Function and dysfunction of the female immune system plays important role in the initiation and progression of the endometriosis and its relation to infertility and cancer.
Endometriosis can be caused by decreased clearance of peritoneal fluid endometrial cells resulting from reduced natural killer cell activity. Decreased cell-mediated cytotoxicity toward autologous endometrial cells is associated with endometriosis. Based on this theory, women exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may have a higher prevalence of endometriosis.
These “organochlorines” are known to impair the immune system which, in turn, can compromise a woman’s ability to clear random endometrial glands present in the pelvis. Since PCBs are found in high concentration in fatty foods, including but not limited to red meat, fatty fishes, and certain dairy, it is advisable that women with endometriosis limit/eliminate such food from their diet.
Ronald Burmeister, MD, in Rockford, Illinois, has reported the diminution of pain and symptoms in several women with endometriosis by following a vegetarian and low-fat diet.
Foods that Can Promote Endometriosis
- According to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, women who have two or more cups of caffeinated coffee (or four cans of cola) per day were found to be twice as likely to develop endometriosis as other women.4 The reason why caffeine has this effect is unknown.
- Frequent consumption of red meat and ham is associated with endometriosis risk. In an Italian population, women who ate at least seven servings of red meat per week had twice the risk of endometriosis compared with those who ate fewer than three servings of red meat weekly.
- Alcohol can also be a factor in endometriosis. Compared with healthy women and women with other gynecological problems, women who drink alcohol appear to have a greater incidence of endometriosis. In women with infertility, the risk of endometriosis was 50 percent higher in individuals who drank alcohol compared with control subjects.
- Foods tainted with certain chemicals appear to encourage the implantation of cells in the abdomen by impairing the immune defenses. Those chemicals includepolychorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were commonly used in electrical equipment, hydraulic fluid, and carbonless carbon paper, and organochlorine pesticides, which were commonly used in agriculture. Data from a 2005 study show that women exposed to PCBs may have a higher prevalence of endometriosis. These toxins tend to accumulate in animal fat, and the major route of human exposure is through food, particularly fish, as well as other meats and dairy products. Chickens, cattle, pigs, and other animals fed grains treated with pesticides and sometimes contaminated with other organochlorines tend to concentrate these compounds in their muscle tissues and milk.
Evidence suggests that vegetarian women have much lower levels of pollutants in their breast milk compared with other women. These chemicals have a very long half-life and can remain in the body for up to 15 years; therefore, the earlier in life that one begins a plant-based diet, the better.
|TABLE. Dietary Recommendations for Endometriosis|
|FOODS TO AVOID||WHY|
|– Fatty foods, including but not limited to red meat, fatty fishes, and certain dairy||Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are found in high concentrations in fatty foods|
|– Excess caffeine and alcohol|
|FOODS TO CHOOSE|
|– Low-fat foods||Helps eliminate PCBs|
|– Organically grown foods; nonorganic fruits and vegetables should be peeled||Helps eliminate PCBs|
|– Legumes, nuts, and lean white meats||Good protein source|
|– Foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants, iron, and magnesium, such as fruits, green leafy vegetables, spinach, carrots, cruciferous vegetables (eg, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, sprouts), legumes, and grains||Helps boost the immune system and counteracts secondary anemia|
|– High-fiber foods, including vegetables,
fruits, and whole grains such as oats, rice, corn, nuts, seeds, legumes.
|Aids in maintenance of regular bowel movements to eliminate toxins and hormone byproducts|
|– Water||Maximizes body functions and helps eliminate toxins|