Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself from infection. In response to a virus or bacteria, the body makes white blood cells, which activate inflammatory cytokines that help protect the body from these foreign substances. This reaction causes increased blood flow to the injury or area and can leak into the tissue causes swelling. This process also stimulates nerves and can cause pain.
The body’s immune response to having endometriosis in the pelvic cavity is peritoneal inflammation. Because endometriosis is not native to the body, the immune system puts up a war. In endometriosis patients, an increased level of inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory mediators are found in the peritoneal fluid. The presence of inflammatory cytokines in the peritoneal fluid can have a profound impact on a patient’s fertility. These inflammatory mediators can also promote the spreading of new blood vessels at the site of the lesions in the surrounding tissue. This local inflammation can also produce scar tissue, which then in turn can connect to other locally inflamed areas creating adhesions. Endometriosis can cause excessive free radical activity in the body leading to oxidative stress. This can cause patients to feel generally unwell, have headaches and can even cause depression. Excision surgeon, Dr. Tamer Seckin, has found that removal of the endometriosis through excision surgery and any related scar tissue and adhesions, significantly reduces inflammatory symptoms in his patients as well as increases their fertility.
Another inflammatory disease that often concurs with endometriosis is interstitial cystitis. IC is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder. Symptoms of IC are bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes even pelvic pain. Also patients with IC often feel the need to urinate quite often, even when their bladder isn’t full. It can be a painful and debilitating disease that can affect a patient’s quality of life.
Along with complete excision of the disease, Dr. Seckin firmly believes in the endodiet to help endometriosis patients reduce their inflammatory symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. The endodiet includes staying away from gluten, soy and dairy products, along with making sure to try and eat organic foods. To help with IC, patients often are told to participate in an elimination diet of a seemingly vast majority of foods. Patients then slowly start introducing new foods one week at a time to see if it is an irritant. Many patients who suffer with these conditions talk about how eating right can vastly improve their symptoms, or make their symptoms so much worse. It is clear that nutrition directly correlates to a patient’s quality of life.
Can a serving of broccoli a day really keep the inflammation away? Many in the medical profession believe that anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce free radical activity in the body and reduce inflammation. Researchers in Mexico City did a study and found that endometriosis patients who followed a high antioxidant diet for 3 months had less inflammatory markers in their blood analysis.
Listed below are 5 foods that have been proven to reduce inflammation and are safe for both the endodiet and the IC diet.
- Broccoli: This highly nutritious vegetable has both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer phytonutrients. Broccoli is also said to be effective at battling allergies. To get the most out of your broccoli consumption, steam it for only five minutes to keep nutrients in. Also eating broccoli 2-3 times a week can help maximize its’ benefits.
- Almonds: Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin D. They also are packed with anti-oxidants which help the body repair damage caused by inflammation. Seeing as dairy and soy milk can often be inflammatory and are not part of the endodiet, almond milk works as a great substitute even in cooking and baking!
- Blueberries: Because berries are so high in anti-oxidants, they are natural anti-inflammatory agents. Though, for many IC patients, delicious raspberries and strawberries are on the “do not eat list” and can be irritating. But, most IC patients can tolerate blueberries! Blueberries are jammed packed with phytonutrients. Studies done by the New Zealand Institute of Food and Plant Research have even found them to be especially good for intestinal inflammation.
- Garlic: This strong tasting vegetable is seen to have incredible immunity boosting properties. Throughout the ages, garlic has always been used to ward off various infections. According to the University of Maryland’s Alternative Medicine Guide, “Garlic is rich in antioxidants. In your body, harmful particles called free radicals build up as you age… Antioxidants like those found in garlic fight off free radicals, and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage caused over time.”
- Avocados: These delicious fruits are packed with multiple phytonutrients and are seen as an anti-inflammatory super star. Adding avocados to salads or eating them plain with a little olive oil and sea salt can help your body fight off the symptoms of inflammation.
There is really no substitute for complete excision surgery when it comes to having a patient find relief from the inflammation, adhesions and scar tissue that endometriosis can cause. But, Dr. Seckin believes that following the endodiet and finding other foods that boost your body’s natural healing abilities, can only improve a patient’s quality of life.
Casey Berna is a patient of Dr. Seckin’s and an endometriosis and infertility counselor and advocate. To learn more about her story and her practice go to www.CaseyBerna.com. If you are a patient of Dr. Seckin’s and want to share your story please contact Casey at [email protected]