Endometriosis and Nutrition

May 3, 2022 , ,

Endometriosis is a complex chronic and inflammatory disease that affects 1 in 10 women. It is characterized by the growth of endometrial-like tissues (the lining of the inside of the uterine cavity) outside the uterus. Despite its prevalence, this disease is still not well known, and its diagnosis can take 7-10 years.

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Symptoms and treatments

The symptoms can be very painful and greatly affect the quality of life of affected women. They vary from woman to woman but are not dependent on the stage of endometriosis. They can be chronic, periodic, or even absent in asymptomatic forms.

Here is a list of the symptoms most associated with endometriosis:

  • Pelvic and lumbar pain
  • Dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain)
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Digestive pain (bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, pain in defecation)
  • Urinary disorders
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Metrorrhagia (vaginal bleeding occurring outside of menstruation)
  • Infertility (30-50% of women with endometriosis are at risk of having fertility problems)

Conventional treatments involve pain medications, hormone therapy, and in some cases surgery. More and more women with endometriosis are trying complementary strategies, along with medical follow-ups, for the management of their endometriosis, such as osteopathy, acupuncture, and changing their eating habits. This article will explore some dietary strategies that can help control the symptoms associated with endometriosis.

Food Strategies

The type of fat

Trans fatty acids as well as an imbalance in the omega 6/omega 3 ratio can promote an increase in inflammation. Thus, limiting the consumption of foods that are high in trans fats found in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil products such as french fries, doughnuts, pastry products, and fried commercial foods, is a winning strategy for managing endometriosis. On another note, a review of the literature showed that omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on dysmenorrhea and the duration of the pain. Indeed, foods rich in omega-3, especially those from marine sources such as fatty fish, can reduce the production of prostaglandins, pro-inflammatory substances, and therefore reduce pain related to inflammation. In addition, omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the proliferation of endometriosis lesions. The recommendation is to aim for 2-3 servings of oily fish per week.

Antioxidants

Endometriosis is associated with oxidative stress and an abnormal increase in reactive oxidative forms. Based on this hypothesis, a diet rich in antioxidants helps reduce the inflammation associated with this oxidative stress.

Antioxidants that have demonstrated a positive impact on endometriosis are vitamin C, vitamin E, Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) and resveratrol. Foods rich in vitamin C and E appear to decrease the risk of endometriosis according to a prospective study. Fortunately, these nutrients are widely available in our diet. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, red pepper, kiwi, and broccoli. Vitamin E is mainly found in almonds, vegetable oils, and sunflower seeds. It is important to talk to your doctor before deciding to take any supplement.

EGCG, an antioxidant found in green tea, helps prevent the appearance of new endometriosis lesions according to human and animals studies. Encouraging green tea consumption in quantities of 2 to 3 cups per day is another dietary strategy that may be recommended for the management of endometriosis.

Finally, resveratrol is a phytoestrogen that has anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory actions. It is present in several food sources such as grapes and berries. Resveratrol has a significant anti-inflammatory effect via inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis. According to the results of studies, this antioxidant is a promising agent against endometriosis. However, further studies are needed to establish the appropriate doses in supplement form.

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Author

Céline Saloumi
Celine Saloumi has been a nutritionist-dietitian for more than 15 years, a member of the Ordre des diététistes-nutritionniste du Québec (ODNQ) and holds a master's degree in human nutrition. She has expertise in women's health and fertility issues. In her practice, she mainly helps women who suffer from gynecological problems such as polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal imbalance and endometriosis. Additionally, she works with couples to optimize their fertility with nutrition.

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