This guest blog post was written by Registered Dietician and Certified LEAP Therapist, Kaely McDevitt, MS, RD, CLT.
Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.
Photo Credit: @endohealthhub on Instagram
Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of infertility and it is estimated to affect 1-in-10 women worldwide. Despite the prevalence, the cause of endometriosis is still not fully understood, leaving too many women in pain and not feeling in control over their health. Fortunately, as we begin to understand more about this condition, the positive impact nutrition can make is becoming more clear.
A major driving factor of endometriosis is inflammation. And you can significantly reduce your inflammatory burden by making a few key changes to your diet.
Photo Credit: @endohealthhub on Instagram
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition in which the tissue that lines your uterus (the endometrium) begins to grow and proliferate outside of the uterus. Based on our current understanding of the condition, it appears that a combination of factors, rather than one root cause, are to blame, including immune dysfunction, microbiome imbalances, estrogen dominance, and inflammation.
Unlike most women’s health issues, endometriosis is not caused by a hormonal imbalance, though it is exacerbated by elevated estrogen levels.
The estrogen-endometriosis connection is due to estrogen’s role in thickening endometrial tissue. In the case of endometriosis, estrogen causes proliferation of endometrial tissues both inside and outside of the uterus, which is why pain is more significant during times of elevated estrogen, leading up to and during ovulation.
Common Symptoms of Endometriosis
The hallmark symptom of endometriosis is pain. Like debilitating, curl-up-in-a-ball, nauseating pain. For some women this is only around their period or ovulation, but, for others, it’s all month long.
Other common symptoms include chronic fatigue, nausea, excessive bleeding, pain during intercourse, and digestive issues (e.g. diarrhea, constipation, bloating).
Many women suffer for years without a diagnosis and many others never get one because, currently, the only definitive way to diagnose is through laparoscopy.
There have been some recent articles about a future blood test that could diagnose endometriosis, which seems promising!
Your Endometriosis Game Plan
If you have been suffering and wondering what you can do to ease symptoms and take your health into your own hands, here is a Functional Nutrition Game Plan that I've seen have a positive impact on my clients with endometriosis:
Step 1: Remove Inflammatory Foods
A major driving factor of endometriosis is inflammation. The good news? You can significantly reduce your inflammatory burden by making a few key changes to your diet:
Step 2: Support Estrogen Metabolism
Although endometriosis is not caused by estrogen dominance, the symptoms are exacerbated by it. That’s why pain is typically worse around your period or ovulation. Helping your body maintain healthy estrogen levels is a great way to help minimize symptoms and proliferation of lesions.
To support estrogen metabolism:
- Opt for organic animal products whenever possible.
- Include cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts in your diet on a regular basis. These veggies contain a compound that helps improve estrogen metabolism in the liver.
- Make sure you are having daily bowel movements! This is how the body, quite literally, takes out the trash (including excess estrogen).
- Evaluate opportunities to switch to cleaner, non-toxic options with cookware, water bottles, cleaning products, and cosmetics. A lot of the products we use have endocrine-disrupting ingredients.
Step 3: Focus On Gut Health.
The health of your gut controls many things, like absorption of key nutrients, modulation of your immune system, and also inflammation in the body. There also appears to be a relationship between dysbiosis (microbial imbalance inside the body) and endometriosis, which makes this step super important.
Step 4: Consider Adding Key Nutrients
The addition of targeted supplements can help to reduce pain and slow the growth of endometrial lesions. It is always best to partner with a practitioner to determine which supplements and dosages make the most sense for your unique case.
Talk to your practitioner about adding the following key nutrients:
Vitamins C and E: two antioxidants that may help alleviate pelvic pain in endometriosis.
- Dose used in studies: 1200IU Vitamin E and 1000mg Vitamin C.
N-Acetyl Cysteine: NAC is a precursor to our primary antioxidant, glutathione. In a clinical trial, NAC supplementation was shown to reduce pain and prevent proliferation of endometrial lesions.
- Dose used in studies: 600mg 3x a day taken for three days in a row (then four days off) for three months.
Curcumin/Turmeric: the anti-inflammatory compound responsible for the health benefits of turmeric, may help reduce lesion size and reduce pain in women with endometriosis.
- Typical dose: 600mg.
Zinc: an important trace mineral that can help modulate immune function, repair the gut lining, and support healthy progesterone levels which may help balance out estrogen’s effects on endometrial tissue.
- Typical dose: 15-30mg per day.
- Vitamins C and E: two antioxidants that may help alleviate pelvic pain in endometriosis.
How to Talk to Your Practitioner
Not sure how to get a conversation like this started with your practitioner? Here are a few tips that you can implement:
Photo Credit: @kaelyrd on Instagram
- Enter the conversation respectfully and give he/she a chance to make their recommendations. Shooting down their ideas is not a productive way to have a meaningful conversation. Remember, your practitioner is making the best recommendation they can with the information they are given.
Map out your goals.
- It can be helpful to make a list of the changes you plan to implement and explain that you want to spend the next 30-90 days trying out a few diet and lifestyle changes to see if they can improve your condition.
Set a follow-up date.
- Let them know you'll follow up with them after that period of time to assess changes and determine what the best next steps for you are.
Go in with an open mind.
- Remember that this is a partnership. Listening and open-mindedness needs to happen in both directions and if at any point you don't feel that is the case, you have the right to search for a better fit.
Having trouble finding a practitioner?
If you're having a hard time finding someone with training in integrative and functional medicine, here are two databases that can help:
Kaely McDevitt (MS, RD, CLT) is a Registered Dietitian and Certified LEAP Therapist that helps her clients personalize their nutrition for optimal health and hormones. After experiencing the pitfalls of conventional approaches to women's health and nutrition first hand, she has dedicated her career to specializing in women's health and digestive issues. Kaely runs a virtual private practice and is a co-creator of the online women's health course and community, Her Hormones Academy. She is energized by helping others take the driver's seat on their journey to their happiest, healthiest life.
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