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Study: Endometriosis Linked to Red Meat

Study: Endometriosis Linked to Red Meat

Study: Women who eat a diet high in red meat may be at increased risk of endometriosis, which can lead to infertility, a new study has found. The study, published in the August 2004 issue of Human Reproduction, also showed that eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of the condition. What did the study show about eating red meat?

In general, endometriosis affects around 1-15% of women of childbearing age.

The study showed that women who ate beef or other red meat seven times a week or more were 100 percent more likely to have endometriosis than women who ate red meat three times a week or less.

Women who ate ham three or more times per week were 80 percent more likely to have endometriosis than those who ate it less than once a week.

What did the study show about eating fruit and vegetables?

Women who ate green vegetables 13 times or more per week (roughly twice a day) were 70 percent less likely to have endometriosis than those who green vegetables less than six times per week.

Women who ate fresh fruit 14 times or more per week (at least twice a day) were 40 percent less likely to have endometriosis than those who ate fruit and vegetables less than six times per week.

How can I reduce my risk of developing endometriosis?

This study suggests that there may be link between eating a healthy diet, low in red meat and high in fruits and vegetables, and a reduced risk of developing endometriosis.

The current advice is to eat at least five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and to keep intake of red meat to a minimum.

Why does diet affect endometriosis?

Endometriosis is an oestrogen-related disease. In other words, endometriosis is affected by the amount of oestrogen in the bloodstream. Certain foods appear to affect the amount of oestrogen and its effects and may affect the risk of developing an oestrogen-related disease. For example, the risk of developing breast cancer (an oestrogen-related disease) may be reduced by following a healthy diet.

How do fruits and vegetables affect oestrogen’s effect?

Dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and legumes all contain substances called phytoestrogens, that may protect against oestrogen-related diseases. This is because phytoestrogens have been found to reduce the effects of oestrogen in the blood. There is also some evidence that eating fiber – another component in fruit and vegetables – reduces the amount of oestrogen.

How was the study carried out?

The researchers looked at two previous studies, with a combined total of 504 women under 65 years with endometriosis and 504 women under 65 years with no gynecological problems.

The women filled in a questionnaire about their lifestyle and habits over the past year, including what they ate and drank.

This study brings up some interesting facts. Eating more fruits and greens is vital to helping women with endometriosis, but I think an important element may have been missing in this study…what about the hormones found in the conventional meats most of the population eats? While eating large sums of red meat may impact endometriosis negatively, small amounts of organic red meat may have been misunderstood. In this study, they do not take into account that the meat these women were eating may have been laced with estrogenic hormones. Conventional cattle are raised using a lot of estrogen hormones to make them bigger and produce more milk. Women eating hormone-laced meats would of course have more issues with endometriosis, as excess estrogen is a big culprit.

The solution
There are many health benefits to eating grass fed, organic meats in moderation. They supply:

-Omega 6:3 ratio comparable to fish w/o the mercury
-High CLA levels due to pasture diet
-NO Animal by-products means immunity to issues from animal by-product feeding, such as BSE
-NO Hormones
-NO Irradiation – NO Antibiotics fed

BUT there is a catch

  • Focus on only eating 4 oz of any type of animal protein per meal and rotate them. Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fiber, super foods, and fresh dark greens first and foremost.
  • If you have a strong case of endometriosis, it is better to follow a plant-based cleansing diet for a while that is void of congesting foods.
  • Eat only organic, grass fed meats.
  • Avoid dairy for now, as it is a congesting food.

Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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    I have had two endometrial polyps removed in a difference of 3 years apart. More research led me to look at my diet and sure what this article is so accurate. I was used to a full diet of red meat and hams etc every single day. i am currently trying to learn better healthy diet options to help with my hormonal imbalance. Would you recommend acupuncture as a solution too?

  2. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

  3. I was wondering do any type of nuts contain oestrogen? A female friend of mine reckons they do, I hope not because, I will have to eat something different if this is true. Can you send the facts and answer to this question, it’d be ace if you could.


    • Hi John,

      Soy nuts contain soy isoflavones which are known to mimic estrogen. Soy nuts are not nuts at all, they are dried and baked soy beans. I do not know of any other nuts that contain estrogen.

      All the best,