A recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition by a team of scientists in Italy found that caffeine and coffee drinking are not related to endometriosis. The team evaluated eight studies, including 1,407 women with the condition who consumed coffee or a caffeine related drink. The women were 15 to 56 years old and were from the United States, Canada, Europe, and Taiwan.
Previous studies have suggested that caffeinated drinks, including coffee, could put women at risk for endometriosis and make things worse for women with the disease. A study done in the 1990’s found that caffeine consumption was higher in women with endometriosis.
Endometriosis occurs when cells that line the uterus spread to other places of the body creating implants and adhesions. These implants can end up on the bladder, ovaries, bowels, and spread to the lungs. Symptoms include heavy and irregular menstruation, pain during intercourse, lower back pain, and painful bowel movements.
The Endometriosis Foundation of America says the disease affects 176,000,000 women and girls worldwide, 8.5 million of them in North America. There is no cure for the disease and the only way to diagnose it is through laparoscopic surgery. It is also one of the top three causes of infertility in women.
Dr. Camran Nezhat, laparoscopic surgeon and co-founder of the Worldwide Endometriosis March has been treating patients with endometriosis for years. Dr. Nezhat says he has never told his patients to avoid caffeine. He agrees with the study saying caffeine does not put women at risk for endometriosis.
“I’ve never told my patients to stay off of caffeine. And I don’t believe caffeine has anything to do with endometriosis.”
Stacey Missmer, professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and board member of the World Endometriosis Research Foundation says in an email, “there just isn’t sufficient evidence that caffeine plays a role in endometriosis.”
Doctors advising women with endometriosis to avoid caffeine is harmless, but the study raises the question as to what is really known about treating a disease with no known cause or a cure.
Meredith Gersten, a 28 year old holistic health counselor was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. She decided to take a holistic approach to treatment instead of a medical one suggested by her doctor. She says her doctor laughed at her decision.
“My doctor actually laughed at me when I told him I was going to try this instead of actually going on Lupron.”
Lupron is one of several medical treatments used to treat women with endometriosis. It is a depot injection that lasts for one or three months, putting a woman into medically induced menopause the time she’s on it. Lupron is also used in treating prostate cancer, early puberty, fibroids, and surrounded by controversy. Over the past five years, there has been over 500 reports of symptoms such as headaches, amnesia, and convulsions to the FDA about Lupron.
If endometriosis is not linked to caffeine, then other factors such as a person’s body or type of caffeinated drink could be a factor in how it makes one feel.
Gersten has been caffeine free for over two years, but while vacationing in Italy, says she drank coffee. She did not have any pain or stomach upset that she experiences from drinking coffee in the U.S.
“I had coffee, while I was in Italy and was not affected. I even ate their bread, and I ate their pasta, and I even had cheese over there. I can’t touch none of that stuff over here,” Gersten says. “So for me, personally, my body reacted really well to how things are made in Europe. I can’t handle the way things are made here.”
Recommending his patients eat food in moderation, Dr. Nezhat says some people can eat things other people cannot.
“Some people are able to have coffee and some are not able to have coffee. Everyone has to find out what is healthy, good, or bad for them,” Dr. Nezhat says. “Some people can handle one type of vegetable and some people cannot handle those kinds of vegetables. So what is not good for them they should not have it and what they cannot tolerate they should not have it.”
No matter what studies conclude, Gersten says she will continue her holistic diet and never go back to drinking coffee, at least not in the U.S.