March is Endometriosis Awareness month, which aims to raise awareness of this condition that is often not talked about and hard to diagnose, but affects 1 in 10 women in the UK according to Endometriosis UK.
What is endometriosis?
An inflammatory condition where cells of the uterus grow in different parts of the body, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes. During the female monthly cycle, these cells respond to messages from fluctuating hormones, just as the uterus does, causing them to grow and then break down and bleed. But if the cells are outside the uterus, the blood can’t leave the body which causes pain, inflammation and scar tissue.
Endometriosis can have a major impact on a woman’s life, the most common symptoms are:
- Painful and/or heavy periods
- Pain during urination, bowel movements or intercourse
Other symptoms include:
- Bleeding between periods
- Extreme fatigue
Endometriosis can be extremely debilitating for many women, but some women suffer from ‘silent’ endometriosis with mild or no symptoms.
Endometriosis is hard to diagnose. According to Endometriosis UK, on average it takes 7 and a half years to get a diagnosis from your first symptom.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms above, but particularly the most common symptoms, you should speak to your doctor.
There is no known definitive cure for endometriosis but there are things you can do to help manage the symptoms. The type of treatment will depend on the individual and should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Treatment options include surgery, hormone relief and pain relief. For more information visit Endometriosis UK.
Nutrition for endometriosis
Diet can play a big part in helping to manage the symptoms of endometriosis. It is important to support the immune system, balance hormones, and reduce the inflammation caused by endometriosis. Diet is one thing to consider when reducing inflammation but we must also look at stress, being overweight, lack of sleep and lack of exercise as things that are going to make inflammation worse.
So what can you do to help manage symptoms?
This will vary from person to person. Reducing inflammatory foods like refined carbohydrates and processed foods will help. Reducing gluten is often suggested and can help for many, but it’s best to look at what to take out individually and an elimination diet can help to work this out.
In general you should look to:
Increase vegetables and fruit in your diet.
Increase omega 3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation – found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, and to a lesser extent in walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Look after your gut. A healthy gut is important for your immune system and for keeping your hormones balanced. Eat prebiotic rich foods to feed the good bacteria (like onions, garlic, leeks, bananas) and probiotic rich foods like natural organic yoghurt and sauerkraut to increase the good bacteria.
Increase magnesium, known as nature’s tranquiliser, in your diet; it relaxes muscles and helps painful periods. Eat magnesium rich foods like pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds and black beans. You can also add Epsom salts to your bath.
Reduce exposure to chemicals that can affect your hormones. Look out for chemicals in your food, food packaging, toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products, and in tampons and sanitary towels.
If you’re overweight, take steps to reach a healthy sustainable weight.
Test for nutrient deficiencies such vitamin D, B12, iron and folate.
If you are concerned about symptoms, or have a family history of endometriosis, speak to your GP for further advice. If you would like help managing symptoms of endometriosis naturally with diet and lifestyle, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org