Wheat and endometriosis

Female followers of the Wheat Belly arguments who have endometriosis often report marked relief with wheat elimination. I, too, have witnessed this, though it is outside of my day-to-day experience (in heart issues).

There is a recent study that, while retrospective, suggests that the success we have been observing is not an accident. Here’s what they found (full abstract here):

Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of painful endometriosis related symptoms?
Marziali M, Venza M, Lazzaro S, Lazzaro A, Micossi C, Stolfi VM.

Pelvic pain affects 4% to 39% of women and accounts for 10-40% of all outpatient gynecologic visits. The etiology of painful endometriosis has not been fully delineated. No studies have been published concerning gluten-free diet administered to achieved relief of painful symptoms endometriosis-related. The aim of this retrospective study was to evaluate the effectiveness for the outcomes of endometriosis-related pain and quality of life of gluten-free diet in a follow-up of 12 months in patients with chronic pelvic pain endometriosis-related.

Two hundred seven patients with severe painful endometriosis-related symptoms entered the study. At enrollment, the baseline values of painful symptoms were assessed by Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for dysmenorrhoea [painful menses], non-menstrual pelvic pain, and dyspareunia [painful sexual intercourse]. According to VAS, pain severity was scored from 0-10; 0 indicating the absence of pain, and 1-4, 5-7 and 8-10 mild, moderate and severe, respectively. A gluten-free diet was submitted to all patients and a new evaluation was performed after 12 months of diet. Student’s t-test was used for statistical analysis.

At 12 month follow-up, 156 patients (75%) reported statistically significant change in painful symptoms (P<0.005), 51 patients (25%) reported no improvement of symptoms. No patients reported worsening of pain. A considerable increase of scores for all domains of physical functioning, general health perception, vitality, social functioning, and mental health was observed in all patients (P<0.005).

In our experience, painful symptoms of endometriosis decrease after 12 months of gluten free diet.

75% of women responded favorably: I found that astounding. Anyone who has experienced endometriosis or witnessed the suffering of someone with the condition appreciates how profoundly it can affect health, including chronic and often incapacitating pain.

Now why wheat/gluten elimination would lead to a reduction or elimination of endometriosis symptoms is not clear. Is it due to the removal of the gliadin protein that is responsible for abnormal bowel permeability that triggers inflammation in other regions of the body? Is it due to the removal of wheat germ agglutinin that, upon entering the bloodstream, triggers an array of inflammatory and direct toxic effects (in addition to being a direct intestinal toxin)? Could it be due to one or more of the 10,000+ other proteins in wheat, many of which have undergone changes in amino acid sequence due to the manipulations of genetics research and agribusiness? To my knowledge, why such an extravagant benefit develops with endometriosis is not understood.

Should we wait several years for the science to catch up and tell women suffering with the pain and disability of endometriosis to continue to eat wheat, take their drugs, and continue to submit to laparoscopic and other surgeries to remove the abnormal tissue? Given the benign nature of wheat elimination, given the many other and often unexpected health benefits of wheat elimination, given that it is without side-effects nor expense, I say there is NO reason to delay: Lose the wheat.

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59 Responses to Wheat and endometriosis

  1. Anon says:

    Hi, this is fascinating. I have a wheat belly which I used to call my mummy tummy until I went to the docs concerned about my heavy periods and anemia- fortunately all the scans were clear but the ca125 test came back around 90. I am convinced its due to my wheat belly. The results went down to 65 at the beginning of this year- I had been avoiding wheat mostly and taking cod liver oil capsules. In the past I went wheat free for 6 months and the weight loss was dramatic – I lapsed due to family/ peer pressure but as I have now been diagnosed with a wheat intolerance officially I aim to go totally wheat free. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thank you your wonderful book and the research Dr Davis x

  2. Kristine says:

    I have been an endo sufferer for almost 20 years. The last 8 years have been the worst which has led to losing my career, having to take major amounts of pain medication. I have been on the gluten free diet for the past 3 weeks. I feel amazing. I was taking 240 mg of pain medication per day, I am now taking between 60 mg to 100 mg per day. I have so much energy. I have been going for power walks without pain, I even played a couple holes of golf yesterday without pain. Another thing I had to give up due to the incredible pain I was in.
    Of course losing weight is also a bonus. I have lost about 15 pounds since starting the gluten free diet.
    I am so happy that I have tried this diet, I only wish I would have done it years ago.
    If you are an endometriosis sufferer, try this diet, it really works!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      That’s absolutely wonderful, Kristine!

      I just wish we all understood this 20 years ago! But we work to spread this message, as there are so many other women in your situation who have not yet heard how powerful this simple approach can be–no drugs or surgery required!

    • Danielle says:

      Your story brought tears to my eyes! I have been suffering from endometriosis for years and so I completely relate! The idea of going on a power walk with no pain sounds FANTASTIC! I have been off of wheat for a week and I tried some pasta a bread last night. I don’t feel well, but I don’t know if it is from the wheat or from a bug. Reading this article and your story has inspired me to stay off longer and see what happens! Thank you!

  3. Kristine says:

    Danielle, please keep up with the gluten free diet. It has made a major change in my life. Since my last post on October 6th, I am now taking only 30 mg of pain medication per day. That is a decrease of 210 mg a day of some pretty heavy meds. I feel great, my friends tell me I am glowing. I have also lost over 30 pounds. This has all happened in the last month. So please give it a try, there are a lot of great products out there and more and more restaurants are starting to cater to the gluten free way of living.

    Good luck to you and I truly hope this is the miracle you have been waiting for. I know it has been truly a miracle for me!

  4. Kathleen says:

    25 years with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain, I went wheat free 7 years ago and vegan 6 years ago and have found that the reduction in inflammation in my body has really helped my symptoms. Anything to decrease the inflammatory load on the body will help. It is such an easy change to make.

  5. Donna says:

    Hi, I have has endo for 3 years now with one laparoscopy under my belt. I started researching this horrible illness we have and found a very interesting book, that recommends a wheat free diet and since I ditched the wheat I have been back to my normal pain free self!!! As it’s Christmas with so many parties I decide to go with the flow and eat wheat if it was served to me, what a big MISTAKE!!! I have been in bad pain for 2 days and will never be eating it again. You think oh just a bit won’t hurt, well I promise you it does. So to everybody that has this horrible pain, don’t wait for the doctors to wake up one day and tell you, just stop eating it now, life is really good without it!

  6. Kristin Fecteau says:

    I was suffering every month with terrible cramps and heavy flow. And anemia. My gyno wanted to either do so e surgery or start me on shots to stop my period. I was against those options, and continued to cope by taking Advil for several days. I went gluten free due to skin issues (herpteformis dermatitis). After about 18 months gluten free, I noticed “hey…I’m not getting cramps anymore!” They are gone! So maybe it takes longer than a year in some people. I’m now cramp free. I really can’t believe it and shudder to think about the options my doctor suggested….