The Anti-Inflammatory Approach to Eating for Endometriosis
Last updated: February 2022
Eating for endometriosis can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
Often my clients come to me having cut out a couple of food groups entirely or feeling guilty for not having done so yet. The truth is, there are some foods you might want to be more mindful of with endo, such as sugar and alcohol for example, as these can cause further inflammation and hormonal imbalances that can worsen symptoms.
But, in fact, it’s the foods to add in that I like to focus on with my endometriosis clients first and it’s often here that we can make a really big difference.
Endometriosis is an inflammatory disease1 and we know that chronic inflammation leads to chronic pain, and so the purpose of eating anti-inflammatory foods for endometriosis is to lower those levels and therefore reduce pain.
I’ve seen this approach work time and time again for myself and clients. But what is an anti-inflammatory diet?
One of the most studied anti-inflammatory diets is the Mediterranean diet2. However, you don’t have to ascribe to a diet label to eat anti-inflammatory.
Many diets can be anti-inflammatory. The theme that runs through them all is adding in particular food groups known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are the key food groups to add in when taking an anti-inflammatory approach to endometriosis.
Leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables are absolutely packed with nutrients that help to lower inflammation. These nutrients are called antioxidants and they lower a process in the body called oxidation3, which leads to inflammation.
In research, they’ve found that women with endometriosis have higher levels of oxidation and that adding in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helped to lower these levels4.
There’s also added benefits to these nutrients, such as vitamin C5 and magnesium6, help to alleviate symptoms of estrogen dominance7 and low progesterone8, which can lead to PMS and worsening period pain.
Nuts and seeds are also full of nutrients like vitamin E9 and zinc10, which have been shown to not just reduce inflammation but help us to make healthy hormones and keep our hormones balanced.
Additionally, omega 3 fatty acids play a key role here. Omega 3 has been found in multiple studies to lower inflammation11, but additionally, research has shown they can ease painful periods12 and even reduce pain with endometriosis and the size of lesions in micesup13.
Other beneficial fats include monounsaturated fats and healthy sources of omega 6 and some saturated fats. Focus on foods like nuts and seeds, low mercury fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, and coconut oil.
Whilst wholegrains have had a bit of a bad rap in recent years, if they’re not inflammatory to you personally and you can tolerate them, then they’re a wonderful addition to an anti-inflammatory way of eating and have even been associated with lower inflammation levels14.
For this article, I’m focusing on gluten-free whole grains as gluten can cause some problems for people with endo. Gluten-free whole grains include buckwheat, amaranth, teff, quinoa, and gluten-free oats and they’re rich in anti-inflammatory and hormone-supportive nutrients!
Healthy anti-inflammatory sources of protein include wild-caught fish, organic eggs, beans, and legumes, but additionally, a moderate amount of grass-fed, organic animal meat can also be beneficial, especially for healthy hormones.
The final line on red meat and endometriosis is still unclear, but whilst some experts state no or limited red meat is preferable, others advocate for it. My advice is to follow what feels best for your body and your values.
Finally, top these wonderful foods off with herbs and spices! Herbs and spices are incredibly anti-inflammatory and turmeric15 and ginger16 in particular have been shown to aid with endometriosis and painful periods.
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