A Dietary Guide to Endometriosis
Updated: Feb 13
I’m a huge fan of the Paleo diet and for good reason! Lowered cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, and a healthier gut are just a few of the known benefits of a Paleo diet. But can a Paleo diet also help alleviate symptoms of Endometriosis? Turns out it can!
Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of infertility. It is more common than one might think; affecting over 176 million women worldwide, that is 5-15% of women of child-bearing age and 30-50% of whom suffer from infertility.
What exactly is Endometriosis? Endometriosis is a diagnosed condition in where the lining of the uterus (endometrium) becomes present on other organs/areas of the body, most commonly the pelvis and lower abdomen. Endometrium normally builds in the uterus to prepare for a fertilized egg. Without conception, the endometrium is shed each month as menstruation. Endometriosis produces several symptoms with the most common being pelvic pain that is especially painful during the menstrual cycle. Other symptoms of endometriosis include dysmenorrhea, painful intercourse, painful bowel movements, painful urination, excessive bleeding, spotting between cycles, painful digestion, constipation, nausea, chronic lower back pain &/or abdominal pain, joint pain, nerve pain, chronic fatigue and bloating. That being said, 2 – 50 % of women have no clinical symptoms of endometriosis.
The effects of diet on Endometriosis. Endometriosis does not have a definite cause so it can be difficult to determine exactly the steps towards alleviating the pain. Research has shown that a diet high in Omega-6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory may increase uterine cramps resulting in the painful symptoms. However, a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught fish, chia seeds and algae can reduce inflammation and potentially reduce the resulting pain of endometriosis.
A study done to expose the connection between gluten and endometriosis showed a decrease of pelvic pain in 75% of the 207 patients when gluten (a protein found in many grains) was completely taken out of the diet for 12 months. This study is relevant because the Paleo diet restricts any form of gluten, which is typically found in processed pasta, bread, and crackers. Gluten promotes inflammation in the gut which can inflame the symptoms of endometriosis. Just removing gluten from the diet has been shown beneficial towards women with endometriosis, but the Paleo diet has much more to offer in helping combat these painful symptoms.
Women with endometriosis have been found to have higher levels of estrogen. A study showed that women with high levels of estrogen in the uterus during pregnancy can increase the risk for endometriosis for the baby (considering its a girl). With the understanding that endometriosis may be an estrogen-dependent condition, we can start to look at ways to balance and reduce estrogen levels in the body through our diet. Variables like toxins, chemicals, and processed food are restricted in a Paleo diet. These variables can cause an imbalance of hormones like estrogen in the body. Soy is also a controversial topic but what we know from the study is that soy contains phytoestrogens, which can imitate estrogen in the body thus leading to the possibility of more estrogen imbalance. Not to mention that soy is heavily sprayed with pesticides and is one of the biggest genetically modified crops in the world! This adds a whole other conversation to the equation involving toxins and pesticides which can all further irritate endometriosis symptoms.
So…no gluten, no estrogen influencing food, no food with toxins/chemicals, and no soy? In the market, we live in this can be hard because any one of these already dominates a store shelf. This can seem overwhelming but I believe that taking charge of your health. I love it when we can take charge of changing our lives in the most natural way, our diet! The Paleo diet can be your first step in living a cleaner life and aiding serious conditions like endometriosis.
Your Endometriosis Diet
Fill up on nutrient-dense organic vegetables & fruits: Beets, Bell peppers, Blueberries, Bok choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Garlic, Ginger, Kale, Leafy Green Vegetables, Onion, Pineapple, Spinach, Turmeric, Zucchini. They are rich in antioxidants, B vitamins and calcium which may decrease the risk of endometriosis.
Consume quality raw nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts. They are rich in magnesium to help soothe the uterus.
Replenish with Iron-rich foods: liver, beef, spinach, egg yolk, prunes, artichokes, collard greens. These foods help restore iron that is lost from the body because of bleeding.
Get some Vitamin D! 30-minutes of sunshine a day is recommended. However, in Canada, we typically don’t get enough vitamin D because we’re so far north. The recommended dosage for optimal health is 35 IU per pound of body weight. Vitamin D is necessary for proper hormone production.
Eat your Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Wild-caught fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds. Wild-caught fish is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids which combat inflammation in the body.
Avoid gluten. Gluten is an inflammatory protein found in grains. Removing it from your diet may do wonders for your health.
Avoid soy products. Soy mimics estrogen in the body and may lead to hormonal imbalances seen in those suffering from endometriosis.
Avoid refined sugar, alcohol & caffeine. They are all known to increase inflammation.
Barrett, J.R. The science of soy: what do we really know? Environ. Health Perspect. 2006; 114(6): A352-A358.
Jurkiewicz-Przondziono, J., et.al. Influence of diet on the risk of developing endometriosis. Ginekol. Pol. 2017; 88(2): 96-102.
Kegel: Magdalena. High estrogen levels in uterus may lead to endometriosis, study says. 2017. https://endometriosisnews.com/2017/01/25/high-estrogen-levels-during-fetal-development-may-lead-to-endometriosis/
Marziali, M., et al. Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of painful endometriosis related symptoms. Minerva Chir. 2012; 67(6): 499-504.
Osborne. Gluten and endometriosis – is there a connection? https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/gluten-and-endometriosis-is-there-a-connection/
Parazzini, F., et al. Diet and endometriosis risk: a literature review. Reprod. Biomed. Online. 2013; 26(4): 323-336.