Endometriosis is a painful, sometimes debilitating condition that affects as many as one in ten women in their reproductive years. It occurs when endometrial-like tissue, which is normally found in the uterus, grows in places outside of the uterus, where it shouldn’t be.
Most of the time this misplaced endometrial tissue lands on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or abdomen. Because the endometrial tissue responds to the same hormonal shifts that trigger the menstrual cycle, the pain associated with it will follow the same 28-day cycle of your period.
It has been linked to a compromised immune system, excess estrogen, and inflammation, which can damage and destroy a woman’s eggs or man’s sperm. Additionally, if the endometriosis is in the fallopian tube lining, it can prevent an egg from traveling to the uterus to implant.
Endometriosis can be very difficult to diagnose (the average delay in diagnosis is seven years!), but if you experience regular symptoms such as crippling pain or cramps, GI issues, or debilitating periods, know that the best remedy to combat this pain is with your diet (as is really the case with any hormone imbalance).
The anti-inflammatory recipes and foods listed in this post all work to reduce inflammation that can trigger painful flareups. Additionally, you’ll want to take care to adhere to the foods to avoid section, as these can all increase inflammation in the body, leading to heightened symptoms.
Endometriosis may present differently in each woman, making it somewhat confusing to diagnose. However, common symptoms of endometriosis include:
Unfortunately, the exact cause (or causes) are unknown, but researchers believe a number of factors may play a role, including:
Endometriosis has been linked to estrogen dominance, and endometrial lesions can also produce their own estrogen, further exacerbating symptoms and creating a vicious cycle. Thus getting estrogen back in balance has been a key component of healing for those with endometriosis.
Research has identified inflammatory markers such as tissue-specific antibodies and inflammatory cytokines present with endometriosis, which could be linked to intestinal permeability or autoimmune disease (see below).
When intestinal permeability is present, larger proteins (such as those found in gluten) are able to break through the gut barrier and into your immune system, which recognizes it as a foreign invader and attacks. This triggers inflammation and food sensitivities, both of which can lead to an autoimmune condition if left untreated.
Both chronic inflammation and intestinal permeability are risk factors for autoimmune disease, which could be both a driving factor and result of endometriosis.
Harmful environmental toxins such as dioxins (found in tampons) and PCB’s (contaminated soil and drinking water) are thought to increase the risk of endometriosis by altering immune function, hormonal balance and growth factors. Additionally, repeated consumption of hormonal birth control and OTC’s can lead to intestinal permeability and decimate good gut bacteria, leading to inflammation and autoimmune disease.
While every case of endometriosis is different, if there’s two things I want every woman out there suffering from it to know, it’s that 1) there is absolutely zero shame in whatever treatment option works best for you and 2) that being said there are other options out there besides invasive medical surgeries or painkillers and birth control, which include a long list of side-effects.
In fact, emerging research shows endometriosis can be effectively treated with anti-inflammatory nutrition and lifestyle modifications, which work to resolve gut health issues and hormone imbalances associated with endometriosis and alleviate symptoms (and BONUS these methods don’t have any nasty side effects).
Below are a list of my top anti-inflammatory foods and recipes to treat endometriosis, however please keep in mind that each case is different, and you will need to experiment with what works best for you based on your unique condition.
While the research is mixed on whether or not endometriosis can be treated with a plant-based diet, we do know plant foods like leafy greens, cruciferous and root veggies, berries and citrus, etc. to be rich in micronutrients, phytonutrients and fiber that work lower inflammation in the body, which can drastically help reduce endo symptoms.
**When consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. it’s important to cook them first. This significantly reduces goitrogens, which can suppress thyroid function and contribute to gut dysfunction.
Spices and herbs such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cacao, dark chocolate, chamomile, mint, etc. are all high in anti-inflammatory properties that work to reduce pain and symptoms associated with endometriosis.
Turmeric in particular contains a compound called curcumin, which clinical studies have found able to inhibit the growth of endometriosis cells by suppressing the production of estradiol (a form of estrogen).
While I’m a big fan of adding things in vs. taking them away, overconsumption of these substances can mess with blood sugar, leading to hormonal imbalances. Caffeine also impairs your liver, which can impact your body’s ability to naturally detoxify and lead to a buildup of estrogen, worsening symptoms over time.
Last but certainly not least, several studies have found gluten to increase intestinal permeability, causing inflammation and an immune response in the body that can lead to an autoimmune condition if not resolved.
Try swapping sugar in recipes for small amounts of less processed forms (dates, fruit, maple syrup), switching coffee for matcha, green tea, mushroom coffee, or decaf, and substituting breads, pasta, cereal, baked goods, etc. for gluten-free options made of quinoa, buckwheat, millet, brown rice, oats and chickpeas or legumes.
There are many emerging studies linking disrupted gut health and intestinal permeability to endometriosis, which can lead to autoimmune conditions if not treated.
Thus working to support our gut through eating anti-inflammatory foods (especially cruciferous vegetables, which help us remove excess estrogen that can further disrupt hormones and exacerbate symptoms ), taking probiotics (this is my fave brand, use code SOFRESH15 to save) and avoiding inflammatory foods and triggers (like those listed below) will go a long way in treating endometriosis.
Research has shown melatonin (a hormone naturally produced in the body) to help reduce pain with menstruation, urination, sex and bowel movements (all common symptoms of endometriosis).
That being said, because melatonin is a hormone, supplementing with it has mixed results and can produce other side effects, while adding in foods that naturally support melatonin production (such as bananas, cherries, pistachios, oats, rice, mushrooms, etc.) has no side effects.
Your body has unique nutrient needs during each phase of your menstrual cycle based on hormone fluctuations. Rotating in a variety of foods based on these needs works to keep hormones balanced, regulate your period, lower inflammation, promote optimal gut bacteria growth and reduce food sensitivities, as it prevents your gut from getting overexposed to triggering foods.
Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that work to lower inflammation.
Assist your liver in eliminating excess estrogen that can worsen endo symptoms. **Make sure to cook to reduce goitrogens, which can inhibit thyroid function.
High in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and antioxidants, as well as B vitamins needed to boost metabolism, support fertility and assist in melatonin production.
Loaded with antioxidants that work to lower oxidative stress, reducing inflammation.
Naturally support melatonin production, a hormone linked with a reduction in pain via menstruation, sex, urination and bowel movements.
Rich in fatty acids that reduce inflammation, as well as fiber to support the elimination of excess estrogen.
Rich in protein and fiber that work to maintain healthy blood glucose ranges and support good gut health.
High in fiber that regulates insulin levels as well as B vitamins shown to lower inflammation.
Work to lower inflammation, stabilize blood sugar and increase nitric oxide production to promote fertility.
+ Thai Peanut Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (Recipe Below)
Shown to increase intestinal permeability and provoke an inflammatory response that can bring on pain (one study showed 75% of women dramatically reduced pain after eliminating gluten from their diet).
High consumption of trans fats found in processed, fried and fast foods has been linked to higher rates of endometriosis diagnosis.
Red meat has been linked to increased endometriosis risk.
Disrupt gut microbiome balance and overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that can lead to inflammation and autoimmune conditions.
An estrogen-mimicker in the body that disrupts your natural estrogen production, confusing hormones and often halting ovulation as a result.
Genetically modified, highly inflammatory and severe endocrine health disrupters.
Too much can put strain on your adrenals and sex hormones while driving up stress hormone cortisol and inflammation. I encourage limiting to 200mg or less per day.
Alcohol raises estrogen levels, which can lead to increased endometrial symptoms.
While all of the recipes and diet advice above work to naturally balance hormones and boost fertility, I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention fertility diet tips for those struggling to conceive. Along with following the guidelines mentioned in this post, you can find more fertility specific recipes, tips and support here.
Emerging research shows endometriosis can be effectively treated with diet and lifestyle modifications, which resolve hormonal imbalances associated with endometriosis and dramatically reduce symptoms (these methods are also healthier for you all around without having any nasty side effects). While endometriosis can be an incredibly painful and debilitating condition for women, my hope is that this post has also shown you how enjoyable, delicious and fun endometriosis friendly recipes and cooking can be!
As with anything, please take into account each endometriosis case is different, and you will need to experiment with what works best for you. Additionally, there is ZERO shame in whatever treatment option works best for your needs.
These baked sweet potatoes are stuffed with anti-inflammatory greens, fiber-rich chickpeas and drizzled with a creamy, flavorful peanut sauce for the ultimate gut-healthy and endometriosis friendly recipe.
Author: Lauren Chambers
Recipe Type: Entree, dinner, meal
Cuisine: Asian, Thai
For The Creamy Peanut Sauce:
For The Baked, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes:
**The peanut sauce makes a huge portion, which I love to use as a topping for other bowls and leftovers throughout the week. This dish also makes great leftovers, and will last in the fridge for a few days.
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.