Endometriosis affects more than five million American women, according to the National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC). This reproductive disorder occurs when tissue that normally grows in the uterus (the endometrium) grows in other parts of the abdomen. Inflammation, scarring and adhesions form around the misplaced endometrial tissue, which are also called implants. Weight gain may be related to prevention and treatment of endometriosis, or may arise as a mislabeled symptom.
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Weight gain is not considered to be a key symptom of endometriosis; however, bloating can be a symptom of the disease, according to Endo-Resolved, an independent endometriosis support website. Bloating may mimic weight gain since it can cause clothing to fit differently. Bloating can occur because of endometrial implants that form on the outer walls of the intestines.
Other intestinal symptoms of endometriosis include pain during bowel movements, nausea, constipation and diarrhea. The Mayo Clinic notes that these symptoms mirror those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Although IBS-like symptoms may occur, the most common symptom of endometriosis is not intestinal issues but rather pelvic pain. Pain is most likely during menstruation, sex or bowel movements, or may occur constantly. Notably, some women with endometriosis never experience any pain. In addition, pain severity is unrelated to severity of the disease, the Mayo Clinic reports. Other common symptoms of endometriosis include abnormal bleeding, infertility, fatigue and lower back pain.
Maintaining a low body fat ratio may help to decrease the risk of endometriosis, according to the NWHIC. In all women, estrogen thickens the lining of the endometrium. Since endometriosis results from misplaced deposits of endometrial tissues, excess estrogen may cause or exacerbate the disease. Women with excess body fat tend to have higher levels of estrogen than lean women. Therefore, staving off weight gain may be a key factor in prevention of endometriosis or decreasing its symptoms. The NWHIC suggests regular exercise, alcohol avoidance and decreased caffeine consumption as other methods of reducing estrogen levels and endometriosis risk.
Side Effects of Treatment
Weight gain may occur as a result of treatment for endometriosis. Doctors often prescribe progestins to treat the disease, according to the NWHIC. These hormones shrink endometrial implants by blocking the growth effects of estrogen. Weight gain is a common side effect of progestin therapy, along with bloating, depression and nausea, Endo-Resolved reports. Unfortunately, hormone therapies do not cure endometriosis but rather provide a temporary period of reduced symptoms. Endo-Resolved notes that active endometriosis returns “gradually over 12-24 months after stopping the drugs.” The side effects of the drugs, including weight gain, also dissipate once they are discontinued.