Diet Tips for Endometriosis
Endometriosis, affects 10% – 15% of women ages 24-40. The triad of symptoms include dysmenorrhea (pain during menses), dysparenunia (pain with intercourse), and infertility. Endometriosis refers to the growth of endometrial tissue in other areas of a woman’s body besides the uterus. This tissue is usually found in the abdomen – on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the ligaments that support the uterus, between the vagina and rectum, the outside of the uterus or the lining of the pelvic cavity – but also sometimes on the bladder, bowel, vagina, cervix and vulva; and very rarely in the lungs, arms and legs.
The cause of endometriosis is not clear but it has been strongly linked to immune system dysfunction and exposure to dioxins and other toxic chemicals that accumulate in the fat stores of fish, animals, and people.
The fertility diet is recommended as an adjunct treatment for endometriosis in addition to hormonal treatment. The priority is to first minimize PCB and dioxin exposure and consumption in the home, workplace and diet. A thorough detoxification program along with an anti-inflammatory diet is recommended with an emphasis on the following:
- Use high fibre foods which increase transit time in the intestines and promote optimal balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Good whole foods sources of fibre include fruits and vegetables, ground flax seeds, whole/unaltered grains like brown rice and quinoa.
- Avoid meat because it contains large amount of arachidonic acid; this promotes inflammatory prostaglandins, causing inflammation and pain. Animal products also have natural hormones that can aggravate hormonal imbalances (mainly estrogen dominance) seen with endometriosis.
- Increase liver friendly foods such as kale, Brussels sprouts, beet greens, dandelion leaves, broccoli, rapini, cabbage, and lemon juice. Lightly steaming the “brassica” veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage), instead of eating them raw, ensures they won’t have a negative impact on the thyroid gland.
- Avoid trans fats (in processed foods) and palmitic acid (a fat found in red meats, dairy, palm oil and other cheap vegetable oils). The amount of fat in a woman’s diet is not correlated with her risk of endometriosis; but the type of fat is. Trans fats and palmitic acid are associated with more severe symptoms of endometriosis and infertility.
- Incorporate anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric (which protects against environmental carcinogens and decreases inflammation), ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne, cloves, chamomile, and milk thistle seeds. A great tea for inflammation can be made by combining turmeric and other inflammatory spices with non-dairy milk and honey. Find the recipe here.
- Avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Not only do these promote inflammation, they also cause hormonal imbalances, and impact the adrenal glands and energy production systems.
- Strictly avoid gluten containing grains and products. There are immunological concerns in endometriosis that are often exacerbated by the gluten protein (gliadin). Grains that contain gluten include barley, rye, oats (are contaminated with gluten), wheat and spelt.
- Increase your intake of foods that help to detoxify hormones. Ground flax seeds, psyllium fibre, chia seeds and hemp hearts are healthy sources of fiber and fat that assist in the liver’s detoxification of hormones. The “brassica” veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage) contain indol-3-carbinol that is also beneficial.
- Consume wild, fatty, deep water fish at least twice per week. The healthy, anti-inflammatory, omega-3 oils EPA and DHA are found naturally in these fish. A good rule of thumb is to choose fish that is locally caught, not farm raised, and small-to-medium in size. A great resource for the best sustainable seafood choices can be found here.
750mg EPA : 500mg DHA fish oil, twice daily.
The best fish oil supplement is one that uses anchovies and sardines. It is imperative that the company that produces the fish oil has stringent testing methods for heavy metal contamination. Fish oil should always be kept in the fridge.
Systemic enzyme blend. Dose dependent on severity, 2-4 capsules twice daily, taken away from meals.
Natural plant-based enzymes and antioxidants powerfully control inflammation, help to break down adhesions and fibrous tissue, help to support a healthy immune system and promote healthy blood flow.
CoQ10, 100mg three times daily (if high quality)
It has been suggested that fertility concerns in endometriosis may involve issues with egg quality. Choose a high quality, lipid-emulsified Ubiquinone or alternatively Ubiquinol product.
Other supplements are recommended to balance hormones and reduce inflammation. A consultation with an Acubalance practitioner is required for an individual treatment plan.
The Acubalance website is a great resource for information on diet for specific health conditions! Here is a link to the above information on our site under the resources section.
Dr. Kali MacIsaac HBSc, ND