A Tomato a Day

We all remember the adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". Well, we may be able to change that saying to, "a tomato a day keeps pain away". Over the past few years studies have been done to prove the efficacy of lycopene in the treatment of endometriosis. Lycopene is the antioxidant that gives the red color to tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit.

How Lycopene Can Help Reduce Scarring

Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, discovered that lycopene, found in high concentrations in tomatoes, cut the chemical activity of proteins that create scar tissue by 80% to 90%. Dr. Tarek Dbouk, one of the researchers involved in the study, said that the amount of lycopene used in the experiments equaled what would be eaten in a lycopene-rich diet. The findings were presented at a conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in November of 2008. At that time the researchers suggested that because lycopene worked to reduce the abnormal activity of cells that produce adhesions, it could work to ease the complications and pain associated with endometriosis.

How Endometroisis Affects Women

Endometriosis affects millions of women of childbearing age worldwide. The disease can be very painful and is characterized by abdominal pain, severe menstrual cramps, and pain during ovulation, urination, bowel movements and intercourse. It also has a profound effect upon fertility in many women.

It develops when endometrial tissue finds its way outside of the womb and adheres to various organs in the pelvic cavity. Ovaries, fallopian tubes and the outer walls of the uterus are affected, as well as the area between the vagina and rectum. When menses occurs, the sloughing off of the tissue and blood that would normally be confined to the uterus is also happening in the pelvic cavity, except the blood is pooling rather than being expelled from the body through the vagina. The trapped blood causes irritation, inflammation, pain, the formation of scar tissue and adhesions.

There is no cure for endometriosis and it is usually treated with surgery or hormone therapy. In order to properly diagnose the disease a laparoscopy is done. This surgical procedure is done under anesthesia and is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. A small incision is made in the abdomen and the area is inflated with carbon dioxide. A laparoscope allows the doctor to see the adhesions. Often adhesions are removed during the diagnostic surgery, which helps in reducing the need for more surgery later on.

Lycopene - the Wonder Nutrient

By reducing the inflammation and scar tissue in the pelvic cavity, pain can be addressed effectively. Lycopene has the potential to be used to treat endometriosis as well as scars caused by surgery and fibroid tumors. Considered to be a wonder chemical, lycopene has been credited with reducing wrinkles because as an antioxidant, it neutralizes free radicals that age skin. There are many studies showing it plays a significant and positive role in cancer and chronic inflammation including osteoporosis and lung, breast and prostate cancer. Because heating alters the structure of lycopene making it more easily transported through the blood, eating cooked tomatoes is more beneficial than eating them raw.

A Tomato a Day...

Although the study did not specifically indicate the amount of lycopene a woman should eat, it has been suggested by experts that a tomato a day, 8oz of tomato juice, 150 grams of pasta sauce or one lycopene tablet a day is enough to raise levels of lycopene in the blood. The levels used in the study itself were similar to those that could be achieved in a diet that is rich in foods that contain lycopene.

Along with tomatoes, healthy doses of lycopene can be found in papaya and rosehips and the highest level is found in a Chinese fruit called Gac, which contains 70 times that found in tomatoes.


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