Endometriosis Diet: 5 Foods To Include & What Food To Avoid
Eating right and having a healthy lifestyle can work wonders in managing certain medical conditions, and endometriosis is no exception. There is no universal diet for Endometriosis, and one size does not fit all.
A diagnosis of endometriosis can be scary, and you might feel lost and helpless. Still, with the proper endometriosis diet and medical attention, it is possible to help reduce the symptoms and manage the condition.
As many as 10% of women get diagnosed with endometriosis at some point in their life. Hence, there is huge data out there based on their experiences regarding how to control the symptoms with diet help. Consequently, there is an ever-growing list of what to eat and what to avoid.
This post will take a look at some of the best foods for endometriosis and some foods that you should avoid. But before we go right into the diet discussion, let’s understand endometriosis first.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition that arises when tissue similar to the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) starts to grow on organs other than the uterus. The tissue can grow absolutely on any organ in the body; the only exception is the spleen. The tissue behaves exactly like the endometrium lining of the uterus irrespective of its body. It bleeds every month, just like the one in the uterus, in response to the waxing and waning hormone levels. Consequently, there is severe inflammation and pain throughout the body.
As the endometrial tissue can grow anywhere in the body, the symptoms of endometriosis can be varied and diverse. Some of the most common symptoms include-
- Pain during periods
- Heavy flow during periods
- Pain during bowel movements
- Pain while having sex
Other allied digestive tract-related symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are common in many women. As there are many gastrointestinal symptoms, paying attention to what you eat helps in managing endometriosis.
Although there is no cure for endometriosis as of now, there are means to manage the symptoms.
One of the first-line treatments of the disease is laparoscopic surgery. A small incision is made in the abdomen, and the endometrial tissue is excised (removed) using a special instrument called the laparoscope. Although the surgery is invasive, it requires only a small incision.
Hormonal therapies can also help some women. Commonly prescribed hormonal pills are birth control pills that suppress the release of estrogen in the body and hence reduce the growth of endometrial implants. Although hormonal therapies can’t cure the disease, they can help slow down the progression and help manage the symptoms to a certain extent.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle and watching what you eat can go a long way in managing endometriosis. Eating the right kinds of foods (and avoiding certain foods) can help many women to manage their symptoms effectively.
Foods to include in an endometrial diet
The dietary solution to manage endometriosis is often called the ‘Endo Diet.’ It is not a prescribed diet as such but rather a list of foods to include and avoid to ease the symptoms of endometriosis. In the following sections, An Australian study has that experienced decreased symptoms and increased well-being after adopting an individually adapted diet.
We will take a deeper look at the ‘endo diet’ and check out five foods that you should include in your diet to feel better.
Salmon is a fatty fish that is rich in one of the best natural antioxidants- omega-3-fatty acids. Including salmon in your diet can help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with endometriosis. The Omega-3-fatty acids have been scientifically proven to reduce inflammation and the associated pain by inhibiting the synthesis of a class of compounds in your body called the Prostaglandins. Also called ‘local hormones’ or ‘eicosanoids,’ prostaglandins are the molecules that mediate inflammation and pain. Halting the synthesis of prostaglandins in the body can significantly reduce pain and inflammation.
If you follow a vegan diet or don’t prefer salmon in general, you can take omega-3 fatty acid supplements that are easily available over the counter in most discount chemists and pharmacies. There are vegan omega-3 fatty acid supplements derived from plant sources as well if you don’t want to use the regular ones derived from fish oil.
Colourful and green veggies contain a ton of antioxidants that are known to reduce inflammation. Many green veggies have antioxidants, but broccoli is one of the best as it is associated with the estrogen synthesis in your body when it comes to endometriosis.
Your body produces two estrogen levels- ‘the bad estrogen’ and the ‘good estrogen.’ Endometriosis is usually linked to the overproduction of ‘bad estrogen’ in your body. Broccoli contains a chemical compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that has been shown to shift estrogen metabolism in the body tipping it to the ‘good estrogen’ side.
Apart from the I3C, broccoli is also rich in Magnesium which can help to ease menstrual cramps. A single serving of broccoli has about 31 mg of Magnesium which translates to 7% of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Magnesium is known to have a smooth muscle relaxant effect by decreasing the availability of inflammation mediators such as prostaglandins.
Like salmon, eggs are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you can’t eat meat, eggs can be an excellent source of protein as well. We have already talked about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in endometriosis. If you want a little boost in your omega-3 fatty acid intake, you can even opt for enriched or fortified eggs that contain a higher value of the fatty acids per serving compared to unfortified eggs.
Endometriosis is often associated with heavy bleeding during menstrual periods, and your body needs more iron to replenish the lost blood. There are many sources of iron, but your body can absorb iron from an animal source better than a plant source.
The iron in animal products is called heme iron, and the iron present in the veggies is called non-heme iron. Your body can absorb this heme iron much better than the non-heme iron, and eggs are an excellent source of heme iron. SO, there is more than one advantage of including eggs in your endo diet.
- Whole grains
You might already know how fibre plays an important role in maintaining the health of your digestive system. But do you know that the same dietary fibre also plays a crucial role in the availability of estrogen?
Many studies have shown that taking a high-fibre diet can reduce the amount of estrogen in your body and help address estrogen dominance developed during endometriosis. Whole grains are one of the best sources of dietary fibre, and hence they deserve a special place in your endo diet.
Constipation is also quite a common symptom of endometriosis, whether there is endometrial tissue on your bowel or not. A high-fibre diet can help you overcome constipation by allowing your intestines to push through the undigested food, better relieving constipation.
To types of dietary fibres are essential in our diet whether you have endometriosis or not- The insoluble fibre and the soluble fibre. Your diet needs a good balance of both these fibres if you want to maintain a good GIT heath. Whole grains have both kinds of fibres and are excellent for your overall gut health, even if you don’t have endometriosis.
- Citrus fruits
Fruits and veggies are undeniably important for your overall health. Several studies found that a higher intake of fruits can reduce the risk of endometriosis in women. Of all the fruits, citrus fruits were found to have the highest impact when it came to preventing endometriosis. One research concluded that including at least one serving of citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits can reduce the risk of developing endometriosis by almost 22%.
Although there is no concrete evidence regarding the benefit of citrus fruits in women who already have developed the disease, it surely won’t hurt to include more citrus fruits in your diet. Citrus fruits are a rich source of vitamin C and other antioxidants, which is always a good inclusion in your diet.
A word of caution for women taking oral birth control pills: Grapefruit juice can decrease the effectiveness of your medication. It happens as grapefruit juice inhibits an enzyme responsible for breaking the synthetic estrogen in birth control pills.
Foods you should avoid if you have endometriosis.
As much as eating the right kind of food is important to manage endometriosis symptoms, avoiding certain foods is equally important. Although there is no ‘doctor recommended’ list of foods to avoid in an endo diet, many women find relief by avoiding certain types of foods.
- Trans fats
Trans fats are synthetic fatty acids that are not found in nature but are made in the lab. Processed foods such as fries, crisps, chips, and other deep-fried foods contain these trans fats.
Research has revealed that wone who consume excessive amounts of trans fats stand a 1.44 times higher risk of producing endometriosis. Trans fats are also known to promote inflammation and hence should be avoided in endometriosis. It is best to avoid trans fats altogether in an endo diet.
- Red meat
Synthetic hormones and antibiotics found in non-organic red meat are not good for your endometriosis as they promote inflammation. As inflammation is one of the primary symptoms of endometriosis, eating red meat can worsen the symptoms. If possible, avoid red meat if you are diagnosed with endometriosis or at least try to cut it down significantly.
A study suggests that women who eat a couple of servings of red meat are 56% more likely to develop endometriosis. Try to incorporate more poultry and fish in your diet and stay away from steaks and ground hamburger meat.
Several studies have found a correlation between gluten intolerance and endometriosis. According to some studies, as many as 75% of women who have endometriosis can benefit from a gluten-free diet. Gluten is also known to worsen celiac disease, and there is a positive correlation between celiac disease and endometriosis.
According to some experts, gluten can cause inflammation and alter the hormonal balance in females, causing worsening endometriosis symptoms.
Alcohol is a known phytoestrogen and is known to raise the level of estrogen in your body. Avoiding alcohol if you have endometriosis is in your best interest. Alcohol is also known to cause fertility problems, including anovulatory cycles. Hence, consider avoiding alcohol altogether or at least limit the intake.
Endometriosis also has a strong correlation with fertility issues. Around 50% of women with fertility issues are susceptible to develop endometriosis. Hence, if you have fertility issues and want to get pregnant, avoiding alcohol is in your best interest. Furthermore, alcohol is known to destabilize the blood glucose levels and hamper your gut health, worsening your endometriosis symptoms.
What else can help?
Endometriosis is a complex disease that affects your entire body. Apart from diet, certain positive lifestyle changes such as exercise and vitamins can help in controlling the symptoms.
As we discussed earlier, omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help control the endometriosis symptoms by decreasing inflammation. Some herbal supplements have also been quite successfully used to manage the symptoms as well. Dong Quai, in particular, is a traditional Chinese medicine herb that has shown promise in treating painful cycles and cramps caused by endometriosis. According to the same meta-analysis, Vivalex or chaste berry, another common Chinese herb, may be able to cure infertility caused by endometriosis.
Exercise is essential for keeping a healthier weight, which helps reduce infertility, but it’s crucial to do the right kind of exercise when it comes to endometriosis.
Endometriosis also affects the pelvic floor muscles. The body learns to expect discomfort as these muscles contract leading to debilitating menstrual cramps. As a result, the pelvic floor muscles tend to become tense, resulting in pelvic pain. Physical exercise for the pelvic floor and yoga and Pilates will aid in releasing these tight muscles, reducing endometriosis pain symptoms.
- Lifestyle Changes
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to endometriosis pain. Despite this, there are certain things you can do at home to help relieve the suffering and make life simpler. Using heating pads or a TENS device, for example, will help you ease chronic pelvic pain and return to your normal activities.
You can also talk to a doctor, who may prescribe a drug to help suppress endometriosis complications, such as hormonal birth control, or put you in contact with a laparoscopic surgeon.