Endometriosis Diet: Can a Gut-Friendly Approach Help?

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that can start at a woman’s first period and continue through menopause. The endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, which can cause chronic pain, inflammation, and digestive symptoms. Making dietary changes to support a healthy and happy gut may improve digestive symptoms, but more research is needed.

Key takeaways:

What is endometriosis?

A lining grows inside the uterus every menstrual cycle to prepare a nourishing environment for a fertilized egg. If you do not become pregnant, this lining is shed through your period.

If you have endometriosis, a similar lining called endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus and can grow on surrounding tissues. Your body can not shed this lining through menses, which can accumulate and lead to other complications such as scarring, cysts, and inflammation.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition and can be managed by lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes hormone therapy or surgery. Your doctor will review appropriate treatment options with you.

Symptoms of endometriosis

Symptoms of endometriosis can include:

  • Pelvic pain during sex, periods, or defecation
  • Heavy bleeding during periods
  • Bloating and other digestive symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble conceiving
  • Depression and bouts of low mood

Endometriosis affects approximately 10% of all reproductive-age women and girls worldwide, and the symptoms vary per person. Although endometriosis can make it harder for some women to get pregnant, conceiving and having a healthy baby is still possible. If you have concerns, follow up with your healthcare provider.

5 dietary suggestions to help with endometriosis

Certain foods may decrease the digestive symptoms associated with endometriosis, although more research is needed. Below are five dietary suggestions that may help.

1. Follow a plant-based diet

Decreasing your meat intake and switching to a plant-based diet may improve symptoms associated with endometriosis.

Following a plant-based diet does not mean you must give up meat entirely - but you should have more vegetarian protein sources throughout the week. These include legumes such as kidney beans or lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds.

2. Reduce dietary fat

Fat is an essential macronutrient that provides your body with energy, aids with vitamin absorption, and serves as a building block for cells. However, it is a dense molecule that can be hard for some people to digest.

As well as moderating your fat intake, choose high-quality options as often as possible. These foods are rich in unsaturated fats, which can offer additional heart-health benefits. Examples of these fats include avocados and omega-3-rich foods such as salmon, trout, and plant-based options including chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts.

3. Add fiber-rich foods

A healthy digestive system functions best with a diet rich in fiber. The breakdown of fiber nourishes probiotics in the digestive tract, which are health-promoting bacteria that naturally exist in your gut. Noteworthy high-fiber options include whole-grain cereals, oatmeal, mixed berries, nuts and seeds, avocados, and all legumes.

You can use a supplement if you cannot satisfy your fiber intake through food. Most products are available over the counter and do not require a prescription. Whenever you increase your fiber intake, drink additional water to help move the fiber through the digestive system and reduce the risk of constipation.

Nutrition Tip
Most adult women need an average fiber intake of approximately 25g daily.

4. Include antioxidant-rich foods

Antioxidants are organic compounds that neutralize harmful free radicals and help prevent illness and disease. They are naturally found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, which should be a staple in your gut-friendly diet.

Vitamin C is a type of antioxidant and preliminary studies have shown it can decrease painful symptoms of endometriosis. Foods rich in vitamin C include all citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli and cabbage.

5. Take a vitamin D supplement

Some research suggests a vitamin D supplement can ease the inflammatory process that is linked with endometriosis. This research is preliminary, but maintaining adequate vitamin D levels has several benefits, including healthy immune and digestive systems.

Other tips for a healthy digestive system

If you start to make changes to your diet and lifestyle, you may want to document them in a journal so you can fairly assess your progress. Relying on memory alone can be unreliable, and looking through your data can uncover useful patterns and trends. Be sure to include any changes to your diet and track your symptoms.

In addition to dietary changes, you may want to experiment with stress management techniques because high-stress levels can worsen your digestive health. Classic techniques for lowering stress include regular exercise, meditation, forest bathing, and spending more time outdoors.

Focus on daily changes

Making dietary changes can help lessen the digestive symptoms linked to endometriosis. You don’t have to overhaul your diet overnight, slowly adding more fiber and making gradual changes can help your digestive system adjust.

Adding more beans to your weekly menu and aim for at least three plant-based meals per week. Add more fish and colorful vegetables to your diet, and choose healthier fats as often as possible. If you need additional nutrition support, contact a registered dietitian who specializes in women's reproductive health.

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