For some people, traditional treatment options may not manage endometriosis symptoms as well as hoped. For others, treatment may be helping to manage symptoms well, but they feel like lifestyle changes or other at-home adjustments may make them feel even better. In these cases, home remedies may be used to relieve symptoms and help you feel like your best self.
There are some common lifestyle changes and home remedies that people with endometriosis may consider. It is important to note that these remedies should not replace traditional treatment options. They are meant to be used along with your prescribed endometriosis therapy. It is important to talk to your doctor before trying any home remedies or making large lifestyle changes.
Heat for relief from cramps
Heat therapy may help provide relief from cramping or pain. Moist heat can come in the form of warm baths, warm wet towels, or moist heating packs. Dry heat can come from electric heating pads or dry heating packs. Moist heat often penetrates the skin and muscles faster than dry heat. This may make it more effective than dry heat over shorter periods of time.1,2
Using heat therapy is a personal process. For example, 1 person may respond well to warm baths, while another may only respond to electric heating pads. However, some people may not experience any pain relief from heat.1,2
Doctors are not sure exactly how heat works to reduce pain and cramping from endometriosis. Heat does increase circulation, open up blood vessels, heal damaged tissue, relax muscles, and affect pain receptors in the body. Heat can sometimes lead to stress relief. This reduction in stress may also contribute to pain relief.1,2
There is not much research on the relationship between endometriosis and exercise. However, some people say that exercise helps reduce endometriosis symptoms, such as chronic pelvic pain. In general, exercise may improve a person's endometriosis and overall health. This includes reducing the risk of other conditions along with endometriosis, such as diabetes and heart problems. Conditions you have at the same time as a second or third disease are called comorbid conditions.3
Exercising can take on many forms, from rigorous to mild. Finding the right activities for you is a personal journey and can be very different from those around you. While it can be hard to get motivated to exercise when you have endometriosis-related symptoms and pain, there are many health benefits of even light activity.
Exercise improves circulation, increases energy levels, decreases stress, and causes the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that make us feel "good" and reduce pain. Also, regular exercise reduces levels of estrogen in the body. This hormone is connected to the production, thickening, and breakdown of endometriosis lesions.4,5
There is no scientific consensus on the impact of diet on endometriosis development and progression. 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 relieve your symptoms, check in with your doctor to ensure you are getting the vitamins and nutrients you need. Your doctor can help you get a diet that is right for your overall well-being.6-9
Although no definitive information currently exists, there are some foods and drinks that may interact with endometriosis:10-14
- Alcohol – Alcohol can raise levels of estrogen in the body. It also prevents the liver from effectively filtering out toxins when consumed in excess. Endometriosis lesion production, thickening, and breakdown are fueled by estrogen. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to inflammation, another key component in the development of endometriosis. However, alcohol in moderation, such as 1 drink per day, has been suggested to have little to no effect on endometriosis.
- Caffeine – Caffeine may increase levels of inflammation and affect estrogen levels in the body, both of which may impact endometriosis. However, current research has suggested that there is no relationship between caffeine consumption and the development or progression of endometriosis.
- Dietary fats – Certain kinds of dietary fats, such as trans fats and palmitic acid, have been linked to an increased risk of developing endometriosis. However, not all fats have a negative effect on endometriosis. Some saturated fats, such as monounsaturated fatty acids (like olive oil), have not been shown to have any effect on endometriosis. Omega 3 fatty acids (often found in fish) have been thought to potentially decrease a person's risk of developing endometriosis.
- Dairy –Dairy products may have saturated fats and can affect estrogen levels. However, current research does not show that dairy products affect the risk of developing endometriosis or promoting endometriosis-related symptoms.
- Gluten – 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 have found that eliminating gluten from the diet may decrease endometriosis-related symptoms, such as pelvic pain.