Alternative Treatment: Diet and Nutrition
What Does It All Mean & How Can It Help?
The following is an excerpt from the Endometriosis Research Center's "Alternative Treatment: Diet and Nutrition Booklet":
Knowing how many outside factors are affecting each one of our lives (food products, the environment, etc.), it became apparent to me how important it was to sort through the publicly available research and information to present a clear picture of how our health is being affected and what can be done to improve our circumstances for a healthier lifestyle. For years, I wanted to learn more about diet and nutrition and the environment but had always been discouraged when trying to comprehend all the different components of nutrition, the environment and how it all relates to Endometriosis. However, this past year, I was introduced to the work of some nutrition experts and that gave me the opportunity to "take the plunge" and conduct months of research to better understand how our food, diet, the environment, etc. affect our bodies.
I was introduced to the work of Bruce Miller, D.D.S., C.N.S., a Certified Nutrition Specialist and member of the American College of Nutrition who has written numerous booklets on nutrition and related health issues. Dr. Miller's materials offer a clear, concise and easy to comprehend overview of the importance of preventative healthcare. In addition, he presents many facts about nutrition supplements and diet and the importance of researching nutritional products prior to supplementation. Personally, I feel his points are well made, especially since supplement companies, unlike the drug manufacturers, are not subject to vigorous testing and research on their products. Although Dr. Miller endorses a specific nutritional company, my personal objective is to present to you factual, non-biased information in order to help you begin to understand the importance of researching the products you use and obtaining optimal health.
In addition, the following article offers suggestions for nutritional supplements and dietary changes pertaining to the immune system and Endometriosis. These suggestions are based on a combination of recommendations by nutrition experts familiar with Endometriosis.
Although there's no cure for Endometriosis, many women claim that they experience considerable relief of symptoms as a result of dietary changes, supplements and herbs. There is no scientific evidence to support these claims but, with some guidance and "trial and error" you may find yourself experiencing relief.
There is much exciting research proving the benefits of nutrition and diet. It may be difficult to start making changes to your diet, and there's no doubt that committing to them is challenging, but don't give up. Whether you're changing your dietary habits, adding supplements, or a combination of both, you have taken a step toward promoting optimal health and protecting yourself from outside harmful sources.
Hopefully this article will give you an in-depth look and clearly defined understanding of the benefits of good nutrition, supplementation and the use of herbs. I also hope it offers you a starting point for your own research into alternative therapies such as proper diet, vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc. and how they can help support your body's functioning systems and improve your overall general health which is so important in today's changing world.
—Michelle Marvel, President of the ERC
Preventive Healthcare: Why Is It Important?
The mere fact that over 93% of Americans eat incorrectly shows that preventative healthcare is important. Although recent numbers have shown that more people are taking steps to improve their overall health, the majority of us could use some help. For example, according to one report in 1988, diet excess and imbalance was a leading cause of death in the United States(1). Therefore, as Dr. Bruce Miller says, "we can no longer abuse our health and expect the healthcare profession to put us back together."(2) We have to do what we can to achieve optimal wellness. And why wouldn't we want to change after hearing the clinical research showing the positive affects of good nutrition? For example, certain vitamins and minerals have shown that if taken in levels above what is normally consumed, even higher than government recommended levels, they can have positive effects on people's health. "News reports appear daily supporting the use of antioxidant nutrients, various minerals, and herbs to help prevent some of the diseases of the 20th century."(3) Therefore, many people are focusing on their health by changing their diets, taking supplements or a combination of both.
Should I Use Supplements or Make Changes To My Diet?
It depends. With today's fast paced society, many do not take the time to sit down and eat 3 balanced meals a day. In addition, the foods that are available today are not the same as they were years ago. Many more chemicals are being added to food products, and unfortunately we are not aware of their long-term effects. Evidence has also shown that some of the vital nutrients can not be obtained through commonly selected diets. One research study showed that "35% of all cancers are caused by poor diet."(4) So for many women, supplementation is beneficial because it is convenient for protecting general overall health, but it shouldn't be a substitute for a healthful diet.
On the other hand, many women are taking nutrition seriously and making the commitment to change their diet to include foods necessary to improve their health. Some women who choose to make dietary changes eat lots of vegetables and fruits (organic), cut out sugars, caffeine, dairy, meat, etc. (For dietary suggestions for women with Endometriosis, please refer to the Diet section later in this article).
Things To Watch Out For When Choosing Supplements
In the last few years, there has been a tremendous "boom" in the food supplement industry as more people are using supplements, and unfortunately, in much of the industry, poor quality is a concern. Therefore, it is vitally important for people purchasing supplements to be aware of what they are buying by sorting out fact from fiction.
Most of us who are presented with the option to take hormonal therapies for Endometriosis conduct research before beginning treatment because we realize the importance of learning the side effects, benefits and long-term effects. As with Endometriosis (medical) treatment, you need to conduct research when considering supplementation.
Most of the drugs (i.e. pain meds, hormones) taken by Endometriosis patients are approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA); however, there are no legal requirements for vitamins and minerals because they are classified as "foods," not "drugs." Therefore, manufacturers and distributors of food supplements are not required to go through the vigorous testing and research required for drug manufacturers. According to the FDA, "manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the ingredients list is accurate and that the ingredients are safe. They are also required to make sure that the content matches the amount declared on the label."(5) This causes some concern because consumers have to rely on companies for the truth. For these reasons, it is vitally important to conduct your research and learn as much as possible about your supplement choices before taking them.
DID YOU KNOW...
Vitamins and Minerals are classified as foods. Therefore testing is not legally required by the FDA to prove active ingredients in supplements and whether proper disintegration and absorption occurs.
Following are three vital questions to ask before making a decision on the best product/company for you:
1) Is the product in harmony with Nature?
The truth is that few things are truly natural. Since you want the best for your body, the more natural a product is, the better. To be natural, Dr. Bruce Miller points out, the product should be "concentrated from a quality natural source." The product will then be accepted and more easily tolerated by our bodies. Just because a bottle says "All Natural" doesn't necessarily mean it is because there is no law requiring companies to use 100% natural ingredients although products are advertised "All Natural". For example, any company can say their product is "All Natural" even if it doesn't contain 100% natural ingredients....tar, coal, etc. have been found in items claiming to be "All Natural". Therefore, be careful and read the entire product label. You might be surprised by the additional or alternative ingredients companies include in their products. For example, beware of:
Artificial colors / Artificial flavors - why would you want to ingest a colored product...do we have a deficiency? Artificial flavors save companies money because natural flavoring is more costly.
Synthetic Vitamin E - Natural E is better absorbed and utilized by the body than synthetic. When looking at a label, you will find Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) preceded by a -d-, -l- or -dl-. Natural E is described as d-alpha tochopherol whereas synthetic is dl-alpha tochopherol (see Vitamins and Minerals section for further information).
Bone Meal or Dolomite as a Calcium Source - Government warns us against these as they might have a higher lead content.
Synthetic Sweeteners, artificial preservatives, harsh binders, fillers might hinder absorption. In addition, who wants added ingredients when we are searching for the "All Natural."
2) Does the product disintegrate in adequate time for proper absorption?
Disintegration standards for drugs have been established by the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) - 30 minutes or less for uncoated tablets and 90 minutes or less for coated tablets. However, since vitamins and minerals are not classified as "drugs", there is no law stating a product must disintegrate in a certain amount of time, which is a vital factor in the body's absorbing the supplement. For example, Dr. Ralph Shangraw, Chairman of the Department of Pharmaceutics at the University of Maryland reported, "if a calcium tablet doesn't disintegrate by the time it leaves your stomach, there is a good chance that it will not be absorbed into your bloodstream."(8) Although standards have not been established for vitamins, some in the health care industry recommend disintegration take place in 60 minutes or less because otherwise the supplement may not be absorbed into your bloodstream.
One woman started taking calcium to help protect her bones at a young age. (Shouldn't we all be that smart!). When she was in her 60's she fell and broke her hip, which surprised her considering she had taken calcium supplements daily for most of her life. Needless to say, she had osteoporosis which caused her hip to break easily. She couldn't understand why these events occurred considering her daily calcium intake. In light of her circumstances, she decided to have the calcium pills tested. Come to find out that the calcium pills didn't disintegrate fast enough for her body to absorb them...ultimately resulting in a waste of money and energy.
As stated earlier, typical absorption should be within 1 hour; if not, your body is not absorbing the vitamin which is ultimately not doing you any good as this woman had to learn the hard way.
3) Does the company offer published scientific research on the product?
As with medications for Endometriosis, individuals should be concerned with learning the scientific research of supplements, especially since this industry is not regulated. According to Dr. Miller, "proper studies should be of an adequate sampling of people, done long enough for the data to be relevant, closely controlled, and presented to a recognized scientific meeting or published in an authoritative scientific journal."(9) Some companies claim to have conducted research on their products with the above criteria, but be cautious and examine the research closely.
As many know, medical and scientific research journals carry much weight in the health field. To have an article published is actually quite difficult. To give you an example, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) receives approximately 3,500 submissions in one year. Approximately 55 of those get published (15% to 18%).(10) Therefore to have an article published in a medical journal is an honor to be proud of.
To obtain the complete facts about the supplements you will take, request clinical studies on the products. In addition, look for the company's studies to be published in medical and scientific journals as these are the studies that can verify the contents of the product, that absorption into the bloodstream is taking place and the effectiveness of the product on one's health.
The only way for us to these things about the product is to ask questions and read the clinical research. Write a letter to the companies of your choice and inquire about their products, asking the above questions. Most importantly, request a list of clinical research studies on their products. As a consumer, don't you want to know the validity of claims made about what you are taking? We should be fully educated on alternative products just as we should be with any other Endometriosis treatment offered. Since a major reason for taking supplements is "prevention" we should try to prevent making mistakes in selecting products. We don't want to be like the woman earlier who took calcium for "prevention" and ultimately ended up with osteoporosis because she relied on "truth in advertising," believing that because the company said it would "do its job."
After doing your research and finding the best product for you that provides all of the above, you can embark on changing your habits to have better overall general health.
(1) Mills, Dian, Nutrition and Endometriosis, 1995.
(2), (3), (6 - 10) Miller, Bruce, The Shaklee Difference, Texas: Bruce Miller Enterprises, 1995.
(4) Mills, Dian, Endometriosis - The Hidden Epidemic, England: Optimum Nutrition.
(5) U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Website, Overview of Dietary Supplements, May 1997