Endometriosis affects 1.5 million women in the UK.
It’s a long-term condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb forms in other places, such as the ovaries & fallopian tubes; causing chronic pelvic pain, & infertility.
It affects your hormones, your skin, your energy levels, mental health, eating habits, gut health… the list genuinely is endless.
Eating a nutritionally balanced diet – including carbs, fats, protein, vitamins & minerals – will have a positive impact on your condition. The main goal of diet & lifestyle is to reduce inflammation to enable you body to cope better, support hormone regulation, & reduce symptoms.
Consider the following:
1. Reduce pro-inflammatory foods such as trans-fats, processed foods, refined sugars, red meat & alcohol. Instead, try including foods that are anti-inflammatory in nature to your daily diet, such as fruit & veg, oily fish, olive oil & nuts – as these have been shown to help fight inflammation. Following a Mediterranean style diet is known to be in keeping with general healthy eating guidelines.
2. Vitamin D has been shown to be affective at managing inflammation in the body. Together with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D affects our hormones & plays a role in a multitude of events happening throughout our body. Yet it’s suggested that c.70% of the population is deficient in these. Ideal levels vary, so it’s difficult to provide guidance on supplementation etc. It is therefore recommended that you speak to your doctor or specialist in this regard.
3. Research has shown that magnesium can have help with muscle relaxation, & may also support pain management in Endometriosis. Try a magnesium salts bath or magnesium complex supplement.
4. Caffeine has been shown to increase the availability of oestrogen in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Therefore, it’s suggested that caffeine is best avoided in those with Endometriosis. Decaf tea & coffee are still great sources of anti-inflammatory polyphenols so there’s no need to cut out your favourite drink all together.
5. Aim to consume a minimum of 2 litres of water per day to ensure your body is excreting any build-up of harmful particles. However, drinking too much water can make an overactive bladder worse. Yet, not drinking enough can be equally problematic. Try reducing your intake of fruit juices & beverages containing alcohol & caffeine, & carbonated drinks. And, try avoiding consuming drinks after 18:00, or at least 2-3 hour before bedtime to reduce the likelihood of needing the toilet through the night.
6. Low FODMAP diets may be helpful for managing symptoms of Endometriosis, as they can help reduce fermentation in the colon – meaning it doesn’t get inflamed by gas as much. Excess gas in the colon causes bloating & may make pain from Endometriosis worse. The low FODMAP diet has its downsides though, so it’s best undertaken with a registered dietitian - & it certainly won’t work for everyone – so don’t keep going with it if it doesn’t make you feel better!
7. Most people benefit from eating plenty of fibre but if your bowel is involved in your Endometriosis, this can make the symptoms worse. If you find that you experience a mix between constipation & diarrhoea, & you get a distended stomach followed by diarrhoea, it may be that your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally. It’s a good idea to seek advice from your endometriosis specialise in conjunction with a specialist dietitian in this regard.
8. If you have cut out food groups, particularly meat &/or dairy, it is easy to become iron deficient & deficient in things like B12, zinc & calcium, & vitamin D. Any nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate inflammation in the body as you have to move hard to compensate for the lack of those nutrients. Symptoms of these deficiencies include breathlessness, tiredness, hair loss or poor hair quality, softer nails, skin changes, bone aches & pains, mood changes & depressions, & changes to taste, smell & sensation. If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your GP.
9. Chew your food well & try to sit down to eat. This can help you digest your food better & significantly reduce symptoms like bloating & gas. Check out my FREE 5-Day Nutrition Basics Course – it’s designed to help you improve your nutrition without giving up your favourite foods or changing what you eat. It’ll introduce you to 5 simple nutrition practices – including eating more slowly & chewing your food thoroughly – that will help you overcome your nutrition struggles.
Other Lifestyle Measures
Regular Exercise is important for our general health & balancing hormones, improving mental health & reducing stress hormones. This doesn’t mean you need to be up at 05:00 beasting a HIIT class every day! In fact, HIIT exercise can increase our stress hormones which are associated with increased inflammation.
Exercise & movement should include things that make you feel good & that you enjoy. Write down a list of exercises you enjoy like walking, yoga, swimming or just dancing around your living room, & try to do something most days when you’re well enough. Pelvic floor exercises are always a good idea for anyone with endometriosis – yet I would recommend discussing with a pelvic health physiotherapist to identify that types of exercises that are appropriate for you.
While exercise & movement are key, rest & sleep are equally important. A lack of sleep causes inflammation in the body so do your best to optimise your sleep hygiene where you can. Listen to your body & rest when you need to while making the most of the days or times in the month when you feel better.
Worry and stress can influence not only your mind, but it can have a negative impact on your body. When you are feeling stressed, your body releases adrenaline along with a hormone called cortisol. This hormone creates a fighting response in the body which can often result in the feeling of having an upset stomach and can also increase inflammation.
Some people can experience diarrhoea and stomach cramps, feeling nauseas and a loss or increase of appetite when stressed. In the case of chronic stress, our appetite can be increased, leading to comfort eating.
Have a look online for stress management strategies such as guided meditation and breathing exercises.
Talking honestly about your worries and concerns is important for everyone and can help significantly with stress and anxiety. If you are finding it difficult opening up and telling those closest to you what is bothering you, why not join an online or a local support group where you can connect with others going through similar experiences, helping you feel less alone.
Disclaimer: Any advice given is solely based on personal views & experiences – unless otherwise stated. The information given is designed to support & not replace the relationships between patients & their physician. Accordingly, it’s always suggest that you speak to your GP or medical professional if you require medical advice or before you follow any advice or information contained herein.