Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2023 | Last updated: April 2023
Presently, there is no scientific consensus on how diet may impact endometriosis development and progression. However, doctors do know that some food and drinks may affect endometriosis.1-4
Diet changes are personal decisions based on the way you are feeling and how you feel your endometriosis responds to different foods or drinks. As you are figuring out what, if any, diet changes improve your symptoms, talk to your doctor to ensure you are getting the vitamins and nutrients you need. Together, you and your doctor can ensure you have a diet that is right for your overall well-being.1-4
Can alcohol affect endometriosis?
Few studies have suggested that alcohol consumption may increase a person's risk of developing endometriosis. Alcohol may also affect currently occurring endometriosis. When consumed in excess, alcohol can raise levels of estrogen in the body and prevent the liver from effectively filtering out toxins. Endometriosis lesion production, thickening, and breakdown are fueled by estrogen. Any substance that increases estrogen, like alcohol, may negatively impact endometriosis symptoms.5-7
Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to inflammation. This is another key factor in the development of endometriosis. Some studies show that alcohol may play a role in infertility, though more research is needed to understand this link. However, research shows that alcohol in moderation, such as 1 drink per day, has little to no effect on endometriosis.5-7
Can caffeine make endometriosis worse?
Caffeine may increase inflammation and affect estrogen levels in the body, both of which could impact endometriosis. However, current research shows there is no relationship between caffeine consumption and the development or progression of endometriosis.8,9
Caffeine can affect anxiety and cause other health issues like fatigue. These issues may impact a person's mental health while they are battling endometriosis. It is important to note that alcohol and caffeine have wide-reaching health impacts and can interact with certain medicines and supplements. Talk to your doctor before starting a new treatment or changing your alcohol or caffeine consumption. This will help ensure you are not at risk for negative interactions.8,9
Certain kinds of dietary fats, such as trans fats and palmitic acid, have been linked to an increased risk of developing endometriosis. Palmitic acid is a saturated fat that is found in some dairy products, red meat, and several oils. Some saturated fats may also affect estrogen levels and inflammation in the body. Eating foods that contain trans fats and lots of saturated fat, including red meat, may increase a person's chances of developing endometriosis. However, more research is needed to strengthen this link.10,11
Not all fats have a negative effect on endometriosis. Some saturated fats, such as monounsaturated fatty acids (like olive oil), have not been found to have any effect on endometriosis. Omega 3 fatty acids (often found in fish) have been thought to decrease a person's risk of developing endometriosis.10
While dairy products may have saturated fats and can affect estrogen levels, research has not found that dairy products affect the risk of developing endometriosis or promoting related symptoms. Dairy products have many other proteins and nutrients in them besides fats. In turn, studies show they may decrease a person's risk of developing endometriosis. However, much more research is needed to better understand this link.12-14
The term gluten refers to the proteins found in several major grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. These grains are found in a variety of foods and drinks, such as beer, pasta, bread, and cereal. Gluten consumption may play a role in the development or worsening of some autoimmune or inflammatory conditions. However, more research is needed to learn about gluten and its health effects, including its impact on endometriosis. Several studies have shown that eliminating gluten from the diet may decrease endometriosis-related symptoms, such as pelvic pain.15-17
What should I eat?
As mentioned, there is no hard evidence connecting the development or progression of endometriosis to any diet, foods, or drinks. However, eating a well-balanced diet may help increase overall health and well-being. This includes a diet that is high in fiber, has many plant-based elements, limited in saturated fats, contains omega 3 fatty acids, and iron-rich and antioxidant-rich foods.3
Before changing what you eat, talk to your doctor or a nutrition expert. They can make sure you are getting the right amount of vitamins, nutrients, and other parts of a healthy diet.