Long before I or my doctor suspected endometriosis and even before I started having endometriosis-related pain, I was experiencing ENDO BELLY.
Take our trip to Aruba for example.
I had exercised for weeks prior.
Most of my body was smaller but my stomach had bloated so bad that when I met a new friend on Flamingo Beach and we were getting to know each other, at one point I saw her glance down at my stomach and then ask if me and my husband were planning on kids.
Of course, the answer was no. Not pregnant, just bloated.
“Endo Belly” is extreme bloating caused by endometriosis.
Those that know little about it may not think it’s a big deal but IT IS.
This isn’t the typical lunch baby.
The term “extreme” is used for a reason. Take a minute to go on Instagram and search #endobelly and you’ll see what I’m talking about if you don’t already know.
Those that DO know, know that endo belly is uncomfortable, sometimes it’s painful and overall, it’s extremely embarrassing.
Furthermore, imagine not being able to get pregnant because of endometriosis and then having your stomach bloat so much that you look 4-5 months pregnant and people actually ask (even congratulate) you on your pregnancy!!
I recently joined two endometriosis support groups and let me tell you, it feels good to find out I’m not the only person struggling with this symptom.
Many of our group conversations center around how to manage endometriosis bloating.
While it feels good to have the support, it also feels good to get some answers.
Below, I’m sharing what to do for endo belly based on my research, my own personal experiences / experiments and also the experiences of other endo-sisters.
WHY DOES ENDO BELLY HAPPEN?
According to this 2009 study by Luscombe, et al, more women with endometriosis suffered from painful bloating than women without endometriosis.
Severe discomfort with bloating was also way more common in women with endo (30% vs. 0%).
Endometriosis bloating is thought to happen when endometriosis lesions flare up and cause an immune reaction which leads to inflammation and swelling. [source]
The second train of thought is that scar tissue from endometriosis can bind together different organs like your intestines which prevents them from functioning normally. When the intestines are slowed down and food isn’t processed like it should be, then bloating and water retention can happen.
The whole thing isn’t very straightforward. The following studies suggest that you can have endo belly even when you don’t have endometriosis lesions on your digestive system.
- In this study by Maroun, et al, out of 355 women with suspected endo, over 80% had bloating but only 7.1% actually had bowel endometriosis.
- Ek, et al found the same thing– endo women experience bloating and other symptoms despite where their actual lesions are located.
WHAT TO DO FOR ENDO BELLY
DISCLAIMER: The items below are suggestions and people’s anecdotal solutions for endo belly. This is NOT intended to be medical advice! Please see my full disclaimer statement.
The most effective way to get rid of endo belly
Excision surgery (having endometriosis thoroughly cut out from the root) from a skilled expert is thought to be the most effective way to improve endometriosis symptoms like endo belly.
For many women in my groups, their endo belly completely resolved after they had this surgery. NOTE: It didn’t always happen overnight.
For some, it takes months of healing from the surgery, for this symptom to go away.
My Endo Belly After Surgery
You guys know that I had endometriosis surgery in March.
I am now 7 months post-surgery and I definitely bloat less than just a year ago. However, I can’t completely say that my laparoscopy is the reason for these improvements.
One of the reasons it is hard to tell is because I am not confident that all of my endometriosis was expertly cut out during my surgery.
The other reason is that I have made some dietary changes (discussed below) recently that probably contribute to my positive results.
Is surgery an option for everyone? NO!
Laparoscopy for endometriosis is invasive, expensive and not always accessible (especially when it can be hard to get diagnosed in the first place). Also, if it’s not done by an expert, it may not be done well or completely.
So, what else can be done?
7 other ways to de-bloat
Hands down, the #1 dietary change that A LOT of women in my groups have made successfully is to go GLUTEN-FREE.
For some people, gluten causes an inflammatory response and so when they give gluten up, the effects of inflammation, like bloating, go away.
So many women recommended it that I myself have chosen to go gluten-free(ish). Read my Life Lately posts to stay updated with how that is going.
2| DAIRY-FREE DIET:
Many women also find some relief when they covert to a dairy-free diet for three reasons.
- Dairy is often regarded as a pro-inflammatory food.
- There are concerns that depending on how it is produced, dairy can introduce hormones (namely estrogen) to your body.
- For those that are lactose intolerant, dairy increases gas and produces stomach upset.
Even though my diet has been low in dairy for many years (i’m lactose intolerant), I took the extra step to cut it even more out of my diet. No cream for coffee, no cream pasta sauces, etc.
I think this is the dietary change that has made the biggest change to my bloating.
What about you? Could you go cheese and ice-cream free?
3| An ANTI-INFLAMMATORY or Low-FODMAP Diet:
Since endometriosis is known as an inflammatory disease, it would make sense that an anti-inflammatory diet would improve its symptoms.
Check out this in-depth online booklet on eating an anti-inflammatory diet for endometriosis.
The low FODMAP diet was designed to minimize gut symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. Lots of women say that transitioning to a low FODMAP diet has improved their endo symptoms, including endo belly.
Exercise improves circulation and can have anti-inflammatory effects.
I have not find any studies that show an association between exercise and endometriosis relief. Sufficient research just hasn’t been done in that area.
What I have noticed is that women in my endometriosis groups have noticed conflicting results. Some saw that their endo belly improved with light exercise but some noticed that they were in more pain after strenuous activity.
In summary, try physical activity with caution.
5| PELVIC HEALTH PHYSICAL THERAPY:
Some endo belly may be caused by tightness and spasms in the pelvic area.
Physical therapists, especially those who perform visceral therapy, can be part of a successful strategy against endo belly.
A group member said “I have a friend who has the swelling many months out from excision and after about 7 months of consistent visits with a PT person (women’s health certified, with additional training in visceral work)…she has no more swelling.”
6| PROBIOTICS & TEAS:
I can’t find any reliable sources that recommend specific probiotics or teas for improving endo belly symptoms but some group members have used them with good effect.
7| MOVE YOUR BOWELS:
This is the most non appealing one to talk about but it is valid.
With endometriosis, constipation can be a BIG issue.
When you have stool sitting around in your intestines, it produces gas which will lead to uncomfortable bloating. So, if constipation is an issue, solve that problem first!
Increase your water and fiber intake, take a walk, take over the counter laxatives or see a physician. Whatever you have to do to get your bowels moving regularly might help get rid of the dreaded endo-belly.
As you can see, there are several options when you are trying to figure out what to do for endo-belly.
As always, proceed with caution (and research) but never give up on your search for a solution.
If you’ve found something that works that is not mentioned here, please it share in the comment section below!
& DON’T FORGET TO SUBSCRIBE!