60% water!
Another good thing is to get the least processed possibly- including less pesticides. 


"Foods tainted with certain chemicals appear to encourage the implantation of cells in the abdomen. Those chemicals include polychorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were commonly used in electrical equipment, hydraulic fluid, and carbonless carbon paper, and organochlorine pesticides, which were commonly used in agriculture. Data from a 2005 study show that women exposed to PCBs may have a higher prevalence of endometriosis. Organochlorines bind to estrogen receptors and mimic hormones that in turn can affect endocrine pathways and alter hormonal function.8
These chemicals presumably do their dirty work by impairing the immune defenses against abnormal cells. Indeed, the natural killer cells and other white blood cells that are supposed to maintain a constant lookout for any abnormal cells have been shown to be weakened in women with endometriosis....These toxins tend to accumulate in animal fat, and the major route of human exposure is through food, particularly fish, as well as other meats and dairy products.10 Chickens, cattle, pigs, and other animals fed grains treated with pesticides and sometimes contaminated with other organochlorines tend to concentrate these compounds in their muscle tissues and milk. While there may also be organochlorine pesticide residues on nonorganic fruits or vegetables, they are less concentrated and easier to remove. Organic produce is grown without chemical pesticides .Lipid-rich foods such as fish and meat are major sources of organochlorines and PCBs, while plants have considerably lower levels of these contaminants."
On an ending note, chocolate is good for you.

 There's so much more out there, but we'll call it a day. Take two chocolates and call me in the morning. (I will take my own advice on this one!)