Endometriosis is not curable, but dietary changes can provide some relief.
Endometriosis can be a frustrating experience on a daily basis. Treatments are available, but they are not effective for all. And, if this describes you, it’s understandable that you’d want to do whatever possible to improve your situation.
Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue that forms the uterine lining develops outside of the uterus. This can cause symptoms such as extreme pelvic pain before and after your cycle, diarrhoea, and sex-related pain.
It’s important to state up front that following a special diet will not heal endometriosis, nor will it promise that the symptoms will improve. However, experts believe that changing your diet can provide some relief. According to Amanda N. Kallen, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Yale School of Medicine, “there is some evidence that diet can play a role in either exacerbating or managing symptoms.” “However, with real endometriosis, dietary modifications should not be considered a first-line therapy.”
Despite this, Jessica Shepherd, MD, an ob/gyn in Texas, tells Health that “the role of diet in endometriosis has gained more interest in recent years.” Several endometriosis-related mechanisms, such as inflammation and oestrogen production, can be affected by the diet, according to Dr. Shepherd, causing physicians to conclude there is something there.
“Eating a balanced diet will help you feel more relaxed and healthy overall,” Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells Wellness.
Though there are no specific recommendations for following a particular diet when you have endometriosis at this time, certain improvements are usually believed to improve. Do you want to give it a shot? These lifestyle changes, according to experts, are worth considering.
Trans fats should be avoided at all costs.
Trans fats are found naturally in animal products and are also applied to packaged foods for flavour and texture. However, according to the American Heart Association, trans fats will increase your bad (LDL) cholesterol while lowering your healthy (HDL) cholesterol. Trans fat consumption also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
An older but often quoted research conducted in the journal Human Reproduction looked at 12 years of evidence from the Nurses’ Health Study II, focusing on women’s diets. According to Dr. Shepherd, “a heavy intake of trans fats and possibly animal fats is associated with a greater risk of endometriosis.”
Trans fats are commonly found in baked, processed, and fast foods, and are labelled as “partially hydrogenated oils” on food labels—doing your best to avoid them can help.
Gluten should be stopped at all times.
Gluten is a compound that can be present in most grains and is used to bind breads and baked goods. There isn’t a lot of research about this, but an older study placed 207 endometriosis patients on a gluten-free diet and discovered some interesting findings. After a year on a gluten-free diet, 75% of patients showed a “statistically significant” difference in their discomfort.
Gluten has been attributed to body inflammation, which, according to Dr. Greves, can intensify endometriosis pain.
Follow a low FODMAP diet
Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols are all acronyms. According to Johns Hopkins Medication, these are short-chain carbohydrates that the small intestine has difficulty consuming. As a result, after consuming foods rich in FODMAPS, such as dairy-based milk and yoghurt, wheat goods, asparagus, onions, apples, and pears, certain people can experience intestinal symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and bloating.
After four weeks on a low FODMAP diet, 72 percent of women with endometriosis showed a more than 50 percent increase in bowel symptoms, relative to 49 percent of people with irritable bowel syndrome, according to a smaller study released in The Australian & New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (endometriosis is often misdiagnosed as IBS).
Eggs, beef, certain cheeses (brie, cheddar, feta), almond milk, potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, grapes, even strawberries are all low FODMAP items.
Keep note of the amount of red meat you ingest.
According to a study of research on food and endometriosis published in a Polish obstetrics and gynaecology journal, consuming beef, ham, and other forms of red meat increases the risk of endometriosis. The precise cause of the correlation is unknown, but evidence has shown that red meat can cause inflammation in the body, which can intensify endometriosis, according to Dr. Greves.
Load up on fruits and vegetables.
Stay with me on this one because it’s a little hazy: According to a study published in Human Reproduction in 2018 that looked at data from 70,835 people in the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort, those who ate more fruits—especially citrus fruits—had a lower risk of developing endometriosis than those who didn’t. It wasn’t a lot of fruit—one serving or more per day—but it was plenty.
It’s difficult to predict if the findings will improve if you have endometriosis, but Dr. Greves points out that consuming foods that are good for your overall health can just make you feel healthier in general, making endometriosis symptoms easier to manage.
Consume iron-rich foods.
When you have endometriosis, you’re likely to feel exhaustion and weakness. It may be attributed to lower levels of iron in people with the condition, according to research reported in the journal Comparative Medicine. Low iron levels can induce symptoms such as weakness and difficulties focusing. Iron is an integral component of haemoglobin, a red blood cell protein that carries oxygen from your lungs to your tissues.
The best way to determine for sure that you have low iron is to have a blood test done by your doctor. If you do have low iron levels (also known as anaemia), your doctor can urge you to take a vitamin or consume more iron-rich foods. Lean meats, fish, and iron-fortified foods, such as cereal, are examples.
Choose diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
According to the National Institutes of Health, omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of the membranes that cover each cell of your body (NIH). They also aid in the production of energy and the proper functioning of vital organs such as the heart and lungs.
People who take omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) have fewer endometriosis pain and inflammation, and their quality of life improves in people with extreme endometriosis, according to research. The cause for this is unclear, but it’s been suggested that omega-3 fatty acids reduce pelvic pain by increasing the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like compounds in the body.
Consume diets high in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are synthetic or natural compounds that can help to avoid or postpone cell damage.
After six months, all who took antioxidant supplements had a substantial decrease of discomfort, according to a review of 398 patients with endometriosis-related pelvic pain reported in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. It’s uncertain why, but Dr. Greves suggests it has anything to do with bodily inflammation, which antioxidants are known to counteract.
Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is a healthy way to increase your antioxidant intake.
A balanced diet isn’t considered a first-line treatment for endometriosis, according to physicians, but it may help with the symptoms. According to Kallen, dietary modifications for endometriosis “may be a fair aspect of a multi-pronged therapeutic strategy.”
Dr. Greves says, “Having a balanced diet doesn’t hurt and can potentially make a person feel better.” “As a result, they could have more resilience when dealing with endometriosis discomforts.”
If you’re in pain, speak with the doctor and keep the lines of communication open. You shouldn’t have to function like this, whether lifestyle modifications or hormone therapy would help.