It’s a disease involving the reproductive system in which endometrium-like tissue grows outside the uterus in areas like the ovaries, abdomen and bowel. Normally, endometrial tissue is only found inside the uterus (1).
Symptoms include painful periods and heavy bleeding, pain during intercourse, painful bowel movements and infertility.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown, and there is currently no cure.
However, certain foods may increase or decrease the risk of endometriosis, and some women find that making dietary changes can help reduce symptoms.
Here are 8 diet changes that may aid in managing endometriosis.
1. Increase Your Intake of Omega-3 Fats
Certain types of fats, such as plant oils containing omega-6 fats, may promote pain and inflammation. However, omega-3 fats are believed to have the opposite effect, acting as the building blocks of your body’s inflammation- and pain-relieving molecules (3).
Given that endometriosis is often associated with increased pain and inflammation, having a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in the diet may be especially beneficial for women with this disease (1).
What’s more, a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats has been shown to inhibit the survival of endometrial cells in test-tube studies. Preliminary evidence suggests that omega-3 fats might help discourage the implantation of endometrial cells in the first place (1, 4, 5, 6).
Furthermore, one observational study found that women who consumed the highest amounts of omega-3 fats were 22% less likely to have endometriosis, compared to women who consumed the lowest amounts (4, 7).
However, the evidence is inconclusive. Other observational studies have found no association between fat intake and the risk of endometriosis (4).
Nevertheless, whether you eat more fatty fish or take omega-3 supplements, increasing your intake of these fats is one of the simplest dietary changes you can make to fight endometriosis-associated pain and inflammation.
SUMMARY:Omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties, and they have been shown to help decrease period pain. What’s more, a high omega-3 fat intake has been associated with a reduced risk of endometriosis.
2. Avoid Trans Fats
In recent years, trans fats have become infamous for being unhealthy.
Research has found that trans fats increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol, thus increasing the risk of heart disease and death (9).
Trans fats are created when liquid unsaturated fats are blasted with hydrogen until they become solid. Manufacturers typically create trans fats to give their products a longer shelf life and more spreadable texture.
This makes them perfect for use in a variety of fried and processed items, such as crackers, donuts, fries and pastries.
However, beginning in 2018 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will ban trans fats in all food products due to the danger they pose to health. Until then, it’s prudent to avoid products containing trans fats.
In particular, women with endometriosis should avoid them. One observational study found that women who ate the highest amounts of trans fats had a 48% increased risk of endometriosis (7).
One study is by no means conclusive, but avoiding trans fats is a good recommendation regardless.
You can tell if a product has trans fats by reading the label. Anything containing partially hydrogenated fats contains trans fats too.
SUMMARY:Trans fats, which are found in some processed foods, increase the risk of heart disease. Some evidence has also shown that they may increase the risk of endometriosis.
3. Cut Down on Red Meat
Red meat, especially processed red meat, has been linked to a higher risk of certain diseases. In fact, replacing red meat with another protein source may improve inflammation, which is often associated with endometriosis (10, 11).
Additionally, one observational study found that women who ate more meat and ham had an increased risk of endometriosis, compared to those who ate little meat or ham (4).
However, two other studies failed to find the same result (4).
Since endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, higher levels of estrogen in the blood may increase the risk of the condition (14).
There is currently not enough research about red meat and endometriosis to make a solid recommendation.
Even though current evidence is conflicting, some women may benefit from reducing their red meat intake.
SUMMARY:Red meat has been associated with a higher risk of endometriosis in some studies. It may also lead to increased estrogen levels.
4. Eat Plenty of Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grains
Filling your plate with a combination of these foods ensures that your diet is packed with essential nutrients and minimizes your intake of empty calories.
These foods and their benefits may be especially important for those with endometriosis.
Dietary fiber is believed to help the body excrete hormones from the body, and studies have associated a high fiber intake with lower blood levels of sex hormones, including estrogen (15).
This means eating a high-fiber diet may be an excellent strategy for women with endometriosis.
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best sources of dietary fiber. These foods also provide antioxidants, which may also help combat inflammation.
Another study found that taking antioxidant supplements significantly decreased endometriosis-related pain (18).
One study directly investigated the relationship between endometriosis and eating fruits and green vegetables. It found that a higher intake of these foods was associated with a lower risk of the condition (19).
However, findings have not been consistent. Another study found that high fruit intake was associated with an increased risk of endometriosis (20).
One possible explanation is that eating more fruit often comes with increased pesticide consumption. Certain types of pesticides may have estrogen-like effects, which could, in turn, affect endometriosis (4, 20).
Without more research, it’s not possible to say for sure how fruit and vegetable intakes affect endometriosis. Yet, current evidence suggests that following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains may be a good strategy.
SUMMARY:Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are packed with dietary fiber, which may help decrease estrogen concentration in the body. They also provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which may help fight pain and oxidative stress.
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