The Endometriosis Diet
By Lisa Watson
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I believe that health is built on a foundation of a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle. As an expert in women’s health I see this to be true in most women’s health concerns, from uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, premenstrual syndrome to endometriosis.
The purpose of the Endometriosis Diet is multiple:
- Balance the immune system
- Decrease inflammation
- Support hormone regulation
- Improve detoxification
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
- Avoid alcohol
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.
- Avoid caffeine
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.
- Avoid gluten
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.
- Limit eggs
Eggs are a source of arachidonic acid and their consumption should be minimized.
- Limit peanuts
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.
- Vegetarian proteins
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.
- Flax seeds
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
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.
The endometriosis diet can be an important part of regaining your health and decreasing the pain and discomfort of this condition. For a more comprehensive approach, book an appointment with your Naturopathic Doctor today.