Nutritionist shares food tips to manage endometriosis symptoms
Can certain foods help lessen the pain and other discomforts that women with endometriosis feel?
It’s Endometriosis Awareness Month and nutritionist Laura Southern shares how dietary support can help manage endometriosis symptoms and improve overall health. Nutritional therapy for endometriosis support is multidisciplinary.
There are some key areas of dietary focus:
- Reducing inflammation,
- Supporting nutrient deficiencies
- Ensuring optimal digestion
- Supporting liver detoxification.
1. Reducing inflammation
Endometriosis causes chronic inflammation in the body leading to pain and fatigue so it’s critical to try and reduce this. Studies have shown that inflammation-lowering diets reduce the risk of endometriosis (1) and endometrial pain (2). In order to reduce pro-inflammatory foods it’s important to switch from a high sugar, highly processed diet, to a minimally processed diet which focuses on ‘whole’ foods and natural ingredients.
A Mediterranean style diet with a focus on fresh produce and a mix on mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats has been linked to lower levels of inflammation. Many studies have shown a positive impact on intake of polyunsaturated fats (from nuts, seeds, oily fish) and inflammation. There have also been a couple of studies showing a positive impact on endometriosis- pain reduction by supplementing with omega 3 rich fish oils (3)(4)
Pro-inflammatory foods include high sugar and highly processed foods. There is conflicting evidence on whether animal fats have a negative impact on endometriosis however red meat is pro-inflammatory. It might be worth moving to an unprocessed vegetarian diet for one month to see if there is symptom relief
Any food intolerances such as dairy or gluten will increase inflammation in the body so it is useful to work with a nutritional therapist to see if an elimination diet can help.
2. Nutrient deficiencies
Many women with endometriosis have found to be low in key immune-supporting nutrients such as vitamin D, iron, B12. Deficiencies in these can easily be tested for by your GP and corrected with supplementation and/or diet. Iron and B12 are found in animal proteins and both harder to obtain from a vegan diet so supplementation should be considered then.
Vitamin D is manufactured through the skin via sunlight so those with darker skin, who spend more time indoors and live in Northern hemisphere might struggle to have adequate levels. Again, supplementation at 1000iu daily can be useful.
3. Supporting digestion
Many women with endometriosis will also experience digestive discomfort. It might be bloating, cramps, intermittent stools. Endometriosis is an oestrogen-dominant condition and excess and used oestrogen is excreted via stools.
Constipation can lead to excess oestrogen being recirculated, increasing more toxic forms of oestrogen in the body. It is therefore important to pass regular bowel movements (aiming for 1 -2 solid, well formed stools daily) to ensure excess oestrogen is excreted.
The gut microbiome is also critical to hormonal health, immunity and digestive health and so it is important to support it. Fibre is key here.
Again a diet rich in plant based foods, a wide variety of vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds can be supportive. Hydration is also important. Focusing on drinking water rather than fizzy/sweetened drinks or too much caffeine and minimal alcohol.
4. Liver function
The liver plays a crucial role in hormone metabolism which can be compromised in women with endometriosis. In order to support the liver it’s important to eat a diet containing plenty of green leafy vegetables.
The cruciferous family (broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels) are particularly beneficial as they contain a substance called indole-3-carbinol which studies show supports oestrogen metabolism (5).
It is also important to reduce the burden on the liver by reducing alcohol, recreational drugs, caffeine and high levels of sugar.
For further advise and a personalised nutritional consultation book an appointment with our expert Laura Southern, it may help manage your symptoms.