While there’s no single diet you can adopt that will cure an inflammatory disease like endometriosis, researchers have identified foods that may help to control it. When it comes to endometriosis –an estrogen-dependent chronic inflammatory process– the food you consume can act as a form of medicine. Anti-inflammatory diets like the popular Keto Diet, Mediterranean Diet, and DASH Diet have been highly regarded for their weight-loss results and easier-to-follow food parameters, but research has shown there are far greater health benefits for those suffering from endometriosis and other inflammatory diseases. So how can you adjust your diet to help alleviate endometriosis symptoms? First, we need to understand the role inflammation plays in this diagnosis.
To understand how your diet affects endometriosis, you must understand what endometriosis is. Endometriosis is a medical condition in which cells similar to the lining of the uterus grow outside of the uterus. These cells can develop on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and occasionally the bowel and bladder. During your period, your body releases estrogen (and other reproductive hormones) that signal these cells to shed along with your unfertilized egg. If these cells had formed inside the uterus it would result in your menstrual flow, but since they’ve formed outside of the uterus –they have nowhere to go. The trapped blood then triggers an inflammatory response which results in the common endometriosis symptoms of severe pelvic pain, bloating, and fatigue.
Although endometriosis is typically described as moderate to severe pelvic pain experienced during your menstrual cycle, other symptoms have also been reported. Additional signs and symptoms include:
- Painful intercourse
- Breakthrough bleeding between periods
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Lower back pain
- Bloating (sometimes referred to as “endo belly”)
- Depression or anxiety
- Early puberty and delayed menopause
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The Role Inflammation Plays
Inflammation is a good thing when we’re speaking in terms of cuts and scrapes or overcoming the common cold –in moderation, it acts as our body’s defense system and helps your body heal. However, the problem occurs when a person experiences chronic inflammation, like endometriosis, where your pelvic tissues and organs are repeatedly subject to inflammation with each monthly menstrual cycle.
Does Your Diet Contribute to Endometriosis?
Although further research is required, the findings thus far indicate a correlation between the development and worsening of endometriosis and your diet. Because endometriosis is a hormone-dependent chronic inflammatory process, consuming foods that reduce the triggering hormone (estrogen) and inflammation can make treatment and management easier.
Foods to Avoid For Endometriosis
There are many contributing factors to chronic inflammation such as persistent infection, an abnormal immune response, and obesity, but a big offender is a diet high in refined carbohydrates and processed food.
- Soy - Soy and soy-based products are high in estrogen –the hormone endometriosis is dependent on. One study discovered that women who were fed a soy-based formula diet as infants had more than twice the risk of developing endometriosis as adults. Examples of items to avoid: soy sauce, tempeh, edamame, and soy meat alternatives.
- Artificial trans fats - Trans-unsaturated fatty acids are known to raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol which can promote an inflammatory response in your body. Trans fats are most commonly found in fried and processed foods. Examples of items to avoid: donuts, frozen pizza, cookies, and non-dairy creamer.
- Polyunsaturated fats - Studies have shown that arachidonic acid and Omega-6 fatty acid (two main polyunsaturated fats) negatively impact endometriosis by metabolizing into prostaglandins (a group of lipids that control inflammation processes) which causes pain and inflammation. High levels result in cramping and muscle spasms. Examples of items to avoid: corn chips, tofu, and vegetable oil.
- Simple carbohydrates: These types of carbohydrates along with added sugars break down very quickly in your body and spike your blood sugar. When your blood sugar is elevated, it creates an inflammatory response as your body attempts to remove the sugar from your blood. Examples of items to avoid: white bread, white rice, and sugary cereals.
- Red meat - A study conducted in 2018 discovered that women who ate 2 or more servings of red meat daily were 56% more likely to develop endometriosis. Because anemia is common among women with endometriosis it’s important to discuss your dietary needs with your physician.
- Caffeine and Alcohol - Health professionals recommend limiting your intake of alcohol to reduce inflammation. Caffeine can impact your body’s relationship with estrogen by increasing estrogen levels and putting you in an estrogen-dominant state.
Recommended Diet for Endometriosis and PCOS
Your main goal for the management and treatment of endometriosis symptoms through your diet is to avoid foods that promote inflammation. Some foods that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, and tuna
- Fruit like cherries, strawberries, and oranges
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables, like kale, collards, and spinach
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate and cocoa
- Green tea
Supplements for Endometriosis
In addition to a healthy diet, supplements may also be beneficial in managing symptoms. We get the majority of our nutrients from the food we eat, but supplementation of essential nutrients is a great way to ensure you’re getting the daily values you need. Our Total PMS dietary supplement is packed with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, and magnesium to help fight bloating, cramping, restlessness, and mood swings. While our Myo/Chiro Inositol 40:1 Blend can help regulate your insulin levels and reduce inflammation.
Endometriosis is an inflammatory disease that affects roughly 1 in 10 women and girls of reproductive age. Eating a balanced diet –high in foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties– can help with the management and treatment of this chronic inflammatory process. If you believe you’re suffering from endometriosis, seek the help of a medical professional. Endometriosis is a progressive condition meaning untreated symptoms may worsen with time, if left undiagnosed it can lead to infertility and other major health complications.
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