Endometriosis is a medical condition where tissue similar to that which lines the uterus is found growing in places outside of the uterus – such as in the abdomen, on the ovaries, within the fallopian tubes, or on ligaments that support the uterus. This tissue responds to hormones released during menstruation, and so thickens and sheds like endometrial tissue, causing heavy bleeding, debilitating pain, bloating and diarrhea.
Very little research has been done into the effect nutrition and eating habits have on the development of endometriosis. Halpern and her colleagues, in their review, Nutritional Aspects Related to Endometriosis, point out that evidence supports the role oxidative stress has to play in the development of the disease, and question why the value of good nutrition hasn’t been studied further. With our changing world and changing diet, women are exposed to more pollutants, environmental toxins, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and stress – all associated with free radical production and increased oxidative stress. In addition, foods have become more refined and nutrient-depleted, and now contain large amounts of pesticides, preservatives, flavorings and stabilizers.
Of the few studies available, several have found that a high weekly intake of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of endometriosis. An analysis of the Nurses Health Study II also reported women with a high trans fat intake were 48% more likely to develop the disease than those who consumed less. Acknowledging that treatment for endometriosis is multidisciplinary, the authors suggest that nutritional interventions may represent an alternative and safe preventive and therapeutic option.