Fatty Acids and Other Nutrients for Endometriosis

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fatty acids for endometriosis
An endometriosis story posted on Hormones Matter caught my eye. The woman had suffered in severe pain for 20 some odd years before a correct diagnosis of endometriosis was made; something that is not uncommon for women with endometriosis. During those years, her symptoms were routinely minimized and ascribed to some sort of psychosomatic disorder. This too is not uncommon. When I practiced medicine many years ago, before there was much recognition and even less research on endometriosis, we had some success reducing the pain associated with the disease. I thought I might share our observations with the readers here. Before I do, however, I feel compelled to comment on the broader problem in medicine today, as our whole model of medicine must change before we can progress beyond these claims of psychosomatic illnesses. The story that spurred this article can be read here: Brandi’s Endometriosis Story: 20 Years of Desperation

Medical Ignorance Is Not Bliss

It has been said that if we forget history, we are condemned to repeat it. Our present medical model is founded on the Flexner report of 1910 that advised the German method of diagnosis. In the absence of physical signs noted by the physician during clinical examination of a patient, the symptoms described by the patient had to be supported by information obtained from the laboratory. Therefore, the described symptoms are considered to be “psychological” if this support is not forthcoming. In addition to this, medical philosophy has called disease of the body organic and disease of the brain or mind as mental. This has given rise to specialization since the disease is somehow considered to originate in the organ. Thus, we have gynecologists, orthopedists, vascular surgeons, thoracic surgeons etc. When it comes to nonsurgical disease, this kind of specialization does not work and this is particularly true when there are functional changes in the relationship between the brain and the body. We are gradually coming to realize that the functions of the organs in the body are under the command of the brain and the dialogue between them is constant throughout life, even when we are asleep.

Basic Tenet of Human Physiology: Bodily Function Requires Energy

This clearly demands an understanding that all the functions of the body demand a constant supply of energy, something that seems to be sadly neglected in modern medicine. In fact the word “functional” in medical discussions has come to mean that the patient is somehow using the symptoms for personal gain. This actually amounts to an accusation of malingering, not to be confused with abnormal changes in mental and physical function brought on by defective biochemistry. One of the best examples of this is headache when no cause can be found and it may be referred to as “functional headache”. It may even be treated by means of a tranquilizing drug without ascertaining the underlying biochemical cause after a series of normal lab studies have been reported. Yes, it is true that persistent headache is often related to some form of stress but it is far from being imaginary and must be explained in terms of its mechanism. It is this that has confounded us for years by refusing to accept that brain/body messages have an electrochemical origin that initiate cellular function. Otherwise, it becomes accusatory since it has nothing to do with Freudian psychology. Mental and physical function is nothing more than the cooperation of 70 to 100 trillion cells that make up a human body. We will come back to this when we understand how “mental” is turned into “physical”.

How Does This Apply to Endometriosis?

First of all, the endometrium is the lining of the uterus and under normal circumstances it is confined to that organ. If, however, it receives messages from the brain that stimulate its growth, it can get out of hand and it gives rise to the disease. Therefore, in the case of Brandi, we have to give an explanation of why symptoms that came on at the age of four years might well have been the forerunner of endometriosis when she came of age. In order to understand this connection, we must turn our attention to how the physical aspect of inflammation gives rise to endometriosis. There is almost certainly “genetic risk” rather than a solitary genetically determined cause.

Diet and Essential Fatty Acids for Mental and Physical Health

In its communication with the body, the brain uses a large collection of messengers. For example, a hormone is a messenger released from one of the glands that make up the endocrine system. It travels in the bloodstream to the target organ. There are two substances that are used to create messengers used in the control of one aspect of inflammation. One is called linoleic acid, (omega- 6) and the other one is called linolenic acid (omega-3). They are called essential because they cannot be made in the body and have to be obtained from the diet. Because we cannot live without them, they are sometimes known as vitamin F. These two fatty acids, found in vegetable oils, both go through a series of enzymatic changes to give rise to the final messengers that are known as prostaglandins or eicosanoids. Some of these messengers are used to cause inflammation while others are used to damp it down. It is an unbalanced abnormal production of inflammatory agents that contributes to the inflammation of endometriosis.

Omega-6 and Omega-3 Cascades

A treatment that may help manage symptoms of endometriosis depends upon an educated use of a combination of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both linoleic and lionolenic acids are found in Canola oil but there is a catch! Both of them have to be processed by an enzyme that is common to them and this enzyme, known as delta-6-desaturase (don’t worry about the name), depends on a number of vitamin cofactors that are also obtained from nutrition. Because of malnutrition (loss of nutrients), this particular enzyme is often defective, giving rise to abnormal concentrations of eicosanoids, even when there is an adequate supply of vitamin F. One of the important products of the omega-6 production line is gamma linoleic acid (GLA), while the corresponding important product of the omega-3 cascade is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These are lost because of the failure in the production lines of both omega-6 and omega-3 cascades.

Treatment of Endometriosis

GLA and EPA are both found in oil of the Evening Primrose and this product was researched by a Canadian doctor, the late David Horrobin, who used the trade name Efamol. It is interesting that the American Indians used oil of Evening Primrose for health reasons. Dr. Horrobin edited a book on the chemistry of fatty acids, written by many different researchers concerning the use of these important substances. In every chapter, emphasis was placed on the use of both GLA (borage oil) and EPA (sometimes referred to as fish oil) in combination. The only bone of contention was the exact ratio. Every chapter emphasized that GLA or EPA should never be used as a single therapeutic agent. For endometriosis, several infusions of intravenously administered water-soluble vitamins are of inestimable value to initiate healing. They should be followed by oral supplementary nutrients that include one part GLA to eight parts of EPA. This “balances” the output of the two biochemical cascades in their cooperative production of the eicosanoids.

Brain Function Requires Energy

This recognizes, of course, that endometriosis is really the result of malnutrition, a fact that some readers will probably refuse to believe. If accepted as fact, we are now in a position to explain why Brandi might have suffered from symptoms arising from brain function at the early age of four years. Of course, I do not know what her diet was like at that age or any time since. The trouble is that modern malnutrition, even though ingested innocently under the impression that it is healthy, is simply not good enough for the energy requirement of a highly intelligent brain. Too many empty calories placate the pangs of hunger, but do not satisfy the energy requirements of the brain unless accompanied by vitamins and minerals that enable them to be oxidized.  A full stomach does not necessarily correlate with good nutrition.

People sometimes ask me what is the ideal diet and I always reply “God-made food only”. The trouble with that is twofold. Most of us do not adhere to the rules of Mother Nature anyway and our artificially driven lives consume energy at a high rate. Because of the changes in farming practices, also governed by economic features, even a pristine diet may not meet the requirement for the physiological demand. This applies especially to the most intelligent individuals whose energy requirements of the brain may be exceptional. We know now that evolution is going on constantly and the progress of mankind depends on brain development to give the species evolutional advantage. I have come to the conclusion that we all need supplementary vitamins and minerals to prevent disease. If this thinking is correct, it would particularly apply to the “brightest and the best”. In my view, it is disheartening to understand that Brandi has experienced years of suffering that has been treated with disdain and false accusation. It is not as though this information is unavailable to those that have the education to use it.

Suggestions to Take to Your Physician

I can only tell you what I used to do when I was still in practice. I would give the patient a number of intravenous injections of water-soluble vitamins. The reason for this is that there is a long period of malnutrition that has made enzymes lazy. They have to be “awakened” by megadoses of the necessary vitamins that act as stimulants to their respective enzymes. It is not initially possible to reach the concentration of vitamins required when they are given by mouth until the vitamin/enzyme complex is reconstituted. You can find a physician who practices Alternative Medicine by going to the website of the International College for Integrative Medicine. He or she should be asked specifically whether they give intravenous vitamins.

The one nutrient that you would most definitely require is EPA/GLA Forte, made by Douglas Laboratories. This provides 30 mg of GLA and 240 mg of EPA, the right ratio for treating endometriosis. The physician can regulate your oral intake of vitamins following the intravenous administration. I always included Lipothiamine (available from Ecological Formulas) and magnesium. You will need multiple capsules of EPA/GLA and that should be advised by the physician.

There are no side effects from these nutrients in the same way as you expect with drugs. However, one thing that you must remember is that your symptoms may be temporarily worse when you are given intravenous vitamins. Symptoms do not point to the cause of the disease. They are simply messages to the brain, notifying it that something is wrong in the body/brain dialogue. Because the signaling mechanism becomes temporarily chaotic, the symptoms are exaggerated. The message from this is that it is probably the best evidence that you will begin to improve after an unpredictable period varying from days to a few weeks. This is called paradox and you will find more about this as a post on this website.

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  1. I will try to answer this comment. First of all, I am not accusing anybody of deliberate malnutrition. Yes,the synthesis of eicosanoids demands a supply of vitamin F, from nutrition, that creates the foundation for synthesis; but it also requires cellular energy as all cells in the body require. The supply of energy has to meet the demands and the brain and nervous system represent the tissue that has the most active oxygen demand. That is why the most intelligent and the most active people are in greater danger, because they consume energy in producing their activities and why this concept of “psychosomatic” illness has entered the collective medical psyche. I am not suggesting a dietetic problem. It is a medical problem. We know now that there are sometimes tiny mistakes in our DNA. They are called SNPs and it seems to be quite common to find that people have SNPs in a “family” (a group of proteins” synthesized under genetic control) that act as transporters for thiamine and folate. These transporters connect with the appropriate vitamin to carry them from the blood into the cells where the vitamin action is required. If you have such a minor genetic mistake that creates a difficulty in absorbing the necessary vitamins, supplementary vitamins become virtually a necessity for that individual. What a lot of people are not aware of is that their consumption of high calorie “goodies”, including alcohol, soft drinks and things like doughnuts are capable of producing thiamine deficiency on their own. If you have a genetic handicap in the shape of SNPs, neither you nor your physician are cognizant of the problem and look for answers within the contemporate medical model. I strongly suspect that evolutional development of the human brain is acting and it may be necessary for nutritional supplements to be routine for those that are blessed with superior intelligence.

  2. I am the author of the article that inspired Dr. Lonsdale’s response. I would be very interested to discuss with him as I was a competitive athlete with professional nutritionists and sports therapists from early childhood to later in my teens. We followed the recommendations and I had a very carefully monitored nutritional plan. Currently, I do have a dietician as part of my multidisciplinary team that also keeps these recommendations as part of my current plan tailored to my current lifestyle.

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