Niels H. Lauersen, MD says in his seminal book Getting Pregnant that endometriosis is “one of the most devastating, if not frustrating, of all gynecological ills”. 1 in 10 women suffer from the pains and frustrations of endometriosis, and there is no cure.
Despite this lack of cure, there is a lot that can be done to decrease the painful symptoms of endometriosis, prevent worsening of the endometrial growths, and support future fertility.
The first step in managing your endometriosis is to follow the Endometriosis Diet.
The Endometriosis Diet
The purpose of the Endometriosis Diet is multiple:
You can start the Endometriosis Diet soon after diagnosis, or at any time. This diet can help control the growth of endometriosis that has already appeared, decrease pain and other symptoms and in some cases prevent endometriosis from occurring at all.
Endometriosis Diet: Foods to Avoid
Alcohol depletes B vitamins that are necessary for hormone detoxification. It also has estrogen-like effects on the body and can worsen endometriosis symptoms.
Avoid refined sugar
Sugar is another culprit that can increase estrogen levels. It is also known to negatively impact immune function. Fruit is fine, but avoid all sources of refined sugars.
Women consuming two cups of coffee per day have twice the risk of developing endometriosis.
Avoid red meat, especially grain-fed
Red meat is a rich source of arachidonic acid – which promotes production of inflammatory prostaglandins and increases inflammation and pain. Additionally, cattle and pigs fed grains treated with pesticides tend to concentrate these hormone-disrupting chemicals in their fat and muscle tissues. Consumption of these meats is a leading source of human exposure to organochlorines.
Avoid dairy products
Dairy products are another potential source of hormone-disrupting chemicals, like the organochlorines. Organochlorines also impact the function of the immune system, weakening natural killer (NK) cell activity. Additionally, high fat dairy products may promote estrogen dominance, accelerating the growth of endometriosis.
A 2012 study started 200 women with endometriosis on a gluten-free diet. 75% of the women reported an improvement in pain and none reported an increase in pain. All patients reported improved vitality and general health as well.
Avoid refined and hydrogenated oils
Refined and hydrogenated vegetable oils contain omega 6 fatty acids that compete for absorption with anti-inflammatory omega 3s. Avoid canola, safflower, sunflower and so-called “vegetable” oils.
Eggs are a source of arachidonic acid and their consumption should be minimized.
Another rich source of arachidonic acid. Healthier nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts and cashews.
10. Avoid food sensitivities
Food sensitivities can contribute to inflammation, intestinal permeability and immune system disturbances. Food sensitivities are very individual – blood testing is generally recommended to identify what foods may causing negative effects in your body.
Endometriosis Diet: Foods to Enjoy
Organic fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide fiber that support healthy digestive function as well as nutrients to support immune function, detoxification and decrease inflammation. Women who consume two servings of fruit per day have a 20% decreased risk of endometriosis. Selecting organic fruits and vegetables will minimize intake of pesticides that disrupt hormone function.
Women who eat a vegetarian diet excrete 2-3 times more estrogen in their feces and have half as much estrogen in their blood as meat-eaters. Focusing on eating soy, almonds and other nuts and nut butters, beans, lentils and legumes.
Fish, especially cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel, are a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Two servings per week is the ideal recommendation – more than this can result in undesirable exposure to PCBs and other environmental contaminants.
Another rich source of omega 3s, ground flax seeds also contain lignans that provide an ideal source of fiber to support digestion and healthy bacteria balance.
Cabbage family vegetables
The Brassica (cabbage) family of vegetables support detoxification and encourage a healthy estrogen balance by favouring production of the less active form of estrogen. Consume broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kohl rabi and cauliflower regularly to reap these benefits.
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables provide key minerals for detoxification and support liver function. Frequent consumption of leafy greens (two servings per day) has been shown to significantly decrease the incidence of endometriosis.
Onions, garlic and leeks
These vegetables contain organosulfur compounds that enhance immune function and induce enzymes that detoxify the liver. They are also rich sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that stimulates the immune system and decreases inflammation.
High fiber foods
High fiber foods are incredibly important for endometriosis because they support the optimal balance of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract. Friendly bacteria support the elimination of estrogen in the feces. Focus on fiber in the form of vegetables, fruits and whole grains such as barley, quinoa, millet, brown and wild rice.
Fermented foods support estrogen balance by providing a food source of friendly bacteria. Olives, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and kombucha are excellent, delicious options.
Spices such as ginger and turmeric are powerful anti-inflammatories and also support liver detoxification. Use them liberally throughout the day.
Far More Than Food
Following the Endometriosis Diet is going to improve more than just your endometriosis symptoms. It will likely improve your overall health and vitality as well. This is a healthy, whole-foods based diet that can help you feel great, inside and out.
Diet isn’t the only important aspect of endometriosis treatment. Other articles on this website cover Understanding Endometriosis, Acupuncture for Endometriosis, Endometriosis and the Immune System, Endometriosis and Infertility, Endometriosis in Adolescence and Naturopathic Treatment of Endometriosis. Read on, and if you’re ready to take a well-rounded, holistic approach to your endometriosis, feel free to book an initial consultation to get started.
Hudson, Tori. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.
Lauersen, Niels H and Bouchez, Collette. Getting Pregnant. New York: Fireside, 2000.
Lewis, Randine. The Infertility Cure. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2004.
Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of endometriosis related symptoms? Minerva Chir. 2012 Dec:67(6):499-504.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.