Endometriosis and IBS
Ladies, let’s talk about a dynamic duo that no one wants to be a part of – Endometriosis and IBS.
Endometriosis and IBS are two severely debilitating conditions that affect many women. Both conditions have many overlapping symptoms, such as bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements. We explore the link between endometriosis and IBS, and what it means for women who suffer from these conditions.
What is IBS?
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects 1 in 7 people. It is characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel movements, such as diarrhoea and constipation. While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, factors such as stress, diet, and hormonal changes can trigger symptoms.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an inflammatory gynaecological condition that affects 1 in 10 women. Tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, often on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other pelvic organs. It can cause chronic pelvic pain, painful periods, and infertility. The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but it is believed to be related to hormonal imbalances.
The link between IBS and endometriosis
Endometriosis and IBS share many common symptoms including bloating, constipation or diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal pain. This means it can be incredibly hard to distinguish which one is causing havoc! As a result endometriosis can be misdiagnosed for years with many health professionals waving it off as IBS. In fact, the average time between onset of endometriosis and diagnosis is about 8 years for most New Zealand women.
Although the two conditions can occur independently of each other, research has shown that women with endometriosis are more likely to develop IBS than women without endometriosis. In fact, up to a whopping 50% of women with endometriosis also have IBS! One theory is that endometriosis can cause inflammation in the pelvic area, which can lead to changes in the gut microbiome and trigger IBS symptoms. Another theory is that hormonal imbalances associated with endometriosis can affect gut function and lead to IBS symptoms.
What does this mean for women with IBS and endometriosis?
Often a combination of medical, nutritional and lifestyle therapies are recommended for optimal management. We recommend speaking with your GP for medical management and to see if a gynecologist referral is the right option for you. In our experience, referrals to a pelvic floor physiotherapist and dietitian specialising in women’s health or gut health can also be highly beneficial.
Nutrition management can include identifying trigger foods, working through the low FODMAP diet, increasing antioxidants and adjusting fibre intake to minimise gut symptoms and reduce inflammation associated with endometriosis.
If you have endometriosis and IBS and would like to speak with one of our dietitians about managing your conditions then please get in touch today. We also recommended checking out Endometriosis NZ for support and trusted advice and information about endometriosis.
If you’d like to read about our co-founder Kelsey’s person experience living with endometriosis you can read that here.
Published: 23rd March 2023
Author: Bianca Berton-Scarlet Monash FODMAP trained Dietitian