What’s the Connection?
The short answer here is…everything! If you have endometriosis, you have likely experienced some pain. Or more likely, that is the understatement of the year! We all know when we have an injury like a sprained ankle, the pain you experience is due to inflammation. That is why anti-inflammatory medications like Advil are such a huge industry. Before I received my endo diagnosis, I thought it was just painful periods. Now I know it is so much more, from digestive symptoms to bladder symptoms to fatigue and the list goes on. Inflammation and endometriosis are intimately connected to each other. Let’s explore!
What exactly is inflammation?
This obviously is the best place to start. Without knowing what inflammation really is, figuring out how to address it is a complete mystery. To put it simply, inflammation is your body’s immune response to some sort of irritant. That irritant could be a pathogen like bacteria or a virus, it could be something like a splinter in your finger, or it could be a food you have ingested that your body recognizes as foreign.
Inflammation is painted to be a bad thing, but in fact our body needs it. Without inflammation we wouldn’t be able to heal injuries or fight off invaders. But what we do need is to be able to de-inflame also and with endo this is often an issue.
Endometriosis is known to be a disease in which chronic inflammation is prevalent. This means the inflammation, which should come and go, instead lasts for months or even years.
Why does this happen?
The cause of this chronic inflammation can come from a number of things and getting to the root of it can be huge in supporting the body’s healing process.
Possible causes can include pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and/or parasites which often reside in the digestive tract. This can cause inflammation and affects other parts of the body as well. 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, so addressing gut inflammation can have major impacts on the immune system.
Food sensitivities can also be a big part of this. With 70% of the immune system in the gut, reactions here can also lead to that chronic inflammation. Irritating foods can in fact damage the lining of the gut, allowing more large food particles through which are in turn attacked by the immune system since they are perceived as foreign and can lead to even more food sensitivities down the line. It’s a big domino effect!
This is why I love to run a GI Map as well as an MRT food sensitivity test on my clients so it can give us a good picture at what pathogens and foods might be causing this low-level inflammation. With endo warriors, gut health always tops the list of root causes to address! Read more about the endo-gut connection here!
Connecting Inflammation and Endometriosis
Okay so we have a better picture now of inflammation and where it comes from, but how exactly do endometriosis lesions relate? Studies have now shown that inflammation is in fact one of the triggers of endometriosis lesions. Macrophages, a specialized type of white blood cell, are activated along with pro-inflammatory cytokines and this has been reported to play a large role in the progression of the disease.
Are you starting to see the picture of how down-regulating the immune system and thus inflammation can play a role in managing endometriosis? Great!
Then let’s see what we can do about it, my favorite part!
What can we do to address inflammation and endometriosis?
The great news is that there are things we can do to help our bodies to regulate our immune systems and support healthy levels of inflammation. The first place that I would start with my clients is addressing any pathogens present in the gut as well as removing irritating foods. Which foods exactly are of course unique to each individual. Working with a practitioner to pinpoint exactly what these foods are for you can be an extremely valuable tool.
A good starting point is to reduce or eliminate the foods that are known to be most inflammatory for many people: sugar, industrial seed oils (vegetable oils, canola oil, corn oil, anything hydrogenated, etc.), gluten, dairy, corn, and soy. An elimination diet is a gold standard here. This means eliminating all of these foods for a period of time and then slowly reintroducing them to see what your body may react to. You may be surprised! Again, this is not an exhaustive list of foods that could potentially be inflammatory, but it is a great place to start.
While you are removing offending foods, adding in foods that are supportive of a healthy inflammatory response like foods rich in antioxidants and polyphenols are wonderful to fill up your plate with. This includes berries, cherries, avocados, olives, spinach, broccoli, green tea, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, and so very many more. Fill up your plate with many, many colors. More colors=more nutrients plus more food for the beneficial gut bacteria.
Adding in Omega-3 rich foods like salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc. is also a crucial piece of supporting inflammation. This is because the Omega-3 fatty acids are used by the body to create anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Spices, Lifestyle, and Supplements, Oh My!
In addition to foods, there are certain spices with anti-inflammatory benefits that can be added to your meals. This includes turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, cayenne, black pepper, and cloves.
To top this list off, there are lifestyle choices we can make that are also supportive of inflammation. This includes getting plenty of sleep, enjoying physical movement or exercise, and of course managing stress levels.
I also like to use some supplements for myself and my clients. This of course becomes very bio-individual, but an excellent place to start is curcumin and Omega-3s. Curcumin is the main component of turmeric and can easily be found in supplement form. This has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Omega-3 supplements have benefits just like the food sources listed above. Omega-3 supplementation helps to make sure we get enough in our bodies each day. I recommend a high-quality fish oil supplement, cold pressed and with EPA and DHA.
That’s it, my friend!
Addressing inflammation can be quite complex, but this starting framework I have laid out for you is quite simple. Start one piece at a time and see what a difference it makes in your body!
I am a huge advocate for food as medicine as well as getting to the root cause and avoiding band-aid solutions. If inflammation is complex, endometriosis certainly is. There is no cure for endo at this point in time, but there are absolutely ways we can support our bodies along the way and this is a huge piece.
Ready to leave your painful symptoms behind and get your fertility back on track? I would absolutely love to help. Click here to learn more about how to work with me within my 1:1 coaching program. I look forward to meeting you!
Much love and happy healing!
National Institute of Health National Library of Medicine. (2018). What is an inflammation? Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/
Pahwa, Roma; Goyal, Amandeep; Jialal, Ishwarlal. (2022). Chronic Inflammation. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
Donnez, Jacques; Cacciottola, Luciana. (2022). Endometriosis: An Inflammatory Disease That Requires New Therapeutic Options. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8836207/
Spritzler, Franziska. (2021). 10 Supplements That Fight Inflammation. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-anti-inflammatory-supplements#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
UC San Diego Health News Room. (2012). Why Omega-3 Oils Help at the Cellular Level. Retrieved from: https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/pages/2012-05-15-omega-3-oils-help-at-cellular-level.aspx
Hewlings, Susan J.; Kalman, Douglas S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of its’ Effect on Human Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
Simoupolos, Artemis P. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12480795/