The Connection Between Endometriosis & Eating Disorders

“Endometriosis can cause debilitating pain & nausea, limit ability to exercise, & lead to severe bloating. Any one of these challenges can be difficult, but all together, they can negatively impact body image. For those prone to developing eating disordered behaviour, changing diet or eating patterns might feel like a way to manage the much larger, unstructured challenges of endometriosis” [1]

Have you ever read or been given any nutritional suggestions regarding your endometriosis, or suspected endometriosis? If so, then it might go like this: “anti-inflammatory diets are essential,” “sugar-free could be good,” and “don’t forget to cut out alcohol, dairy and gluten!” Yet while it has to be said that such suggestions may seem plausible; as the Endocrine Foundation states: “there is a subset of the population prone to developing eating disorders for which this kind of advice can be harmful” [1].

Anti-Inflammatory Eating

Flouted as a brilliant strategy for ameliorating the pain and inflammation of endometriosis, online readers of various prominent health sites, are advised to take up a vitamin and mineral packed well-balanced, nutrient-dense, primarily plant-based regime. However, while making changes to your menu could help your symptoms, it is important to be mindful of the fact that diet is never a cure for endometriosis. Moreover, anyone who just takes the nutritional option, and sees a mild improvement in their symptoms, could feel that they do not need to see an endometriosis specialist. A doctor who specialises in endometriosis, would look at their medical history, conduct a full examination, and conduct various tests [1]. Crucially here, the watchwords are:

A Nutritional Approach Cannot Cover All Women With Endometriosis

As patients suffering from conditions such as celiac disease or diabetes, can affirm: this type of diet-as-a-treatment suggestion, is not exclusive to women with endometriosis. Indeed, the Emily Program’s Chief Strategy Officer, Dr. Jillian Lampert, notes that: “Anyone with a chronic condition that is somehow related to nutritional and dietary recommendations may be at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder” [1]. And while there is no doubt regarding the complexity of eating disorders; as Lampert quite rightly states, the latter: “boil down to the need to exercise some control over our circumstances. When it comes to life with a chronic illness like endometriosis, it can frequently feel like everything is out of your control” [1].

So What Does the Research Say About Diet & Endometriosis?

To date, there has only been a minimal amount of research on the link between endometriosis symptoms and diet. That said, some individuals have seen that their symptoms can be ameliorated or triggered by consuming particular foods. For example, research conducted in 2013, indicated that that “women who ate more vegetables and omega 3 fatty acids, were more protected from symptoms of endometriosis, while those who consumed red meat, trans fats, and coffee, may have experienced the opposite effect” [2].

Moreover, a literature review compiled in Brazil in 2015, advised that potentially: “eating a healthful diet can prevent endometriosis from developing, and perhaps, even worsening. Foods in this diet included: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids” [2]. It is important that any endometriosis sufferer who wants to see whether their diet impacts their symptoms, first discusses the matter with their endometriosis specialist, and then keeps a food diary for a substantial amount of time. That way, any clear emerging patterns can be spotted. Yet regardless of the current published studies, far more research is needed, as these findings are not uniform across all studies [2].
“If you have endometriosis & try to discipline your body through dietary changes that you have self-imposed, then it can result in even more pain”

This scenario becomes even more complex for the women who have had an existing eating disorder prior to being diagnosed with endometriosis. Indeed, such women may have found it very difficult to control their eating difficulties, and will have had to put in a lot of superhuman effort into making a success of it. In such cases: “an introduction of a chronic illness and associated dietary plan could jeopardise their progress if not introduced by an informed provider” [1]. Eating disorder specialist, Anne Cuthbert, MA, LPC, makes the point that such patients: “often feel that if they follow the ‘rules,’ everything will be okay and they won’t have any more issues”[1], and that this can especially ring true for women with endometriosis [1].

The Missing Data

At the present time, endometriosis is not fully understood, so to that end, suffers can be easily drawn to suggestions from the media and personal recommendations, if they advocate that making dietary changes can negate their complex condition, and remove their pain and misery. And although micromanaging one’s eating habits and regime may appear as a convenient and self-controlled means to contain what appears to be unmanageable circumstances, as previously explained: they cannot cure endometriosis, and at best, may only meliorate symptoms [1].

Tell Your Endometriosis Specialist if You Have an Eating Disorder

If you are having trouble with an eating disorder, and this is not recorded on your medical history, then be sure to discuss it with your endometriosis consultant. He/she will be more than happy to talk about any concerns you may have, and advise you on managing your endometriosis, so that the protocol does not conflict with the steps you are taking to heal your eating issues. Any dietary changes which your endocrinologists recommends, will be modified to accommodate any dietary changes which another doctor has recommended [1], Further, your endometriosis specialist may well contact your dietitian or nutritionist, to obtain further information about your specific case.

These days, when addressing changes to a patient’s diet, endocrinologists are eating-disorder friendly. Indeed: “By framing the changes as a choice to be made by the patient—one that will not cure the disease but may improve symptoms—they can help support those already struggling with the diet mentality” [1].


[1]. Hurley, E. (2020). “The Link Between Eating Disorders and Endometriosis.”

[2]. Galan, N. (2018). “What should you eat if you have endometriosis?” Medical News Today.