Intriguing findings in this mid level cohort study!
The study analyzed diets of nurses for dietary correlations with endometriosis. Surprisingly, a 13% increase risk of endometriosis diagnosis was attributed to cruciferous vegetable daily consumption. Of note, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and raw cabbage consumption were related to higher endometriosis risk.
This is quite perplexing considering cruciferous vegetables are known to aid in proper estrogen metabolism, which should decrease the risk of endometriosis. There are a few potential explanations offered by the study, so don’t throw out all your veggies just yet.
One explanation offered is the nurses may have increased their consumption of cruciferous vegetables after a diagnosis of endometriosis, making it appear to be a correlation in risk. Unfortunately, the timing of ingestion relative to diagnosis is not reported so this hypothesis cannot be tested.
Another explanation offered is that GI symptoms such as gas and bloating caused by these foods can lead to more gynecological referrals, which could then lead to a higher diagnosis rate of endometriosis.
Corn, peas and Lima beans were also associated with higher risks of endometriosis. Which leads to the third explanation of why cruciferous vegetables may lead to increased risk. All of these foods contain fermentable food constituents that are linked to gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation. It has been observed for years that inflammation in the gut is correlated with increased risk of endometriosis. Further supporting the gut inflammation and endometriosis correlation, the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri significantly decreases menstrual pain in women with endometriosis.
The study also found that vitamins C and E decrease endometriosis pain, and the same may be true for other dietary antioxidants. Also of note, daily intake of five servings of fruits and veggies daily was associated with decreased risk, especially citrus fruits, which had a 22% lower risk of endometriosis.
Further study is needed to determine the true correlation between cruciferous vegetables and endometriosis. In the meantime, increase your citrus fruit consumption, add antioxidants to your supplement routine, and take a probiotic while eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet to decrease your risk or ease your symptoms of endometriosis.
Harris HR, Eke AC, Chavarro JE, Missmer SA. Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of endometriosis. Hum Reprod. 2018;33(4):715-727.
Sorensen, L, Doherty H. Do Cruciferous Vegetables Contribute to Endometriosis?
Nurses’ Health Study II reveals surprising dietary influences. Natural Medicine Journal. August 2018 Vol. 10 Issue 8.