Endometriosis is one of the most common health issues experienced among us: over 176 million women worldwide suffer from endometriosis symptoms, which makes as many as 1 in 10 women in the U.S. alone.
Doctors acknowledge it to be a common, benign, estrogen-dependent gynecological disease that represents one of the main causes of hospitalization in industrialized countries.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown, and at the moment, there is still no medication for making it disappear from the body forever. Currently, medical or surgical treatment remain the most efficient method for managing the condition.
However, making dietary changes is a complementary approach that may help many women manage their symptoms. Many of those who suffer from endo come to their doctors with questions about what they should or shouldn’t be eating to help support their condition and reduce their symptoms.
As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, women health specialists often recommend an anti-inflammatory focused diet to help reduce nutritional factors that could be exacerbating pain and inflammation. Read on to learn which foods to avoid in endometriosis.
#1 Red meat
There is a connection between the consumption of red meat and endometriosis. A study showed that women that ate red meat 7 or more times a week were more likely to have endometriosis than those who ate red meat 3 times per week or less.
Commercially raised red meat often contains dioxin, xenoestrogens, and antibiotics. There is also evidence that suggests that a high intake of red meat may be associated with higher levels of estrogen in the blood.
Since endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, higher levels of estrogen in the blood may increase the risk of the condition.
If you do choose to eat red meat, be sure to choose organic and grass-fed. In fact, replacing red meat with another protein source may improve inflammation, which is often associated with endometriosis.
Too much caffeine, once again, creates inflammation in the body and aggravates the digestive system. Caffeine has been shown to exacerbate PMS symptoms in some women, and can increase pain symptoms in others.
Dieticians say that daily caffeine intake for a woman with endometriosis should not exceed 200 mg a day. This equals about one 12 ounce cup of coffee. That is the equivalent of one tall regular coffee at Starbucks.
Consider doing a trial of 2-3 months of no caffeine (no coffee, black tea, green tea or sodas) to see if this helps your symptoms. Other studies have shown that the healthy compounds in green tea and matcha may be beneficial for endometriosis, so after your caffeine-free period, try adding these back in first.
Alcohol is inflammatory, depletes B vitamins, and increases the load on the liver, which is responsible for detoxing your body from chemicals, toxins, and old hormones. Once in the body, alcohol turns to sugar and puts stress on the liver as it tries to filter toxins out of the body.
Also, both alcohol and caffeine intake have both been associated with increased levels of estrogen, the protein that transports estrogen throughout the body.
Consider eliminating your alcohol intake completely or limiting to only special occasions.
Dairy and meat products have added hormones that may be linked with hormone imbalances in patients with endometriosis. 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.
Because of dioxin content and naturally occurring hormones in dairy products, dairy intake should be limited to only a couple times a week at most.
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.
#5 Trans fats and oils
Trans fats are created when liquid unsaturated fats are blasted with hydrogen until they become solid. Manufacturers typically create trans fats to give their products a longer shelf life and more spreadable texture. This makes them perfect for use in a variety of fried and processed items, such as crackers, donuts, fries and pastries.
Eliminate your intake of trans fat and hydrogenated oils. These unhealthy fats are found in foods such as vegetable oil shortening, hard margarine, commercial prepared baked goods, potato and corn chips, crackers, microwave popcorn, and deep-fried foods.
Limiting your intake of foods such as pastries, chips, crackers, candy and fried foods may help minimize endometriosis-related pain.
Further, eliminate the use of processed, highly refined omega-6 vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, corn, cottonseed, soy oils, margarine and partially-hydrogenated plant oils. For even more impact, replace processed foods with those likely to help manage endometriosis, such as fatty fish, whole grains or fresh fruits and vegetables.
One thing that you can be always sure about is organic, unprocessed, fresh food. Try to eat organic whenever possible. Environmental pollutants such as dioxins, which increase estrogen levels, can be present on non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Keep in mind though that, just as symptoms of the disease vary from person to person, treatments that work best for one woman may not be right for another. Take your time to experiment with the tips above to find the approach that is right for you. Discuss with your doctor and dietitian to make the best plan for your health moving forward.