Many of the women we see at STAT Wellness have suspected or diagnosed endometriosis. In fact, it’s estimated that one out of every ten women are affected by the condition. Unfortunately, it can take close to 7-10 years to receive a diagnosis, and many women feel unsupported and dismissed when presenting their concerns and pain to their doctors.
In endometriosis, “tissue that normally grows inside the uterus migrates or grows outside of the uterus”. Because that tissue is made up of endometrial cells, during monthly menstruation the tissue sheds – but when outside of the uterus, it gets trapped in the pelvic cavity, and this is what leads to adhesions around organs. These lesions are commonly found on the ovaries and bowel.
While we aren’t sure of the cause of endometriosis, some hypotheses include both current environmental toxins AND environmental triggers faced by the mothers of those with endometriosis, an altered gut microbiome, and altered hormonal function. As more research is done, we also understand that endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition with alterations in immune function. And now, endometriosis is considered an autoimmune disease by many providers.
Endometriosis can feel isolating and scary. While the great news is that often, lifestyle changes can help prevent worsening of endometriosis, and sometimes even reverse the damage caused by this condition – it can take anywhere from a few months to a year to see the full benefit of changes made. Below, we provide some of the most common approaches we take with our patients at STAT Wellness. As always, talk with your provider before trying these changes. Though diet and lifestyle interventions take time and patience to bring significant change, paying attention to how you feel along the way is important! You may start to have some mild improvements in energy and general wellbeing long before other significant improvements are seen.
Diets to Consider
When considering endometriosis as an autoimmune condition, following a nutritious lifestyle that helps reduce inflammation is crucial. That means focusing on nutrient dense whole foods, keeping blood sugar balanced, and including as much of a variety of plant foods as possible.
For nutrient balance, consider building your plate with about 25% protein, 20% whole food carbs, 35% non-starchy vegetables, 10% healthy fats, and 10% prebiotic /probiotic foods. Don’t forget that we have a dietitian at STAT that can help you navigate the choices AND balance of nutrients that are beneficial for your body!
When it comes to protein sources, diets higher in seafood and poultry, and lower in red meat are also beneficial for this condition. Processed meats, especially, are also known to be more inflammatory for people with endo – so choosing more fresh-prepared proteins as opposed to jerky and charcuterie style meats can be helpful.
For carbohydrate sources, choose more root vegetables, fruit, berries, winter squash, beans, lentils, and occasional whole grains like rice and quinoa. Up to 75% of women who have endometriosis have a significant reduction in pelvic pain after eliminating gluten for a year. While gluten-free seems to be a hot and trendy topic these days, the truth is that gluten is often found in processed foods, and reducing processed foods in general can also help significantly with inflammation. Gluten is also a large molecule that’s hard to digest – so reducing this can lead to overall improvement in gut health and function, particularly important for those with endometriosis and/or another autoimmune condition.
Supplements to consider
A general multivitamin that contains the active forms of B vitamins, or methylated vitamins, is important for endometriosis – especially as the condition is associated with lower levels of nutrients, including zinc, vitamin E, several B-vitamins, and selenium.
EGCG, a compound found in green teas, may reduce existing endometrial lesions. It does need to be taken as a supplement, as green tea alone does not contain the potent dosage of EGCG that’s been beneficial according to research.
Additionally, N-acetyle cysteine (NAC) is another compound shown to reduce lesions from endometriosis. NAC is also a precursor for glutathione, a potent antioxidant that helps reduce the presence of free radicals in the body.
We love this immune support blend which contains EGCG and NAC or Seeking Health’s Optimal Prenatal which you can purchase on our fullscript store that has a great blend of nutrients and active B vitamins – even if you aren’t pregnant!
Lifestyle Factors to Consider
One of the best things to do for endometriosis is to see a pelvic floor physical therapist . So often they can help with pain that is commonly associated with the known or suspected condition. And, while a pelvic physical therapy exam can not be diagnostic of endometriosis, a physical therapist may be able to identify if there are certain areas in your body that feel consistent with endometrial lesions.
Consistency in movement and sleep are also incredibly important for endometriosis care. Someone with endometriosis may need to prioritize lower intensity exercise to help reduce inflammation. Walking, weight lifting, yoga, and even belly dancing are all known beneficial forms of exercise! And, when it comes to sleep, maintaining a supportive sleep schedule also helps to reduce pain and inflammation associated with the condition. Women with endometriosis may face more sleep challenges than those without the condition. In these cases, maintaining good sleep hygiene is key, and a supplement like melatonin may provide additional benefit.
There are so many things to consider when it comes to endometriosis, and the diagnosis and treatment can feel overwhelming. Before getting started on any new supplement protocols, we would love to see you to help you decide on the next steps needed to take the best care of yourself. Our team of practitioners, physical therapists and dietitians can all help support you on your journey to improving both pain and long-term outcomes. Book a FREE 15 minute call with one of our providers today to see how we can help! We would love to partner with you in your journey to feeling your best.