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An antioxidant smiles and helps a free radical

Antioxidants: A Possibility for Endometriosis-Related Pain

Treating endometriosis can be a challenge. It can be managed by medication and surgery, but for many, it keeps coming back. Researchers are now exploring the use of antioxidants as a way to reduce the progression and reduce the pain and inflammation associated with the condition.1

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances, both man-made and natural, that protect the body against the oxidative process and possible cell damage. Antioxidants can be found in fruits, vegetables, and dietary supplements. Oxidation is a chemical reaction triggered by oxygen that allows the harmful proliferation of free radicals in the body to cause cell damage. Antioxidants fight oxidation.

How can antioxidants help endometriosis?

An internal chemical imbalance caused by oxidative stress is thought to be a contributing factor in the development of endometriosis and many other medical conditions.1 Taking antioxidants has been demonstrated to reduce pelvic pain associated with endometriosis.

Are antioxidants a valid treatment option?

Studies have shown that antioxidant supplementation reduces endometriosis-related pelvic pain.2 New research evaluates whether giving antioxidants to women with endometriosis would decrease the biomarkers for oxidation or reduce pain. Studies carried out in Spain examined how oxidative stress increases inflammation and associated pain. They studied an “antioxidant cocktail” of N-acetyl cysteine, alpha lipoic acid (a natural antioxidant that exists in many foods), bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapple), and zinc.3,4

The results suggest that after taking antioxidants for just a few months, pain was significantly reduced, and participants had less need to take pain relief medication. Pain levels continued to subside as the study continued. If available to a wider population, this approach to reducing pain and biomarker identification could result in a treatment that could be a new therapy modality for endometriosis.1

What does the future hold?

Treatment options for endometriosis traditionally include oral contraceptives, hormone therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and surgery. Even with traditional or complementary treatments, the symptoms of endometriosis can recur. So, how do therapeutic antioxidants fit into the prescription for the future?

Researchers propose the hypothesis that endometriosis is a condition caused by oxidative stress. Multiple studies have confirmed that antioxidants can reduce chronic pelvic pain and peritoneal inflammatory markers in women with endometriosis.1 The antioxidants can be low doses of vitamins C and E as an alternative therapy to reduce chronic pain. The proposition is that other antioxidants should also be able to suppress oxidative stress that could cause pain and improve the general condition of women with endometriosis.2

  1. Inacio, P. Combo of Antioxidants Helps Ease Pain in Endometriosis Patients, Study Reports. Published July 19, 2018. Accessed online September 23, 2018.
  2. Santanam N, Kavtaradze N, Murphy A, Dominguez C, Parthasarathy S. Antioxidant supplementation reduces endometriosis-related pelvic pain in humans. Transl Res. 2013;161(3):189-95. ):189-95.Published March 2013. Accessed online September 23, 2018.
  3. Annika S, Sajal G. The Role of Antioxidant Supplementation in Endometriosis Therapy. J Gynecol Women’s Health. 2017; 3(1): 555601. DOI: 10.19080/JGWH.2017.03.555601. Published March 7, 2017. Accessed online September 22, 2018.
  4. Lete I, Mendoza N, De la viuda E, Carmona F. Effectiveness of an antioxidant preparation with N-acetyl cysteine, alpha lipoic acid and bromelain in the treatment of endometriosis-associated pelvic pain: LEAP study. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2018;228:221-224. Published September 2018. Accessed online September 23, 2018.