If you suffer from endometriosis, know that you aren’t alone. This common disorder affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age and often shows up in their 30s or 40s. In the United States, over 6.5 million women suffer from endometriosis, while 176 million women around the world have been diagnosed. While the condition was first discovered over 100 years ago, the causes aren’t fully understood.
However, like many chronic diseases, diet is a major part of endometriosis management. Anyone with endometriosis will be the first to tell you that it’s one painful disorder! So, treatment is a must to live a regular life. Conventional treatment includes pain medicine, hormones, and surgery, but eating the right food may limit the need for medication.1 2 3
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis develops when the endometrium, or the tissue that lines the uterus, grows outside the uterus. High levels of estrogen seem to exacerbate the disease.4 This can cause debilitating symptoms like severe menstrual cramps, abnormal or heavy periods, and painful sex.5 To makes things worse, infertility develops in 30–50% of the diagnosed women.6 Needless say to say, endometriosis can be really stressful.
The risk is highest in women who have a first-degree relative – a mother, sister, or daughter – with endometriosis. It’s also more common in those who give birth after 30, have an abnormal uterus, or are white.7 There’s also no cure, and current treatments aren’t recommended for long-term management. Pain medicine and hormonal drugs don’t have the best side effects!8 That’s where the food comes in.
Dieting Tips For Endometriosis
1. Eat Omega-3 Fats
Endometriosis is heavily defined by pain and inflammation. In this case, what you need is an anti-inflammatory food, like omega-3 fats. A 2013 review found that these fatty acids can ease the painful periods that come with endometriosis.9 They work by controlling the way endometriosis progresses, especially in the early stages.10 It’s a solid reason to enjoy fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Not a fan of seafood? Take fish oil supplements instead.
2. Choose Fruits, Vegetables, And Whole Grains
Everyone should eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but for a woman with endometriosis, it’s even more important. The high fiber content of these foods may lower estrogen levels. For the high levels seen in endometriosis, this could lend a hand.11 Fruits, veggies, and whole grains will also nourish the body, a must for any kind of disease management.
3. Limit Or Avoid Red Meat
Go easy on the red meat if you have endometriosis. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a high intake is associated with inflammation.12 It’ll only worsen your symptoms. Eat fatty fish instead or lean protein sources like skinless poultry, beans, and quinoa.
4. Skip Processed Foods
Processed foods like frozen meals and boxed snacks aren’t the best for endometriosis. These foods are high in refined sugar, salt, and have more omega-6 than omega-3. It’s the ideal recipe for inflammation, according to the Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology.13 So, reach for whole foods whenever possible. If you love sweet or salty snacks, consider finding recipes for healthy versions. For instance, roasted chickpeas with spices make for a crunchy and nutritious snack.
5. Avoid Trans Fats
In 2010, a study published in Human Reproduction found that high trans fat intake increases the risk for endometriosis by 48%.14 It’s certainly worth avoiding if you already have the disorder! Trans fat also reduces “good” cholesterol, increases “bad” cholesterol, and raises the risk for heart disease and death. Steer clear from foods like margarine, cookies, frozen pies, frozen pizza, and savory snacks.15 Again, eat whole food whenever possible.
With a little control over your food habits, get the painful endometriosis under control. Eat right and live well.
|↑1, ↑3, ↑6, ↑8||Rogers, Peter AW, Thomas M. D’Hooghe, Asgerally Fazleabas, Caroline E. Gargett, Linda C. Giudice, Grant W. Montgomery, Luk Rombauts, Lois A. Salamonsen, and Krina T. Zondervan. “Priorities for endometriosis research: recommendations from an international consensus workshop.” Reproductive Sciences 16, no. 4 (2009): 335-346.|
|↑2, ↑4||Endometriosis. WomensHealth.gov, Office on Women’s Health.|
|↑5, ↑7||Endometriosis. John Hopkins University.|
|↑9||Hansen, S. O., and Ulla Breth Knudsen. “Endometriosis, dysmenorrhoea and diet.” European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 169, no. 2 (2013): 162-171.|
|↑10||Attaman, Jill A., Aleksandar K. Stanic, Minji Kim, Maureen P. Lynch, Bo R. Rueda, and Aaron K. Styer. “The Anti‐Inflammatory Impact of Omega‐3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids During the Establishment of Endometriosis‐Like Lesions.” American Journal of Reproductive Immunology 72, no. 4 (2014): 392-402.|
|↑11||Gaskins, Audrey J., Sunni L. Mumford, Cuilin Zhang, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Kathleen M. Hovey, Brian W. Whitcomb, Penelope P. Howards, Neil J. Perkins, Edwina Yeung, and Enrique F. Schisterman. “Effect of daily fiber intake on reproductive function: the BioCycle Study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 90, no. 4 (2009): 1061-1069.|
|↑12||Ley, Sylvia H., Qi Sun, Walter C. Willett, A. Heather Eliassen, Kana Wu, An Pan, Fran Grodstein, and Frank B. Hu. “Associations between red meat intake and biomarkers of inflammation and glucose metabolism in women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2014): ajcn-075663.|
|↑13||Ilich, Jasminka Z., Owen J. Kelly, Youjin Kim, and Maria T. Spicer. “Low-grade chronic inflammation perpetuated by modern diet as a promoter of obesity and osteoporosis.” Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology 65, no. 2 (2014): 139-148.|
|↑14||Missmer, Stacey A., Jorge E. Chavarro, Susan Malspeis, Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, Mark D. Hornstein, Donna Spiegelman, Robert L. Barbieri, Walter C. Willett, and Susan E. Hankinson. “A prospective study of dietary fat consumption and endometriosis risk.” Human Reproduction 25, no. 6 (2010): 1528-1535.|
|↑15||Trans Fat: The Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|