Endometriosis - Nutritional Strategies

Many women are familiar the term ‘endometriosis’ or ‘endo’ but what is it exactly?

Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterised by the presence of endometrial tissue that is outside the uterine cavity (this shouldn’t be the case).

Most commonly in cases of endometriosis, the endometrial tissue implants itself on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the external surfaces of the bladder and uterus but it has been found in every extra-pelvic organ system except the spleen, including lungs, central nervous system, kidneys, GI tract, rectum, bladder, vagina, cervix, vulva, thigh and arm.

Although this endometrial tissue may be located in abnormal places, it still responds normally to the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle - growing in response to oestrogen in anticipation of an egg being fertilised and shedding when no pregnancy occurs.

When this abnormal tissue is growing outside of the womb it is trapped and cannot leave the body in the form of normal menstruation.

It is unfortunately a condition that affects between 10 to 15% of women of reproductive age.

It is estimated that approximately 80% of women who deal with endometriosis experience symptoms such as dysmenorrhea (painful periods), dyspareunia (painful or difficult sex), non menstrual pelvic pain and constipation. 

The ways in which endometriosis can affect the lives of its sufferers include increased inflammation, development of scarring and adhesions, fatigue and negative effects on quality of life.

At this point in time, it is not quite known why endometriosis occurs however accumulating evidence is suggesting that the combination of epigenetics, inflammatory and immunological factors are involved in the disease progression.

So from a diet and lifestyle perspective what can be done to help?

As endometriosis is considered an oestrogen-dominant condition, it is essential to optimise oestrogen detoxification pathways.

Reduce the xenoestrogen (xenohormone that imitates oestrogen that can be either synthetic or natural chemical compounds) toxic burden via reducing external sources. Xenoestrogens have oestrogen mimicking effects in the body. An example would be fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides, cosmetics, birth control (expect a blog post on this soon) etc.

Support hepatobiliary clearance. Supporting liver function is so important for healthy hormone synthesis. It is also critical to improve the quality of the diet and digestive health, function, nutrient absorption and assimilation and improving gut ecology (looking after the good gut bacteria and showing the door to the not so good guys). 

The diet overall needs to be rich in wholegrains, fresh (organic where possible) fruits and vegetables, essential fatty acids (cold-water fish, nuts, seeds) and vegetable proteins.

Include adequate amounts of liver supporting foods such as beets, carrots, onions, garlic, dark leafy greens, apples and lemons.

Reduce and avoid alcohol and caffeine where possible along with refined foods, food additives and sugar.

Help to reduce inflammation in the body by including foods such as turmeric, ginger, nuts and seeds, oily fish, cold-pressed oils and antioxidant rich foods.

It is also important to optimise circulatory and lymphatic activity within the reproductive organs and surrounding tissues ensuring optimal circulation and blood cleansing through hepatobiliary channels.

There are many specific nutrient requirements that can help ease endometriosis symptoms, however it is hard to generalise as each endometriosis sufferer is different and their needs may be vastly different from the next.

If you have endometriosis or know someone who does, I suggest speaking with your Nutritionist or alternatively book a consult here to discuss further so that the treatment protocol can be specifically tailored.

1. Auborn KJ, e. (2003). Indole-3-carbinol is a negative regulator of estrogen. - PubMed - NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12840226

The material provided here on the Blissfully Nourished website is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of individual, professional healthcare advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional regarding any specific health concerns.If you wish to book a nutrition consult with an accredited Nutritionist click here.