Endometriosis: Nutrition and Exercise

Key Facts
  • Eating a well-balanced diet is health promoting
  • Take a multivitamin if you’re not eating foods from all of the food groups.
  • Exercise may help improve your endo symptoms.
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If you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to feel better aside from taking medication. Appropriate nutrition and exercise play an important role in maintaining overall health.

Is there a special diet for people with endometriosis?

We know that there are foods that can boost our immune system and protect our bodies from some illnesses and diseases. Unfortunately, there is very little research on specific foods to eat to  help improve endometriosis symptoms. Researchers have found that people who eat diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats while limiting their intake of red meat and less healthful fats are less likely to have endometriosis. Some young people 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. Even if eating nutritious foods don’t improve your “endo” symptoms, there are lots of other benefits to a healthy diet such as reducing your risk of heart disease.

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 proteins, choosing low–fat dairy products, and selecting lean meats
  • Eat more sources of omega–3 fats such as fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines), fish oil, canola oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds

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 your body needs. If you are wondering if you are getting enough nutrients, ask your health care provider about meeting with a dietitian.

Do I need take a vitamin supplement?

If you eat three balanced meals each day and healthy snacks, you are probably getting enough vitamins and minerals through the food you eat. If you aren’t getting in all of your food groups on a regular basis, or if you are being treated for another medical condition, you may want to consider taking a daily multivitamin to ensure you’re getting the daily recommended amount of nutrients for your body. Talk to your health care provider (HCP) to discuss if you should take a multivitamin or other dietary supplements.

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 for developing osteoporosis (brittle bones). Ask your gynecologist if you should take calcium and vitamin D supplements to help protect your bones.

What about other vitamins and herbs?

You may see ads or stories on the internet, in magazines, and even personal blogs that claim certain vitamins and herbs help to treat endometriosis. The truth is, 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 HCP first before taking any over–the–counter herbs. If you are currently taking any herbs or dietary supplements, be sure to tell your gynecologist so they can make sure your supplements are not interfering with your other endometriosis treatment.

What should I pay attention to on food labels?

It’s always important to pay attention to the nutrition facts labels when grocery shopping. The Nutrition Facts Label is on most foods (except fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables) and has important information including portion size and amount of 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 joyful 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 exercises. Occasionally, very high intensity 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” hormones called endorphins. These naturally occurring hormones work like pain relievers to reduce 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 hormones.
  • Exercise improves circulation. Moderate exercise gets our heart pumping and improves the blood flow to our organs. This is important because our blood carries oxygen and important nutrients to all our 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 eating high fiber foods, plant–based foods, and foods containing omega–3 fats and try to limit foods high 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!