Nutrition Interventions for Reduced Endometriosis Risk
Endometriosis affects approximately 1 in 10 women, yet the condition is not yet fully understood. Generally speaking, endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus — the endometrium — grows outside of the uterus. A diagnosis of endometriosis can come with a diagnosis of infertility.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were certain dietary patterns that may reduce the risk of a woman developing this condition? Thankfully, there are SOME studies demonstrating relationships between certain dietary intakes and endometriosis development. Keep in mind that the data is limited, and the suggestions listed below are often based off of ONE study.
Dietary interventions that may reduce the risk of developing endometriosis:
1. EAT THE RAINBOW
The first scientific article addressing the subject was published in 2004 in which 504 women between the ages of 20 and 65 years were evaluated using a food frequency questionnaire. They found the highest weekly intake of fruits and vegetables was inversely associated with risk of developing endometriosis .
Colorful produce is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants may help inhibit growth and adherence of endometrial cells . Not a veggie girl? Antioxidants are found in many other food choices like beans, nuts, and russet potatoes!
2. ORANGES, LEMONS, AND LIMES, OH MY!
If you like citrus fruit, then you will love this tip. Data suggests that women who consumed one or more servings of citrus fruit (like oranges, grapefruits, or lemons) had a 22% lower endometriosis risk compared with women who consumed fewer than one serving of these fruits . Sneaking citrus into your day is a tip that is welcomed to many.
3. DON’T GO BROCCOLI CRAZY
One surprising finding from the data is that consumption of one or more servings of cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or Brussels sprouts) was associated with a 13% higher risk of endometriosis compared with those consuming less than one serving of these vegetables (3). I don’t take this as a green light to never eat your cauliflower ever again, just don’t eat large amounts of these foods daily if you are at-risk for developing endometriosis.
4. WHATS A PERSIMMON?
A persimmon is an example of a food that is rich in the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin. Intake of this carotenoid was significantly related to lower endometriosis risk according to the data . Beta-cryptoxanthin is found in large amounts in only a small variety of food. Foods rich in beta-cryptoxanthin include tangerines, persimmons, red peppers, pumpkins, and oranges . Yes, pumpkin pie counts in my book!
5. FOCUS ON YOUR VITAMIN INTAKE FROM FOOD (NOT PILLS)
Intakes of thiamine (B1), folate (B9), vitamin C, and vitamin E solely from food sources were inversely related to endometriosis diagnosis. However, intakes of these nutrients from supplements alone were unrelated to endometriosis. Vitamin C intake from food had an even greater effect on endometriosis risk when the data was stratified for smokers .
Getting nutrients from food instead of a pill is often superior, and this situation is no exception.
6. CUT BACK ON HAM AND RED MEAT
Data suggests there is a considerably higher risk of endometriosis with consumption of ham, beef, and other kinds of red meat . One study suggests that women who consumed more than two servings of red meat per week had a 56% higher risk of developing endometriosis compared with women who consumed one or fewer servings of red meat. Intakes of poultry, fish, shellfish, and eggs were unrelated to endometriosis risk .
7. PASS THE MILK, PLEASE!
Dairy foods may play a positive role in endometriosis risk. The Nurses Health Study II cohort assessment of dairy consumption and endometriosis risk revealed intakes of total and low-fat dairy foods were associated with a lower risk of endometriosis. Women consuming more than 3 servings of total dairy foods per day were 18% less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis than those reporting 2 servings per day .
Similar findings were found for dairy intake in adolescents. Researchers found that women who consumed more than four servings/day of dairy foods during adolescence had a 32% lower risk of laparoscopically-confirmed endometriosis during adulthood compared to women consuming one or fewer servings/day. The association was similar for low-fat and high-fat dairy foods.
Digging deeper, they found that yogurt and ice cream consumption, specifically, were associated with a lower risk of endometriosis. Those who consumed two or more servings of yogurt per week as an adolescent had a 29% lower risk of endometriosis diagnosis compared to those consuming less than one serving per week (9).
The usual suspects (alcohol use, obesity, cigarette smoking) may also increase a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis  (as well as many other health-related conditions). It is unfortunate how little data is available regarding endometriosis risk and diet considering how many women are affected by this condition. Understanding the limited data may help more women avoid having this diagnosis and, in time, hopefully we will see a decline in the prevalence of this condition.
Have a diagnosis of endometriosis? I am always happy to help manage symptoms and help support your fertility. Email me to get started.