What is the current evidence behind endometriosis and dietary related factors?
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is classified as a condition where uterine tissues (i.e. the lining of the uterus) grow outside of the uterus in other parts of the body. It is an inflammatory condition and can cause a range of symptoms including pain, pelvic pain, period pain, pain during intercourse, pain during ovulation, bloating, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues and infertility. Some women with endometriosis may have no symptoms at all, however its presence can be discovered during other medical investigations.
Endometriosis affects approximately 10% of women in their reproductive years. The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, however it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic, physiologic, immune and/or environmental factors. There is currently no known cure for endometriosis: symptoms are commonly treated via methods such as medication, surgery or hormone therapy.
Endometriosis and Diet
Unfortunately, there is no one specific diet known to cure endometriosis either, however there are a number of strategies we can implement to assist in relieving symptoms.
Eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods
Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition, therefore choosing more anti-inflammatory foods and less pro-inflammatory foods may be beneficial in terms of relieving symptoms. Anti-inflammatory foods include: healthy fats such as oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, antioxidant rich foods such as a variety of fruits and vegetables and high fibre foods to promote good gut bacteria. Pro-inflammatory foods include: foods high in saturated fats, added sugars and salt such as refined and heavily processed food products, take-away, confectionary, etc.
Investigate potential food intolerances if you are getting IBS type symptoms
Many women with endometriosis also suffer from IBS type symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation. If this is the case, it may be worthwhile investigating a low FODMAP diet under the guidance of a Dietitian. While some people believe that the elimination of gluten and/or soy is beneficial in women with endometriosis, this is not backed by any scientific evidence. There is absolutely no need to eliminate certain foods and/or food groups unless a Dietitian has recommended that you do so.
Regularly screen blood iron levels
Women with endometriosis are more likely to experience heavier menstrual cycles, and may be at an increased risk of developing iron deficiency. A regular blood test can help to clarify this. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, pale skin, irregular heart beat and cold hands/feet. If it is low, the GP may recommend commencing a iron supplement and increasing your intake of iron rich foods. This can also be done under the guidance of a Dietitian.
While there is no cure for endometriosis, the above can be used as a guide to help with symptom relief. Ensure you consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian prior to eliminating or restricting any particular foods and/or food groups.
Accredited Practising Dietitian