Most people think of endometriosis as being a reproductive disorder. Endometriosis is just a painful period, right?? So why in the world do we experience bloating from endometriosis? In fact it is such a common symptom that it has its own name: endo belly! Have you had those days when you just can’t seem to fit into “real pants?” Or maybe you have days where you look 5 months pregnant…when you’re not?
You’re in luck because we are going to take a deep dive into just that topic today!
Bloating from endometriosis: what is the connection?
In a 2009 study on bloating and endometriosis, 96% of the women in the study with endometriosis reported bloating*. There is no way that is a coincidence!
Most of us consider bloating to be a digestive problem. So if endometriosis is a period problem, how are these connected? For starters, endometriosis is so much more than just a painful period. Endo is a full body disease. Sure, endo is often found on the ovaries and uterus. Did you know it can also be found on the bowels, bladder, diaphragm, liver, and more?
Besides that, all of the systems in your body are connected to each other. You are one human body and nothing works completely independently from any other part.
At the end of the day, the gut is where it all begins. This is how all nutrients are absorbed into your body. Around 70% of your immune system lives in your gut as well! I should mention here that at its root, endometriosis is a dysfunction of the immune system. Seeing the connection already? Great!
Supporting gut health to relieve bloating from endometriosis
The top place to look when you are looking to ditch bloating and endo belly for good is your gut. I should start out by saying that if you have deep underlying gut imbalances, working with a practitioner who specializes in this area will be your best bet.
There is not one single cause of bloating. It can stem from digestive dysfunction, overgrowth of the “bad bacteria,” parasites, fungal overgrowth, gut inflammation, food sensitivities…and that is just the tip of the iceberg!
But I want to give you some actionable tips that can help you begin to feel better right away! If you are ever going to dive into a deep gut healing protocol, it is so important to always start with the basics anyway.
A look at digestion
If I were to ask you where digestion begins, what would you say?
I’ll let you think about that for a moment.
Most people would say either in the mouth or in the stomach. In reality, neither of those is correct!
Digestion actually begins in the brain.
Yes, you heard that right!
Have you ever sat there and thought about eating your favorite food and actually started salivating? That is a perfect example!
Your brain controls everything in your body. It sends signals to turn on systems when it is “go time” and turn off when it is resting time. Your digestive system is no different. When you see, smell, taste, or even think about food, your brain starts to send signals to your digestive system to get the ball rolling.
You may begin salivating and your digestive juices begin to be released. Then you actually put food in your mouth, chew it (hopefully!) and the rest of the digestive process begins.
Why “rest to digest” is the crucial first step to eliminating bloating from endometriosis
Okay so we looked at the importance of your brain in the digestive process. Another important thing to note here is that digestion is a parasympathetic process. This means that your body must be in a restful state in order to digest.
Have you ever felt like just lying down for a nap after a big meal? This is your body telling you to rest so it can digest!
The beautiful thing here is that while most of the digestive process happens involuntarily, at the level of your brain and your mouth there are things you can do to help smooth out the process.
In fact, this is a crucial step right here that I work on with each and every one of my clients. We all want to skip off to the fancy protocols, but I am here to remind you that you can’t skip the basics!
So here it is, the first step you can take right now to begin your endo belly healing journey: rest to digest.
What does this look like?
For starters, it means stop eating on the run. Stop eating while you are working. Sit down and slow down. I know, life is busy and this can be hard sometimes. But your health is worth it!
Next time you have a meal, sit down to eat. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths first. Notice how that already slows down your nervous system.
Put away any distractions and actually notice your food. Notice the way it smells and tastes. Take your time eating your meal.
Sounds simple enough! How else can I help to eliminate bloating from endometriosis?
You’re in luck because the next step is just as simple!
Chew your food!
This is an often overlooked, but super important part of digestion. Chewing your food mixes the food with saliva which contains enzymes that start to break it down. Chewing also physically breaks down your food.
How does this help with bloating?
Well, food that is not properly digested by the time it reaches your intestines can be irritating. Large food particles can also damage the lining of your intestine and lead to things like food sensitivities further down the road.
Chewing your food helps it to be properly broken down by the time it reaches your stomach so that your stomach can do its job before it passes the food on to your small intestine.
How do you know if you are chewing your food enough? Aim for 25-30 chews per bite or until your food is about the consistency of a smoothie.
Never underestimate the power of chewing your food!
Bitter foods and bloating from endometriosis
Let’s be real, most of us tend to shy away from bitter foods. Sure, most Americans drink coffee on the regular, but most people also load it up with cream and sugar to sweeten it.
Bitter foods help to stimulate digestion by helping to fire your digestive juices. Like we talked about before, digestion is a north to south process. If you get those digestive juices firing in your stomach, it will help to break down your food properly and avoid issues further down the line.
Bitter foods include coffee (minus the sweeteners), arugula, kale, turmeric, ginger, citrus fruits, peppermint, cocoa, green tea, and brussel sprouts.
Try incorporating a small amount at a time if you are not used to eating bitter foods and you can slowly build up your taste buds for them.
A great alternative if you just can’t handle bitter foods or want to ensure you are getting in those bitter flavors is using digestive bitters. There are several great companies that make digestive bitters, but my personal favorite is Urban Moonshine (no affiliation, just a fan!).
You can put a dropperful of these bitter formulations in a small amount of water about 10-15 minutes before your meal to get those juices flowing!
How else can I support those digestive juices?
I’m so glad you asked! I may be a big nerd over here, but I can talk about digestive juices all day long.
The next simple step you can take is to avoid drinking too much water around your meals. Drinking water of course is wonderful for your digestive health in general, but too much water around mealtimes can dilute your digestive juices and prevent proper digestion.
Small sips of water are just fine, but try to limit it to about 8 oz at a maximum starting from 30 minutes prior to your meal until around an hour after. Other than that I highly encourage you to take sips of water all day long! Good hydration keeps everything moving smoothly…literally!
I am doing all of this and still feeling bloated…help!
That’s okay, you are doing great! Remember this is just a starting point on your healing journey. If taking the simple steps aren’t bringing you the relief you need, it may be time to dig deeper.
I am here to remind you that bloating is not just a way of life or something you have to deal with. Bloating is something that can be resolved, not just for today but for the long term.
Working with a practitioner who specializes in gut health can be a life changing help. I love to use GI testing in my practice personally so that I can get a good picture of exactly what is going on so we can support your body accordingly.
An overview of the steps you can take to reduce or eliminate bloating from endometriosis:
- Rest to digest. Sit down, remove distractions, and take a few deep breaths before you begin your meal.
- Chew your food. Aim for chewing each bite 25-30 times or until your food is about the consistency of a smoothie.
- Eat bitter foods or herbs. Incorporate some bitter foods and/or bitter herbs to help get your digestive juices flowing.
- Avoid drinking too much water around your meal. Limit your water intake during and immediately before and after your meal to avoid diluting your digestive juices.
- Get support if you need it! Your health is priceless. Invest in a knowledgeable practitioner if you need that level of support and get yourself feeling better. You deserve it!
Ready to take the next step and take a deep dive into your healing journey? Helping women to resolve endo belly and bloating so you can actually look and feel great again is my absolute passion in life. Click here to learn more about working with me so you can get the support you need.
Much love, my friend!
Other Articles You Might Enjoy:
Luscombe, Georgina M; Markham, Robert; Judio, Mirari; Grigoriu, Ariadna; Fraser, Ian S. (2009). Abdominal bloating: an under-recognized endometriosis symptom. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20085682/
McMullen, Michael K; Whitehouse, Julie M; Towell, Anthony. (2015). Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446506/
Nutritional Therapy Association (2021). Digestion Module Materials [Video and PDF Documents].
Restorative Wellness Solutions (2022). Mastering the Art and Science of Gastrointestinal Healing Materials [Video and PDF Documents].