Endometriosis and Diet
My partner has endometriosis. For those unaware of this condition, I’ll break it down for you. Endometriosis is where your endometrial layers do not end in your cervix; the endometrium multiplies and grows. Expanding outwards, the limit of its growth is unknown. It can spread up, over your internal organs and even as far as your brain. Sounds pretty scary, huh?
The severity of endometriosis can vary. Most women who have it may not even be aware of it, and may never be diagnosed, because it hasn't affected their day-to-day life. Those who have higher stages of endometriosis, however, in which it has spread up their body and onto their organs, can find simple things like sitting up to be terribly painful.
Whilst spreading, the endometrium adheres to your organs and your flesh, essentially gluing them together. When you move, these adhesions can rip, causing excruciating pain.
Endometriosis can sap the energy from you. It can leave the strongest of women tired and pained. It can even cause swelling of the abdomen, which can affect the self-image of any woman unfortunate enough to suffer with it.
Luckily, there are quite a few foods that have been associated with slowing or stopping its growth, dealing with swelling and replacing what endometriosis can take away.
I was going to write one of those clichéd numbered lists, “5 things to help with”, but then my partner said something to me that resonated within. Why limit the list? I can edit it, I can lengthen it. I can put as much information in here as possible to help anybody else who is going through what my partner is. This is a work in progress; this condition is still being researched.
I will pass on the fruits of my own research to help my partner, in the hope it can benefit any other woman suffering from this condition.
Consult Your Doctor
Always consult your doctor or medical practitioner when considering supplements, herbs, and/or changes to your diet. There could be negative interactions with medications or conditions you may have.
Omega 3 Fatty Oils
The reason these are good for endometriosis (and menstrual cramps) is that oils from the Omega 3 fatty oils group are high in good prostaglandins. Bad prostaglandins contribute to the pain from cramps caused by endometriosis (and periods), replacing them can relieve these symptoms.
Sources of Good Prostaglandins
- Oily fish (mackerel, anchovies etc.)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Walnut oil
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (Spinach etc.)
Sources of Bad Prostaglandins
- Saturated fats (found in most processed foods)
- Animal fats
Be sure to read the nutrition information of the food you eat, it really can make a difference to the pain you go through in your day to day life. Quality of life is what matters.
There is a lot of confusion regarding estrogen in foods for people with endometriosis, you are told that eating foods high in estrogen can make the symptoms of endometriosis worse and actually help it spread.
Whilst that may be the case with some foods, there are studies that indicate some of the foods that contain estrogen actually have a different form of it, phytoestrogen.
Phytoestrogen behaves differently to regular estrogen; it is easier for you to metabolize than estrogen produced by your body. There is significant research that states that these phytoestrogens block estrogen receptors in your body that would otherwise be taken up by regular estrogen. Essentially; they take estrogens place inside you and leave your system quicker than estrogen would.
Sources of Phytoestrogen
This is just a small list of the foods containing phytoestrogen. There are some foods extremely high in phytoestrogen; these foods would be much less beneficial to your system as the levels of phytoestrogen are too high.
Foods too High in Phytoestrogen
- Soy Beans/Soy products
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
These are just some of the foods high in phytoestrogen, there are plenty more. Raising your awareness of what you put into your body is important in improving your quality of life when you are living with endometriosis. Don't underestimate it's effect.
Phytoestrogen and Prostaglandin
There are several foods that have both Phytoestrogen and Prostaglandin, the problem is that those with healthy levels of Phytoestrogen do not necessarily contain Good Prostaglandin and vice versa.
Make a fortnightly meal plan and make sure you know exactly what you are putting into your system, with a little bit of effort you can allieviate some of your symptoms and improve your comfort levels in day to day life.
These help with the breakdown of Carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the body but what is really interesting is that studies indicate that they can also help to improve the emotional symptoms of endometriosis (and PMT).
The two B Vitamins that contribute to this effect are Vitamins B5 and B6. B5 improves your anti stress hormones by supporting the functions of your adrenal system. B6 however, is a much more dynamic vitamin. Along with B1 and B2, B6 aids the liver in the removal of bad estrogens which you can imagine is a massive boon to anyone suffering from Endometriosis.
B6 is also used in the formation of Serotonin and Progesterone. Serotonin is one of the chemicals linked to happiness and a deficiency can lead to depression. Progesterone is the hormone that helps with regulating estrogen and a lack of progesterone can lead to estrogen dominance; a state that can cause endometriosis to spread and inflames the already painful symptoms.
If B6 wasn’t super enough, it also aids in the reduction of inflammation caused by endometriosis.
Sources of Vitamin B5
- Salmon (also a source of Good Prostaglandin)
- Sun Dried Tomatoes
Sources of Vitamin B6
- Pistachio Nuts
- Dried Prunes
Make sure you source your foods taking into account all the things that can worsen your symptoms. Just because something is high in a vitamin or mineral you need does not necessarily mean it is healthy for your condition.
A lack of Iron can lead to anemia and anemia can lead to tiredness and weakness. With endometriosis you can bleed, a lot. The iron you lose will not replace itself so you need to take the steps to replace it. Supplementing your Iron intake can play a massive role in keeping you happy and healthy by improving your general mood and energy levels. Nobody likes being tired all the time.
Sources of Iron
- White Beans
- Squash Seeds
This one is a big one. Deficiencies in this can lead to pelvic pain, muscle cramps and headaches. Symptoms you may already suffer from due to endometriosis. Calcium levels decrease in women 10-14 days prior to menstruating and you know if you have endometriosis, menstruation can be constant. Milk is an excellent source of Calcium, that's a given. I'm going to share some other sources of Calcium for those with lactose intollerance and other dietary requirements. Keep on top of this one.
Sources of Calcium
- Kale (cooked)
- Sardines (with bones)
- Bok Choy
Zinc can help with healing which is important if you suffer from adhesions. When you rip an adhesion your body needs to repair the damage done and this contributes to your body’s ability to regenerate by helping your cells to reproduce.
Some studies have even shown that Zinc plays a role in our emotional wellbeing, and I don’t think the psychological damage endometriosis can do is highlighted often enough. Keep yourselves happy ladies, surround yourselves with joyful things, it really can help.
Sources of Zinc
- Kidney Beans
- Flax Seeds
- Cashew Nuts
You Can Help
To all the partners of women out there who are researching their hearts out to try to help their wife/girlfriend/family member, I can tell you this: You can make a difference for her. There may be no cure yet, but making her life better is possible. The amount of information available is overwhelming on the internet. Help your partner where you can. Just be understanding, because when we get right down to it, none of us can truly empathize with their pain.
If you have any questions about endometriosis ask them in the comments, I will answer all that I can.
Diet and endometriosis go hand in hand, just make sure you are sourcing your vitamins from foods that do not cause more harm than good with this condition.
- Advances in Women's Health Research and Treatment, ScholarlyEditions eBook, 2011, pp. 8-29.
- Joyce A. Nettleton, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Health, 1995, pp. 1-28, 67-73, 187-204.
- J.K. Ransley, J.K. Donnelly, Food and Nutritional Supplements: Their Role in Health and Disease, 2001, pp. 1-4, 17, 29-30.