EATING WELL IN KANSAS CITY - March 2019
Manage Endometriosis with Nutrition and Supplements
By Angela Watson Robertson
As someone who has suffered from severe endometriosis for more than 15 years, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy researching what I can do to help my body feel better and experience less pain.
Chronic pain, or inflammation, can be debilitating and life-altering. It can also be something of a mystery, because the cause of one person’s pain is often different from another’s. In addition, endometriosis symptoms vary widely, so the disease can be difficult to diagnose and treat. True diagnosis of endometriosis requires surgery.
The Mayo Clinic defines endometriosis as “an often-painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus—the endometrium—grows outside of the uterus.” I’ve learned that endometriosis in the abdomen results in internal bleeding and inflammation, which causes pain and the formation of cysts.
Although this disease can be frustrating, I know firsthand that there is hope. I’ve found relief with the help of nutrition and supplements.
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
If you have endometriosis, you have inflammation. There are ways of eating that can help reduce inflammation. That’s why I recommend an anti-inflammatory diet, which is often considered to be a helpful part of an integrative approach to pain management, along with exercise, stress management, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture.
You can find information about the anti-inflammatory diet in numerous books and on various websites, but the primary idea is to avoid sugary, refined, and processed foods and replace them with whole, nutrient-rich, plant-based foods. The specifics will vary depending on the severity of your pain and overall health, but in its strictest form, the diet may involve eliminating dairy, red meat, simple carbs, such as sugar and flour, and most grains, including rice, corn, and wheat. Instead, focus on whole fruits, vegetables, and animal proteins such as fish and chicken in moderation. Personally, I have found that I feel my best when I eliminate all grains, dairy, and processed sugar from my diet.
Drink a protein shake daily
In addition to eating plenty of protein throughout the day, I recommend a daily protein shake or smoothie. Protein does wonders for our body, including forming antibodies to prevent infection, assisting in hormone balance, and managing blood sugar. The key is to make the protein shake yourself at home and use high-quality ingredients with minimal added sugar or additives.
Angela’s Daily Protein Shake Recipe
Half of a frozen banana
A handful of strawberries, wild blueberries, cherries, and mango
Several scoops of your favorite dairy-free and gluten-free protein powder
Two handfuls of spinach
Almond milk, as desired
Purified water, as desired
Use whatever vegan and gluten-free protein powder you prefer. I recommend a pea-protein base, and I love the chocolate-peanut butter blend from Amazing Grass that also includes green powder. I also suggest adding a probiotic powder to your daily smoothie along with a tablespoon of a fiber blend of your choice.
Although proper nutrition is key, I’ve found supplements to be crucial in managing my pain and other endometriosis symptoms. I believe progesterone is the most important supplement for helping with this condition. Endometriosis is an estrogen-dominant condition, so it only makes sense that your body may need progesterone.
Magnesium is a key supplement for those of us with endometriosis or chronic inflammation because it helps reduce cramping. People with endometriosis are often lacking in magnesium due to estrogen dominance . In addition, during menstruation, women’s magnesium levels can drop by up to 50 percent. It can be difficult to absorb magnesium, so experiment with different types and delivery mechanisms. You can take Epsom salt baths, add a powder to water, use a body spray, take capsules, or get magnesium intravenously using an IV drip.
Many people who suffer from endometriosis are also challenged with significant hormonal imbalance, and using maca can help restore balance. Maca is known to benefit energy levels, balance male or female fertility, help women achieve health during menopause, and maintain libido and sexual function in both men and women.
Part of the ginger family, turmeric is a root that has been known to reduce inflammation. I recommend taking a minimum of 500 mg daily for back and joint pain. You can find it in powder, tea, liquid, or capsule form.
Recent studies have shown that high doses of vitamin D can help reduce pain. According to a 2011 study of breast cancer patients, vitamin D eases chronic pain because it limits how much inflammation can take place. This is because vitamin D is a key nutrient that prevents the immune system from responding excessively, leading to chronic inflammation, also known as pain1. I recommend taking at least 5,000 iu of vitamin D per day for pain; however, it is important to work with a doctor and get regular blood draws if taking vitamin D in high doses for long periods of time.
DHA/EPA (Fish Oil)
New research shows that essential fatty acids, DHA and EPA, promote a class of compounds called resolvins, which restore nerve and immune cell function to normal in a timelier manner, thus getting rid of excess pain2. I recommend taking two to three grams daily, which was shown in a 2012 university study to be therapeutic for 380 arthritis patients who took this dosage for more than three months and experienced a reduced need for NSAID (aspirin, ibuprofen) drugs3.
If you have chronic pain and have tried the above with no relief, I also recommend researching the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) oil—one of the 104 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa. Because most CBD oil is sold without tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant, you get the benefits without the “high” you have heard about .
In addition to the above, I recommend that everyone take a high-quality multivitamin and probiotic daily. If you have any issues with digestion, add in digestive enzymes before or right after a meal. A certified health coach, like myself, can help you determine what supplements are right for you and your medical professional can order labs to test your levels.
I recommend working with a nutritionist, health coach, or dietician when making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have chronic health issues.
If you experience pelvic pain, please see your doctor and/or an endometriosis specialist for diagnosis and treatment. The above recommendations do not replace the need for surgery or other treatment options.
There is currently no scientific evidence to support the use of CBD oil for pain, so please do your research and use caution.
Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education Facebook Group
Heal Endometriosis Naturally by Wendy K Laidlaw
Endometriosis—A Key to Healing and Nutrition Through Nutrition by Dian Shepperson Mills
Endometriosis Diet by Barbara Williams
Rastelli, A.L., Taylor, M.E., Gao, F. et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2011) 129: 107. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-011-1644-6
Lee YB et al. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Archives of Medical Research. 2012 Jul; 43(5):356-62. Epub 2012 Jul 24.
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Angela Watson Robertson, MBA, CIHC, INHC, a.k.a The Reinvention Warrior, is a well known nutrition blogger and health coach who teaches you how to transform your life starting with the food you eat. She has created simple, effective tools to help you reinvent every area of your life- from health, career and money to relationships, spirituality and sex. Find her free wellness tips, nutrition courses, and coaching programs at www.angelawatsonrobertson.com. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter.