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Endometriosis and Your Diet

a blog by Kim Griffiths, March 7, 2013

A review of the literature on a woman's diet and the incidence of endometriosis was published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online in January 2013. The researchers discussed scientific findings over the years that point to a link between diet and onset of the disease that affects ten percent of women world-wide.

Though very few studies exist on the topic, there does seem to be some scientific evidence (and plenty of anecdotal experience from skilled fertility doctors) that diet, particularly one high prostaglandin producing foods, impacts endometriosis. Prostaglandins are chemicals that cause muscles to contract and can also increase inflammation. In general, we know diet impacts ovulation disorders like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and can impact male fertility, so why wouldn’t the same be true of endometriosis?

Dr. Fabio Parazzini and his colleagues found that women with endometriosis seem to consume fewer vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids. They also tended to consume more coffee, trans fats, and more red meat. Consuming a well-balanced, vitamin-rich diet may improve your symptoms and certainly can’t hurt your health overall. Here are a few diet recommendations for women with endometriosis:

  • Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s reduce inflammation in the body which is one of the primary complications of endometriosis. Inflammation is responsible for pain and difficulty trying to conceive. To increase your omega-3 intake, consume oily fish like salmon and herring.

  • Take a Magnesium supplement. Magnesium is found in seeds, whole grains, and vegetables, but we just don’t seem to get enough of it from diet alone. Taking a supplement of 300mg will help relax your muscles and minimize cramping.

  • Limit red meat and dairy. Increase fruit and vegetable consumption. In a prior study, Parazzini found that women who consumed greater amounts of red meat and ham had as much as 80% to 100% greater risk of developing endometriosis. This is presumed to be the case because animal fats contain the “bad” kind of fatty acids which increase inflammation. Women who ate fresh fruit and vegetables regularly, had about 40% lower risk of developing endometriosis.

  • Limit Refined Sugars and Flours. These can contribute to inflammation. Instead, try raw or organic sugar and whole grains.

  • Increase fiber intake. Endometriosis is a tricky disease in that scar tissue can attach to other organs outside of the uterus, including your bowels. Women with endometriosis report intense pain, and elevated hormone levels can make going to the bathroom a really unpleasant experience. By increasing your fiber intake, it will make things a little easier in that department.

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. For any fertility patient, it is recommended that caffeine and alcohol are consumed in moderation. Research out of Harvard University has suggested that women who drink caffeine in excess are twice as likely to develop endometriosis. Other studies have shown that women who drink alcohol also have a greater incidence of endometriosis.

  • Drink more water. Water is good for your health, but has some added benefits for managing endometriosis. Increased water consumption can help flush out toxins, and can help with cramps and bloating.

  • Exercise. Studies have shown that women who engage in frequent exercise have a 75% lower risk of endometriosis. Though the study examined the effects of high-intensity exercise, you should first consult your fertility doctor. Moderate exercise is probably sufficient and definitely better than sitting on the couch.

To learn more about endometriosis, visit the Endometriosis forum on FertileThoughts.com and chat with Kim as KimAtFertilityAuthority.

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