Did you know that 1 out of every 10 women of a reproductive age suffers from endometriosis? Despite how prevalent this reproductive disorder is, there’s unfortunately not a whole lot of talk about it — it’s also normal to not know what it is. Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus (this lining is the endometrium — hence the term “endometriosis”) grows outside of the uterus, in places like the fallopian tubes, bladder, rectum, or ovaries.
For those of you who nerd out over biology, here’s how endometriosis works in the body: Before a woman’s period, the hormone estrogen causes the endometrium to thicken. It does this in order to support a baby if conception occurs — kind of like a comfy pillow for the fetus. But if pregnancy doesn’t happen, estrogen levels drop. This causes the extra endometrial tissue to shed in the form of your period. After all, there’s no little one for all that extra tissue to cushion.
With endometriosis, the tissue grows in places other than the uterus. This can cause inflammation and irritation, which can result in symptoms like diarrhea, excessive cramping, bloating, constipation, lower back pain, painful intercourse, and bleeding during hormonal shifts, when estrogen levels cause the tissue to thicken and shed. While there’s no cure for endometriosis (yet), there is research suggesting nutrition can help manage the disorder.
Since our three favorite activities at Cali’Flour Foods are supporting women, talking about food, and advocating for health conditions (like lupus and celiac disease), we decided to dig into the research to give you the best advice out there. Here’s what we found:
Tip 1: Watch the amount of trans fat in your diet
Research shows that endometriosis is more prevalent in women who consume larger amounts of trans fat. This 2010 study looked at dietary intake logs recorded over 12 years for over 5,000 people (that’s a lot of food journals). 1,199 of the individuals had an endometriosis diagnosis. The scientists discovered the women who fell in the highest quintile of trans fat intake were 48 percent more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis. They wrote, “These data suggest that specific types of dietary fat are associated with the incidence of confirmed endometriosis...This evidence additionally provides another disease association that supports efforts to remove trans fat from hydrogenated oils from the food supply.”
One of the reasons experts recommend avoiding trans fat is because it causes inflammation. As we mentioned earlier, those with endometriosis already cope with inflammation due to the presence of endometrial tissue in places it doesn’t normally belong. So, avoiding trans fat can keep endometriosis symptoms — caused by inflammation — from getting worse.
Trans fat is predominantly found in hydrogenated oils, like soybean and canola. (Fast food and fried foods tend to be high in trans fat, too, since they’re usually made with hydrogenated oils.) Next time you’re shopping or cooking, reach for coconut oil, butter, ghee, or olive oil rather than a hydrogenated vegetable oil. It’s also important to check the ingredients list on all packaged food items. If it includes the terms “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” it’s likely rich in trans fat.
Tip 2: Check the ingredients for gluten
Get this: In a 2012 study comprised of 207 women with severe, painful endometriosis, 75 percent — approximately 156 — experienced a significant decrease in pain after eliminating gluten from their diet for 12 months.
Want to experiment with reducing the amount of gluten in your diet to see if it helps endometriosis symptoms? The good news is that many staple products, like oatmeal, beer, bread, cereal, bagels, pasta, and more, are now available in in gluten-free varieties. While you’re at it, why not replace that frozen pizza crust with a Cali’Flour Foods flatbread style cauliflower crust? Our crusts rely on fibrous and nutrient-rich cauliflower to get that perfect, crispy yet doughy consistency, rather than gluten-containing wheat.
Keep in mind that gluten can be sneaky. Refer to the ingredients list to make sure that gluten is not listed, especially in items like pasta sauce, soup, vitamins, and candy. For example, some movie theatre staples, like malted milk balls, contain gluten. But like we mentioned earlier: We did the research for you (especially when it comes to important issues like concession stand options). Starbursts, Sour Patch Kids, Almond Joys, Swedish Fish, and M&Ms are gluten-free.
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