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Does Endometriosis Cause Weight Gain? Understanding the Impact, Causes, and Management

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 29, 2024

Globally, an estimated 10% (equivalent to 190 million) of women in their reproductive age are impacted by endometriosis.

Weight changes are expected in individuals with endometriosis, with weight gain being a significant concern. Research indicates that 96% of people with endometriosis experience abdominal bloating, which can be a symptom of fluid retention and contribute to weight gain.

So, why does endometriosis affect weight? What's behind this?

Keep reading to understand how endometriosis can influence your weight. Learn about the reasons, possible symptoms, and what you can do to handle it.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Endometriosis, a condition that affects women, can cause pain and potentially lead to fertility issues.
  • Weight gain may also occur due to factors such as fluid retention and hormonal imbalances.
  • The connection between body weight and endometriosis is still being studied and is complex.
  • Medical treatments, surgery, and lifestyle changes can help manage weight gain related to endometriosis.
  • Seeking emotional support and guidance from healthcare providers is important for overall well-being.
  • Endometriosis can impact various aspects of life, requiring personalized approaches to manage symptoms and improve overall health.
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What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis, also known as "endo," is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus and in other parts of the body where it shouldn't be. The name comes from the endometrium, the tissue that usually lines the uterus or womb.

Now, let's understand the symptoms of endometriosis, the medications, and how to manage weight gain effectively.

What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?

Endometriosis has a range of symptoms, often varying in severity from person to person. The symptoms of endometriosis can include:

Pain

The most prevalent symptom associated with endometriosis is pain. Individuals with this condition may encounter various types of pain, such as:

  • Intense Menstrual Cramps: Women often experience severe menstrual cramps that can escalate over time. These cramps, known as dysmenorrhea, can become increasingly debilitating and interfere with daily activities.
  • Persistent Lower Back and Pelvic Pain: Chronic discomfort in the lower back and pelvic region can be a recurring symptom. This pain might not be limited to the menstrual cycle and could persist throughout the month.
  • Painful Intercourse: Discomfort during or after sexual intercourse, characterized as a "deep" ache, distinct from the initial penetration-related pain. This symptom can strain intimate relationships and lead to decreased sexual satisfaction.
  • Intestinal Discomfort: In addition to pelvic pain, endometriosis can cause gastrointestinal symptoms.
    • Bloating and Digestive Distress: Many individuals with endometriosis experience bloating and digestive issues, often feeling discomfort similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These symptoms can fluctuate with the menstrual cycle.
    • Diarrhea or Constipation: Fluctuations in hormones during the menstrual cycle can affect bowel movements, leading to alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation in some cases.
  • Discomfort during Bowel Movements or Urination: Painful sensations during menstruation that coincide with bowel movements or urination. In rare instances, there might be traces of blood in the stool or urine.
    • Dysuria: Some individuals may experience pain or burning during urination, known as dysuria. This symptom can be particularly distressing during menstruation.
    • Painful Defecation: Endometriosis can cause pain during bowel movements, leading to dyschezia. This discomfort may be sharp or cramping in nature.
    • Rectal Bleeding: Although rare, endometriosis affecting the rectum can lead to minor bleeding during bowel movements due to endometrial tissue in the area.

Bleeding or Spotting Between Menstrual Periods

Although not exclusive to endometriosis, this phenomenon, known as intermenstrual bleeding or spotting, is characterized by unexpected bleeding outside the regular menstrual cycle. It can manifest as light spotting or heavier bleeding, occurring at various points between periods.

Intermenstrual bleeding can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Changes in birth control methods
  • Cervical issues
  • Certain medical conditions

❗ Remember:

While intermenstrual bleeding is not specific to endometriosis, it's important to pay attention to any changes in your menstrual pattern, as they could indicate an underlying health issue.

If you experience frequent intermenstrual bleeding, it's advisable to consult a healthcare provider. They can conduct a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of the bleeding and recommend appropriate steps for further diagnosis and management.

Infertility

Endometriosis is known to have the potential to cause infertility, creating challenges for individuals who desire to conceive and have children.

The relationship between endometriosis and infertility is complex and not fully understood, but several mechanisms contribute to this association:

  • Distorted Pelvic Anatomy
  • Inflammation
  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Impaired Egg Quality
  • Altered Immune Response

Digestive Issues

Endometriosis can significantly impact the gastrointestinal system, leading to various digestive issues that may worsen during menstrual periods. These symptoms can be distressing for individuals with endometriosis.

Here are some common digestive issues associated with endometriosis:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Food Sensitivities

What is the Medication for Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is not curable; however, treatments are available to help ease the symptoms and challenges it can cause. These include:

Medical Treatment

For women who are not trying to conceive, medical treatment is often the first line of defense against endometriosis symptoms. Here are some common medical treatment options:

  • Hormonal Birth Control: Hormonal birth control methods like pills, patches, or rings with lower doses of estrogen can help regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce pain.
  • Extended-Cycle or Continuous Cycle Birth Control: These options, available as pills or shots, can lead to fewer periods throughout the year or even eliminate periods, helping to alleviate pain and bleeding.
  • Hormonal Intrauterine Device (IUD) releases hormones into the uterus, reducing pain and bleeding associated with endometriosis. It's effective for up to 7 years.
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Agonists: These medications induce temporary menopause by suppressing ovulation and menstrual cycles. While they can control endometriosis growth, they are typically used when fertility is not a concern.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery may be recommended for severe cases of endometriosis when symptoms are not adequately controlled by medical treatments or when fertility issues are present. There are different surgical approaches:

  • Laparoscopy: A minimally invasive procedure that involves making small incisions to access and remove endometrial growths. This approach aims to reduce pain and improve fertility.
  • Hysterectomy: In severe cases or when fertility is no longer a concern, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may be considered to eliminate endometriosis. However, this is usually a last resort.

Combination Therapy

Combination therapy, involving medical and surgical interventions, is recommended by healthcare professionals to manage endometriosis symptoms comprehensively.

This approach aims to simultaneously address various aspects of the condition, utilizing hormonal therapies to regulate hormone levels and suppress abnormal tissue growth alongside surgical procedures like ablation to remove or destroy problematic tissue.

Combining these approaches allows patients to experience synergistic effects for enhanced symptom relief and improved well-being. The decision to opt for combination therapy is based on factors like:

  • Symptom severity
  • Individual health profiles
  • Collaborative discussions

Patients and healthcare providers must work together to optimize treatment outcomes for individuals with endometriosis.

Other Treatment Options

Apart from medical and surgical approaches, there are alternative treatments that some individuals find helpful:

  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help manage mild symptoms.
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): Therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbal supplements, and omega-3 fatty acids may relieve pain and discomfort

Is It Possible for Endometriosis Impact Weight Gain?

Yes, endometriosis can lead to an increase in weight. Individuals diagnosed with endometriosis have reported experiencing weight gain and poor body image due to the condition.

This weight gain can be attributed to various factors associated with the condition. One significant factor is fluid retention, often resulting in bloating.

Causes of fluid retention and weight gain in endometriosis include:

  • High Levels of Estrogen: Estrogen, a hormone central to developing endometriosis, can also influence fluid retention. Elevated estrogen levels can lead to an imbalance in the body's fluid regulation mechanisms, contributing to the accumulation of excess fluids and subsequent weight gain.
  • Progestin-Only Birth Control: Birth control methods containing progestin can impact fluid balance in the body. Progestin, a synthetic progesterone, can lead to water retention, especially in individuals sensitive to hormonal changes.
  • Progesterone-Containing Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): While IUDs are commonly used for birth control and managing specific conditions, progesterone-containing IUDs can influence fluid retention similarly to progestin-only birth control methods.
  • Medications such as Danocrine and Orilissa: Some medications used to manage endometriosis, such as Danocrine (danazol) and Orilissa (elagolix), can disrupt hormonal balance. This disruption may contribute to fluid retention, resulting in weight gain.
  • Hysterectomy: Hysterectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the uterus, can lead to hormonal changes and alterations in fluid regulation. These changes might contribute to some individuals' fluid retention and subsequent weight gain.
  • Constipation or Irregular Bowel Movements: The discomfort and pain associated with endometriosis can impact bowel regularity. Constipation and irregular bowel movements can lead to abdominal bloating and fluid retention, causing a temporary increase in weight.
  • Decreased Physical Activity Due to Symptoms of Endometriosis: Pain, fatigue, and discomfort associated with endometriosis can lead to decreased physical activity. Reduced movement can hinder the body's natural fluid circulation, contributing to fluid retention.

How to Manage Weight Gain in Endometriosis?

While weight gain can be distressing, there are strategies that individuals with endometriosis can adopt to manage it effectively:

  • Consult with Healthcare Providers: If you notice weight gain due to endometriosis or its treatments, consult your healthcare provider. Avoid discontinuing treatments without professional guidance, as this could exacerbate symptoms.
  • Explore Alternative Treatments: If current treatments contribute to weight gain that you find intolerable, work with your healthcare provider to explore alternative treatments that effectively manage endometriosis without causing weight gain.
  • Embrace a Balanced Lifestyle: Prioritize regular physical activity, even in moderation, to help manage pain and maintain a healthy weight. Incorporate activities that align with your body's capabilities and preferences.
  • Mindful Eating: Focus on a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet supporting overall health. Incorporate nutrient-rich foods that can help alleviate inflammation and discomfort.
  • Emotional Well-being: Address the emotional challenges of living with endometriosis by seeking support from friends, family, and online communities. Emotional well-being can positively influence lifestyle choices.

🗒️ Related Articles:

To learn more about weight management, check out some of our articles:

Wrap-Up

Endometriosis can impact weight gain due to fluid retention, hormonal imbalances, and reduced physical activity. Holistic strategies include mindful eating, anti-inflammatory diets, and addressing emotional challenges through support networks.

Support from professionals, friends, and online communities empowers individuals, fostering unity and understanding of the complex connection between endometriosis and weight gain.

FAQs About Endometriosis

Does endometriosis impact mental health?

Yes, endometriosis can have psychological effects. Chronic pain, fertility concerns, and the emotional toll of managing a chronic condition can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress. Seeking mental health support alongside medical care is essential.

Can endometriosis be diagnosed in teenagers?

Endometriosis can affect teenagers, although it's often challenging to diagnose due to symptoms overlapping with menstrual changes. Early detection and management are essential to prevent potential complications.

Are there alternative pain management options for endometriosis?

Besides traditional pain medications, individuals with endometriosis can explore alternative methods like acupuncture, mindfulness, and heat therapy to help alleviate discomfort. Consulting with healthcare professionals can provide guidance.

Can endometriosis recur after surgical removal?

Yes, endometriosis lesions can regrow after surgical removal. Proper follow-up care and management are crucial to monitor for recurrence and adjust treatment as needed.

Can endometriosis affect a person's sleep patterns?

Yes, endometriosis-related pain and discomfort can impact sleep quality. Pain during menstruation or throughout the menstrual cycle can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Seeking pain management strategies and discussing sleep disturbances with a healthcare provider can help improve sleep quality.

Does endometriosis affect appetite?

Endometriosis can have an impact on a person's appetite due to its potential to cause digestive problems like constipation and nausea, which in turn can affect hunger.

Does pregnancy cure endometriosis?

Pregnancy does not cure endometriosis, but some women may experience temporary relief from symptoms during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. However, symptoms can return after giving birth.

Can endometriosis cause complications during pregnancy?

Yes, endometriosis may increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and preterm birth. Close medical monitoring is essential for women with endometriosis who are pregnant.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door