Have you ever had one of those periods, those bent double, clutching the hot water bottle, physically want to be sick kind of periods. What if it’s every period? For around 1.5 million women in the UK this is a reality and it doesn’t stop at severe period pain – bloating, fatigue and diarrhea are all common signs as well but what is Endometriosis and how does it effect weight and fitness?
It’s a common question you ladies ask so we’ve waded through the research to try and answer some of those questions
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Symptoms include pain in your lower tummy, usually worse during your period. Women can also experience pain during sex, pain when peeing or pooing during your period and heavy periods. Unfortunately, lots of women with Endometriosis struggle with weight gain and difficulties around getting pregnant although many women with Endometriosis are able to go on and have children and this shouldn’t discourage you. It’s a significant condition that frankly we don’t talk about enough as it can have a real impact on women’s lives. It can be hard both physically and emotionally and If you do have any of these symptoms its always worth seeing your GP
How is it treated?
There is no cure unfortunately although lots of ongoing research. In some cases hormone medicine including the Pill are prescribed to try and manage some of the symptoms around period time but this depends woman to woman. In more severe cases surgery can be needed to cut away patches of Endometriosis tissue. The good news is there is lots of other things you can do to try and alleviate some symptoms.
There is some growing research into how what your eating can help with some of the symptoms. The conversation around healthy fats can be quite confusing, as some fats such as plant oils with omega-6 can actually increase the sensation of pain however omega-3 fats appear to have an opposite effect supporting pain-relieving molecules. More recent studies have also suggested that a high ration of omega-3 has been shown to inhibit the survival of endometrial cells in test tube studies. Its too early to compare this to human results but is an interesting development.
There are also some studies suggesting that red meat can increase inflammation and worsen symptoms. Others have claimed that it also increases the risk of endometriosis but there is not enough evidence to back up this claim. All in all swapping out red meat for other sources of protein could help some of those symptoms.
Finally eating a high fiber diet, full of fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help decrease estrogen levels in the body which is an excellent benefit for women experience endometriosis. Plus you know all those extra vitamins, antioxidants and other goodies.
Regular physical exercise can have protective effects against inflammatory processes since it causes an increase of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant markers within the body, and also acts by reducing oestrogen levels, making it a great idea to incorporate exercise into your recovery and disease management.
However not all exercise is created equal. Sit ups and crunches can worsen symptoms for some women as it can inflame the tissues in the core and increase pain so listen to your body. Equally new research suggests that high intensity workouts can cause cortisol peaks which can then result in increase in estrogen. Yoga, Pilates and weights are all recognised as great exercises to incorporate but the main takeaway is the importance of regular, low intensity movement.
Hansen et al, 2013. Endometriosis, dysmenorrhoea and diet. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Attaman et al, 2014. The anti-inflammatory impact of omega-3 polyunsaturated acids during the establishment of endometriosis like lesions. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Richi et al, 2015. Health risks associated with meat consumption. International journal of Vitamins and Nutrition.
Gaskins et al, 2009. Effect of daily fibre intake on reproductive function. Division of epidemiology, statistics and prevention research.