Some health issues are anything but straightforward. They involve a complex interplay of factors. But knowledge is always power. The more you understand about how your unique body works, the more you’re able to make small but significant changes that may help to improve your quality of life.
That brings us to the complicated relationship between diet and endometriosis.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis affects about 10% of women of reproductive age, making it a significant issue. It occurs when cells similar to those that line the uterus (womb) grow in other areas, particularly around other pelvic organs like your ovaries or fallopian tubes.
During the menstrual cycle, endometrial tissue inside your uterus is meant to thicken, then break down and bleed – that’s your period. Endomtrium-like tissue that’s growing outside your uterus behaves in a similar way except for one vital difference – there’s no exit route for the blood at the end of each cycle. The trapped blood may ultimately lead to scar tissue, adhesions and inflammation.
The end result? Pain.
Endometriosis symptoms, causes and treatment
Endometriosis can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- In the abdomen, pelvis and lower back
- During ovulation and periods
- During or after sex
- When using the toilet,
- Bloating, constipation or diarrhoea – there’s an overlap with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms here
The condition is not easy to live with. Indeed, the World Health Organization describes it as a disease that causes “severe, life-impacting pain.”
Unsurprisingly, many women struggle with the impact on their lives. The American Psychiatric Association reports that 68% of women with endometriosis experience mild to high psychological distress.
The exact cause of endometriosis is not yet fully understood but known risk factors include:
- A family history of close relatives with the condition
- Your immune system failing to stop the growth of endometrial tissue outside your uterus.
Endometriosis treatment may include pain relief, physiotherapy, hormone therapy, other medications or surgery.
What role does inflammation play in endometriosis?
Inflammation has been described as “the immune system’s response to harmful stimuli.” It’s a helpful response when it’s a short-term reaction to an immediate problem but persistent inflammation is not a healthy state. Indeed it underlies many troubling health conditions.
Endometriosis is recognised as an inflammatory condition and it can cause digestive difficulties such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and nausea. Interestingly, women with endometriosis are nearly three times more likely to experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – which also causes bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and nausea.
Fighting inflammation with food
Food plays an important role in either fighting or promoting inflammation.
An anti-inflammatory endometriosis diet might mean eating more:
- Fibre such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes
- Omega 3s, found in oily fish, nuts and seeds and plant oils
- Monosaturated fats, found in avocados or peanut butter.
What may make inflammation worse? It’s the usual culprits – alcohol, caffeine, processed foods and sugary foods and drinks.
Endometriosis and your gut health
The gut is a dynamic ecosystem. It includes many millions of microbes, which plays a key role in your immune system and is sensitive to inflammation.
Endometriosis has a number of potential effects on your gut, including:
- Endo belly – severe bloating (due to a build-up of gas in your stomach) around the time of your period that can cause pain in the abdomen and lower back.
- Leaky gut syndrome – small, preliminary studies indicate there may be a potential link between leaky gut syndrome – increased intestinal permeability, causing a range of digestive difficulties – and endometriosis. Leaky gut is also associated with delayed food allergies.
Your gut microbes also play a role in your susceptibility to allergies. Interestingly, a 2021 study found that women with endometriosis were much more likely to be living with immune-mediated conditions such as allergies.
How can ImuPro help?
Many doctors can easily diagnose type 1 food allergies to things like nuts or eggs – items that cause an immediate reaction.
At ImuPro, we focus on type 3 food allergies. This is when the immune system produces specific IgG antibodies (immune globulins of the subclass G). These antibodies can lead to inflammatory processes. Your symptoms may appear up to three days after the consumption of a trigger food.
That delayed reaction can make it difficult for you to pinpoint which food(s) caused the problem. It’s like arriving at a crime scene long after the criminals have run off rather than catching them in the act.
ImuPro’s IgG tests help to identify the suspects. It’s as simple as receiving the kit in the mail, attending your local pathology centre for a blood test, mailing it to us and then receiving your results.
By identifying and avoiding the foods that cause you problems, inflammatory processes can be reduced or even stopped, easing strain on your body and hopefully improving your quality of life.
If you think testing for delayed food allergies could help you, please take a look at ImuPro’s range of tests.
*All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
- Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, Endometriosis, https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/endometriosis/symptoms-causes, [Accessed 11 October 2023]
- World Health Organization, Endometriosis, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/endometriosis, [Accessed 11 October 2023]
- American Psychiatric Association, How endometriosis, a common, painful condition many women face, can impact mental health, https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/how-endometriosis-can-impact-mental-health, [Accessed 11 October 2023]
- Nabi MY, Nauhria S, Reel M, Londono S, Vasireddi A, Elmiry M, Ramdass PVAK. Endometriosis and irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analyses. Front Med (Lausanne). 2022 Jul 25;9:914356. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2022.914356. PMID: 35957857; PMCID: PMC9357916., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9357916/#:~:text=Women%20with%20endometriosis%20are%20three,also%20have%20irritable%20bowel%20syndrome, [Accessed 11 October 2023]
- Cleveland Clinic, The best and worst foods for an anti-inflammatory endometriosis diet, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/endometriosis-diet/, [Accessed 11 October 2023]
- Shafrir AL, Palmor MC, Fourquet J, DiVasta AD, Farland LV, Vitonis AF, Harris HR, Laufer MR, Cramer DW, Terry KL, Missmer SA. Co-occurrence of immune-mediated conditions and endometriosis among adolescents and adult women. Am J Reprod Immunol. 2021 Jul;86(1):e13404. doi: 10.1111/aji.13404. Epub 2021 Feb 25. PMID: 33583078; PMCID: PMC8243788. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8243788/, [Accessed 11 October 2023]
- Monash University, Evidence for an association between endometriosis and allergic and non-allergic food hypersensitivity is lacking, https://research.monash.edu/en/publications/evidence-for-an-association-between-endometriosis-and-allergic-an, [Accessed 11 October 2023]