It is Endometriosis Awareness month during March with the aim of increasing awareness and highlighting the symptoms of this debilitating condition that affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide and estimated to affect 1 in 10 women in the UK. It’s a condition that involves the reproductive system, whereby the cells like the ones lining the womb (uterus), grow in other areas like the ovaries, abdomen, and bowel. It is a chronic and debilitating condition that can result in symptoms like painful periods, heavy bleeding, pain during intercourse, painful bowel movements, and infertility.
We invited Dietitian Katherine Kimber to have a look at Endometriosis and whether supplements might help those who suffer from it. This is what she found………
The cause of endometriosis is unknown, and there is currently no cure. Therefore, the role of diet and supplements in determining the establishment and progression of endometriosis has more recently become a topic of interest. This is mostly due to the observation that some of the physiological processes associated with the disease, can be influenced by diet. The research in this area is limited, however, several studies have been carried out to look into the role of diet on endometriosis. Let’s dive into what’s been discovered.
- Omega – 3 fats & Vitamin B12
Endometriosis is associated with pain and inflammation. Some studies have identified that omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation. Also, some early research has found that omega-3 fats might help discourage the early establishment of endometriosis, and that fish oil, in combination with B12, may reduce menstrual pain. Therefore, those who do not include 1 portion (140g) of oily fish in their diet per week, or foods rich in B12 (commonly those who follow a vegan diet), may benefit from an omega-3 supplement and/or B12 supplement.
Whilst Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and endometriosis are not the same things, there is some evidence to show that adequate amounts of calcium may help relieve pre-menstrual pain. Calcium supplementation as 1000-1200 mg/day of calcium carbonate for 3-months has been associated with up to almost a 50% reduction in the PMS symptom score compared to 36% in the placebo (the group not taking the supplement). The symptoms that improved included mood swings, depression, tension, anxiety, anger, crying spells, fluid retention, food cravings, and pain. It is important to ensure the diet, therefore, contains adequate calcium. Good sources of calcium include milk and milk-based products, calcium-fortified milk alternatives, calcium-fortified cereals, and tinned fish with bones like pilchards, sardines, and tinned salmon. If this is not achievable, a supplement may be beneficial.
There is also some research to suggest that coffee, trans fats (found in some processed foods like chips doughnuts, chocolates, cookies) red meat, ham, and saturated fat (animal fats) consumption may enhance pathological processes behind endometriosis. Further research is however required before we have a clearer understanding of the role of diet in endometriosis.
Overall, the quality of all research into diet and supplementation in the management of endometriosis is extremely mixed, poor quality and limited. The treatment of endometriosis needs to be considered holistically, along with individualised advice. There is currently limited specific dietary or supplement advice that can be offered at present to delay progression, onset, or reduce symptoms of endometriosis. If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, your doctor or specialist should discuss possible endometriosis treatment options with you.