Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium — the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus — grows outside of the uterus.
It can cause various symptoms such as chronic pelvic pain and infertility.
Although the treatments for endometriosis vary, making changes to your diet may help you better manage the condition.
This article explains what to eat and avoid with endometriosis and provides a 3-day sample endometriosis diet sample menu.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common condition estimated to affect 10% to 15% of women of reproductive age, primarily those between 25 and 29 years of age.
The word endometriosis is derived from the Greek words, endo “inside,” metra “uterus” and osis “disease.”
It occurs when the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows in places outside of it like the ovaries, the digestive tract, and the bladder.
Depending on where the tissue grows, endometriosis can cause a variety of symptoms, including (1):
- chronic pelvic pain
- painful sexual intercourse
- painful menstrual periods
- painful urination
- abdominal pain
There is no cure for endometriosis but treatments focus on relieving the uncomfortable and painful symptoms associated with the condition as well as improving the chances of becoming pregnant.
Certainly, these diets can help improve symptoms in those who have certain food intolerances or allergies.
A healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients like antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids may provide pain relief by alleviating inflammation and supporting hormonal balance (8, 9, 10, 11).
Foods high in added sugars, refined grains, and alcohol should also be limited as part of a healthy diet.
Foods to eat
Here are foods to eat with endometriosis that may relieve symptoms by lowering inflammation:
- Fruits: apples, avocados, bananas, berries, grapes, kiwifruit, melons, nectarines, oranges, pears, peaches, pineapples, etc.
- Vegetables: arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, jicama, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, etc.
- Whole grains: barley, brown rice, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread and pasta
- Dairy products and alternatives: cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, milk, and unsweetened plant-based dairy alternatives
- Lean meats and poultry: cuts of beef and pork that contain the words “loin” or “round,” skinless white meat poultry, eggs
- Seafood: all unbreaded fish and shellfish
- Legumes: beans, peas, and lentils
- Seeds and nuts: almonds, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc.
- Oils: canola or extra-virgin olive oil
- Beverages: coffee, tea, water
Foods to limit
Here are foods to limit or save for special occasions as they tend to be pro-inflammatory and may worsen your symptoms:
- Added sugars: barbeque sauce, breakfast cereals, dressings, and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Refined grains: bakery items like cookies, cakes, and rolls, and white bread, flour, and rice
- Processed meats: bacon, beef jerky, deli meats, ham, hot dogs, pepperoni, sausage
- Fried foods: cheese curds, chicken, french fries, fish, etc.
- Alcohol: beer, cocktails, wine, etc.
3-day sample endometriosis diet
Here’s a 3-day sample endometriosis diet sample menu that includes a vegan option:
- Breakfast: oatmeal topped with berries and nuts
- Lunch: whole-wheat pasta with shrimp and herbs and veggies
- Snack: cottage cheese with sliced peaches
- Dinner: pork loin, brown rice, and sauteed carrots
Day 2 (vegan option)
- Breakfast: avocado whole-grain toast
- Lunch: chickpea spinach salad
- Snack: apple slices and almonds
- Dinner: vegan burrito bowl
- Breakfast: baby spinach omelet and orange slices
- Lunch: grilled chicken wrap
- Snack: Greek yogurt and walnuts
- Dinner: baked salmon, quinoa, and sauteed asparagus
Supplements for endometriosis
Along with diet, several supplements have been shown to relieve painful endometriosis symptoms.
Vitamins C and E
Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help neutralize oxidative stress and prevent cellular damage from inflammation.
Because endometriosis is an inflammatory condition, supplementing with the two vitamins may help lower inflammation and alleviate pain.
In one study, women with endometriosis who were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 800 IU of vitamin E for eight weeks reported significant reductions in chronic pelvic pain as well as pain from menstrual cycles and sexual intercourse compared with placebo (12).
This same supplement combination and dose has also been suggested to improve the chances of conception in women with endometriosis undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) (13).
You can find this supplement combination online.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are the most widely studied supplement for endometriosis, primarily owing to their anti-inflammatory effects.
In one study, women with endometriosis who were given 2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids for eight weights reported significantly better improvements in pelvic pain compared with placebo (14).
Another study demonstrated similar results, suggesting that supplementing with 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil daily for six months led to modest improvements in pelvic pain (15).
Other studies have shown that women with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to have endometriosis compared with women with lower levels, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids have protective effects against the condition (16).
Find fish oil supplements online.
The bottom line
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows on areas outside the uterus like the ovaries, digestive tract, or bladder.
Its primary symptoms include chronic pain and infertility.
Some women with the condition have reported symptom improvements with diets like a gluten-free, low-FODMAP, or low-nickel diet, but without a food allergy or intolerance, an healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables is best for endometriosis.
Taking certain supplements like vitamins A and E as well as omega-3 fatty acids from fish may also help alleviate pain and improve fertility in women with endometriosis.