Women's Health

Should You Recommend an Endometriosis Diet? The Role of Nutrition in Managing Your Patients' Pain

Are your patients asking about an endometriosis diet? Research shows anti-inflammatory foods and other nutritional choices may help alleviate pain.

As patients grow increasingly savvy about nutrition and its role in good health, gynecologists can expect more questions about the merits of an endometriosis diet. Endometriosis is a condition with a strong inflammatory component, and some research has shown that a diet that helps decrease inflammation might also relieve endometriosis pain and other symptoms.

You can help patients who might be searching for nontraditional ways to relieve endometriosis pain by pointing them toward evidence-based treatments. Although more research is needed in this field, here's what clinicians should know about the link between nutrition and endometriosis.

Lifestyle Factors Associated With Endometriosis

Endometriosis is considered a chronic inflammatory disease. Along with a family history of the condition, environmental factors may play a role in its development. The Journal of Nutrition and Diet Supplements notes that these factors may include exposure to pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), plastics, dioxin, radiation and environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens).

The journal Endocrinology reports that eating a high-fat diet has also been linked to two driving factors of endometriosis: inflammation and oxidative stress. According to research in Human Reproduction, a diet rich in certain fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of endometriosis. In particular, women who ate more than one serving of citrus fruit per day had a 22 percent lower risk of developing the condition in the first place.

Managing Pain with an Endometriosis Diet and Nutrition

Typical endometriosis treatments include over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen, hormonal birth control and surgery. However, these options are not without their own side effects, which may be why many women have been seeking alternative pain relief options for endometriosis. Chief among them is a so-called endometriosis diet.

A growing body of evidence suggests that good nutrition could provide endometriosis patients with a noninvasive way to help manage pain and inflammation. A study from the Journal of Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Disorders found that specific foods and nutrients, including Vitamin A, magnesium and soy, may help reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of endometriosis. A diet that emphasizes anti-inflammatory foods and compounds, such as fruits and vegetables, monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, and eliminates inflammatory saturated fats and trans fats may also help reduce symptoms, according to the Journal of Nutrition and Diet Supplements.

Although more research is needed, limiting dietary exposure to toxins and xenoestrogens, which are often present in red meat and other animal products, may be helpful as well. Clinicians who recommend a plant-based diet should encourage washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly or choosing organic varieties to limit exposure to pesticide residues.

Partnering for Advice on Endometriosis Pain Management

Gynecologists are integral in guiding patients to the safest and most effective treatments for endometriosis pain, including dietary modifications. When it comes to nutrition and endometriosis, however, a referral to a nutritionist or dietitian can provide another level of expertise. These healthcare professionals can offer patients specific knowledge and guidance, including advice for choosing anti-inflammatory foods, eliminating inflammatory foods and maintaining a balanced diet for better overall health.