While there are various medical treatments for endometriosis available, as well as surgical ones, many women have found that changing their diet can help to effectively manage their symptoms. In some cases, dietary changes may be enough to help you live your life symptom free.
Why Change the Diet?
Making changes to your diet when you have endometriosis is not just about easing the signs of endometriosis. Following a healthier diet and eliminating those foods that aggravate your symptoms will not only help to reduce your estrogen levels, but it will also contribute to normalizing your hormone levels and it can even stabilize your emotions.
Similar to the candida diet, which helps people dealing with recurrent vaginal thrush infections, an endometriosis diet aims to eliminate those foods that encourage your symptoms while increasing those foods that lower your prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, which are stimulated by estrogen, are the hormones responsible for those painful cramps you feel during menstruation as well as possibly menorrhagia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea that you may also experience.
Prostaglandins actually break down into three different forms: prostaglandin E1 (PGE1); prostaglandin E2 (PGE2); and prostaglandin F2a (PGF2a). While PGE1 can help alleviate endometriosis symptoms, PGE2 contributes to menorrhagia and PGF2a to vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea. Together, PGE2 and PGF2a produce the immense period pain women with endometriosis must deal with. However, by changing your diet, it is possible to block PGE2 and PGF2a while encouraging the production of PGE1 to help your symptoms.
We all know that diets high in fibre are helpful to digestion and keeping the bowels working. However, fibre may also reduce the levels of estrogen circulating in your system. Some good sources of fibre include:
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Brown Rice
There are many benefits to consuming omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to helping your over physical and mental health, though, omega-3s have also been found to promote the production of PGE1. Some good sources of omega-3s include:
- Flaxseeds and oil
- Pumpkin seeds
- Oily fish (i.e. salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel)
- Sunflower oil
- Evening primrose oil
- Fortified foods
While dairy is an important part of a balanced diet, as dairy is an excellent source of calcium, women with endometriosis may benefit from minimizing their consumption of dairy products. Dairy can contribute to stimulating the production of prostaglandins, thereby worsening your symptoms. If you are planning to eliminate dairy from your diet, it is important to find other sources of calcium in order to meet your daily intake requirement of 1000mg/day. Alternative sources of calcium can include:
- Dark green vegetables (i.e. spinach, broccoli, bok choy and kale)
- Calcium fortified tofu
- Sesame seeds
- Salmon and sardines
- Other food items fortified with calcium, like orange juice
Animal meat, though a good source of protein, is another food source that can aggravate your symptoms. In particular, meat, as well as lard which comes from animal fat, is known to promote PGF2a, so reducing your consumption may be helpful. To ensure you still have adequate protein intake, though, try incorporating some of these protein-rich foods into your diet:
- Nuts (i.e. pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, chestnuts)
- Seeds (i.e. sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flaxseeds)
Other Foods to Avoid
In general, there are a number of foods that women with endometriosis are advised to avoid.
- Caffeine (i.e. coffee, tea)
- Saturated fats
- Butter and margarine
- Drinks and foods with a high sugar content
- Refined carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, bread, cakes, pastries)
- Fried foods
Furthermore, while soy products are often touted as a great alternative to meat, they may not be ideal for those with endometriosis, who are sensitive to estrogen. Some of the isoflavones found in non-fermented soy products have been known to disrupt and interfere with certain tissues, especially in women sensitive to estrogen. Limiting your consumption of soy products that are not fermented to two to three times a week or less is best.
Also, keep in mind that every woman is different. It is very likely that you may have specific foods, like tomatoes or hot drinks, that aggravate your symptoms. Paying attention to how your body reacts to certain foods will help you understand better which foods to eliminate during menstruation.
Finally, in order for women to have healthy diets, it may be necessary to use supplements to make sure you are getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals. If your periods are exceptionally long and/or heavy, you may want to discuss with your doctor using iron supplements to guard against iron deficiency or anemia.
The endometriosis diet should diminish your endometriosis symptoms; and for those looking to lose weight, changing your eating habits to minimize endometriosis symptoms should minimize your waistline as well, since maintaining a healthy balance and cutting out bad-for-you foods is central to both!