Being sidelined by pelvic pain, periods that laugh at super-extra-long pads, and unmentionable tummy upset is no fun. Unfortunately, if you have endometriosis you know this all too well.
Some folks will tell you we don't know the exact cause of endometriosis. I'll tell you we know there are many things that act as triggers and play a role in developing endometriosis.
As with all diseases, genetics play a role, but genetics alone is rarely the cause. There's something or somethings in our environment that flip the switch. While you don't have control over genetics, you do have control over our environment.
One of the things you have control over that affects endometriosis is (surprise, surprise) nutrition. What you eat can help reduce your risk of developing endometriosis, can manage the symptoms if you already have it, and may even reduce the chance symptoms will return after surgical treatment.
What to Eat
Healthy eating with endometriosis, as with all chronic diseases, starts with the basics: plenty of plant-based foods like whole grains, fruit, beans, peas, legumes, and vegetables; healthy sources of fat like nuts, seeds, and cold-water low mercury fish; and herbs and spices.
It's important to include plenty of fiber in your daily eats. That's because fiber helps to usher out some of the excess estrogen through your poop chute. And what's a great source of fiber? Whole grains, of course.
When choosing which whole grains to eat, pick mostly whole, intact grains like quinoa rather than a bowl of fruity marshmallow cereal made with whole grains. See the difference? And mix it up. Try a variety of whole grains. Check out the Whole Grain Council's website for a list of whole grains you may not have tried or even heard of before.
We can't talk about grains without talking about gluten. You may have heard women with endometriosis should go gluten-free. There may be some truth to that. There does seem to be a connection between the two diseases. But that doesn't mean you should stop eating gluten just yet. It's important to see your doctor and get tested first. If it turns out you have celiac disease, you now have the diagnosis included in your medical history, which is important for you and the rest of your family.
If it turns out you don't have celiac disease, going gluten-free is still worth giving a go. In one study looking at the effect of gluten on endometriosis-related pain, 75% of the women had less pelvic pain after following a gluten-free diet for one year.
Veggies & Fruit
Vegetables will always have a special place in this dietitian's heart. They're truly potent plant allies. Fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, water, all the good stuff. All that goodness can take some of the pain and stomach upset out of endometriosis.
Fruit, AKA nature's candy, is one of nature's many and most powerful medicines. It's full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber (there goes our friend fiber again.) Fruit is also packing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Trust me, if you have endometriosis (or any chronic disease for that matter) and the resulting pain, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are your friends.
Plant Based Protein
Think beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Each of these healthy and tasty foods has protein, fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, and in the case of nuts and seeds, healthy fats.
They're a great option to include at meals to balance blood sugar, which in turn can help you keep all your other hormones in check.
Omega 3 Rich Foods and Supplements
Fish, flax, and chia are three fo my favorite sources of omega 3s. Omega 3s are a great fat to include in your daily diet. Women who eat more of them have lower rates of endometriosis. Bonus, getting more omega 3s is a viable way to manage all sorts of pain.
If you're going to take a fish oil supplement make sure to choose one that's molecularly distilled or free of mercury and PCBs. And I'm sure you're wondering about fish and mercury. Here's a list of low-mercury fish to choose from.
Begin to put these tips to use. Choose one and add on as you master each, one at a time. If you have questions about putting together a doable nutrition plan to manage your endometriosis symptoms, send me a message.