Endometriosis has seen an increase in awareness this year with the release of the documentary “Endo What?” and Lena Dunham’s continued crusade to draw much-needed attention to this health issue. I am glad to see endometriosis take the spotlight at last and hope this allows more women to find the care and treatment they need to manage their symptoms.
I’ve looked at the commonly prescribed treatment options for women with endometriosis. I’ve also discussed how best to approach an endometriosis diagnosis with your doctor. Plus, we’ve looked at some of the diet changes you can make – specifically the foods and supplements to add into your daily routine – that can help manage symptoms. In this post I want to look at the food triggers for endometriosis and highlight those foods that you can choose to avoid in order to address the root causes of health issue.
The key to controlling endometriosis via your diet choices lies in the role of estrogen and prostaglandins in the body. The body can produce a variety of prostaglandins – both good ones and bad ones. Prostaglandins are what stimulate your uterine muscles to contract and create discomfort. There are 3 types – PgE1,2, and 3. PgE2 is the one that causes uterine contractions and pain. Then there are two – PgE1 and PgE3 – that counteract the contractions and are antispasmodic i.e. natural pain killers. The goal is to increase the good prostaglandins to offset the effects of the bad prostaglandins. With the right dietary choices, we can increase the good prostaglandins to soothe and calm the body and reduce those contractions. In terms of food choices, this translates to avoiding the foods that increase the bodies PgE2 levels – those painful prostaglandins.
You can also use the right foods to balance hormones and cut down on excess oestrogen in the body. One key to reducing oestrogen is to boost liver function so it can break down and eliminate oestrogen. Endometriosis is foundationally a inflammatory disease with symptoms that are triggered by hormonal imbalance and excess oestrogen. The first key step to symptom management from a functional nutrition standpoint is removing inflammatory foods. Imbalance prostaglandins and oestrogen in the body will end up leading to symptoms like pain.
The 5 worst foods for endometriosis
These are the foods and food-types you should try to remove from your diet to alleviate symptoms of endometriosis
- Dairy – specifically dairy contain A1 casein. Dairy has been shown again and again by research to trigger the symptoms of endometriosis via an inflammatory response. Dairy is bad news for all hormonal health issues, but it’s especially concerning for women suffering with endometriosis. The majority of dairy products contain growth hormones and antibiotics, adding to the toxic load that exacerbates the root causes of this health problem. However, dairy containing A1 casein has been shown to cause higher levels of inflammation than dairy containing A2 casein. For many women A2 casein dairy is not a trigger for symptoms. A2 casein is found in the milk of Jersey cows, goats, and sheep.
- Alcohol – alcohol impairs liver function and increase the amount of excess estrogen circulating in the body. Limiting your alcohol intake can minimise symptoms relatively quickly, according to the research. If you don’t feel you can cut alcohol out altogether, just cut back, choose red wine over all else.
- Gluten – gluten is an inflammatory agent that causes an overall inflammatory response in the body. Gluten is also often laden with pesticides (see the point below). Research shows that 75 percent of endometriosis-sufferers will see improvement after 12 months on a gluten free diet. Replace gluten-based foods with whole grains.
- Pesticide-laden foods – pesticides are bad for us all. Pesticides add synthetic hormones to your body and compromise your liver – leading to oestrogen excess. Going all organic for just two weeks straight has shown to have an immediate positive impact on the body. I recommending trying to eat organic 80% of the time, leaving 20% for those times you don’t have control over where your food has come from and can’t stress about it.
- Red meat – many studies link red meat, inflammation, and endometriosis symptoms, but in one significant study compared 504 healthy women and 504 women with endometriosis, finding that women who ate beef every day were nearly twice as likely to suffer symptoms with endometriosis while those who got seven or more fruit and vegetable servings a week were at least 40 percent less likely. Not only does this study show the importance of cutting back on red meat, but also the importance of what you do choose to eat on your symptoms. Not only is red meat inflammatory, but it often comes loaded with synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, and from animals fed with pesticide-laden crops.
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
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