An Endometriosis Diet?

Young woman with a plate of foodWhile attending the 6th annual Endometriosis Conference for Teens and Families (at Children’s Hospital Boston on March 24th), I noticed that a lot of young women were concerned with what to eat and whether consuming certain foods could either aggravate or ease their endo pain. Personally, I notice that I get stomach aches or my endo pain is worse when I eat certain foods, so I asked myself, “why”?

I had never heard of an “Endo Diet”, and after searching online, I confirmed that there is no specific “Endo Diet”. Then I thought, “Well, are there connections between nutrition and endometriosis?” I decided to do a search using Google Scholar, and found an interesting article describing research on the intake of dietary fats and the risk of endometriosis.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School analyzed twelve years of data (beginning in 1989) and assessed the intake of dietary fats. Of the 1200 women who took part in this study, it was found that those who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with endo, and those who consumed the most trans fats were 48% more likely to be diagnosed with endo. Experts know from other studies that trans fat is associated with heart disease, and now there’s reason to believe that trans fat may put a woman at risk for endometriosis, too.

So, should you stop eating all fats? No. The study actually found that a woman’s risk of getting endo wasn’t related to the amount of fat she ate, just the type of fat she ate. It’s important to note that this study only included women over the age of 25. Since the study didn’t include any adolescents, there’s no conclusion regarding types of fat eaten and endometriosis in teens. The good news is that the findings of the study support something that we should already be doing anyway – eating healthier omega-3 fats (found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds) and less unhealthy trans fats (found in margarine, fried foods, and baked goods)!

After reading the article and reflecting on my own diet, there are certain things that I think I can change so that my diet is more balanced and I’ll get the nutrients I need. I already limit the amount of meat I eat because it upsets by stomach, but I know it’s also important to have protein in my diet because it keeps my body going. I plan to pay more attention to food labels and avoid foods that have trans fats, such as processed sweets. I guess the moral of the story is that there might not be an “Endo Diet”, but being mindful of what you eat will help you maintain a healthy body.

Some tips for mindful eating with endo:

  • Look at food labels and understand what you are putting into your body
  • If a label contains hydrogenated vegetable oils or hydrogenates then it contains trans fats
  • Keep a food diary and note if certain foods increase your endo pain
  • Have everything in moderation
  • Try recipes that are healthy for you!