Endometriosis for Parents: Nutrition and Exercise


You may be wondering if there is anything in addition to taking medication that your child with endometriosis can do to feel better. Since healthy nutrition and exercise play an important role in maintaining overall health, choosing foods that are high in vitamins and minerals, and exercising each day will help keep their body healthy.

Is there a special diet for teens with endometriosis?

The good news is that we know some foods can boost our immune system, which in turn, protects our bodies from some illnesses and diseases. Unfortunately, there is limited research on whether certain foods can help improve endometriosis symptoms. Some young people with endometriosis say they feel better when they eat a healthy diet, and some experts believe that eating certain foods can help endometriosis symptoms by lowering estrogen and reducing inflammation.

Experts recommend eating plenty of fiber, fewer saturated fats, and more omega–3 fats for overall health. These are healthy changes to make even if they don’t improve your child’s endometriosis symptoms.

Consider making changes that can improve your child’s health and your overall health too:

  • 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 that my teen is getting all of the nutrients she needs?

Your teen should aim to eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant–based protein, lean meats, and healthy fats. Eating a well-balanced diet can help them get the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need to keep their immune system and body healthy. You can help your child achieve this goal by stocking the fridge with lots of fruits and vegetables and keeping healthy snacks made from whole grains in the cupboards. Choose meats that are lean and include chicken, fish, tofu, and nuts for protein.

Should my teen take a vitamin supplement?

If your child eats three balanced meals each day along with healthy snacks, they are probably getting most vitamins and minerals through the foods they eat. If they aren’t eating foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis, they may benefit from taking a daily multivitamin to make up for any of the vitamins or minerals they are not getting in their diet). Encourage your teen to talk to their health care provider to see if they should take a multivitamin or other dietary supplement(s).

Does my child need to take extra calcium and vitamin D?

Some endometriosis medications work by lowering estrogen levels. If your child is on an estrogen–lowering medication for more than 6 months, they may be at risk of developing osteoporosis (brittle bones). Encourage your teen to ask their gynecologist or their primary care provider to see if they should take calcium and vitamin D supplements to help protect their 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 exert an estrogen–like action in the body.

It’s always best to talk with the GYN team before your teen decides to take any over–the–counter herbs or dietary supplements.

What information should I pay attention to on food labels when I’m grocery shopping?

It is always important to pay attention to food labels when grocery shopping. The nutrition facts label is on most foods (except fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats) and has important information about portion size and nutrient content.

Will exercise make my child’s endometriosis symptoms worse?

Probably not. In fact, exercise may actually improve their endometriosis symptoms. Daily exercise (about 60 minutes each day is recommended for teens) such as walking, swimming, dancing, and other cardio activities will help them  maintain a healthy weight and give them energy. It’s a good idea for your child to check with their gynecologist or physical therapist to find out whether it’s okay to participate in very active sports or other high intensity exercise. Occasionally very active exercise such as running and jumping may bring on or increase endometriosis symptoms or other medical conditions. Encourage your child to communicate with their health care providers and ask questions about finding the  right amount and type of exercise that’s best for them.

  • Exercise releases endorphins. When we exercise, our brain releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. These naturally occurring hormones work similarly to pain relievers to lower pain. It only takes about ten minutes of moderate exercise (any exercise that makes you sweat or breathe hard) for our bodies to start making these chemicals.
  • Exercise improves circulation. Moderate exercise gets our heart pumping and improves the blood flow to our organs. This is important because 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 everyone’s overall health which may help endometriosis symptoms. Consider buying and preparing plant–based foods that are high in fiber and omega–3 fats and are also low in saturated and trans fats. Remind your teen to balance healthy eating with exercise they enjoys. Even if their endometriosis symptoms don’t decrease as much as you both would like, eating a healthy diet has plenty of other health benefits!