Endometriosis is a condition affecting around 1 in 10 women, where tissue similar to that lining your uterus begins to grow outside of your uterus – most commonly on the exterior of the uterus, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, abdominal wall or the intestines. This can lead to symptoms including severe pelvic pain, irregular or absent periods, fertility complications, fatigue, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Despite the vast number of women affected by endometriosis, it’s still commonly misdiagnosed or overlooked by medical professionals, often leading to delayed diagnosis or ineffective treatment methods. However, nutrition can play a significant role in helping to reduce and relieve pain associated with endometriosis, due to its impact on oestrogen production and inflammation – both of which play key roles in the progression of endometriosis and its symptoms. Chronic or excessive inflammation and high oestrogen levels can worsen symptoms of endo, however your food choices and dietary patterns can help your body to fight inflammation and rebalance your oestrogen levels, and in doing so provide pain relief and help you manage your symptoms in an ongoing capacity.
Here are four nutrition tips to incorporate today if you’re suffering with endo-related pain or symptoms, to help provide you with the much-needed relief you deserve.
1. Include plenty of Brassica Vegetables.
Brassica vegetables are a family of veggies including broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts, containing specific nutrients and compounds which have been shown to support oestrogen detoxification. One particular nutrient found in Brassica veggies, sulforaphanes, has been shown to successfully relieve pain and inflammation, and even reduce the size of endometriosis-related lesions in animal studies, with these findings showing promise for endometriosis symptoms in humans too. This nutrient has pain-relieving properties, and may even help to prevent the formation of blood vessels – a factor which has been significantly linked to the progression of endometriosis and related pain.
Sulforaphanes can also help improve hormonal imbalances, promoting healthy detoxification to normalise the production of hormones like oestrogen, which also plays a key role in endometriosis progression. These compounds increase your body’s production of enzymes which are able to break down any excess oestrogen into inactive, safer byproducts, which your liver or gut can then safely eliminate. If you’re experiencing symptoms such as heavy periods, mood swings, breast tenderness or unexplained weight gain, this may indicate you’re experiencing an oestrogen dominance, meaning these compounds will be particularly beneficial for you and your endo symptoms. Another compound found in Brassicas, indole-3-carbinol, has a similar effect in promoting the healthy metabolism and detoxification of oestrogen in your body, helping reduce oestrogen dominance and relieve endo symptoms and pain too.
Emerging research suggests these vegetables can relieve chronic inflammation associated with endometriosis too. This is because they’re rich sources of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, both of which are compounds that support health and help to manage excessive inflammation in the body. The anti-inflammatory properties of these veggies may help to reduce endo symptoms and pain further.
Coupled together, the various health-promoting, anti-inflammatory and hormone-balancing properties contained in Brassica veggies make them an excellent addition to your daily diet if you’re looking to relieve endo-related pain. Adding a variety of cooked Brassica vegetables to each of your main meals will effectively support your body’s detoxification processes and help reduce any excessive inflammation contributing to your endo pain.
2. Eat your Omegas.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another essential nutrient shown to significantly reduce pain intensity and duration in endometriosis. These healthy fats, contained in foods such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), nuts and seeds, and plant oils (like flaxseed and olive oil) can calm inflammation associated with endometriosis. These fats have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and act as the building blocks of your body’s inflammatory- and pain-relieving processes. Given that endometriosis is so strongly linked to excessive inflammation, that makes these fatty acids are an essential component of any diet if you’re looking to relieve pain and other endo symptoms.
Animal studies have even shown omega-3s may significantly reduce the endometrial tissue found outside of the uterus, and might help promote the regression of endo symptoms. They’ve proven that omega-3 supplementation strongly relieves endo-associated pain and even prevents the progression or growth of endo lesions.
Research has also found that omega-3 supplementation can hugely reduce menstrual pain, so for anyone suffering from painful periods in addition to other endo-related symptoms, consider this nutrient an essential component of your daily diet.
Increasing your intake of dietary fibre, particularly from whole grain sources such as brown rice, quinoa, barley and bulgur, can again help to reduce excess oestrogen levels and support healthy bowel movements. Given endo often leads to constipation and/or diarrhoea, this is of particular importance if you experience endometriosis.
Fibre helps to remove excess oestrogen from your body to relieve symptoms like cramping and pain, by binding any unwanted oestrogen and helping your body excrete it in your stools.
Ideally, you want to have a healthy bowel movement at least every couple of days, otherwise you may be experiencing high oestrogen levels as a result of constipation, which can exacerbate endo symptoms and pain. Eating plenty of fibre can help relieve constipation and lower your oestrogen levels back to a healthy range, which greatly improves endo symptoms.
Aim to eat a minimum of 25g of fibre daily, by including more:
- Fruits and vegetables (make sure you’re opting for whole foods, rather than processed juices etc, and eat the skin of your fruits and veggies where possible – most of the fibre is found here!)
- Ground flaxseed or psyllium husk (add these to smoothies or baking for an easy fibre boost.)
- Legumes, including lentils, beans and chickpeas.
If you don’t currently consume much fibre, make sure to increase your intake gradually. If you go overboard and start adding heaps all at once, you’re likely to experience digestive discomfort, bloating and gas. So go slowly, and make sure to drink plenty of water to support your body’s adaptation to increased fibre.
4. Magic magnesium.
Magnesium is a mineral which may well be your best friend if you’re an endo warrior. Magnesium helps relieve cramps and pain, with studies showing it has a profound impact in reducing endo-associated pain and other symptoms.
High magnesium intakes are linked to lower pain intensity and reduced inflammation, largely owing to magnesium’s ability to naturally relax your muscles. Women with endo experience more spasm-like contractions in their fallopian tubes than normal, contributing to pain and cramping, however magnesium can help to relieve these contractions by relaxing the smooth muscles involved. As a result, people with endo often experience significant pain relief when they up their magnesium intake.
Magnesium deficiency has also been linked to premenstrual syndrome and unwanted symptoms including cramping and pain (even in women without endometriosis). When you have your period, your magnesium levels are actually depleted by up to 50%, worsening your risk of deficiency. However, increasing your intake of this important mineral can help to relieve menstrual and endometriosis symptoms and pain dramatically, and prevent your stores from dropping too low. Studies show food sources of magnesium are the most effective way to increase your levels naturally, so consider adding the following foods to your daily diet:
- Leafy greens, such as rocket, kale and spinach
- Dark chocolate (you’re welcome!)
- Legumes, including beans and edamame
- Nuts and seeds, particularly almonds and pumpkin seeds
- Whole grains
However it can be difficult to get enough magnesium through diet alone, so you may require additional supplementation. If so, make sure you talk to your dietitian or health professional to ensure you’re supplementing with the right form and dosage of magnesium for your individual needs – there are many different types available, and not all of them will target your pain and endo symptoms equally as effectively.
There you have it, four important dietary tips and nutrients to prioritise each day in your dietary choices, in order to effectively relieve pain and reduce your endometriosis-related symptoms. Remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence – you deserve pain relief, and it is available to you in various forms. Book a consultation with me today to discuss how we can tailor your diet, nutrition and lifestyle to specifically address your individual symptoms and improve your health for good!