Can nutrition affect endometriosis? Are there any foods to avoid that could make the disease worse? And others that are recommended instead?
"There is no food that becomes medicine, but there are lifestyle attitudes that can alleviate pain and improve treatments". The dr. Ferdinando A. Giannone, biologist, researcher and nutritionist, is a member of the scientific committee of APE - Associazione Progetto Endometriosis - which unites volunteer patients from all over the country committed to creating awareness and providing information on this disease, which affects about 3 million women in our country alone, but it is diagnosed 8 to 12 years late. He himself explains the relationship between food, nutrition and endometriosis.
Endometriosis and nutrition: how does food affect this disease? Endometriosis is a chronic, long-lasting disease with an inflammatory basis. «To understand the relationship with nutrition, we cannot just talk about what we need to eat, but about everything lifestyle that women can take to make the disease progress more slowly, decrease symptoms, and make medical therapies work better. Attitude and lifestyle are worth as much as the ingredients that are brought to the table ».
What are the attitudes women with endometriosis need to avoid? "For example, with regard to physical activity, do not overdo it with sports that can overload the pelvic floor, which is usually the part where there is inflammation. It is okay to have good muscles and keep the weight of the norm, but also avoid very aerobic workouts or competitive sports in weightlifting, cycling or horse riding. Those who work out a lot and increase their protein intake inflame the pelvic area and this increases pain and does not help drug therapy. The same goes for those who are sedentary and overweight and put a lot of sugar in the circulation. Sugars can stimulate estrogenic hormones, which fuel the disease. " The right thing is to find the right balance: doing sports that combine breathing, moderate activity and flexibility of the muscles, such as yoga and pilates, working on stretching and anti-stress activities.
What are the foods that can exacerbate the pains of endometriosis?
Foods that can exacerbate pain are:
exciting substances (such as coffee, tea ...)
saturated fats present in animal foods (such as sausages and cheeses ...)
«The stimulants, such as coffee, tea, which put more estrogen into the circulation. Women with endometriosis normally have more estrogen in their circulation, especially with the menstrual peak estrogen causes the tissue of the endometrium to grow and therefore cause more pain. Then there are saturated fats, present in animal foods, such as sausages and cheeses, which can worsen the condition of the disease ». This depends:
from the dose,
from the quality
and the origin of the food we eat.
«Savoring a cheese once a week made from the milk of an animal that lived outdoors, ate well, walked, ran, doesn't have a negative impact on health. The same thing is true if I choose a butter from the malga, from cows that have eaten grass. The products from factory farms have more fat and a worse fat quality, and the fats are inflammatory ».
«It is necessary to prefer products and meat from animals lived in the wild or from organic farms. There are substances, used to make food, that affect hormones. And women with endometriosis are more hormonally sensitive. For example, the pesticides with which fruit and vegetables are grown: there are some that are defined as endocrine disruptors, precisely because they affect hormones and this can affect some diseases, such as endometriosis, even if they are within the limits of the law. Better organic fruits and vegetables. And that it's not wrapped in plastics that can release hormone disruptors. The advice is to have a diet where the quality and quantity of fat are controlled ».
foods rich in minerals, vitamins and bioactive molecules
“Endometriosis is a multifaceted disease. Based on the area of the body that affected endometriosis or the patient's medical history, it is necessary to understand which foods can be reduced and which ones to prefer, such as those rich in minerals, vitamins and bioactive molecules that have an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effect. Therefore, it is good to prefer vegetable foods of many different colors, to vary the seasonality, the flavor and the taste and the part of the plants that is used. In the color of vegetables there are useful substances. The dark, bright colors, such as purple, red, intense orange, dark green have molecules that give colors and flavors that are useful, such as folic acid and antioxidants, carotenoids, anthocyanins. Vegetables must be accompanied by animal foods that have good fats, such as oily fish, rich in Omega3. As for sugars, it is better to choose, for example, a raw honey, intact, which at room temperature is more solid and is richer in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, pollen. The very liquid honeys are often refined honeys, they are just sugar ».
«The ideal is to follow a path with a professional, to customize the diet. Women with endometriosis do not have to make choices on their own, but it is important that they undergo food re-education. They should be supervised by a multidisciplinary group of professionals: physiotherapist, psychologist, nutritionist and the gynecologist. They should feel accompanied on a journey to experience a disease that they will have for life. There are ingredients, for example, that women eliminate, such as gluten or lactose, because by doing so they feel better. But I'm not celiac. Having an alteration in the lower part of the intestine, they are likely to be more sensitive to gluten if they eat gluten often. It is necessary to find ingredients that are naturally gluten-free, for example rice, millet, sorghum, other cereals that naturally do not contain it, breads made with ancient grains and unrefined flours, alternating products with gluten and gluten-free. There is no need to unbalance the power supply. There are also many minerals and vitamins that women should learn to dose. Usually, doctors do blood tests to evaluate levels of zinc, magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and folic acid. In this way you can understand what doses they need ».
«It must be a quality of life approach. The emotional aspect must be balanced with awareness. Women need to know that if they fail with food, then they have to compensate for the next few days. Earning cheats with healthy habits. You can only go on vacation if you save money, as not everyone is born rich. In nutrition and lifestyle it is the same thing: I drink less coffee so I feel better also from an emotional point of view; if I eat a lot of sugars and I have a lot of pain, it also affects my mood. If I learn to manage stress during the week, on Saturdays and Sundays I drink a bottle of wine and have an aperitif. I have made my illness less aggressive and give me fewer problems. Everything has to be done gradually. It is the sum of many small actions that makes the difference ». Read also: Endometriosis: how to improve the quality of life