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The Paleo Diet and Endometriosis

By Nell Stephenson, B.S.
May 20, 2016
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We’ve already read about how replacing the conventional corn-fed meat in our diet with grass fed meat has health benefits in terms of reducing our bad cholesterol levels 1. We’ve also heard that cutting out gluten can help alleviate symptoms of auto immune issues 2,3.

But can following a real Paleo Diet help in addressing endometriosis? Absolutely.

Endometriosis is a condition resulting from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus 4.

According to the Mayo Clinic 5, the primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with one’s menstrual period and although many women experience cramping during their menstrual period, women with endometriosis typically describe menstrual pain that's far worse than usual.

Women also tend to report that the pain increases over time.

Additional common signs and symptoms of endometriosis may include:

  • Unusual pelvic pain and cramping, beginning before and extending several days into one’s period. It may include lower back and abdominal pain.
  • Pain with intercourse. Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
  • Pain with bowel movements or urination.
  • Excessive bleeding.
  • Infertility.
  • Other symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea.

What causes this debilitating condition and what can be done?

It’s ambiguous - one theory is that the endometrial tissue is deposited in unusual locations by the retrograde flow of menstrual debris through the Fallopian tubes into the pelvic and abdominal cavities 6.

More importantly, though, what can be done to alleviate the painful symptoms?

Rather than heading straight for the traditional treatments, which involve pain medication, hormone therapy and surgery 7, why not first look into what’s going into the body that could be exacerbating symptoms?

Let’s start with gluten, one of the key things to eliminate on a real, Paleo diet.

According to a study published by the National Institute of Medicine 8, painful symptoms of endometriosis decrease after 12 months on a gluten-free diet.

And refined, highly processed foods that make up the bulk of many Americans’ diets?

The Endometriosis Society 9 states that processed, refined and synthetic foods are the number one food category to avoid, including packaged and prepared meals and snacks, soft drinks, fried foods, smoked and/or processed meats, breakfast cereals, baked goods, white flour and refined grains, sugar/corn syrup, soy, artificial sweeteners, poor quality fats and a variety of additives, colors and chemicals all contribute to the inflammatory and toxic burden on the body.

They also suggest that sticking with fresh, unprocessed ingredients (organic whenever possible) with a strong emphasis on fresh produce forms the backbone of any anti-inflammatory diet and should be adhered to by anyone suffering from this condition.

Finally, a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can help address symptoms 10; the University of Maryland suggests that taking fish oil can 11 help reduce inflammation and improve immunity as part of a treatment protocol for Endometriosis.

So, let’s tally this up: no gluten, nothing inflammatory (i.e. packaged / refined), lots of fresh, local, alkaline-forming veggies and anti-inflammatory sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, like wild fish oil.

Sounds like textbook Paleo to me!

References

[1] Davidson, M. H., D. Hunninghake, et al. (1999). "Comparison of the effects of lean red meat vs lean white meat on serum lipid levels among free-living persons with hypercholesterolemia: a long-term, randomized clinical trial." Arch Intern Med 159(12): 1331-8. The conclusion of this study: "... diets containing primarily lean red meat or lean white meat produced similar reductions in LDL cholesterol and elevations in HDL cholesterol, which were maintained throughout the 36 weeks of treatment.

[2] "3 Important Reasons to Give Up Gluten If You Have an Autoimmune Disease - Amy Myers MD." Amy Myers MD. N.p., 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 09 May 2016

[3] Nikulina, M., et al., Wheat gluten causes dendritic cell maturation and chemokine secretion. J Immunol, 2004. 173(3): p. 1925-33.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endometriosis

[5] "Endometriosis." The Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2016.

[6] "Endometriosis Symptoms, Causes, Treatment - Endometriosis Facts - MedicineNet." MedicineNet. Medicine.Net, n.d. Web. 09 May 2016

[7] "What Are the Treatments for Endometriosis?" What Are the Treatments for Endometriosis? National Institute of Health, n.d. Web. 09 May 2016

[8] "Gluten-free Diet: A New Strategy for Management of Painful Endometriosis Related Symptoms?" National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 09 May 2016

[9] "Nutrition for Endometriosis." Center for Endometriosis Care a COEMIGDesignated Center of Excellence. Center for Endometriosis, n.d. Web. 09 May 2016

[10] Attaman, J., et al., The anti-inflammatory impact of omega-3 polyunsaturated Fatty acids during the establishment of endometriosis-like lesions. American journal of reproductive immunology (1989), 2014. 72(4): p. 392-402.

[11] "Endometriosis." University of Maryland Medical Center. University of Maryland Medical Center, n.d. Web. 09 May 2016

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