What to Eat (and What to Avoid) If You Have Endometriosis

Jan 24, 2018 at 11:30 a.m. ET
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows

One in 10 women in the United States is affected by endometriosis during her reproductive years, and this chronic disease often goes undiagnosed. Endometriosis is when misplaced tissues grow in areas like the cervix, bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Basically, the tissue that forms the lining of your uterus is found outside the uterus, causing bleeding, inflammation, scarring and pain. While there is no cure, there are ways to treat and manage endometriosis, including watching what you eat. Focus on an anti-inflammatory, hormone-free diet, and check out these foods to consume and avoid.

1. Avoid dairy

Try a low-fat dairy or, if you can, dairy-free diet. Seek out organic dairy products and check labels to avoid foods containing whey, casein, cow’s milk or milk protein — this will reduce the number of added hormones in your food. Dairy containing A1 beta-casein in particular has been shown to cause higher levels of inflammation triggering symptoms of endometriosis than dairy with A2 beta-casein.

2. Avoid gluten

In a study of 207 women, 75 percent reported a statistically significant decrease in the painful symptoms of endometriosis after spending 12 months on a gluten-free diet. Try to focus more on consuming whole grains like steel-cut oats, quinoa and rice (brown, basmati and wild). The B vitamins and added fiber found in whole grains promote a healthy digestive tract and reduce spikes in blood sugar.

3. Avoid sweets

If you have a sweet tooth, this one may be difficult, but sugar is pro-inflammatory (read: bad for endometriosis) and should be limited. Not all hope is lost, though. To satisfy cravings, reach for small servings of dark chocolate, dried fruit, froyo or sorbet.

4. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is believed to impair ovarian function, aggravate PMS symptoms and negatively affect fertility, according to the SLU School of Medicine. Plus, alcoholic beverages tend to have added sugar, which can prevent other vital nutrients from being absorbed.

5. Limit red meat

Beef, steak, pork and veal should all be limited to one or two servings per week at most. Red meat is shown to not only be pro-inflammatory but also cause hormone imbalances, both bad news for those with endometriosis. When you do indulge, eat grass-fed and organic meats.

6. Eat nuts and seeds

OK, on to the good news! Foods like almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, natural nut butters and ground flaxseed are all excellent sources of B vitamins and high in omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory and good for those with endometriosis. Go for one or two servings a day — perfect for that midday snack.

7. Eat fish and seafood

Salmon, herring, sardines, black cod — you name it! Three to five servings of fish a week will have you swimming in omega-3s. Keep an eye out for higher-fat and deep-sea fish because they have even greater levels of omega-3s, which as we’ve come to know are anti-inflammatory.

8. Eat fruits

No surprise here. Fruits are good for those with and without endometriosis, but their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make them particularly good for those with endometriosis. Seek out fruits with a lower glycemic index, such as blueberries, raspberries, peaches, strawberries, pears, grapefruits, oranges, cherries, apples and pomegranates. Aim for one or two servings a day, and choose organic when you can to avoid pesticide residue, which has been associated with hormone imbalances.

9. Eat vegetables

Again, no surprise that vegetables are important to a healthy, balanced diet. Veggies are also found to be chock-full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, peas, onions, cauliflower, whatever floats your boat — just be sure to build a colorful, diverse plate of vegetables to get the full range of benefits and wide variety of vitamins A, E and C. Try to get four or five servings per day.

10. Eat cold-pressed vegetable oils

Oils are rich in omega-3s and antioxidants as well as monounsaturated fats, which raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. Look for expelled cold-pressed oils because they are not chemically treated. Whether you drizzle them over a salad, roast or sauté vegetables in them or use them as the final touch on avocado toast, aim for two to four servings a day.

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