Endometriosis is a very complex disease that involves the whole body. Unfortunately at this point in time there is no “cure,” but there are absolutely things that we can do to help manage the symptoms. While I do recommend also working with a doctor who specializes in endo, today’s post will focus on things we can do to manage endometriosis naturally, from a holistic perspective. The combination of the two can be a win for endo warriors!
The foundations to manage endometriosis naturally
We have all heard the term, “you are what you eat” and that couldn’t be more true. Although I actually like to say, “you are what you can absorb,” but that is a topic for another day!
When we are talking about the foundations of managing endo, we are really talking about the foundations of health. Of course, that all starts with what you eat!
We are looking here at focusing on a whole food diet. If you have followed me for a while, you know that I talk about this a lot. Start to fill your plate with quality real, whole foods like organic fruits and veggies, grass fed meat, pasture raised poultry and eggs, whole dairy products, and grains and legumes. Let these foods be 90% of your diet, so you are crowding out all of the processed foods that won’t help nourish your body. For more information on how to clean up your pantry and start eating a whole food diet, check out this article and this article which dig deeper into those topics.
Optimize your digestion
Digestion may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are working to manage a gynecological disease, but that is why I say endo is really a whole body disease! As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, digestion is actually one of the FIRST places that I look. Many studies have shown that there is a strong connection between gut health and endo and my personal experience can vouch for that as well!
In a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), it was found that “besides gynecological symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms affect up to 90% of patients with endometriosis.” So if you have had symptoms of bloating (hello, endo belly!), diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or vomiting you are not alone!
Healing the gut is a complex process and one I would really recommend working with an experienced holistic practitioner on, but there are a few simple things you can do to start.
We think of digestion happening in your gut, but really it is a north to south process beginning in your brain. The first step towards digestive health is to bring your body into a parasympathetic state. This means getting out of flight or fight mode. Sit down for meals without distractions. Take a few deep breaths or a moment of gratitude before. Calm down your nervous system.
Another simple thing you can do to support digestion is to have a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Put it in a small amount of water right before a meal. This helps to increase the level of stomach acidity to help it break down your food before it reaches your intestines.
Fun fact: While it is commonly thought that people who struggle with acid reflux or heartburn have too much stomach acid, it is typically actually a symptom of low stomach acid. Low stomach acid is also a very common concern that I see in clients with endometriosis or other hormone imbalances.
Balance your blood sugar
This is another thing that may not be top of mind when we think of endometriosis, but really it is a crucial piece. Stress is one of the key contributing factors to any reproductive/hormonal issue and blood sugar regulation is a huge part of that. Remember that when it comes to stress, that does include internal stressors like a blood sugar rollercoaster. I explain this process more fully in this post if you would like to know more!
The important things to think about here include consuming protein, fat, and carbs with each meal. Also be sure to eat enough calories to satisfy you and keep you full for a good 4-5 hours after your meal. Avoid too much refined sugar and even keep caffeine intake to a minimum.
If you tend to experience symptoms like feeling “hangry,” being light headed between meals, getting shaky if you go too long without eating, feeling hungry an hour after you have eaten…this one is for you!
At its root, endometriosis is an inflammatory disease. Exactly where that inflammation is coming from involves an in depth look at each individual. My clients all take what is called the Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire (NAQ) before our first session. This is a 300+ question assessment to pinpoint what symptoms your unique body is showing us and how we can help.
When we are thinking of how to manage endometriosis naturally, inflammation should definitely be top of mind. Working on digestion and blood sugar regulation are a wonderful place to start for reducing inflammation. Start with those steps mentioned earlier and go from there!
There are additional things we can do to help to reduce inflammation in your body. For starters, be sure to include more Omega-3 rich foods in your diet. Great sources include fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. Plant sources like flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and pumpkin are also great! Incorporate these foods into your diet on a weekly basis.
You can also supplement with a high-quality Omega-3 fish oil if you are not sure you are getting enough in your diet.
Additionally, there are foods that contain properties to help support a healthy inflammatory response like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and green tea. These are great choices to incorporate regularly into your diet! Turmeric can also be taken in supplement form (or curcumin, which is the active component).
Sleep, stress, and movement
Sleep, stress, and movement are three things that are so crucial to the overall health of our bodies. Supporting your body in these areas can make a huge difference in endo symptoms. As we learned, endo is a full body disease so it is important to treat it as such when we are focusing on healing.
Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours per night. Schedule a bedtime for yourself (the earlier the better!) and practice calming rituals as that time comes closer. Shut down the screens and technology, dim the lights, make a cup of chamomile tea, maybe do some gentle stretching to help yourself wind down. Make this a priority!
Stress: Stress management is a tricky one, I get it. Life can be stressful. The main thing here is to find doable ways to manage it. Move your body, spend time in nature, spend time with a loved one or pet, laugh, do yoga, meditate, practice the Emotional Freedom Technique, whatever works for you! We all need a little stress management in our lives and finding what works best for you can be so impactful.
Movement: Move your body a little every day. This doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour at the gym. Get up and go on a walk first thing in the morning. Do some squats or push ups while you make your coffee or tea. Find a yoga, Pilates, Zumba, cycling, or any other type of movement based class that makes you happy. Just be sure not to overdo it! Overexercising can put stress on your body as well.
Sleep, stress, and movement are very intertwined with each other, so be sure to touch bases on all three areas for optimum health!
What you can feel like when you manage endometriosis naturally
Speaking from my own personal experience, it is profoundly life changing. Thinking that medical management was my only option was stressful and felt like I was not in control of my own body. The more I have learned about what works for my body and what triggers symptoms has truly changed my life. I know that it can for you too.
My periods used to be so beyond painful that I could barely leave my couch for days. I hated feeling so useless and afraid and in pain. I am actually on my period as I write this and I am happy to say that I didn’t miss a day of work and only had a minimal amount of pain on and off during the first two days of my cycle.
For me this is my pre-endo excision surgery experience. I am currently scheduled for surgery and am hoping to be 100% pain free afterwards. This is where the combination of western medicine with a holistic approach is a winning combination! I will be sure to report back with my experience.
I hope you have gained some insight from reading this post and you now have some actionable tips you can take with you to get you started. If you are struggling with endo symptoms, I would absolutely love to help you on your journey. As endo warriors we lose so much along the way, from medical costs to missed time off work and it is time for that cycle to end. Let’s take our health into our hands, friends.
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Lenard, Lane; Wright, Jonathan V. (2001). Why Stomach Acid is Good for You. Lanham, Maryland: M. Evans Publishers.
Milkovic, Ashe. (2022). International Association for Functional Hormone Health course materials. [PDF Documents].
Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Blood Sugar Regulation Student Guide [PDF Document].
Svensson, Agnes; Brunkwall, Louise; Roth, Bodil; Ortho-Melander, Marju; Ohlsson, Bodil. (2021). Associations Between Endometriosis and Gut Microbiota. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8289757/