Endometriosis is a condition where tissue resembling the uterus lining grows outside of the uterus, causing painful symptoms. Following a specific diet may help to reduce symptoms, though more research is needed.
In this article, we look at the links between diet and endometriosis, which foods to eat, and which to avoid.
Little research has investigated the relationship between diet and endometriosis symptoms. However, some people do find that eating certain foods tends to trigger or relieve their symptoms.
A 2013 study suggested that women who ate more vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids were more protected from symptoms of endometriosis, while those who consumed red meat, trans fats, and coffee may have experienced the opposite effect. However, these results are not consistent across studies, so more research is needed.
A 2015 literature review published in Brazil, suggested that eating a healthful diet can prevent endometriosis from developing, and perhaps, even worsening. Foods in this diet included:
- whole grains
- omega-3 fatty acids
A person cannot prevent endometriosis, but according to the Office on Women's Health, they can reduce their risk of developing it by avoiding foods and chemicals that increase their estrogen levels. These substances include caffeine and alcohol.
It is essential, however, to recognize that dietary and lifestyle changes will not cure endometriosis but may help to improve its symptoms.
To find out whether food is having an effect on their symptoms, a person with endometriosis could keep a food journal. It is essential that they record everything they eat throughout the day, as well as any symptoms they experience.
A person may need to keep the diary for some time, as a clear pattern may not emerge right away.
A person with endometriosis might consider reducing foods that either cause inflammation or raise estrogen levels, both of which may contribute to the disorder or its symptoms. However, more research is needed to establish the link between endometriosis and diet.
A person with endometriosis may benefit from eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Plant-based proteins, lean meats, and healthful fats may also help.
Healthful fats are available in many foods, including:
- olive oil
- other fatty fish
A person with endometriosis should also reduce their caffeine and alcohol intake, as these can increase estrogen levels.
If a person does not eat fish, it is possible to introduce omega-3 fatty acids into the diet using supplements. These can be purchased at a pharmacy or bought online.
A person can also increase their fiber intake. Fiber is an essential part of a healthful diet and may help to lower estrogen levels. In addition to providing lots of vitamins and minerals, eating fresh sources of fiber can also provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can reduce inflammation.
There are also some special diets that may help people with endometriosis. These include:
Going gluten-free has become a common diet and lifestyle trend over the last several years. It remains unclear whether this diet is effective for people without celiac disease, which makes a person sensitive to proteins found in wheat.
However, a 2012 study suggests that 75 percent of the 156 women who took part in the study reported a decrease in painful symptoms after following a gluten-free diet for 12 months.
With the FODMAP diet, a person eliminates certain carbohydrates from their diet to reduce their intake of potentially irritating foods. The aim is to allow the gastrointestinal system to heal.
After a person eliminates these foods, they can slowly re-introduce specific foods to see how the body tolerates them. This kind of diet can be difficult for some people, because it involves eliminating a high number of food types from their diet, including:
- processed foods
- added sugars
It is a good idea to track symptoms in a food log to see if they get better after removing certain foods from the diet, or get worse after reintroducing something.
A doctor or dietitian can help a person plan the FODMAP diet elimination program. They can help to track symptoms and identify potentially problematic foods. They can also make sure that this type of a restrictive diet is appropriate for a specific medical or health situation.
Preparation is crucial for success with this type of diet. Planning out each meal, as well as shopping and preparing it ahead of time, can make it much easier to stay on track. A quick Internet search can help a person to quickly and easily find some new meal ideas that work for them.
In addition to dietary changes and traditional medical treatments for endometriosis, some people try other home remedies to help manage the condition or its symptoms. Therapies can include:
- regular exercise
- chiropractic care
- vitamin B1
- magnesium supplements
- Chinese herbs, such as cinnamon twig or licorice root
As always, consult with the doctor before starting to take any herbal or over-the-counter supplements.
Endometriosis occurs when uterus-like tissue develops outside the uterus. This tissue can grow on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or intestines. Though rare, it can grow on other parts of the body as well.
Sometimes, this does not cause any symptoms at all, but other times, it can cause significant pain and discomfort during monthly menstruation. Other symptoms of endometriosis include:
- pain in the pelvis, abdomen, or back
- heavy periods
- bleeding between periods
- severe menstrual cramps
Typically, the tissue lining the uterus sheds and leaves the body during menstruation. With endometriosis, the tissue outside of the uterus still sheds in response to changing estrogen levels but is unable to leave the body. As a result, it can cause painful symptoms, inflammation, infertility, scar tissue and bowel problems.
There is no cure for endometriosis. Sometimes, doctors can remove the extra tissue surgically, but it does not cure the disease.
The outlook for someone with endometriosis is positive, despite the discomfort it brings. While it can cause a significant amount of pain, the disease does not cause severe disability or death.
Specific changes in the diet may help some people find relief, though more research is needed. With a treatment plan and pain management strategies, most people can get their endometriosis under control.