"How to Treat Endometriosis with Seaweed" Endometriosis is a major cause of disability and compromised quality of life among women — a chronic disease which is under-diagnosed, under- reported, under-researched. For patients it can be a nightmare of misinformation, myths, taboos, lack of diagnosis, and problematic hit-and-miss treatments, overlaid by a painful, chronic, stubborn disease. Pain is what best characterizes the disease, pain, painful intercourse, heavy irregular periods and infertility. About one in a dozen young women suffer, and it accounts for about half the cases of pelvic pain and infertility.
It's caused by what's called retrograde menstruation. Instead of the blood going down, it goes up into the abdominal cavity, where bleeding tissue of the uterine lining can implant onto other organs. You can have the lesions surgically removed, but the recurrence rate within five years is as high as 50%. Now, endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, so might the anti-estrogenic effects of the phytoestrogens in flaxseeds and soy foods help, as they appear to in breast cancer? I couldn't find studies on flax, but soy food consumption may indeed reduce the risk of endometriosis, but I couldn't find any studies on treating the disease with soy. There's another food, though, associated with decreased breast cancer risk: seaweed. Seaweeds have special types of fiber and phytonutrients not found among land plants, so it's not like choosing to get your beta-carotene from a carrot versus a sweet potato. If you want these unique seaweed components, some of which may have anti-cancer properties, we need to find a way to incorporate sea vegetables into our diets — anti-cancer properties such as anti-estrogen effects.
Japanese women have among the lowest rates of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. They have longer menstrual cycles and lower estrogen levels circulating in their blood and that may help account for their low risk of estrogen-dependent cancers. We assumed this was their soy intake, but the seaweed might be helping as well. You can drip seaweed broth on human ovary cells that make estrogen and see estrogen levels drop, because it's either inhibiting production or facilitating breakdown of estrogen, and may even block estrogen receptors, lowering the activity of the estrogen you do produce.
This is in a Petri dish, though, but it happens in women as well. They estimate that an effective estrogen-lowering dose of seaweed for an average American woman might be around 5 grams a day, but no one has apparently tried testing it on cancer patients yet, but it has been tried on endometriosis. Three women with abnormal cycles— two of which with endometriosis— volunteered to add a tiny amount of dried powdered bladderwrack, a common seaweed, to their daily diet. It effectively lengthened their cycles and reduced the duration of their periods. And not just by a little. Check out subject number 1.
A 30-year history of irregular periods, averaging every 16 days, but adding just a quarter teaspoon of this seaweed powder a day added 10 days onto her cycle, up to 26 days, and a half teaspoon a day brought her up to like 31, nearly doubling the length of her cycle. And they all experienced marked reductions in blood flow and a decreased duration of menstruation. Poor subject number 1 was having periods every 16 days that lasted 9 days long. Can you imagine? After 30 years of this kind of craziness, just a half teaspoon of seaweed a day and she was having periods just once a month and only lasting about 4 days. And most importantly, in the two women suffering from endometriosis, they reported substantial alleviation of their pain. How is that possible? Look at their drop in estrogen levels. A 75% drop after just a quarter teaspoon of seaweed powder a day, 85% after a half teaspoon.
Now obviously with just a couple women, no control group, we have to do bigger better studies. But look when this study was published: more than a decade ago and not a single such study has been published since. Does the research world just not care about women? Millions of women are suffering with these conditions.
Who's going to fund it, though? That much seaweed costs less than 5 pennies, so a larger study may never be done. But with no downsides, I would suggest endometriosis sufferers give it a try.
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