Endometriosis is a very common gynaecological condition which can affect up to 15% women.
Endometriosis can be a debilitating disorder. It is a condition where the endometrium (lining of the womb) implants and grows in other places apart from the uterus. They can be found in fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel and bladder.
When women menstruate, the endometrial lining is shed and expelled thru the vagina. In people with endometriosis the shedding of the endometrial lining outside of uterus has no orifice to be expelled thru. When this blood becomes trapped it causes inflammation, cysts and scar tissue.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
There can be huge variation in symptoms. Some women experience hardly any symptoms while other experience extremely painful periods and pain during sex. Symptoms can occur at any time in the month for example when urinating or during bowel movements. The most severe pain can start five to seven days before menstruation, and can last for two to three days during the period.
Dyspareunia (painful sex) affects up to 60% of women with endometriosis. Symptoms usually improve after pregnancy as the menstrual cycle ceases for the duration of pregnancy.
Endometriosis can affect the quality of life as people plan outings and holidays around time of period. Many women resort to taking time off work due to intense pain. These frequent absences can cause disruption in the workplace.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis are;
Extremely painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
Painful sex (dyspareunia)
GIT problems such as diarrhea, bloating, distension and painful bowel movements.
General pain in the pelvic region
How can nutrition help alleviate symptoms of endometriosis?
A healthy diet has been shown to reduce symptoms.
A high ant-inflammatory diet high in anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids has shown to be effective.
Omega 3 is good for anti-inflammation.
Magnesium, B vitamins and Vitamin E can help with the pain.
Limiting exposure to environmental oestrogens may also help to avoid hormonal imbalance.
Balancing blood sugar levels is the first step in hormonal balance. This can be achieved by eating small regular meals and opting for low GI foods and complex carbohydrates paired with protein and healthy fats. Avoiding foods high in sugar helps blood sugar levels from spiking.
B vitamins are extremely important, they are used by the liver to convert extra oestrogen into weaker and less dangerous forms.
Vitamin B6 has shown to significantly reduce intensity and duration of period pains which is a chief concern for many sufferers.
The B vitamins along with Zinc is necessary for the conversion of essential fatty acids into prostaglandins (PG) Prostaglandins have a relaxing effect on uterine muscles which can reduce pain.
Essential fatty acids like those found in oily fish, nuts and seeds need B vitamins to convert these essential fats to a form that can be utilised by the body to produce ‘good’ type of prostaglandins.
Without this conversion your body produces the ‘bad’ type of prostaglandins which can increase period pains and increase inflammation.
B vitamins are found in wholegrains, pulses and leafy greens.
Vitamin B6 is found in:
An important vitamin in endometriosis which has proven to reduce ‘period pains’ in 70% of women within two cycles. Best sources are avocados and salmon. Sardines, sweet potato, almonds, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, olives and olive oil.
Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and can reduce menstrual cramps. It can be taken in through food or as a supplement. Magnesium has the benefit of being absorbed through the skin so it can be available through lotions, sprays and Epsom salt baths.
Omega 3 is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory food source. Eating at least two portions of oily fish a week is highly recommended. If you do not eat fish a supplement is beneficial. A supplement containing over 500mg of each EPA and DHA is very useful.
The liver is the organ tasked with removing extra oestrogens from your body. You can support liver function by eating foods from the Brassica family such as;