If you suffer from painful endometriosis symptoms, you’re probably always on the lookout for ways to ease the discomfort. One option that claims to do this and increase your quality of life is a plant-based diet. If you’re curious about whether these claims have any scientific backing, or just want to find out whether saying goodbye to your cheesy chips and chicken nugs could help you feel better, you’re in the right place. Let’s investigate whether veganism helps or hinders your endo pains…
Endometriosis is a condition that causes tissue like the lining of the womb to grow in places it shouldn’t, like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and inside the pelvis. It is a long-term condition with symptoms ranging from mild discomfort during menstruation, to debilitating pain that stops you from taking part in daily activities. This can of course have a negative impact on your life unless you find a treatment option that works for you, so invest time into researching with your doctor and try out lifestyle changes that may help.
Ah, that’ll be Veganuary! Although veganism is in season all year round, January is when it kicks into high gear thanks to a yearly campaign that inspires thousands of people to try a plant-based diet (over half a million tried it in 2021!). They work with businesses to encourage more vegan foods in shops and restaurants and make it more accessible to all.
If you’re still not sure what a vegan diet entails, it essentially consists of foods that are derived from plants and avoids foods derived from animals. Meat of course, but also things like eggs, milk, cheese and honey come under the category of animal-derived. If you listen to celebrities and influencers, a plant-based diet promises to do just about everything except fix your kitchen sink, but does it actually help if you have endometriosis?
Good question! If you suffer from endo and are looking to try out some lifestyle changes to help minimise symptoms, then a diet edit could help. While a generally healthier diet (you know; more veg, less McDonald’s, that sort of thing) is always going to ensure you’re giving your body its best shot at health, there are quite a few accounts of a specifically vegan diet being useful for endo sufferers, though evidence of its effectiveness may be anecdotal.
Still, even without science-backed studies, it’s worth exploring the possibility that a plant-based diet may have a positive effect on symptoms. One account on Endometriosis.net saw results within days; “After three days of eating vegan, the spotting stopped. After a month of eating vegan, I noticed that my cycle had become regular again, and that the spotting had entirely disappeared. In the middle of month two, I was craving a burger and decided to honor that craving. Three days later, I had spotting again. Light, but unmistakable.”
Another (Jessica Murnane, author of One Part Plant) was on track for a hysterectomy due to her painful endo symptoms but switched to a plant-based diet in the nick of time. She believes this change was the secret to her quick turnaround. Though these stories are promising, there is a distinct lack of scientific research to back up the idea that diet, in general, can have an impact on endometriosis.
As one study says; “...results of the study suggest that higher intake of green vegetables and fresh fruit can lower the risk of endometriosis. Further analyses will help to utilize dietary modification as a treatment modality which underlie as a risk factor in this prevalent, poorly understood disease.”
It seems there’s still a big question mark over the vegan diet as the ultimate treatment for this condition, but there could be some hope there. Depending on your level of pain, you may wish to take the attitude of ‘it couldn’t hurt to try’ and see what positive results you get, if any. If you are following a treatment plan with your GP, speak to them about this first and discuss potential pros and cons of the diet alongside any other treatments you are taking.
Keep in mind those with endometriosis are at higher risk of developing iron-deficient anaemia due to heavy periods, so if one of your symptoms is heavy periods, approach a plant-based diet with caution (speak to your doctor first) and make sure you are taking any necessary supplements and eating the right foods to ensure good health.
Maybe. Some studies have found that a high intake of red meat is associated with an increased risk of endometriosis developing, so cutting back on this alone has the potential to make a difference. And since going plant-based tends to lead to eating a lot more fruits and veggies, even a partial diet change could have a positive impact on your health.
It’s all about trial and error, so give it a go for a few weeks to give your body a chance to process any benefits, and record how your symptoms respond. And remember, slipping up doesn’t mean you’re back to square one. Don’t sweat it, simply start again the next day.
Are you interested in trying out a vegan diet to ease endo symptoms? We’d love to know how it goes! Get involved in the conversation over on our Full Stop FB group, and feel free to ask any questions on Instagram at @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised menstrual care subscription can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and much more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox - so that's one less everyday pain to handle.
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