Endometriosis - Diet and Nutrition
How diet changes can help reduce the symptoms of endometriosis
Changing what you eat to deal with Endometriosis is a really good foundation to assist you in reducing your symptoms, and will also help improve your overall health.
"Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food."
Many are aware that various illnesses and diseases have responded very positively to changes in diet, and endometriosis is no exception. There are plenty of positive feedback stories from others saying how they have improved significantly by making changes in their diet.
Changing your diet can help with the following:
- Reduce symptoms of pain
- Relieve cramps
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce bloating
- Reduce estrogen levels
- Balance blood sugar levels
- Reduce toxins – found in e-numbers, additives, preservatives, pesticides, chemicals, anti-biotics used in animal husbandry
AND changing what you eat can also :
- Help sustain energy levels
- Support your immune system
- Heal gut health issues
Endo-resolved has been providing advice about the benefits of diet to help with the symptoms of endometriosis for a number of years. The advice here has been endorsed by Dr Camran Nezhat - the endometriosis specialist.
AIM OF DIET TO REDUCE YOUR SYMPTOMS
Endometriosis causes inflammation especially where there is damage caused by cysts and adhesions. Inflammation can also occur in the digestive tract which can be caused when endometriosis infiltrates the digestive tract, especially the bowel. Changing your diet to an anti-inflammatory diet will help to reduce inflammation and in turn will help reduce pain.
When dealing with endometriosis you need to keep estrogen levels under control as estrogen feeds the development of endometriosis. Certain foods contain phyto-estrogens, however they are not as potent as the bodies own estrogens. Eating some phyto-estrogenic foods can help to block estrogen receptors which will reduce the effect of your own estrogen hormones.
Certain foods can cause pain and inflammation as they increase negative prostaglandins that are responsible for causing pain and inflammation in the body. By reducing your intake of foods that increase prostaglandins you will obviously be able to reduce pain and inflammation.
Gut inflammation, leaky gut, and SIBO can contribute to poor absorption of nutrients which can result in poor immune health and inflammation. Eating foods that support the gut and avoiding foods that irritate the gut will aid in the whole healing process. You could be eating the best diet to help endometriosis, and using anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, but if your gut health is poor, the likelihood that you are absorbing your nutrients is reduced.
Blood sugar balance
Blood sugar imbalances can lead to inflammation, immune flares, hormonal imbalances, and compromised brain function. Supporting balanced blood sugar is critical for recovery from any inflammatory condition and ensures much needed energy levels are sustained in order to reduce further stress on the body.
Every system in the body needs a wide array of nutrients to function at its best, including the immune system, your reproductive system and even your brain. Nutrient-dense foods are central to the diet, giving your body the tools it needs to heal deficiencies and support every function of the body.
By eating a clean, nourishing diet and not eating toxic foods that contain chemicals, e-numbers, preservatives and pesticides will help to detox and reduce stress on the body. This will help to speed the healing process.
Immune system support
Inflammation, leaky gut, hormone imbalances, blood sugar imbalances, and micronutrient deficiencies can all contribute to a compromised immune system. By reducing bacterial overgrowth and inflammation in the gut and supporting blood sugar regulation, the diet will help to support healthy immune function. Also, there is the need to calm an over-active immune system response by avoiding certain proteins like gluten and dairy, as these can disrupt the immune-system.
So where do we start!
Pain and hormones in relation to diet .....
Endometriosis is fed by estrogen synthesis in the body. This can take the form of:
- your own natural estrogen which is produced in the body
- the estrogen that is taken up from excess foods that contain phyto-estrogens
- from chemical based estrogens that are found in toiletries and cosmetics in the form of xeno-estrogens
The correct diet can help to balance these different forms of estrogen
You also need to reduce your use of xeno-estrogens (found in highly chemical based cosmetics and toiletries) in order to reduce xeno-estrogens from your system - which can worsen symptoms.
Prostaglandins and pain
As well as dealing with estrogen levels, you need to address the levels of prostaglandins in your body. Prostaglandins are very complex natural fatty acids and are derived from dietary sources. There are many different forms of prostaglandins and new types are still being discovered. The painful menstrual cramps you feel are actually due to prostaglandins, as well as the pain symptoms of endometriosis. A change in diet can alter the level and the types of prostaglandins in your body.
We actually have two main 'types' of prostaglandins - there are the 'good ones' and the 'bad ones'.
The aim of the endometriosis diet is to block the 'bad ones' because of their negative actions on the body, and increase the levels of the 'good ones' because of their opposite and positive effect. The action of the 'bad ones' will increase uterine contractions and pain, and increase inflammation. The role of the 'good ones' have a soothing effect and do the opposite to the bad ones. When you change the oils in your diet you can promote the good prostaglandins.
Omega 3 oils will reduce pain & inflammation
The good anti-inflammatory oils are found in the omega-3 fatty oil group, and lead to good prostaglandin production. Some of the best sources of omega-3 oils are found in marine and plant oils and include:
- oily fish
- walnut oil
- pumpkin seeds
- chia seeds
- dark green leafy veg
You can also supplement with omega 3 oil - aim to get the best quality possible. At the same time it is important to reduce intake of the fatty acids that stimulate negative prostaglandins which are found in saturated fats, animal fats and butter.
It will help your symptoms if you increase your intake of fiber, as fiber will help to decrease the circulating estrogen in your system. The easiest sources of fiber to digest are found in fruit and vegetables as the structure and chemical make-up provide a more soothing effect while also aiding digestion. Also, extra fiber in the form of grains, brown rice and pulses etc., are helpful especially for their nutritional value, but keep your fiber intake balanced between the two.
These can include:
- whole grains ( excluding wheat - see below)
- beans, peas, pulses
- brown rice
- vegetables and fruits
Foods containing natural plant sterols (phyto-estrogens) can actually be helpful if consumed in careful balance. They are thought to block the estrogen receptors, so in turn excess estrogen in the body cannot ‘lock-in’ to these receptors. These include:
- peas, beans and pulses
- red and purple berries
- leafy green vegetables
- brassica's: cabbage, cauliflower etc
- celery, carrots
Suggested Foods to Avoid
This is a list of the food groups suggested to avoid to help reduce symptoms of endometriosis. You may not have problems with all these foods groups, but it seems many women have success by avoiding most of these foods.
- Wheat - this includes breads, cakes and pasta products, all based on wheat - contains phytic acid which can aggravate symptoms of endometriosis. Also contains gluten and women with endometriosis seem to be sensitive to gluten as it can cause inflammation
- Gluten - Many with endometriosis seem to have a negative reaction to gluten. A 2012 study (1) looking at endometriosis and the gluten link found that of 207 participants, 156 reported significant decrease in pain and bloating. Many with endometriosis have a predisposition for additional immune-system disorders which can include hypothyroidism, and gluten can set of a thyroid auto-immune reaction.
- Red and processed meats - promotes negative prostaglandins which cause inflammation and can also contain growth hormones. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology found that a higher intake of red meat increases the risk of endometriosis by 56%. If eating white meat like chicken and turkey it is advised to only eat cage free/free range organic which has not been pumped full of hormones
- Refined and concentrated carbohydrates - white bread, flour, cakes, pasta etc. made from refined flours. Most of the nutritional value has been removed and can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels
- Refined sugars and honey - causes inflammatory reaction, produces a more acidic environment in the body which can increase the inflammation of endometriosis. (honey is fine if you can get hold of certified organic honey)
- Caffeine - found in tea, coffee, soft drinks -increases abdominal cramps and caffeine increases estrogen levels. Caffeine is a known phyto-estrogen. Coffee is also known to inhibit the absorption of iron.
- Chocolate (cheap commercial chocolate - as it contains sugar which is inflammatory - organic dark chocolate is fine especially if it has high cacao content which has health benefits
- Dairy produce - including milk, cheese, butter, cream - causes inflammatory reaction as they increase the inflammatory prostaglandins
- Eggs - advised to leave out eggs unless you get organic as they may contain hormones.
- Fried foods - can stimulate negative prostaglandins
- Saturated fats and oils – Foods that are high in fatty acids stimulate the negative inflammatory prostaglandins. Fatty acids are found in saturated fats, butter, margarine, lard.
- Soy products and soy protein products - Soy is high in omega 6 which causes inflammation - tamari can be used in small amounts. Read more about soy and endometriosis HERE - opens in a new window
- Convenience foods - they contain a host of additives, cheap ingredients and have very little nutritional value
- Canned/tinned foods - use sparingly. Certain exceptions are fine like canned tomatoes, coconut milk etc.
- Additives and preservatives - increase chemical load on the system
- Alcohol - consumes vitamin B which is stored in the liver. Good liver function is vital as the liver will help to eliminate excess estrogen from the body. Alcohol also increase estrogen levels
A note about meat production:
Modern meat rearing now involves administering hormones to animals in the form of ear implants. One of these hormones, zeranol, is a form of estrogen made from mould called fusarium. Antibiotics have also been used as a growth promoter for forty years and we now get a small but insidious dose of antibiotics in nearly every meat and dairy product we eat.
In addition, a large percentage of women are noticeably zinc-deficient and some animals ingest copper-containing formulae which makes this balance even worse because copper is antagonistic to zinc. Copper also keeps estrogen levels high. Interestingly, copper is used in birth control pills as copper helps control the ovulation cycle.
You are strongly advised to go organic and eat white meat or oily fish to obtain your protein. Some women are OK when eating grass-fed beef, but for many red meat can set off symptoms of pain and inflammation
To sum up
- Increase omega-3 fatty acids - especially oily fish
- Avoid red meat (OK for those who have no problems with red meat)
- Avoid dairy products, wheat and sugar
- Increase fibre intake especially with fruit and veggies
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid refined foods, e-numbers, additives
- Minimise or avoid soy products as they contain high levels of phyto-estrogens, and soy contains a particular toxin which seems to be particularly detrimental for women with endometriosis
- Eat organic produce wherever possible
- Drink plenty of filtered water
Recipes for the Endometriosis Diet
As you can see by the advice above, there are many foods you are advised to leave out of your diet completely, especially if you are to reap the benefits. The prospect of adjusting your diet radically may seem somewhat daunting.
There are many great recipes you can use, and the hard work has been done for you......
A book of recipes specifically for a diet to help endometriosis
The advice and recipes in the book are the bottom line, based on ingredients and recipes that are best suited to a diet to help reduce the pain and inflammation of endometriosis.
Read feedback what other women have said about their diet experiences - read the feedback comments here (opens new window)
Over 250 anti-inflammatory, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, wheat free recipes
The advice in the book also includes:
- More in-depth recommendations of what to leave out of your diet and why
- Tips about estrogen and your diet, and how to keep it in balance
- Advice about diet and nutrition for fertility
- Recipes that are gluten free/lactose free as well as wheat free to help deal with issues of coeliac, candida, along with endometriosis
- Details of substitute ingredients as alternatives to milk, and butter, egg substitutes for baking, as well as sugar substitutes
- Shopping list - to help get you started
- Tips how to gradually introduce diet changes
- Snippets of nutritional advice woven among the recipes as you work your way through the book
All customised for a diet to help reduce your symptoms
To place your order
Make a start to reduce the painful and debilitating symptoms of endometriosis - loads of women as well as medical professionals are now realising just how much our foods can change or affect our bodies.
About the Author
My name is Carolyn Levett, the Founder of endo-resolved - I am an Integrative Health Coach having studied nutrition, naturopathy, aromatherapy as well as being a published author. I used to suffer from severe
endometriosis and was able to regained my health and heal from the disease with the support of nutrition and natural therapies.
My motivation is to help other women with endometriosis to heal their bodies so they may overcome this awful disease without having to rely on toxic drugs and surgeries which can cause further damage - with healing thoughts, Carolyn.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15254009 - red meat and endometriosis link
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3626048/ - dairy consumption and endometriosis
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23334113 - endometriosis and gluten link
https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/25/6/1528/2915756 - dietary fat and endometriosis