Endometriosis: Nutrition and Exercise

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Single-Yellow-GirlIf you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to feel better besides taking medication. Healthy nutrition and exercise play an important role in maintaining overall health.

Is there a special diet for girls with endometriosis?

We know that some foods can boost our immune system and protect our bodies from some illnesses and diseases. Unfortunately, there has been very little research done to figure out if eating certain foods can help improve endometriosis symptoms. Although, we do know that young women who eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats and limit their intake of red meat and unhealthy fats are less likely to have endometriosis. Some young women with endometriosis say they feel better when they eat a nutritious diet and some experts believe that eating certain foods can help endometriosis symptoms by reducing inflammation and estrogen levels in the body.

Some experts recommend that girls make some changes in their diet for overall health. Even if they don’t improve your endometriosis symptoms, there are lots of other benefits to having a healthy diet.

Consider making changes that can improve your overall health:

  • Eat a high fiber diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts
  • Limit saturated fat by eating mostly plant–based foods, choosing low–fat dairy products, and selecting lean meats
  • Eat more sources of omega–3 fats such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines), fish oil, canola oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds
  • Choose organic produce, meat, and milk when possible

How can I make sure I am getting all of the nutrients I need?

Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant–based protein, lean meats, and healthy fats can help you get all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need to keep your immune system and body healthy.

Do I need take a vitamin supplement?

If you eat three nutritious meals a day and healthy snacks which include a variety of fruits and vegetables, protein, dairy foods, and whole grains, you are probably getting enough of most vitamins and minerals through the food you eat. If you aren’t getting in all of your food groups on a regular basis, you may want to consider taking a daily multivitamin so you will get the total amount of nutrients that your body needs. Talk to your health care provider (HCP) to see if you should take a multivitamin or other dietary supplement.

Do I need to take extra calcium?

Some endometriosis medications work by lowering estrogen levels. If you are on an estrogen–lowering medication for more than 6 months, you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis (brittle bones). Ask your HCP if you should take calcium and vitamin D supplements to help protect your bones.

What about other vitamins and herbs?

Some young women with endometriosis take other supplements such as vitamin E, zinc, selenium, B–complex vitamins, magnesium, essential oils (such as primrose, flax, and fish oils), and acidophilus, but there are no published scientific studies that prove that extra supplements improve endometriosis symptoms. It is important to remember that some herbs (such as ginseng) can actually interfere with medications that treat endometriosis because they contain plant–estrogen. It is always best to talk with your health care provider first before taking any over–the–counter herbs.

What information should I pay attention to on food labels?

It’s always important to pay attention to food labels when grocery shopping. The more processed a food is, the less nutrient value it retains. Generally, everyone should try to eat as many unprocessed foods as possible and avoid foods with added artificial colors and preservatives. The Nutrition Facts Label is on most foods (except fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables) and has important information including portion size and what vitamins/minerals the food contains.

Will exercise make my endometriosis symptoms worse?

Probably not. In fact, exercise may actually improve endometriosis symptoms. Daily exercise (about 60 minutes each day) such as walking, swimming, dancing, or other activities will help you maintain a healthy weight and give you energy. It’s a good idea to check with your HCP or physical therapist to find out whether it’s okay to participate in very active sports or other strenuous exercise, and the right about and type of exercise that’s best for you. Occasionally, very active exercise such as running and jumping may bring on or increase endometriosis symptoms or other medical conditions.

Can exercise improve my endometriosis symptoms?

Yes. Here are a few reasons why exercise may help your endometriosis symptoms:

  • Exercise releases endorphins. When we exercise, our brain releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. These naturally occurring hormones work like pain relievers to lower pain. It only takes about ten minutes of moderate exercise (any exercise that makes you sweat or breathe hard) for your body to start making these chemicals.
  • Exercise improves circulation. Moderate exercise gets our heart pumping and improves the blood flow to our organs. Good blood flow is important because our blood carries oxygen and nutrients to important body systems.
  • Regular exercise lowers the amount of estrogen in the body. Since the goal of endometriosis treatment is to lower estrogen levels, regular exercise may help improve endo symptoms.
Although nobody knows for sure what the best diet is for someone with endometriosis, healthy eating can improve your overall health, which may help your endometriosis symptoms. Consider selecting organic foods and eating foods that are high in fiber, plant–based foods, and omega–3 fats, and low in saturated and trans fats. Don’t forget to balance healthy eating with exercise you enjoy. Even if your endometriosis symptoms don’t decrease as much as you would like, eating a healthy diet has plenty of other health benefits!