Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue lining the uterus (endometrium), spreads and grows in areas outside the uterus, such as in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowels and bladder. Although the cause is not entirely clear, medical professionals suggest that endometriosis is linked to family history, retrograde menstruation, and a troublesome immune system.
Endometriosis is the spreading of endometrial tissues to areas outside of the uterus, such as the ovaries (endometrioma), bladder, rectum, and peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity).
Results show that 10.8 million women were affected by endometriosis in 2015, and it is most common in those who are in their thirties upwards. However, it can appear in young girls about to enter puberty or teenagers. Although there are common symptoms, including painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), heavy periods (menorrhagia), painful sex (dysmenorrhea), and more, about 25% of women have no symptoms at all. Because some cases show no signs or symptoms, many women do not get treated. This can lead to such consequences as symptom occurrence, further development of endometriosis and infertility. Women may even go years without ever receiving a proper diagnosis of their pain and symptoms.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
70% of endometriosis pain occurs during menstruation, although pain can exist outside of a woman’s period. Main symptoms of endometriosis include heavy periods (menorrhagia), painful periods (dysmenorrhea), pelvic pain, painful sex (dyspareunia), fatigue and pain or discomfort when going to the bathroom. It can also cause infertility or problems trying to get pregnant. For some women, endometriosis can stop normal, everyday activities, and after some time, psychological problems can arise such as depression and anxiety.
If you are experiencing any of the above issues, make sure to contact your doctor and make an appointment; your doctor can then refer you to a gynecologist.
If your gynecologist is concerned for endometriosis, they most often will advise preliminary treatment options such as anti-inflammatory painkillers and contraceptives. This is done in order to alleviate patient symptoms. However, not only is this not a definitive treatment for the disease itself, but it also does not provide a formal diagnosis and confirmation of endometriosis. The definitive way to treat endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery, accompanied by a pathology report in order to provide a formal diagnosis.
Dr. Tamer Seckin of the Seckin Endometriosis Center surgically treats endometriosis in the form of laparoscopic deep-excision of endometriosis, including bowel endometriosis. His tertiary referral center works with patients on a personalized level to fully understand each patient’s case so that a proper treatment plan can be decided.
How Diet Can Help
Following a surgery and often pre-surgery, your doctor may recommend a change in lifestyle and diet as a complementary way to reduce endometriosis symptoms, mainly in cases of bowel endometriosis. In bowel endometriosis, lesions attach to the outer walls of the intestines and can cause such symptoms as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and pain when passing a bowel movement (constipation). For this reason, bowel endometriosis can often be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other similar gastrointestinal diseases. Nevertheless, these similar symptoms can be played to the physician and patient advantage, by using similar GI treatment measures for bowel endometriosis diets. Hence, why certain diets are often recommended. On top of this, like any other condition, diet can affect how you feel. Although there is a lack of research on how diet can affect your endometriosis symptoms specifically, some foods can help you naturally control hormones, while other foods can have a negative impact.
Patients with bowel endometriosis, which often masks itself as IBS, will often be advised to take up a specific in order to relieve such symptoms as diarrhea, constipation, nausea and vomiting.
Before changing your diet however it is recommended that you consult your doctor and enlist the help and advice of a professional nutritionist.
Which Foods to Eat and Avoid
Food groups you should consider increasing are foods high in fiber, enriched in iron and those that have essential fatty acids.
Foods high in fiber include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Chia seeds
For iron, include:
- Beans and pulses
- Brown rice
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach
Foods with essential fatty acids are as follows:
- Oily fish
- Pumpkin seeds
- Flax seeds
Foods that are ok
Foods to avoid:
- Processed foods: Pre-prepared meals and snacks
- Fried foods
- Smoked or processed meats (especially red meat)
- Baked goods
- White flour and sugary foods
- Foods high in gluten
- Full-fat dairy, which is high in saturated fats and can contribute to inflammation.
- Alcohol and caffeine intake,
- Avoid soya as an alternative to dairy.
Foods to avoid
How a Professional Can Help
Endometriosis can be difficult to live with, however, there are many professionals out there ready to help you live with this condition. Whether it is a doctor giving surgery options, a nutritionist providing an anti-inflammatory diet plan or a group of individuals also suffering from endometriosis and engaging in a help group, there are knowledgeable individuals available to help. You are not alone in this fight, and that is always something to try and always keep in mind.