ENDOMETRIOSIS can cause women years of misery - mainly because there is no cure.
It causes excruciating period pains, tummy ache, pain when you have sex as well as diarrhoea or constipation.
And as many as one in ten women are plagued by the condition, which happens when tissue in the body behaves like the lining of the womb but is found outside of the womb.
Endometriosis is totally different for every woman and it can affect the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, tummy, bladder or bowel.
While there's currently no cure, there are steps a woman can take to ease the pain.
Some experts have said that diet can help reduce or prevent the effect of endometriosis - especially if you focus on managing hormone levels.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, leading UK nutritionist, told The Sun Online that the condition is sensitive to the female sex hormone, oestrogen.
She said: "So the aim is to control excess levels of this hormone.
And Dr Glenville said it's important to note, certain nutrients can help.
She added: "The B vitamins enable your liver to detoxify oestrogen and can help with period pains.
"Magnesium can help ease pain and zinc is important for hormone balance.
"Essential fats contained in nuts and seeds can help produce beneficial prostaglandins that can ease period pain, endometrial cramps and inflammation.
"Probiotic supplements are helpful as they control the detoxification of oestrogen through the gut."
With this in mind, we take you through the best food to include in your diet to manage the symptoms of endometriosis...
1. Eggs and nuts - zinc
Eating zinc-rich foods which can help reduce inflammation and research has shown that zinc levels can be low in women with endometriosis.
You get it from:
- nuts (especially Brazil, pecan, almonds, cashews)
- egg yolks
- kefir or yoghurt
- seeds (especially pumpkin seeds)
- green leafy vegetables
2. Colourful veg - anti-inflammatory
Eat a wide variety of colourful vegetables to help reduce inflammation and therefore reduce pain.
Having a fibrous diet can also help the body get rid of oestrogen, so aim to eat five to seven portions of vegetables daily.
- red/green/yellow peppers
Henrietta Norton, Harley Street Nutritional Therapist and Founder of Wild Nutrition says: "Women with endometriosis do not have strong immune systems.
"The natural ‘killer’ cells of the immune system do not work as effectively as they should; endometrial patches that should be regarded as 'invaders' and destroyed by chemicals released by the immune system, are not.
"Instead, they are left intact to roam and migrate to other parts of the body, further evoking inflammation.
"As we know, the immune system of a woman with endometriosis is suggested to be weaker than the norm, therefore it is vitally important to support this system in order to control the inflammatory process."
3. Salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds - removes excess oestrogen
Omega 3 fatty acid is anti-inflammatory, and you can get it in foods like:
- wild salmon
- flax and chia seeds
Having two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds each day is beneficial for helping remove spent oestrogen from the body.
4. Organic yoghurt and sauerkraut - improves digestion
Pre and probiotic foods are essential for feeding your 'good bacteria', which in turn aids healthy digestion, and to lower inflammation.
- plain organic yogurt
- raw cheeses
- If you are sensitive to dairy, try sugar-free coconut or almond yogurt
The key is to have little fermented food each day, but only if they agree with you.
5. Broccoli and Brussel sprouts - detoxifying
Eat foods that naturally support our detox systems - these include:
- cruciferous vegetables like broccoli
- Brussels sprouts
Avoid sugar and refined carbs
While it might be hard to cut sugar entirely, Henrietta says that you want to avoid refined sugar and processed carbs as much as possible.
She said: "Removing foods that can affect the gut and good bacteria, such as refined sugar, is really important.
"Alcohol should be in moderation if you have endometriosis and the aim would also be to have periods where it's avoided."
Sugar, as we know, also increases fat - which in turn, increases oestrogen production.
Eating a high amount of sugary foods can lead to elevated insulin which in turn, can lead to excess oestrogenHenrietta Norton, Harley Street Nutritional Therapist
It's also an "anti-nutrient", depleting the body of valuable vitamins and minerals.
"Eating foods with sugar causes your pancreas to produce insulin and can encourage an increase in fat cells and, of course, weight gain," Henrietta explains.
"Fat cells produce something called aromatase enzyme and produces small amounts of oestrogen. Therefore the more fat cells you have the more oestrogen you produce.
"That's why a diet of excess sugar has a link to breast cancer as well.
"Too much glucose in the bloodstream also encourages the production of prostaglandin 2 (PGE2), the chemical released by our immune system to cause inflammation."
Symptoms of endometriosis
Endometriosis is where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body.
Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb - building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.
That can lead to infertility, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems, as well as really heavy, painful periods.
It affects one in ten women in the UK.
- Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Painful bowel movements
The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.
According to Endometriosis UK, it takes over seven years on average for women to finally receive a diagnosis.
It's estimated that up to 50 per cent of infertile women has the condition.
Source: Endometriosis UK
If you’ve got endometriosis on your bowel or intestine, reducing inflammation might help.
But if it’s in a different organ that’s totally unrelated to digestion, you might find that food won’t play a role at all.
"The evidence for all this is extremely weak," explains Dr Sarah Jarvis, Clinical Director and founder of patient.info.
“In recent years, we have become more and more aware of the role diet has not just on gut health, heart health and weight but also on inflammation within the body and even mental health.
"So it makes sense to look at whether diet could affect endometriosis symptoms too.
"Scientists have looked into the idea that eating more vegetables and oily fish or other sources of Omega 3 oils could reduce symptoms, while eating more red meat or food high in trans fats and drinking too much coffee might make things worse.
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"The studies which have been done so far don’t show strong evidence to support this.
"However, eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit and omega 3s is good for your general health, so it’s certainly worth a try."
Diet won’t cure endometriosis and it might not be enough on its own to help manage the symptoms but coupled with other interventions like physiotherapy, you might find that you start to feel a little better in time.
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