Endometriosis is a nightmare for countless women. Although one in ten women has the condition, it takes an average of ten years to receive a diagnosis, and even then, treatment remains out of reach for some. It can rob you of much of the joy of your young adult years and impact fertility. Knowing what foods can help calm it if you have the disorder can restore quality of life.
Everything you eat impacts your body’s chemistry. Some foods detract from your overall health, while others contain substances that may mitigate your symptoms. How do you calm an endometriosis flare-up? Let’s look at some of the best foods and other holistic techniques.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when uterine tissue grows outside of this organ. It causes symptoms like the following, although they vary and do not indicate the underlying severity of your condition.
- Severe menstrual pain
- Chronic pain in the lower back, pelvis or legs
- Pain during sex
- Painful elimination during menstruation
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
Birth control medications and surgery can treat endometriosis, but a woman may go through many child-bearing years before receiving a diagnosis, let alone a cure. Lifestyle changes have proven effective in many cases and can improve your symptoms, if not cure the condition.
How Do You Calm an Endometriosis Flare-Up? 6 Holistic Methods
Most of the holistic methods to calm an endometriosis flare-up revolve around diet. However, you can combine a few other techniques with your meal plan to find relief.
You probably won’t feel like marathon training with endometriosis, at least during part of the month. However, gentle movement like walking and dancing produces endorphins that can spell relief. Some women also succeed with various yoga poses, and a restorative class focusing on the pelvis and lower back can feel heavenly on bad days.
2. Stress Management
Mild exercise and yoga are also fantastic ways to manage stress. Stress increases cortisol production, and what happens to one hormone impacts others. Cortisol can alter your sex hormone levels, worsening your symptoms.
3. Herbs, Including CBD
The right combination of herbs can help with endometriosis, but finding what works can be tricky. You’re best off consulting a licensed herbalist trained in how various plant species interact and how they may interfere with other medications. However, you can feel confident trying a CBD supplement or massage oil on the pelvic area.
4. Pelvic Massage
Gentle pelvic massage may prevent the painful adhesions that often occur with endometriosis and break up existing ones. It’s best to perform it on yourself to best adjust the pressure.
Many women find that a hot water bottle is their best friend during certain times of the month.
If all else fails, resting quietly can help ease the pain — although it can sometimes make you focus on it more. Some countries now allow period leave. Such luxuries are rarely options in the conservative U.S., but you can discuss your options with your employer, including working remotely on bad pain days.
What Foods Can Help With Endometriosis?
Eating for endometriosis is a matter of consuming the right nutrients that improve hormonal health and mitigate some of the unpleasant symptoms. Here’s what you should stock your fridge with and eat throughout your cycle to promote the ideal balance and reduce pain.
Seeds contain substances called lignans that act like plant-based estrogens in your body. Some women successfully mitigate their symptoms through seed cycling — eating a specific combination of flax, sesame, sunflower seeds and pepitas during various stages of their menstrual cycle. Although there is little Western data to support the claims, an absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence if the practice works for you.
2. Dark, Leafy Greens
Remember Popeye the Sailor Man? He was strong to the finish because he ate his spinach. What makes deep, leafy greens like this veggie excellent for endometriosis?
These plant-based foods are low in calories but high in iron, a substance your body needs to make red blood cells. As endometriosis can cause excessive bleeding, many women become anemic. Loading up on this nutrient via food over a supplement also provides chlorophyll and other phytonutrients that support total health.
3. Brightly Colored Fruits and Vegetables
What are phytonutrients, anyway? They are various vitamins and minerals plants generate from the sun that humans need in varying amounts for optimal health. For example, if you learned that carrots are “eye food,” it’s because your body converts their high beta-carotene content into vitamin A, essential for visual acuity.
Different colors represent various phytonutrient profiles. Include at least three colors on your plate to ensure you get everything you need.
4. Whole Grains
Endometrial tissue tends to grow on nearby organs first, although some women have it as far north as their lungs. What’s close to your uterus? Your digestive organs, including your intestines. Many women have experienced the “periodic poops,” a nasty case of diarrhea that correlates with their heavier menstrual flow.
Whole grains are nutrient and fiber-rich. Fiber pulls water into your large intestine, solidifying your waste and making it easier to go.
5. Fatty Fish
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids support smooth muscle tissue everywhere, not only in your heart and brain. Many Americans don’t get nearly enough, and they’re found primarily in fatty fish. Although some plant-based foods have AHA, the DHA and EPA forms of omega-3 only occur in seafood, so go ahead and order that shrimp cocktail appetizer.
What Foods Should I Avoid With Endometriosis?
Knowing what to avoid is as important as knowing what foods calm an endometriosis flare-up. After all, there’s no point in undoing your hard work by making your body go overtime using the good stuff to cancel out toxins. Stay away from the following:
- Meat, especially red meat: Meat can contain hormones that may alter the human hormonal response.
- Trans-fats: Although the FDA banned trans fats, they still lurk in some packaged convenience foods. Read labels and stick to healthy fats like olive and avocado.
- Gluten or other allergens: An undiagnosed food allergy can worsen your symptoms. Many people are gluten-sensitive, but different, lesser-known allergens can also cause increased pain. Experiment with elimination diets if you can’t afford a full allergy panel.
- High FODMAP foods: FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols that some people’s small intestine struggles to digest. Avoiding these foods may help if you suspect endometriosis and IBS affect you.
Foods to Calm an Endometriosis Flare-Up
Endometriosis causes unnecessary suffering for millions of women. Although the condition is common, diagnosis can take years, ruining fertility and overall quality of life.
Holistic methods, including food, can calm an endometriosis flare-up. Eat a diet high in the foods listed above all month, and you may experience less periodic pain.
Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to nutrition, healthy living, and anything food-related. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness trends and recipes.