For many women, endometriosis (or endo for short) is a painful and intense condition which flares each and every month during menstruation. Endo occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, this tissue builds up the lining of the uterus and is shed. For those with endo, this is especially painful as it happens outside of the uterus as well, causing inflammation and sometimes scarring.
Increased pain during your cycle, penetrative sex, urination and bowel movements are signs and symptoms of endometriosis. Also included in the list of symptoms are pelvic pain, heavy periods, bloating, fatigue, lower back pain and severe cramping.
While there is no known cure for endometriosis, it is commonly treated with hormone therapy, other medication and surgery. If untreated, endo can lead to problems with fertility.
Foods to help endometriosis
While no specific diet has been studied or found to prevent or treat endo, some smaller studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggests that certain foods can help. As endo is a condition of inflammation, it’s possible that following a low-inflammation diet could be valuable. Another option is a diet designed to help balance hormones to diminish symptoms.
There are some especially inflaming foods to avoid eating a lot of, including:
- Refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, pastries and baked goods)
- Soft drink and other sugary beverages
- Deep fried foods (takeout, hot chips)
- Margarine and other processed spreads
- Red and processed meat (steaks, burgers, sausages, salami)
Find out more about foods which counteract inflammation in the body in this blog post.
Help balance your hormones by supporting healthy liver function. A healthy liver needs plenty of B vitamins to correctly deal with estriol (the estrogen form which can be bound to dietary fibre and passed through the body). This also means your diet needs to be plentiful in fibre, try adding lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
Read more about how you can balance your hormones in this blog post.
Boosting iron levels
One of the common symptoms of endometriosis is heavy bleeding during the period so ensuring you’re eating plenty of iron-rich foods is imperative.
There are two types of iron in what we eat. Meat, poultry and seafood contain both heme iron and non-heme iron. You’ll find non-heme iron in plant-based sources as well as animal products like dairy and eggs.
The body absorbs heme iron more easily than non-heme iron. However, if you are plant-based, there are some things you can do to increase absorption of non-heme iron. Try pairing sources of nonheme iron with foods containing vitamin C like oranges, grapefruit, broccoli and red capsicum.