Endometriosis is a serious condition that effects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK and 10% of women globally. It’s where the cells that are normally found inside the uterus grow outside, causing chronic inflammation and pain. I talk about the condition and its often-tricky diagnosis in detail in my first article in this series.
This post however, is about how you can help to manage endometriosis through diet, as certain foods have been proven to influence the progression and reduce pain levels associated with the condition.
Foods that may negatively affect endometriosis
While further research is needed, the following factors are thought to aggravate the condition.
- Gluten – One study involving 207 women with endometriosis showed 75% of them had a decrease in pain after eliminating gluten from their diet.
- High-FODMAP foods – Another study showed that symptoms of endometriosis significantly improve when a low-FODMAP diet is followed. FODMAP stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, saccharides, and polyols – classified groups of carbs that are recognised for triggering bloating, gas and stomach pain. Examples of high FODMAP foods include onions, garlic, prunes, bread, and processed meat.
- A diet high in trans fat – Research has found that there are higher percentages of women with endometriosis who consume more trans fat, which is found predominately in fried and processed foods.
- Red meat consumption – It has also been said that high intake of red meat can increase the risk of endometriosis development.
Foods that promote inflammation in the body, such as alcohol, caffeine, and saturated fats, can also lead to further pain and/or progression of the disorder.
For broadcast journalist Sophia Franklin, who recently shared her shocking endometriosis journey with Anna Vitality, adapting her diet was a crucial step in controlling her symptoms.
“I’ve definitely adapted my diet in some ways, such as avoiding foods high in gluten as well as eating a lot less red meat and more fish,” she said – adding that generally, foods with a better nutritional value result in less cramps and bloating.
Foods that may positively affect endometriosis
To fight off the painful symptoms caused by endometriosis, medical professionals say it’s best to consume a nutrient-dense diet that’s full of vitamins and minerals.
Fibrous foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and iron-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, beans, and fortified grains, are all thought to help pacify the condition by lowering oestrogen levels.
It’s also been proven that foods rich in omega-3, such as oily fish, nuts and seeds, serve as the building blocks for inflammation and pain-relieving molecules, thus reducing swelling and irritation.
Antioxidant-rich foods found in colourful fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, berries, spinach, and beetroot, may also help combat inflammation as they can reduce levels of oxidative stress in the body.
Some supplements that may help:
In addition to eating a healthy diet, certain supplements may also help manage the condition.
Curcumin, the anti-inflammatory part of the well-known spice turmeric, may help control endometriosis-linked symptoms as it inhibits the growth of endometrial cells by reducing oestradiol production.
Additionally, zinc and vitamins A, C, and E are thought to decrease oxidative stress markers and enhanced antioxidant markers, while vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium may decrease the overall development rate of the condition.
I hope that this article has provided some insight as to which foods may benefit or worsen symptoms of endometriosis.
However, with such a complicated condition, it’s important not to adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’. Every woman is different, so please do talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine the best plan of action to help manage your condition.