SHERYL AFONSO e D’SOUZA
CLINICAL NUTRITIONIST (NORBERT’S FITNESS STUDIO) & ASST. PROFESSOR (POST-GRADUATE DEGREE STUDIES, CARMEL COLLEGE)
The lining of the uterus is referred to as the endometrium, and ‘endometriosis’ is a painful disorder in which the endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus (pelvic tissue lining, fallopian tubes, and ovaries) instead of within. Besides being excruciatingly painful, endometriosis can sometimes lead to fertility problems. The diet-disease connection with endometriosis has not been well-established. But, since endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disorder, higher levels of estrogen in the blood may increase the risk of the condition. Preventing inflammation in the body is another must-do to avoid pain or progression of the disorder. Hence, avoiding or minimizing, your intake of the following (estrogen- and inflammation-promoting) foods may help you deal better with the condition:
- Red Meats and (high-fat) Dairy foods are often high in PCBs and dioxins, estrogenic pesticides that are known to worsen endometriosis.
- Omega-6 Fats – predominant in plant oils – are known to promote inflammation and uterine cramping.
- Trans Fat- and Hydrogenated Fat– containing foods such as commercially baked and fried, and processed foods.
- Alcohol, Tea and Caffeinated Beverages and Foods
- High-FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides and polyols) foods such as garlic, onion, cauliflower, apples, pomegranate, pears, watermelon, breads, beer, buttermilk, and curds.
- Soy and Soy Products
Including the following foods on a regular basis in your diet may help alleviate the severity of symptoms in endometriosis:
- Omega-3 Fats – anti-inflammatory fats found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts
- Vitamin B-rich foods such as leafy vegetables – these help the liver degrade estradiol to estriol, the form in which estrogen can be bound to fibre and excreted.
- Zinc– and Magnesium– rich foods such as nuts, whole grains, fish, and dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, turnip and radish greens), which relax smooth muscles found in the uterus.
- Vitamin A, C, and E-rich foods such as citrus fruits, yellow-orange-green vegetables and fruits, and nuts.
- High Fibre Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains
- Curcumin, the anti-inflammatory part of turmeric, may also help with endometriosis management.
Exposure to sunlight, so as to increase the level of vitamin D in your body, has also been found to be beneficial for those with endometriosis. Exercising may also help with the management of endometriosis, as exercise can reduce estrogen levels whilst releasing endorphins, or “feel-good” hormones.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, making dietary changes is a complementary approach that may help some women manage their symptoms. Keep in mind that just as symptoms of the disease vary from person to person, treatments that work best for one woman may not be right for another. Hence, experiment with the tips above to find the approach that is right for you. Pay attention to how your body acts when you eat certain foods – keeping a journal of the foods you eat and any symptoms or triggers you have may be helpful. Discuss your findings with a dietitian to help you plan meals that work best with you and endometriosis, as there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to this severely painful female disorder.