By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
Endometriosis is an extremely common disorder of the reproductive system in women of menstruating age. It is affected by female hormones, but isn’t caused by them. The immune system, the digestive tract and the types of gut bugs present in the intestines influence whether a woman will develop endometriosis, and the severity of the condition. Environmental factors and stress play a role in endometriosis, but the biggest risk appears to come from the gut.
Endometriosis occurs when reproductive tissue gets planted in places it’s not supposed to be, such as the fallopian tubes, the ovaries or the bowel. These endometrial deposits grow and bleed each month, but inside the pelvic and abdominal cavities where there is no way out. This abnormal internal bleeding can cause cysts, blood clots and scar tissue on the bowel, the bladder, the ovaries and the outside of the uterus and fallopian tubes. The primary symptom that women experience is debilitating cramps during their time of the month.
If endometrial tissue grows on the digestive organs, this can cause digestive symptoms that are typical of irritable bowel syndrome. These include abdominal bloating, abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhoea or alternating bowel habits. Many women never see their doctor about these symptoms; therefore, the real cause is never determined. Endometriosis usually also causes painful menstrual cramps and heavy menstrual bleeding but for some women those symptoms are fairly mild compared to the digestive symptoms mentioned above.
Recent research has shown that a low FODMAP diet can offer symptom relief for women with digestive problems caused by endometriosis. FODMAPs are fermentable fibres found in some vegetables, fruits, legumes and dairy products. In some people FODMAPs can cause irritable bowel syndrome. Examples of foods high in FODMAPs are legumes, cauliflower, garlic, onion and stone fruits.
A low FODMAP diet can be very helpful for reducing digestive discomfort, but it’s important to address the reason why high FODMAP foods cause unpleasant symptoms. It is usually because of digestive enzyme deficiency, gut bug imbalances and leaky gut syndrome.