I’ve read a lot of books and webpages that say women with Endometriosis should avoid dairy. I’ve taken that step as best I can. I miss my cheese. I miss bagels with cream cheese. I miss sour cream. But, I do feel better! Very little bloating, cramping, or gas (but that may be a combination of the changes in my diet…).
But now I’m curious as to why “no dairy” and why I feel better for not having it…
Why avoid dairy?
Dairy reportedly increases inflammation (which we EndWarriors do not need anymore of) and prostaglandins (which stimulate estrogen). Prostaglandins are “one of a number of hormone-like substances that participate in a wide range of body functions such as the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels, control of blood pressure, and modulation of inflammation.” A 2010 published study focuses on the prostaglandin PGE(2) and its role in the progression and symptoms of Endometriosis. Estrogen and Endometriosis do not get along in the best sense : it may increase our Endometriosis growth and symptoms.
Dairy products may also have toxins or dioxins that the animal may have consumed prior to being milked. Not to mention antiobiotics and hormones that the dairy cows may be given to raise production. Those chemicals and hormones may transfer over to us as we eat or drink the dairy products. Some studies have reported a link between increased dioxin exposure and Endometriosis. Others say that dioxins and chemicals may increase our estrogen production, which may increase our Endometriosis pain and symptoms.
Many people have trouble digesting and breaking down the sugar, proteins, and chemicals found in dairy products; which is known as a lactose intolerance or sensitivity. It may be caused by a decreased amount of lactase (a digestive enzyme) in our small intestines. This may cause bloating, discomfort, gas, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation in some individuals. If a person has Endometriosis on or inside of their bowel, these dairy-related symptoms may aggravate Endometriosis or cause a flare-up. Even if they don’t have Endometriosis of the bowel, this added irritation and discomfort can still wreak havoc with the body.
Many patients have found relief from their ongoing Endometriosis symptoms by altering their diet, including a reduction or elimination of dairy products. Unfortunately, though, a lot have also said that a change in diet has not reduced their Endometriosis pain.
On the flip side:
Interestingly enough, a study published in 2013 spanned over 14-years and reviewed the dairy intake and risk of Endometriosis in women. It found that women who consumed more than 3 servings of dairy per day were 18% less likely to develop Endometriosis. The study further examines dairy nutrient/vitamin deficiencies in women with Endo.
In conclusion, our findings suggest that greater predicted plasma 25(OH)D levels and higher intake of dairy foods are associated with a lower risk of endometriosis. While these findings need to be confirmed in future studies, dairy foods and vitamin D may be some of the first identifiable modifiable risk factors for endometriosis.
Another study published in 2011 found a decreased risk of developing Endometriosis for women who consumed dairy. It also found that women who eat a lot of fruit may have an increased risk:
In summary, the present study suggests a possible inverse risk of disease with dietary fat and dairy consumption and an increased risk of endometriosis with β-carotene and higher servings of fruit/d, but these findings have not been confirmed elsewhere and require further evaluation in a prospective investigation. A more detailed understanding on the impact of dietary components and patterns on endometriosis risk is urgently needed to inform the development of population-based strategies to prevent this serious and prevalent gynaecological disease.
I would like to see a study to be conducted, if possible, on the affects of dairy on people who have already been diagnosed with Endometriosis. An increase or decrease in their symptoms while consuming dairy products. Not a study that identifies a “risk of Endometriosis.” I already have it. I am no longer at “risk” of developing it…
So now what?
You will need to decide for yourself what to do : eliminate dairy products or continue to consume them?
Try to eliminate them for 2 or 3 weeks. Then ease yourself back into dairy. See how you feel and how your body responds. Whether your body reacts poorly to the proteins in dairy and you have a lactose intolerance or sensitivity, or your Endometriosis flares up, or nothing happens! Only you will know.
Only you will know the choice you need to make. Base it on your understanding of your own body. And if you do choose to eliminate dairy from your diet, please remember to replace those nutrients and vitamins that you will be missing out on: calcium, Vitamin D, essential fats and Omega-3s.
It’s been summed up best by Jessica Drummond of the Integrative Pelvic Health Institute:
The bottom line is that if you’re sensitive to dairy, you should leave it out of your diet, and work to heal the sensitive lining of your gut through nutrition, stress relief, and supplementation. If you’re not sensitive to dairy, it may actually be beneficial, both for lowering your endometriosis risk and for optimizing your fertility. To get the best possible benefits from dairy products, choose raw, organic, and cultured dairy (foods like plain, full-fat yogurt or fresh, raw cheese) from trusted local farmers.
Thank you, Jessica, for so eloquently summing up what I truly wanted to say.
(Updated March 27, 2019)
Center for Endometriosis Care
American Journal of Epidemiology (Article, March 2013) – Dairy-Food, Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin-D Intake and Endometriosis: A Prospective Cohort Study
British Journal of Nutrition (Article, Feb. 2011) – Diet and Risk of Endometriosis in a Population-Based Case-Control Study
Experimental Biology and Medicine (Abstract, June 2010) – Prostaglandin E2: The Master of Endometriosis?
~ Again, I am a layman. I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings. Or challenge them. And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always. Yours ~ Lisa