Have you ever heard of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis? Unless you’re a woman unable to conceive or been diagnosed with either of them, you probably haven't. But both are conditions that affect the endocrine system and hormones — which, as a woman, are part of your everyday life.
The hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are responsible for reproduction, several bodily functions, sexual development, and general overall health. Female hormones can fluctuate throughout your life, affected by age, environmental toxins, medications, menopause, menstruation, stress, parasites, and pregnancy.
But if you develop either of these conditions, the changes that occur with hormonal balance can worsen your overall heath. Female hormone imbalance can lead to a host of issues, like bone loss, changes in sexual desire, hair loss, and infertility.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is one of the most common endocrine and metabolic disorders in premenopausal women. This hormonal condition affects over 10 million women worldwide.
Despite its name, many people with this condition don’t have cysts on their ovaries. They do show other tell-tale signs and symptoms of the condition.
Although common with PCOS, the development of ovarian cysts is only one of three criteria. Irregular periods and elevated androgen hormone levels are the other two.
If you have PCOS, you may be at higher risk for endometrial health issues, heart problems, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, so early diagnosis and treatment are important to manage and treat this condition. (1, 2, 3)
The signs and symptoms of PCOS often develop around the time of your first menstrual period. However, it is also common not to develop symptoms until your mid-20s. Because symptoms may be attributed to other causes or go unnoticed, PCOS may go undiagnosed for quite some time.
PCOS symptoms include: (4)
- Excess body and facial hair
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Patches of dark skin
- Pelvic pain
- Sleep problems
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain or obesity
As you can see, many of the symptoms of PCOS can also be attributed to other disorders and conditions. If you experience any of the most common symptoms, you should probably contact your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which the lining of your uterus grows outside your uterine cavity. With endometriosis, endometrial tissue most commonly grows in the bowels, ovaries, and pelvic cavity.
Hormonal changes affect the misplaced endometrial tissue, causing the area to inflame and become painful. The tissue may thicken and break down. Over time, the broken-down tissue has nowhere to go and becomes trapped in your pelvis. (5)
Endometriosis can cause intense pelvic pain during menstruation that may increase over time. Some women experience several severe symptoms, and others have no symptoms at all. The severity of symptoms and the probability of diagnosis increase with age.
Endometriosis symptoms include: (6)
- Chronic lower abdominal pain
- Chronic lower back pain
- Excessive bleeding
- Painful intercourse
- Painful urination
- Recurrent painful periods
PCOS vs. Endometriosis
Although PCOS and endometriosis are two different conditions, they have many similarities. Both come from hormonal imbalance or disruption, such as estrogen dominance.
Seeing since PCOS and endometriosis are both hormonal conditions, they share symptoms like abdominal pain, heavy or irregular bleeding, and infertility. They can also be difficult to diagnose since many of the symptoms overlap with other health complications.
To further complicate the diagnosis process, it’s possible to have both conditions at once. Your healthcare provider can run tests and review symptoms that will determine whether you have PCOS, endometriosis, or both. (7, 8)
Underlying Causes of PCOS and Endometriosis
As of now, no one knows the root causes of these two conditions. Studies suggest genetics, medications, past surgeries, and toxic overload have an impact on PCOS and endometriosis.
Because toxins can play a role in both conditions, detox is extremely helpful in treating PCOS and endometriosis. Let’s take a look at different toxins and how they can trigger these reproductive conditions.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
is an industrial chemical used to make certain resins and plastics that store food and beverages. BPA gets into the body by leaching from the plastic in water bottles and other food products. BPA is considered an endocrine-disrupting chemical and can cause serious health issues, cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and of course, PCOS and endometriosis. (9
is a toxin found in weed killers commonly sprayed on lawns and produce. Glyphosate
has a host of negative effects on the body, including disrupting hormones and endocrine function. Naturally, this can trigger conditions like PCOS and endometriosis. (11
like arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury
are toxic even in small amounts. Heavy metal
contamination comes from fertilizers, fossil fuels, industrial pollutants, poor waste-water management, vehicle emissions, etc. An accumulation of these in the body can lead to endocrine disorders, hormonal conditions, and infertility. (12
can be hiding just about anywhere, from food to surfaces to moist areas of your home. Mold toxin exposure
can raise inflammation and disrupt endocrine dysfunction. This can trigger PCOS and endometriosis. (13
Helpful Diet Changes for PCOS and Endometriosis
PCOS and endometriosis are complex conditions that require multifaceted approaches to treat. Physical activity and a healthy, unprocessed whole food diet can help alleviate PCOS and endometriosis symptoms.
Although PCOS and endometriosis are very different, they are similar in that they involve hormone imbalance and inflammation. As a result, certain foods can harm or hurt you. (14)
Foods to Avoid for Endometriosis
Certain foods have been shown to exacerbate the symptoms of endometriosis. To lessen the symptoms, avoid the following. (15, 16, 17)
Alcohol — Alcohol can raise your estrogen levels, which can worsen symptoms of endometriosis.
Dairy — Dairy is known to trigger the symptoms of endometriosis via an inflammatory response.
Gluten — Gluten is an inflammatory agent. Gluten is also often laden with pesticides, and eliminating it from the diet can greatly reduce the symptoms of endometriosis.
Foods to Avoid for PCOS
The following foods are known to exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS. Eliminating these from your diet can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of PCOS.
Coffee — The caffeine in coffee can increase your stress hormones, which in turn increase your insulin levels. Caffeine can also disrupt sleep and promote anxiety. Plus, the acidity of coffee can cause digestive issues, gut microbiome imbalances, heartburn, and indigestion. (18)
Seed oils — Seed oils are used in processed foods because they are inexpensive and don’t have much flavor, making them easy to use in any food product. Seed oils include canola oil, rapeseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable oil. These types of oils can cause inflammation, one of the primary sources of hormonal imbalances. (19)
Soy — Soy contains plant estrogen that acts like estrogen in the body, and eating too much of it can make your body think it has enough in supply. Because of this, it can slow down or stop ovulation. (20)
Foods to Help for Endometriosis and PCOS
The following food categories may help alleviate endometriosis and PCOS symptoms:
High fiber foods — Foods high in fiber like beans, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, unrefined grains, and whole grain pasta are helpful in moderation. But keep in mind these foods if eaten in excess can alter hormone levels and contribute to female hormonal issues. (21)
Low glycemic index foods — Foods that drastically raise your blood sugar levels can acerbate your condition. You may consider sticking with low glycemic index foods like bran breakfast cereals, chickpeas, green vegetables, kidney beans, lentils, most fruits, and raw carrots. (22, 23)
Low saturated fat foods — High fat foods can increase inflammation, which contributes to hormonal imbalances. Look for low saturated, anti-inflammatory foods, like fish, fruits, nuts, poultry, vegetables, and whole grains. (24)
Natural Support for PCOS and Endometriosis
Because there is a strong link among PCOS, endometriosis, and toxins, it is vitally important you detox the body of harmful substances. But since there are a variety of contributors to hormonal imbalances, you may want to take a more holistic approach. Supporting drainage and mitochondrial function can boost the detox process, as well as provide a platform for long-term, sustaining wellness.
Studies show that including the following botanicals and herbs can reduce the symptoms of PCOS and endometriosis. (25)
Black cohosh — Black cohosh is a phytoestrogen that helps regulate endometrial thickness, ovulation, and the number and frequency of hot flashes. (26, 27)
Binders — When detoxing, binders can be helpful to escort toxins from your body. (28, 29)
Chasteberry — Chasteberry can help treat endometriosis by raising progesterone levels and lowering estrogen levels. It can also help both disorders by reducing bleeding and pain levels. (30)
Chinese peony — Chinese peony can help lessen heavy bleeding and improve ovulation in women with PCOS and endometriosis. (31)
Cinnamon — Cinnamon can lessen heavy bleeding and menstrual pain in women with PCOS and endometriosis. (32)
Hormones are central to a healthy, high-functioning female body. If your hormones are out of wack, you can develop conditions like PCOS and endometriosis. Ensuring your body has proper support and taking measures to detox harmful substances can greatly reduce the effects of PCOS and endometriosis. These steps can also help prevent hormonal imbalance in the first place.
What changes are you going to make today for a healthier, happier you?