Treating Endometriosis Naturally with Diet and Supplements

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent chronic gynecological disorder that significantly reduces the quality of life of affected women by restricting their physical, mental, and social well-being [1].

Endometriosis can be painful, at times causing sharp pain during ovulation, bowel movements, and sexual intercourse. The condition can cause painful, heavy periods, infertility in 30 – 50% of women, and increased risks for ovarian and other cancers [2-3].

The precise cause of endometriosis remains unknown, but some possible explanations include immune, endocrine, and genetic disorders and inflammation [4-8].

Endometriosis affects about 10% of women of childbearing age worldwide.

Treatment options are currently limited to hormonal therapy or surgical management. However, these methods do not cure the disease and may clash with a family’s reproductive goals. Furthermore, recurrence is common after stopping hormonal treatment [9].

Because the very root of endometriosis is difficult to determine, it’s hard to know beforehand whether treatments like surgery and hormone therapy will be successful. 

Fortunately, dietary intervention and better lifestyle choices can treat the condition naturally. 

Let’s look at the dietary and lifestyle changes that help endometriosis management:

1. Avoid Trans Fats

In a study led by the Klinik für Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde at the University of Düsseldorf in Germany, researchers studied the effects of nutrition on endometriosis. The study showed that increased consumption of trans fats has a negative impact on the disease, with women who consumed trans fats being more likely to develop endometriosis. [10]

Another study showed that women in the highest quantile for the consumption of trans fats were 48% more likely to develop endometriosis when compared with women whose trans fat consumption was lowest [11].

Trans fats are found in animal products, deep-fried and processed foods. Foods like microwave popcorn, margarine, shortening, frozen pizza, dairy, and meat products are high in trans fats and should be avoided.

2. Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids play a role in regulating and reducing inflammatory mediators, which can help decrease the proliferation of endometriosis. [12]

Furthermore, a diet high in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids has been shown to minimize painful menstruations in women with endometriosis.

Foods high in omega-3 include walnuts, chia, and flaxseeds. You can also supplement with omega 3 fatty acids from plant-based sources such as sage-based supplements.

3. Avoid Red and Processed Meats

Studies show that red meat like beef, lamb, pork, goat, veal, and venison are associated with a higher risk of endometriosis.

 A study with many women followed for 20 years determined the relationship between meat consumption and endometriosis risk. The research shows a higher risk of endometriosis in women consuming red meat, either processed or unprocessed [13].

This study also showed an increase in endometriosis risk with increasing poultry intake, but less risk than that seen with red meat consumption. This study showed the effect of red meat consumption was irrespective of dietary fat content. The high heme iron content of red meat could be responsible for the adverse effects of red meat consumption on endometriosis.

Consuming even 2–4 servings of meat per week increased endometriosis risk, suggesting limiting red meat consumption to less than once weekly is best. 

I recommend substituting red meat with healthier protein sources like tofu, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

Take Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D can influence the body’s immune function and, through its effects on the immune system, can influence the development of endometriosis.

Vitamin D has been observed to reduce the risk of blood vessels forming into lesions that may result in endometriosis. In research that included nine studies, results showed that women with endometriosis had lower vitamin D levels. Therefore, women with low levels of vitamin D are at higher risk of developing endometriosis. [14]

You may increase vitamin D intake by supplementing with 2000 IU vitamin D supplements four times a week, or by consuming vitamin D-fortified foods, or with skin exposure to the sun at times when UVB rays are high. See my article on vitamin D for more information on ensuring sufficient levels of this nutrient here.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol increases aromatase activity and thus the availability of estrogen in the blood. Therefore it is considered a risk factor for estrogen-dependent diseases such as endometriosis [15-18].

According to a 2013 meta-analysis, there is a significant correlation between alcohol consumption and the occurrence of endometriosis [19].

Alcohol also weakens the immune system, and along with an environment that facilitates inflammation, these factors increase the likelihood of chronic endometriosis [20-24]. See my article on this subject here.

Furthermore, regular consumption of alcohol reduces fertility [15, 25].

Reduce Dairy and Increase Fiber-Rich Foods

A high-fiber diet is rich in complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index.

Refined carbohydrates with a high glycemic index lead to a rapid spike in insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Dairy products are also rich in IGF-1. High insulin levels may reduce bin sex-hormone binding globulin levels, leading to increased estrogen levels [26]. High levels of estrogens and IGF-1 itself both promote the growth of endometrial cells [27], elevating the risk of endometriosis [13]. 

The potential benefits of consuming a diet rich in fiber compared to one rich in refined carbohydrates are profound and will also affect body weight and the microbiome’s health, which are both risk factors for endometriosis. 

Increase Prebiotic Foods and Probiotics

Significant changes in the gut microbiome composition have been seen during the development of endometriosis in mouse models. Dietary-induced changes of the microbiome can therefore influence endometriosis prevention also in humans [28].

Probiotics can help improve the microbiome composition and are naturally found in kombucha, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. If you prefer, you may supplement your diet with probiotic supplements with at least ten different strains of bacteria and at least 100 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) to have sufficient benefit. 

Also, aim to consume prebiotics. These are the foods that support the health of the microbiome. Prebiotic-rich foods include artichokes, garlic, leeks, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, bananas, apples, oranges, and apricots.

Lifestyle

Stress has a substantial effect on endometriosis symptoms. [29] Stress can be reduced by sufficient sleep, regular physical activity such as walking, yoga, dancing, and mindfulness and meditation. 

It is also recommended to use natural hygiene and cleaning products that do not have hormone-disturbing chemicals. See my article on this here.

Takeaway

Studies examining the relationship between diet and endometriosis have shown that what you eat may directly impact the risk of developing endometriosis and minimizing the condition’s symptoms. Before going ahead with invasive surgery or hormone treatment, consider changing your diet and lifestyle choices. If you have already gone through one of these treatment options, dietary and lifestyle changes have been shown to prevent recurrence of the condition and are crucial for fertility and overall health.

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Dr. Galit Goldfarb

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