Diet changes can help reduce the symptoms of endometriosis
Changing your diet to deal with Endometriosis is an excellent foundation to assist you in reducing the symptoms, and will help regenerate your health.
Adjusting what you eat can bring about many positive physical and metabolic changes, as well as improving our health. Many of you may be aware that various illnesses and diseases have responded very positively to changes in diet, and Endometriosis is no exception.
Some of the positive physical changes that take place when we change our diet, will at first not seem reliant on our food intake, but they are. For example, eating the right kinds of foods can:
• sharpen our mental alertness
• help us to stop feeling so sluggish
• give us more energy
• regulate sleep patterns
• regulate bowel movements
• balance blood sugar levels
• regulate metabolism
• regulate body weight
• control hyperactivity – especially in children
We are very much a reflection of what we eat. When someone has a diet loaded in fats, the first place it will show up is in their complexion, with greasy, sallow skin. When we are constipated, an Iridologist (alternative health practitioner specializing in diagnosis using the iris of the eye) will immediately see this in the lack-lustre appearance of the eyes. With a lack of vital nutrients in our system, the body will eventually give you tell-tale signs.
The diet in modern day western society has become depleted of vital nutrients for many reasons. Intensive farming has robbed the soil of vital trace elements which used to be taken up by the crops as they grew, and in turn we consumed them. We rely so much on convenience foods now, which are very low in goodness. Much of our ‘fresh’ produce like fruit and vegetables, is actually gassed and then stored in warehouses for months.
Many of us eat ‘fast food’, which is not very nutritious – the longer that food is left standing in a heated serving cabinet, the less nutritious value it has. People get lazy, they cannot be bothered to shop for valuable ingredients, yet alone cook good wholesome food anymore.
Scientists, health researchers and others have now found that the lower your food intake, with fewer calories and proteins, the longer you will live. We simply do not need the food intake that we have in the West.
What the body needs is a simple, balanced, preferably organic diet, which is prepared using fresh ingredients, and is viewed as our means of sustenance rather than being viewed as ‘something to stop us being hungry’. We do have many problems and issues surrounding food in the West, with anorexia, comfort eating, and many other eating disorders. Food is also used in many social situations, but this is no excuse for not being able to feed yourself with good food when you are at home.
Food is our fuel, it makes us function, grow, replace worn out cells, gives us energy, and feeds the entire body. Food is the secondary requirement to life, with oxygen being the first basic requirement. More important than food is our daily requirement for water. We need lots of it; plain, fresh water. Yet most people only drink a small proportion of what the body really needs.
But going back to food; it provides us with energy. The foods we take in include:
• carbohydrates, which provide the chief source of energy for bodily functions and muscular exertions
• fats, which are the most concentrated form of energy. Three fatty acids, are essential in the diet because the body cannot make them itself.
• proteins, which are the building blocks in food, the construction materials for growth and repair of cells
• fibre, indigestible parts of plants which provides roughage and aids digestion
• vitamins and minerals – the organic substances which the body cannot make, but which
it requires in small amounts to maintain health
Controlled Diet for Endometriosis
Controlling your diet to help you deal with Endometriosis is an excellent starting point. As I have said earlier, we really are a reflection of what we eat, and the body responds very quickly to what is put inside it. Let me emphasize that point thus:
• Look how radically altered we become by too much alcohol – which can happen very quickly
• A Sumo wrestler is not born large – they eat themselves large
• Body builders do build up their bodies with power/weight lifting, but they also use a high
protein diet to back it up
• Drink too much coffee and you have a caffeine rush
• Travel to another area and you may get upset by the change in water consumption
• When we are hungry, many of us suffer that awful drowsy blood sugar drop; eat
something and we can pick up again very quickly
So the body is very sensitive to what is put in it, and sometimes that sensitivity is quick to show up. Unfortunately other sensitivities are not noticed and will creep up on us, which is when we suffer from dietary deficiencies and a lack of trace elements. There are times when our body gives us clues that we have a deficiency and we start to have cravings for certain types of foods.
The role of a controlled diet in Endometriosis management has proved exceedingly beneficial for many women. Some women have even been able to be totally symptom free with changes in diet. The plan of the endo diet is to relieve or prevent some of the disabling symptoms that occur with menstruation, as well as the general pain of endo. The goal is to decrease estrogen levels, stabilize hormones, increase energy, alleviate painful cramps and stabilize emotions.
Some women are achieving great health improvements by following a diet to address Candida yeast infection. By following the Candida diet these women are seeing improvements with their Endometriosis. There is speculation that there are links between Candida and Endometriosis.
A diet for Candida is very similar to a diet regime to help with Endometriosis, which is probably why these women are getting good results from a diet for Candida.
SO WHERE DO WE START!
Let’s start with pain and hormones in relation to diet …………
Endometriosis is an oestrogen-sensitive condition, but the painful menstrual cramping that occurs is predominantly due to prostaglandin synthesis in the body. Prostaglandins are naturally occurring fatty acids, which are derived from dietary sources. The body can produce different types of prostaglandins through a complex series of pathways.
There are the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ of the prostaglandin group. The goal of a controlled diet is to block the ‘bad guys’ for their negative actions on the body, and increase the ‘good guys’ for their opposite and beneficial actions. The action of the bad guys is to increase uterine contractions, and the good guys have a soothing effect. By changing the types of oils that are taken into the diet, the production of the good guys can be stimulated, which helps with uterine relaxation. These oils are composed of omega-3 fatty acids, which lead to positive prostaglandin production. Excellent sources of the omega-3 fatty acid producing oils are:
• evening primrose
• Walnut oil
• flax seeds/oil
It is also important to decrease intake of those fatty acids that will stimulate the bad guys which are found in saturated fats, butter, animal and organ meat, lard.
In addition to decreasing bad fat intake, the diet should also consist of high fiber. Not only does this help with good digestion, but it is also thought that a diet high in fiber can decrease total circulating oestrogen’s. It is recommended to incorporate 25 grams per day of fibre. Good sources are:
• whole grains excluding wheat and rye
• beans, peas and pulses
• brown rice
• vegetable and fruits
The following foods are recommended to modulate oestrogen levels by incorporating one or two servings a
• mustard greens
You will find a brief description of whole grains here and how to incorporate them into your diet
FOODS TO AVOID
• wheat – this includes breads, cakes and pasta products, all based on wheat
• refined and concentrated carbohydrates
• sugar, in whatever form, including honey
• caffeine which is found in tea, coffee, soft drinks
• dairy produce including all milk and cheese
• fried food, margarine and hydrogenated fats
• soy products and soy protein – tamari can be used in small amounts
• tinned and frozen packaged foods as little as possible
• additives and preservatives
Note: Meat, dairy and eggs promote the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
FOODS BENEFICIAL FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
• beans, peas, lentils
• garlic (raw or lightly cooked)
• carrots (contain beta-carotene)
• live yogurt (good for healthy intestinal flora)
• seeds and sprouted seeds
• green tea
Foods containing natural plant sterols can be helpful. They are thought to block the estrogen receptors, so in turn excess estrogen in the body cannot ‘lock-in’ to these receptors. These include:
• peas, beans and pulses
• red and purple berries
• brassicas: cabbage, cauliflower etc
• nuts and seeds
• celery, carrots
VITAMIN AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS
Although the best source of vitamins and minerals is through a well balanced diet, many foods today are depleted in these vital trace elements. Today, most of us need to supplement our diet with some of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function optimally.
The following is a list of supplements that will help women with Endometriosis:
• Magnesium – is a mineral and is believed to ease cramping with menstruation
• Zinc – is essential for enzyme activity, helping cells to reproduce which will help with healing. Zinc
is also reported to boost the immune system and helping to create an emotional sense of well-
• Calcium – levels of calcium in menstruating women decrease 10 to 14 days before the onset of
menstruation. Deficiency may lead to muscle cramps, headache or pelvic pain.
• Iron – women with Endometriosis tend to have very heavy periods which can lead to an iron
deficiency. This can lead to anemia which is characterized by extreme fatigue and weakness.
• B vitamins – these are important for the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in the body. B vitamins are reported to improve the emotional symptoms of Endometriosis, and have
proved helpful in dealing with PMT
• Vitamin C – is well known for helping to boost the immune system and help provide resistance to
disease. It is also used in the body to build and maintain collagen within the body.
• Vitamin A – is another immune system booster
• Vitamin E – plays an important role by increasing oxygen carrying capacities and also strengthens the immune system
• Selenium – when taken together with vitamin E has been reported to decrease inflammation associated with Endometriosis, as well as immune system booster.
OTHER USEFUL SNIPPETS:
• Certain vegetables have substances that activate liver enzymes and help the liver to detoxify chemicals. This allows the liver to eliminate excess estrogen from the body more effectively. These vegetables include: broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts.
• Auto immune diseases are thought to be triggered by free- radicals in the body, which could be an added factor in Endometriosis. Free radicals are destructive molecules and are found naturally in the body but can be made worse by pollution, stress, illness and smoking. There are minerals and vitamins that will help to fight off these free-radicals because of their antioxidant properties, including: vitamins A,C,E, CoQ10, selenium, vitamin B complex, as well as specific supplements being sold specifically as Antioxidants.
• It is very common for women with Endometriosis to suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I used to suffer from it myself, and it took quite a while to define which foods would trigger it off. These triggers can vary from one woman to another. Even simple things like drinking a hot drink when it was too hot would trigger it off in me. You need to really pay attention as to what your own subtle triggers are, as well as which foods will set it off.
TO SUM UP
• increase omega-3 fatty acids
• avoid meat, dairy products, wheat and sugar
• increase fiber
• modulate estrogen
• avoid caffeine and alcohol
• avoid refined foods, e-numbers, additives
• minimize or avoid soy products as they contain high levels of phytoestrogens, and soy
contains a particular toxin which seems to be particularly detrimental for women with
• peel fruit and vegetables to remove toxic chemicals
• eat organic produce wherever possible
• drink lots of filtered or mineral water
For those who seek medical evidence regarding diet – read extracts from this research article which describes how using certain foods can help fight the pain and symptoms of endometriosis
Recipes for the Endometriosis Diet
If you are to change your diet to help deal with Endometriosis then there will be many changes in the foods you can and cannot eat.
As you can see by the advice above, there are many foods you are advised to leave out of your diet completely, especially if you are to reap the benefits.
These main foods are:
meat, wheat and wheat products, sugar, dairy, caffeine, additives and all refined and convenience foods.
Your diet will be based mainly on:
vegetables, pulses, beans, rice, fruit and fresh water
The prospect of adjusting your diet so radically may seem somewhat daunting. You may be wondering and concerned about:
• what on earth you are going to eat – mountains of plain vegetables, piles of fruit, gallons of plain water
• how do you have variety in your diet
• how do you find recipes which are still enjoyable and tasty, but still suitable fo a diet for
• how do you plan meals so that you do not become utterly bored with your diet.
There are so many options, I try to include some inspiring food recipes each day, all are either vegetarian, vegan and sometimes gluten free.
Enjoy exploring new food ideas.