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Study links healthy diet to reduced endometriosis pain


 A 3D illustration of endometriosis disease anatomy. [Getty Images]

A 24-year study has highlighted a significant connection between dietary patterns and the incidence of endometriosis (affecting approximately 10 per cent of premenopausal individuals), shedding light on how specific dietary choices can influence this debilitating condition.

Conducted by a team of researchers led by Professor Stacey Missmer, a renowned expert in obstetrics, gynaecology, and epidemiology, the study spans over two decades and includes data from over 80,000 women.

The study, utilising data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a cohort of registered nurses who have been providing health information since 1989, reveals compelling evidence that diet plays a crucial role in the development and symptoms of endometriosis.

This prospective study tracked the dietary habits and health outcomes of the participants over a 24-year period. The robust design of the study, where diet information was collected well before the onset of endometriosis symptoms, ensures the reliability of the findings by minimising recall bias. This approach contrasts with many other studies that gather dietary data from individuals already experiencing health issues, which can distort results.

Healthier diet, lower risk: Women adhering to a healthier dietary pattern, characterized by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and lower consumption of red meat and processed foods, were less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis, particularly with pain as the primary symptom.

Adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), reflects a healthier dietary pattern, was associated with a 13 per cent lower risk of endometriosis diagnosis

Western diet, higher risk: On the contrary, those following a Western dietary pattern (high in red meat, processed meats, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages) had a 27 per cent higher risk of endometriosis diagnosis compared to those in the lowest quintile, this showed a significantly higher likelihood of being diagnosed with endometriosis, especially due to pain-related symptoms.

The insights from this research are particularly vital for women struggling with endometriosis, a condition often marked by severe pelvic pain. Professor Missmer explains that the study’s findings suggest diet might not directly influence the presence of endometriosis lesions but significantly affects the manifestation and severity of pain symptoms.

This distinction underscores the potential for dietary modifications to serve as a manageable strategy to alleviate pain and improve the quality of life for women with endometriosis.

While the study provides valuable insights, it also calls for further research across diverse populations and geographic regions to confirm and expand on these findings. The relatively homogenous group of US. nurses limit the generalisability of the results to broader populations with different socioeconomic statuses and access to various foods.

For patients, the take-home message is clear: adopting a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats while reducing red meat and processed foods aligns with general health guidelines and can be particularly beneficial for managing endometriosis-related pain.

This extensive research into dietary patterns and endometriosis offers a promising avenue for women seeking to manage their symptoms through lifestyle changes. The consistency of these findings with broader dietary health recommendations provides a dual benefit for overall well-being and targeted symptom relief for endometriosis.

As Professor Missmer and her team continue to explore this vital connection, the hope is to empower more women with practical tools to improve their health outcomes.

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