Endometriosis affects one in ten women during their reproductive years.
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue similar to that which forms the lining of the uterus continues to grow outside of the uterine cavity. This tissue is referred to as the endometrium and in the case of endometriosis, it continues to grow on the ovaries, the lining of the pelvis, and even the intestines. When endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, it is referred to as an endometrial implant.
These endometrial implants are still affected by the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle, causing these areas to become inflamed and painful. Due to the inflammation, the tissue of the implants will thicken and break down. Once the tissue is broken down, it is trapped in the pelvis region which can cause a variety of problems including: adhesions (that bind organs together), severe internal scarring and irritation, fertility complications, and severe period pain.
Because endometriosis is a complicated condition that can significantly impact your quality of life, it is important to know which foods can potentially alleviate symptoms as well as foods to avoid that may worsen symptoms:
Foods to Eat
Foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are critical components of an endometriosis patient’s diet. This is because a diet high in fiber can lower estrogen levels (high levels of estrogen can worsen symptoms of this condition). Additionally, fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants that help combat inflammation, which can worsen endometriosis pain.
Foods high in iron such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, beans, fortified grains, nuts, and seeds can help prevent an iron deficiency, which is often associated with this condition.
In fact, women who have been recently diagnosed with endometriosis tend to experience an iron deficiency due to internal bleeding and therefore blood loss in the abdominal and pelvic area. In this case, it is likely for the patient to be treated with iron supplementation in order to increase the levels of iron and hemoglobin in the body in order to help alleviate symptoms.
Foods Rich in Fatty Acids
Foods that contain essential fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, herring, trout, walnuts, chia, and flax seeds are a great addition to an endometriosis patient’s diet.
Essential fatty acids have been linked to reduced endometriosis pain and inflammation. Studies suggest this is because omega-3 and omega-6 positively affect the synthesis of a lipid compound, prostaglandins, which triggers pain relief in the pelvic area.
Antioxidants are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, berries, dark chocolate, spinach, and beets.
Antioxidants not only help prevent damage to the body’s cells from oxidative stress but also effectively combat inflammation. Inflammation is known to worsen the symptoms and pain experienced by endometriosis patients. Thus, combatting this aspect of the condition is crucial to the patient’s relief and quality of life.
Foods to Avoid
Research shows that there is a link between a diet high in trans fats and endometriosis. Dr. Stacey Missmer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston stated, “We know that trans fats increase the body’s level of many inflammatory markers and these are inflammatory factors that have been shown to be associated with the establishment of endometriosis and progression.” Thus, it is crucial to avoid food high in trans fats such as fried, processed, and fast foods.
Foods containing gluten can possibly worsen the symptoms of endometriosis, particularly the pain experienced by patients. In a study of 207 women with endometriosis, 75% experienced a decrease in pain after eliminating gluten from their diet. This is likely due to gluten’s inflammatory properties.
Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can both influence hormone regulation, particularly estrogen balance. Thus, these substances can negatively disrupt the endocrine system as well as promote inflammation, both of which can lead to further pain or progression of the disorder.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition with no cure but effective treatment can drastically improve the quality of your daily life, help manage fertility issues, and minimize your symptoms.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our doctors are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to properly diagnose and treat endometriosis, optimize your health, and improve your quality of life. If you think you are suffering from endometriosis but aren’t getting the help you need, contact us to see how we can help you!