Diet Management

Presently, there is no scientific consensus on the impact of diet on endometriosis development and progression.1-4 Although no definitive information currently exists, below are some common categories of food and drinks and the ways that they could potentially interact with endometriosis. Ultimately, diet changes are personal decisions based on the way an individual is feeling and how they feel their endometriosis responds to different foods or drinks. As you are figuring out what, if any, diet changes provide you with relief, make sure to check in with your healthcare provider to ensure that you’re getting the proper vitamins and nutrients that you need, and that you’re eating a diet suitable for your overall well-being.

Alcohol and caffeine

Few studies have suggested that alcohol consumption may increase a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis. In addition, alcohol may affect currently occurring endometriosis. Alcohol can raise levels of estrogen in the body and prevent the liver from effectively filtering out toxins when consumed in excess. Endometriosis lesion production, thickening, and breakdown are fueled by estrogen. Any substance that increases estrogen, like alcohol, may negatively impact endometriosis symptoms. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to inflammation, another key component in the development of endometriosis. It has also been theorized that alcohol may play a role in infertility, although more research is needed to characterize this relationship. Despite these potentially endometriosis-aggravating effects, alcohol, in moderation, such as one drink per day, has been suggested to have little to no effect on endometriosis.5-7

Caffeine may increase levels of inflammation and affect estrogen levels in the body, both of which could impact a woman’s endometriosis. However, current research has suggested that there is no relationship between caffeine consumption and the development or progression of endometriosis. Caffeine can affect anxiety as well as cause other health issues like fatigue which may impact a woman’s mental health while she’s battling endometriosis. It is important to note that alcohol and caffeine have wide-reaching health impacts, and can interact with certain medications and supplements. Consult your healthcare provider before starting a new treatment regimen or changing your alcohol or caffeine consumption to ensure that you are not at risk for negative interactions.8,9

Dietary fats

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. Consumption of foods that contain trans fats and lots of saturated fat, including red meat, may potentially increase a woman’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 though. Some saturated fats, such as monounsaturated fatty acids (like olive oil), have not been shown to have any effect on endometriosis thus far, and omega 3 fatty acids (often found in fish) have been thought to potentially decrease a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis.10

Dairy

Although dairy products may have saturated fats and can affect estrogen levels, current research thus far has not indicated that dairy products affect the risk of developing endometriosis or promoting endometriosis-related symptoms. Dairy products have many other proteins and nutrients in them besides fats, and they may actually decrease a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis according to studies thus far. However, much more research is needed to characterize this potential relationship.12-14

Gluten

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, cereal, and more. Gluten consumption may play a role in the development or worsening of some autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, however, more research is needed to learn more about gluten and its health effects, including its potential impact on endometriosis. Several studies in recent years have indicated 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 currently no definitive evidence connecting the development or progression of endometriosis to any diet, foods, or drinks. However, eating a well-balanced diet that is high in fiber, limited in saturated fats, contains omega 3 fatty acids, iron-rich and antioxidant-rich foods, and that contains many plant-based elements may help increase overall health and well-being.3 As always, before starting or changing what you eat, check in with your healthcare provider or a nutrition expert to ensure that you’re receiving the right amount of vitamins, nutrients, and other essential components of a healthy diet.

Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: June 2018
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