Diet is fundamental in the improvement and/or reversal of many dis-eases. Those suffering from endometriosis can improve their symptom picture through the use of nutrition. Research illustrates a connection between the risk of endometriosis and the food we intake. You have the power to take an active role in the management of your condition by choosing what you put at the end of your fork.
As discussed in my previous blog, "Endometriosis", immune and hormonal factors play a role in the pathophysiology of endometriosis. The immune system helps to rid the body of excess estrogen, as well as, control the prostaglandins that lead to inflammation and pain. Hormones are also integral in the pathophysiology of endometriosis. Estrogen is the main driver in the condition, and many woman are estrogen dominant. Choosing to eat a diet that addresses the multifaceted causes of endometriosis can help to balance hormones, decrease pain levels, and hault the dis-ease progression.
Foods to Avoid
Dairy (Specifically A1 Casein)
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 90 percent of human dioxin exposure is due to food, primarily meat and dairy products. Dioxin is a known endocrine disruptor, contributing to an imbalance of hormones within the body. Research has also shown that dairy triggers endometriosis through increasing inflammation. A1 Casein specifically has been found to cause high levels of inflammation within the body (3).
Diets high in animal protein, especially egg yolks, poultry, and red meat, contain a large amount of arachidonic acid, a type of Omega 6 fatty acid. Arachadonic acid promotes inflammatory prostaglandins (PE2) leading to inflammation, smooth muscle contraction, vascular constriction, and pain (1).
Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created by a process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. The major dietary source of trans fats is found in processed foods known as “partially hydrogenated oils." Research has found that women with the highest consumption of trans fats had 1.44 times the risk of endometriosis diagnosis compared to those who had the lowest consumption (5).
Endometriosis is correlated with caffeine consumption. In a research study, it was found that women who consumed 5,000 to 7,000 mg of caffeine per month had a 1.2 times greater incidence of endometriosis, while those who consumed over 7,000 mg per month had a 1.6 times increase (1).
Alcohol consumption depletes stores of B vitamins in the liver and also has estrogenic effects on the body (1). Furthermore, alcohol impairs liver function, decreasing the liver's ability to rid the body of excess estrogen.
Gluten is a protein found in grains. Gluten can increase inflammation within the body and cause intestinal distress. Research found that after 12 months of a gluten free diet about 75% of endometriosis suffers experienced an improvement in symptoms (4).
Foods to Enjoy
Hormone balancing foods
Detoxifying Foods The liver and intestines play a vital role in removing excess estrogen from within the body. Liver-friendly foods to increase in your diet are carrots, kale, dandelion greens, and cabbage, due to their ability to help in phase II of the liver’s detoxification pathway. Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, eliminate toxins and harmful forms of estrogen that can lead to cancer (6)
Fiber Rich Foods As our liver filters blood, it removes excess estrogen by sending it into the small intestine. Estrogen binds with the fiber that is passing through our digestive tract and is eliminated with other wastes. Eating a whole food, plant based diet (WFPB) full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains will greatly increase your fiber intake and decrease high estrogen levels.
Phytoestrogens Phytoestrogens, or dietary estrogens, are compounds that are naturally found in plants. The most notable phytoestrogen is isoflavones. Research shows that women who consume higher intakes of isoflavones had a lower incidence of advanced endometriosis (2). Phytoestrogens are present in soybeans, oats, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds.
Anti-inflammatory foods Omega 3 fatty acids decrease inflammation within the body. In an animal study, fish oils were found to decrease prostaglandin production and inhibit the growth of endometrial implants (1). Anti-inflammatory foods you should increase are walnuts, chia seeds, seaweed, flaxseeds, and soybeans. If consuming animal products, wild caught salmon and mackerel are good options.
Immune Supportive foods The immune system recognizes and eliminates cells that are in the wrong place, including cells forming endometrial lesions (7). Eating foods that support a healthy immune response can help decrease the progression of endometriosis. Some immune supportive foods include fucus (a seaweed) which helps stimulate T cell production and absorbs toxins. Onions, and garlic enhance the immune system, induce enzymes that detoxify the liver, protect against oxidation, and block the inflammatory response (1).
In summary, eating a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables, and low in red meat, poultry and dairy, is ideal in the treatment of endometriosis. As with anything, treating a condition in the early stages will lead to a greater chance of a favorable outcome. However, anyone suffering from endometriosis can benefit from a dietary approach.