A healthy diet is important for general health and well-being, but certain conditions can respond to different kinds of diets and foods. Endometriosis is no different, and there is research suggesting that certain kinds of foods can help alleviate endometriosis symptoms and some foods that can exacerbate symptoms.
It’s important to remember, though, that there is no definitive cause of endometriosis, so there’s no known way to prevent it from occurring. Estrogen has been linked to endometriosis, as have immune system issues, and diet is one way to help reduce estrogen levels, boost the immune system, and reduce inflammation (an immune response).1 If you have endometriosis, talk with your doctor about your diet and whether dietary changes might be an option for you.
A healthy, balanced diet should consist of vegetables and fruit, fish, lean meat or poultry, legumes, healthy fats and oils, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Junk food or sweets should be consumed sparingly, if at all; same with alcohol or caffeine, if possible. A further general breakdown is here:2
People with endometriosis tend to have lower levels of Vitamins A, C, and E, so a variety of vegetables and fruits can help add these nutrients to your diet.2 They also contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help boost the immune system. Foods to consider include dark leafy vegetables like kale or spinach, carrots, peas, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, apples, and pears.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, and research has suggested that they might also help protect against endometriosis symptoms.3 Fish and lean meat are good sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods to choose include Wild Alaskan salmon, cod, skinless chicken and grass-fed lean meats. If you don’t eat meat, beans or legumes are also great sources of protein, folic acid, magnesium, and potassium; nuts and seeds are good sources of the fatty acids. Omega-3 supplements can also be bought at a drugstore or health food store, if you don’t eat fish.
Healthy fats have lower levels of saturated fat and a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, which can help reduce the inflammation associated with endometriosis3. This includes fats like flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
Reducing estrogen levels has been shown to help mitigate endometriosis symptoms. Fiber might help to lower these levels, along with providing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Alcohol and caffeine can increase estrogen levels, so it’s best to minimize consumption of these.3
If you’re on medication to help lower your estrogen levels to help treat your endometriosis, you might want to talk with your doctor about your risk of osteoporosis.4 You might need to increase your consumption of calcium-rich foods like almonds, broccoli, sardines, tofu, soybeans, and spinach. It’s also worth asking her whether you should also be taking calcium supplements with vitamin D.
A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with lean meats and low saturated fat can help improve overall health and might help to minimize certain symptoms of endometriosis, but it is in no way a cure, treatment, or preventative measure when used alone. If you’re thinking about making some dietary changes, talk with your doctor to make sure this is safe and appropriate for you, especially if you have any nutrient deficiencies, a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, or any other medical conditions.
Endometriosis. Office of Women's Health website. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis#references Published 2014. Updated March 16, 2018. Accessed July 2, 2018.
Yeung P, Catanzaro R. The anti-inflammatory and elimination diet for adults living with endometriosis.http://obgyn.slu.edu/uploads/centerforendo/Combined%20Anti-Inflammatory%20and%20Elimination%20Diet%20for%20Adults%20Living%20with%20Endometriosis%20booklet.pdf Accessed July 3, 2018.
Galan N. What should you eat if you have endometriosis? Medical News Today website. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321471.php Last reviewed April 11, 2018. Accessed July 4, 2018.
Endometriosis: Nutrition and exercise. Center for Young Women's Health website. https://youngwomenshealth.org/2012/06/12/endometriosis-nutrition-and-exercise/ Updated January 20, 2017. Accessed July 5, 2018.