We are all familiar with the sayings, “You are what you eat,” and “Let thy food be thy medicine…” Both are essential reminders when trying to conceive. The foods you consume have a very real effect on your body, especially if you have conditions like PCOS or endometriosis, both made worse by inflammation.
By eliminating foods or ingredients that increase inflammation, such as sugars, processed foods, alcohol, and fried or fatty foods, you can notably decrease the symptoms of endometriosis. The more you naturally decrease the effects of endometriosis, the easier it is to conceive when you are ready to start a family.
The more we research the link between lifestyle choices and fertility, the clearer it is that what you eat (and what you don’t eat) matters! So here are some research-driven recommendations on foods and supplements to consume if you have endometriosis.
All patients who have endometriosis should be “prescribed” an anti-inflammatory diet. This automatically reduces inflammation in the body, relieving a myriad of endometriosis symptoms like pain, bloating, and heavier/extended periods. Reducing inflammation in the body also manages other existing health conditions, increases immune system function, and improves metabolism.
A great example of an anti-inflammatory diet that is nutritious and easy to stick to is the Mediterranean Diet. If you’re also overweight and interested in weight management, speak to your doctor about the South Beach or Modified Atkins diet plans.
Whether you opt to follow a structured meal plan or go your own way by focusing on the right ingredients, all of the following recommendations are included in anti-inflammatory diets.
There is a lot of press about omega 3s, and while they are beneficial, they also need to be balanced.
Examples of healthy omega 3 sources are:
- SMASH fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring)
- Some seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin, or hemp – all of which are great when blended into a smoothie or added to granola atop plain or lightly sweetened yogurt.
- Eggs (preferably pasture-raised)
Always consult with your physician or a certified nutritionist to ensure you’re getting the right balance of omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, which should be 1:4. Too many omega 3s and not enough omega 6 can exacerbate inflammation.
While grass-fed and finished organic beef is good for you, most of us are eating more-than-recommended levels of red meat products. So instead, create a meal plan that utilizes a range of healthy protein choices – both plant- and animal-based- including leaner meat whenever possible.
While free-range beef and hormone-free pork are fine once in a while, make an effort to showcase other healthy protein options, such as turkey, chicken, fish, beans and legumes, seitan, soy products, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin D has received a lot of positive press during the pandemic due to its immune-boosting properties. In addition, studies show that women with endometriosis are frequently low in vitamin D levels and that boosting vitamin D reduces physical/pain symptoms and the number and severity of endometrial lesions.
Sources of vitamin D include:
- Sunshine (take a walk, hike, jog, swim, or bike ride to capitalize on vitamin D and exercise)
- Salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- Fortified foods and beverages
Recent studies, such as this one, show that consuming flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) can suppress endometrial lesions, which automatically decreases pain and discomfort experienced by women with stage 3 and 4 endometriosis.
Adding these foods to your diet increases natural flavonoid intake:
- Olives and olive oil
- Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, and bok choy, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower)
- Citrus fruits
- Onions and scallions
Curcumin (turmeric) is a potent anti-inflammatory. It is a common ingredient in Indian and Middle Eastern foods so feel free to add it to soups, rice, and other dishes to spice them up. You can also ask your local coffee or tea shop about their warm, cozy turmeric-infused beverages (decaf if you’re trying to conceive).
If you aren’t fond of curcumin, you can find curcumin supplements in your local health food store or the supplement section of the grocery store.
We hesitate to use the term organic because plenty of local farmers can’t afford the hefty fee of becoming “certified organic.” However, multiple studies show a direct correlation between pest-/herbicides and decreased fertility in men and women. Therefore, investing a little extra for certified organic and pesticide/herbicide-free foods is worth the reduced health risk and known health benefits.
We recommend taking advantage of the area’s farmer’s markets to create established relationships with local farmers, so you know you’re consuming the healthiest meats, vegetables, fruits, and herbs possible.
Are you struggling to get pregnant with endometriosis? Schedule a consultation with Reproductive Resource Center, Kansas City’s most successful fertility treatment center, to create a personalized treatment plan. We take a well-rounded approach to family building, starting with diet and lifestyle choices and continuing with fertility treatments most likely to yield success.