Endometriosis, a condition affecting millions of women worldwide, can be a challenging journey, but embracing the right diet can make a significant difference. This article delves into the world of an Endometriosis-friendly diet, exploring how certain foods can alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being.
With a focus on nourishment and balance, we'll guide you through dietary choices that not only cater to your health needs but also bring joy and variety to your meals.
Whether you're newly diagnosed or seeking new strategies to manage Endometriosis, our insights aim to empower and inspire a positive change in your dietary habits for a healthier, happier you.
What Is an Endometriosis Diet?
The endometriosis diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet. Mainly incorporating plant-based food like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and seafood, but poultry is also included. Even though the endometriosis diet also naturally results in healthy weight and healthy eating habits, the foods included are fundamental for their hormone-balancing and anti-inflammatory properties.
When it comes to altering your diet to reduce symptoms of endometriosis, nutritionists caution that completely eliminating particular food types, or overloading on another is neither recommended nor healthy in the long term. Instead, small gradual diet changes are advised.
For the best results with an endometriosis diet, consult with a nutritionist or dietician to develop a plan together that ensures you continue to eat a healthy and balanced diet.
How Can Your Food Choices Help Endometriosis?
Hormone fluctuations and inflammation are at the root of most endometriosis symptoms and recent studies have investigated how the food you eat can affect both.
In many women with endometriosis, for example, the automatically synchronized signals between estrogen and progesterone are believed to be disordered. This typically results in the production of too much estrogen, which can contribute to heavy periods, weight gain, mood swings, fatigue, depression, bloating, cramping, and constipation.
Women with endometriosis are therefore encouraged to consume food that helps expel excess estrogen from the body to reduce symptoms.
As well as a hormonal condition, endometriosis is also referred to as an inflammatory condition. Although inflammation is a natural healing response from the body when it feels pain, threat, or trauma; inflammation is never supposed to last long-term. Because the immune system is unable to heal endometriosis, however, the cycle of inflammation continues, often becoming chronic, and resulting in severe pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and pain during sex.
For this reason, nutritionists recommend that women with endometriosis should include anti-inflammatory foods in their diet and largely reduce pro-inflammatory foods.
What Food Help With Endometriosis?
Eating enough fiber is one of the easiest ways to remove excess estrogen from the body. With each bowel movement, the body excretes excess hormones so consuming adequate fiber helps to keep the bowels moving regularly.
Essentially, fiber binds with excess hormones like estrogen and removes them from the body with each stool. If enough fiber is not consumed, excess hormones will be absorbed back into the body, worsening symptoms of endometriosis. For this reason, women with endometriosis are advised to check that they are consuming adequate daily amounts of fiber.
If you are currently not consuming enough fiber it’s important to gradually increase your intake over time to avoid uncomfortable abdominal bloating, digestive issues, or gas. To reduce any side effects of increasing your fiber intake, nutritionists advise drinking 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day.
Foods Rich in Fiber
Nutritional experts recommend that adults consume at least 35 grams of fiber per day. Foods that are rich in fiber include the following:
- Fruits & vegetables
- Legumes - chickpeas, beans & lentils
- Ground flaxseed
- Whole grains – brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or bread, and brown rice
- Unsalted nuts
Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Endometriosis
Because inflammation is the main cause of pain associated with endometriosis, anti-inflammatory foods like omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats are recommended to help reduce symptoms. As well as increasing anti-inflammatory foods, endometriosis patients are advised to cut back on pro-inflammatory foods.
Food rich in omega-4 fatty acids include the following:
- Almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts
- Chia seeds & flaxseeds
- Fatty fish - herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, tuna
- Olive oil, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil
Food abundant in monounsaturated fatty acids include:
- Canola oil, olive oil & peanut oil
- Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts & pecans
- Peanut butter
- Pumpkin seeds & sesame seeds
Pro-Inflammatory Foods to Avoid or Cut Back with Endometriosis
A diet rich in pro-inflammatory foods is more or less the opposite of an endometriosis diet. Eating too many of the following can cause a type of inflammation in the body that will not only worsen endometriosis symptoms but also increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity in the long term.
Pro-inflammatory foods that endometriosis patients are advised to avoid, or cut back, include the following:
- Processed food
- Red meat
- Processed meats like cured meats, sliced meats, bacon & hot dogs
- Fried food
- White bread & cereals
- Pasta & white rice
- Sugary foods like sweets, cookies & pastries
- Sodas & carbonated drinks
The Effects of Dairy & Red Meat on Endometriosis
Dairy products and red meat contain high saturated fats that can contribute to an increased production of estrogen, which is not ideal for women with endometriosis who are already dealing with the effects of high estrogen levels. Dairy products and red meat also contain arachidonic acid, which is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that encourages the production of inflammatory prostaglandins.
Eating lots of dairy and red meat can increase estrogen levels, contribute to inflammation, increase pain, and cause a thickening of the blood. Increased production of inflammatory prostaglandins can also cause muscles to tighten and blood vessels to constrict, which can exacerbate menstrual pain and cramping associated with endometriosis.
To prevent calcium deficiencies when reducing dairy intake, endometriosis patients are encouraged to consume calcium via other foods. These include almonds, asparagus, broccoli, figs, leafy greens, oats, roasted sesame seeds, seaweed, and tahini, as well as many more.
Magnesium, Vitamin D & Zinc for Endometriosis
Given the function of each of these important minerals, endometriosis patients are advised to check with their nutritionist that they have a sufficient daily intake of magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc to help alleviate symptoms.
Magnesium is a muscle relaxer, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and zinc helps balance hormones & regulate periods.
Foods high in magnesium include the nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and legumes, mentioned above. And for a treat, dark chocolate contains magnesium too. Poultry and seafood like chicken, turkey, crab, lobster, and oysters are all rich in zinc for meat eaters. Vegetarians and vegans can find sufficient amounts of zinc in chickpeas, cashews, lentils, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, spinach, and wholewheat foods.
More Tips to Manage Endometriosis
According to feedback, the endometriosis diet has reduced the side effects of endometriosis for many women, however, it rarely banishes symptoms completely. In conjunction with a healthy endometriosis diet, pelvic physical therapy is one of the most highly recommended treatments to reduce the inflammation, pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and dyspareunia linked to the condition.
So much so, that hormone therapy and invasive surgeries are often avoided.
To maintain the relief experienced from pelvic physical therapy, women with endometriosis can also practice a form of physical therapy at home with the help of our pelvic wands and vaginal dilators. Made from body-safe, medical-grade silicone that feels comfortable inside the body, Intimate Rose pelvic wands and dilators are recommended by gynecologists and pelvic health experts all over the world.
Relaxing practices like yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, and meditation are also helpful in reducing the stress, anxiety, and depression associated with endometriosis. While warm baths and heat packs can soothe flare-ups.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition without a current cure, meaning most patients must learn to manage their symptoms long-term. While medication can help alleviate pelvic pain, and hormone therapy can suppress estrogen production, neither is helpful for women wishing to get pregnant nor are they long-term solutions.
To manage your endometriosis long-term, improve your quality of life, and increase your chances of getting pregnant; try combining an endometriosis diet with pelvic physical therapy and the regular use of pelvic wands and vaginal dilators at home.
American College of Gynaecologists & Obstetricians - https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/endometriosis
National Library of Medicine - Nutrition in the prevention and treatment of endometriosis: A review - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9983692/
National Institutes of Health - What are omega-3 fatty acids and what do they do? - https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
Science Direct - Monounsaturated Fatty Acid - https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/monounsaturated-fatty-acid
Harvard Health - Do pro-inflammatory diets harm our health? And can anti-inflammatory diets help? - https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/do-pro-inflammatory-diets-harm-our-health-and-can-anti-inflammatory-diets-help-2020122321624
National Library of Medicine - Dairy-Food, Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D Intake and Endometriosis: A Prospective Cohort Study - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3626048/
Endometriosis Foundation of America - Everything You Need to Know About Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy (PFPT) for Endometriosis - https://www.endofound.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-pelvic-floor-physical-therapy-pfpt-for-endometriosis