Does a vegan diet help endometriosis? A (short-lived) plant-based story

Woman eating vegetables and fruits Going vegan for endometriosis (Image: Sandhya Raghavan)

Can going vegan help ease endometriosis? This is my short-lived vegan journey that opened my eyes to some truths.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2007 after the discovery of a painful cyst on my left ovary. My then gynaecologist didn’t fully explain the nature of the disease — that it’s a recurrent condition that never fully goes away. To be fair to her, I assumed that a cyst-removal surgery and a couple of Zoladex injections to the abdomen could “cure” the condition.

Fifteen years later, I stood corrected. Not only did the condition persist, but it’s also assumed a more sinister form, complete with heavy bleeding and more endometriomas.

Barely four years after my surgery in 2007, the cysts returned — golf-ball sized ones on either ovary.

Also Read: Endometriosis and the teas that heal it

However, something changed in the October of 2021 when I came upon an inspirational story of Katherine Lawrence, a woman who seemingly reversed her endometriosis and prevented a scheduled hysterectomy by making a major lifestyle change — she went vegan!

Also Read: What is endo belly?

How Katherine Lawrence “reversed” her endometriosis

On her website Food Saved Me, Lawrence, an Aerospace Engineer, narrates how she suffered debilitating abdominal pain in 2006. Several diagnoses and misdiagnoses later, her doctor determined that it was endometriosis.

Lawrence was scheduled for a full hysterectomy since the lesions had spread to her ovaries and fallopian tubes. She also had a high risk for endometrial cancer.

In a bid to avoid surgery, she consulted a nutritionist who put her on a plant-based diet with an emphasis on low fat, salt and sugar.

Five weeks into her diet, Lawrence went in for the hysterectomy as scheduled. To everyone’s surprise, including hers, 95% of her endometriosis was gone. She didn’t need that hysterectomy after all.

Transformed by the experience, Lawrence never went back to her old diet. She has since become a certified plant-based nutritionist and is working towards empowering other women who face similar health crises.

Also Read: Quitting caffeine for endometriosis — a guide

My (short-lived) vegan story

Her story also moved me to take a good look at my own diet. While I ate mostly plant-based, I survived on four to five cups of milk tea a day.

On an experimental basis, I tried abstaining from milk, meat and eggs for a full month. I went a step further and also cut down on caffeine. It was probably the best diet decision I ever made.

Within a week, my gastrointestinal health improved. The bloating was nonexistent. Surprisingly, there were no caffeine withdrawal symptoms either.

On that note, here’s an amazing caffeine-free tea you can try.

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I always experienced a dull pain in my tummy, irrespective of whether I am on my periods or not. Within days of going plant-based and caffeine-free, my pain receded. I had no migraines and felt lighter. I also experienced modest weight loss and my face de-puffed almost immediately. My long lost collarbones also started making an appearance.

The most significant impact of the diet was on my mood. In my husband’s own words: “You look happy.” For someone who is always at the receiving end of my bitter mood swings, he was quick to notice my brand new disposition.

Sadly, I couldn’t stick to the diet for a long time. I succumbed to my milk tea addition and was back on the “eat-everything-in-sight” bandwagon.

My all symptoms and some more have since returned — the weight, the bloating, the dull pain and the crabby mood.

Is a vegan diet good for endometriosis?

Indeed, there is some link between diet and endometriosis. Some observational studies also link plant-based diets to a lower risk of endometriosis.

Since endometriosis is an oestrogen-dependent disorder, eating a high-fibre diet can remove excess oestrogen from the body and decrease the concentration of bioavailable oestrogen.

Dr Bharathi Ramesh

Dr Bharathi Ramesh, Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Banashankari, Bangalore, also gives a big thumbs up to a plant-based diet to manage endometriosis.

She encourages going on a dairy-free, meatless diet. “Dairy food can contain growth hormones that cause inflammation and worsen endometriosis symptoms. Similarly, high intake of nonvegetarian food, especially red meat, can aggravate the condition.”

Going plant-based can be quite helpful in managing endometriosis. “Rich in nutrients, fruits and vegetables can provide you with the necessary vitamins and minerals,” adds Dr Ramesh.

She recommends dark leafy veggies, beetroot, fortified grains, walnuts, colourful fruit like oranges and berries.