Castor Oil Packs

Castor OilLast fall after I had surgery for Endometriosis, my doctor instructed me to use castor oil packs daily for a couple of weeks to help with the pain and inflammation.  Within a week these things had subsided substantially, and I credit most of that with the use of the castor oil packs.  After the first two weeks I was supposed to go to every other day or every three days…but after a week or two of that, I got out of the habit of using them.  

Just this week another holistic healthcare practitioner of mine who does energy work suggested strongly that I resume them in conjunction with my dietary changes.  She may have mentioned it a couple of weeks ago at my prior visit (based on her reaction that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing!).  But sometimes I get overloaded with information and suggestions in these visits and I forget some of them!  So, I have started them back up since our conversation this week.  And I wanted to share this here as an important tool in the toolbox of anyone suffering from Endometriosis.

What are they used to treat?  They can be used to reduce inflammation and pain as I mentioned above.  They also can be used to improve digestive disfunction, and can be placed on the right side of the body to help detoxify the liver.  There may be other uses, but that is all I will cover here.

How do you administer a castor oil wrap?  A castor oil wrap is accomplished by soaking a wool flannel cloth in castor oil so that it is saturated but not dripping, placing it over the lower abdomen, covering either it or a heating pad with plastic, placing the heating pad on top of the castor oil pack, and turning the heat to high or medium as you can tolerate it.  You can do this while resting and meditating (as I did after my surgery) or watching TV (as I have been doing this week).

A few tips:

  • This WILL stain your clothes and be very difficult to get out, if not impossible.  Make sure the pack doesn’t come into contact with your clothing.  I ruined a favorite sweater last fall this way.
  • Put a towel down under you to protect whatever you are laying on
  • Use a solution of 1 pint of water plus 1 teaspoon baking soda to remove the castor oil from your abdomen after the treatment (it is sticky…and did I mention it will will stain your clothes if they come into contact?).  You can also buy wipes to remove the castor oil if you wish.
  • The castor oil itself can be bought at Whole Foods…but I’m not sure about the flannel accompaniment.  Your local health food store should carry both.
  • You can store the flannel wool in a ziplock baggie and use it repeatedly.  You may need to add more castor oil from time to time.  If it doesn’t leave lots of sticky oil on your belly, you are likely not using enough…although it shouldn’t drip.  Also, there is conflicting advice about putting it in the fridge or leaving it at room temp in-between uses.  I leave mine out and haven’t had issues.  If you put it in the fridge you may want to heat it before you place it on your belly.

You need to speak with your healthcare practitioners about how long and how often to use them.  There are MANY different guidelines and you need to figure out what works for you.  My doctor who sent me to surgery said every day for 20-30 minutes.  My current healthcare provider is instructing me to use them every day for an hour.  I’m not sure what dictates how long (or not) they should be used.

There is a reference to Edgar Cayce on the bottle of castor oil.  I was curios, so I did a google search and found this article in case it is helpful.  If nothing else I found it to be interesting and reinforced the instructions I have been given.

What are your experiences using castor oil wraps?  How often do you use them?  Do you experience healing or relief from their use?

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Endo, Yeast and Allergies

One of the things I have learned recently through my research is that women with Endo have a higher likelihood of suffering from allergies and a higher incidence of yeast infections.  While that was interesting, what I found even more interesting is that allergies are a clear signal that the immune system is not working correctly, and you can actually have allergic reactions to the overgrowth of yeast in your own body which then leads to auto-immune disorders like Endo.

Candida (yeast) is a fungus that feeds on sugars and other yeast-containing foods, such as foods that are aged, pickled, dried, fermented or cured.  It can also be caused by stress and the use of antibiotics, steroids, and oral contraceptives.  While everyone has yeast in the GI tract, the issue arises when there is an overgrowth of yeast.  The yeast gives off toxins which then causes inflammation and various other symptoms throughout the body.

For people whose bodies are sensitive to minor irritants that are attributed to cause common allergies (grass pollen, pet dander, etc.), their immune systems are more likely to react against cells of their own bodies.  It is the immune system that causes the reaction to allergens, not the allergens themselves.  When this happens, auto-immune disorders result such as Endo, hypothyroidism/hashimoto’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease and others.  Allergic reactions to yeast are thought to trigger many of these auto-immune diseases.  Other yeast-related issues for women are known to be PMS, vaginal yeast infections, vulvodynia, recurring UTIs, Endo, dyspareunia (painful intercourse), and infertility.  (There are a whole host of other issues that relate to both sexes, but since that is not the purpose of this post I will not include more here.)

In auto-immune disorders the immune system makes antibodies and T-Cells directed against different parts of the body that it considers invaders.  And it makes fewer of the T-suppressor cells that are supposed to slow down the reactivity of the immune system to the body’s own cells.  It’s a double-whammy of sorts.

According to Mary Lou Ballweg’s book on Endometriosis, “candida can also bind and use our hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and the adrenal gland hormone, corticosterone.”  For those experiencing estrogen dominance, the yeast can mimic more estrogen, thus exacerbating the issue even further.

A couple of other interesting facts I came across that I will share here:

  • Exposure to chemicals, such as formaldehyde, pesticides, and dioxins have been found to lead to candida sensitivity and overgrowth.
  • People who have a tendency to experience candida overgrowths, are also typically sensitive to molds.

So what can we do?

  • Follow a yeast-free, sugar-free diet (not easy or popular for many, but isn’t it worth trying to feel better?).  There are many diet books/sites devoted to this topic that are easily found through a simple google search.
    • If you are sensitive to mold, avoid foods that have a high mold content. Examples include cheeses, dried fruits, and frozen fruit juices
  • You can take anti-fungal supplements, such as Monolauren (coconut), Olive Leaf Extract, and Oregacillian
  • You can take medications under the guidance of your doctor to remove the candida from your body.  Some typical ones include Nystatin, Diflucan, Sporanox, and Lamisil, Ketoconazole, Fluconazole. Ask your doctor about a protocol that will help you to minimize or avoid die-off reactions, which can make you sick in the short term.
  • Take probiotics, such as GoodBelly, Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics or others to restore good bacteria and rebalance intestinal flora while you are trying to rid yourself of the candida.
  • Get tested for allergies and try to desensitize yourself to as many as possible, especially yeast and molds.
  • After addressing food, candida and allergens, ask your doctor to help you test and balance your hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, thyroid function, and adrenal hormones (cortisone, testosterone, and DHEA)

You will need to do your own research and work with your healthcare practicioners to determine the best course of action for you.

I am working on the following:

  • Change in diet to eliminate sugars, breads, dairy, and anything made in a factory
  • I am taking the following supplements each day:
    • 1200 mg of monolauren – contains the lauric acid from coconuts, which has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It should kill off candida without die-off effects (so far, so good!).
    • 1-2 goodbelly shots (as in small yet non-alcoholic drinks, not injections)
    • 2 capsules Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics Professional Formula
    • 3 Kang Yuan capsules – these are cordyceps mushroom extracts. They help boost Natural Killer cells, and support the immune system in handling allergens. This was recommended as part of a protocol to support low thyroid function.
    • 3 Kelp tablets a day to support thyroid function

My plan is to try these things for 60 days and then revisit my doctor to see the impact it has made.

What are your experiences managing candida?  What has worked well for you?  What difference has it made in how you feel?  In your Endo symptoms?