The cause of endometriosis isn’t clear, but it’s believed that inflammation can make the pain that comes along with this condition worse.
So what can be done to ease the symptoms of endometriosis? For instance, does nutrition affect endometriosis? In short, yes, what you eat or don’t eat may have an impact on your endometriosis side effects.
What Is It Like to Have Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common yet painful condition in which tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows in other places within your abdomen and pelvic area. Endometriosis can cause painful and heavy periods, as well as fertility issues.1
You can develop endometriosis in different areas, including the outside and back of your uterus, your fallopian tubes, ovaries, vagina, bladder, intestines, rectum, diaphragm and even in the lining of your abdomen and pelvis.1
This chronic disease can impact your everyday life, causing pain during periods, sexual intercourse, bowel movements and/or urination, along with chronic pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue, and sometimes depression, anxiety, and infertility.2
Endometriosis is common, impacting approximately 10%—or 190 million—of reproductive aged women and girls globally. There is no known cure and the usual goal of treatment is to ease the symptoms.2
Does Nutrition Affect Endometriosis?
It is believed that food can affect endometriosis. That’s because inflammation and high levels of the hormone estrogen can make endometriosis symptoms worse. Your diet can influence both inflammation and hormones, so nutrition can play an important role in helping reduce painful side effects.3
1. Boost your fiber intake to reduce estrogen: Constipation may lead to high levels of estrogen, so a healthy bowel movement every day can help reduce those levels. Aim for 35 grams of fiber each day, eating foods like fruits and vegetables, ground flaxseed, legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas, and whole grains like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.3 As well, fruit contains antioxidants, which reduce free radicals and may reduce inflammation.4
2. Add fish oil capsules in combination with vitamin B12: This has been shown to have a positive effect on endometriosis symptoms, in particular painful periods.4 The healthy omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids in fish like salmon can also be found in seaweed and nuts4 along with seeds like chia and flax and plant oils, such as flaxseed oil and canola oil.3
3. Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol is considered a risk factor for developing estrogen-dependent diseases. There is also a significant correlation between alcohol consumption and the occurrence of some chronic inflammatory diseases and therefore the occurrence of endometriosis.4
4. Reduce consumption of red meat and trans fats: Trans fats are linked with higher levels of inflammation.4
5. Add monounsaturated fatty acids: These occur in olive oil and nuts, for example, and have antioxidant properties and therefore an anti-inflammatory effect.4 Other sources include avocados, peanut butter and safflower oil.3
6. Look for foods with magnesium and zinc: Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer that may help with menstrual cramps. It can be found in dark chocolate, leafy greens like arugula and kale, legumes like black beans and edamame, and nuts and seeds, especially almonds and pumpkin seeds. Zinc helps regulate your menstrual cycles, which is important for hormonal balance. Zinc can be found in poultry, shellfish and red meat—but it’s recommended that red meat should be limited to two low-fat servings per week.3
Ask Your Doctor
If you’re suffering with the painful symptoms of endometriosis, ask your doctor for nutrition advice as part of a treatment plan. Since endometriosis is an inflammatory condition, inflammation makes symptoms worse, so your diet may make a difference. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health to guide you in a nutrition program for endometriosis.