Eating Red Meat Could Raise Women’s Endometriosis Risk, Study Says

by | Jun 28, 2018

New research has found that the consumption of red meat is associated with a higher risk of endometriosis in women. The findings from a 22 year study of 81,908 women showed that women eating two servings of red meat per week had a 56 percent higher risk of developing the disease, compared to those who consumed one or less.

The participants – who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study II, one of the largest investigations into the risk factors for major chronic diseases in women – undertook a food frequency questionnaire every four years.

Women with high intakes of processed red meats also had an increased risk, but the link between red meat consumption and endometriosis was strongest for non-processed red meats. In particular, among women who had not reported infertility and were more likely to present with pain symptoms.

RELATED: 10 Tips For Managing Endometriosis And Pelvic Pain

Endometriosis occurs when tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of it, often resulting in debilitating pain and fertility issues. There is currently no clear cause or cure for the disease, which affects one in ten Australian women.

Previous research suggests red meat can influence endometriosis risk through its effects on steroid hormones levels, particularly oestrogen.

A 2013 study out of the US found that two pesticides stored in animal fat elevated women’s risk of endometriosis by up to 70 per cent. Researchers suggested that the pesticides’ oestrogen-like qualities were responsible for the significant association.

“We found it interesting that despite organochlorine pesticides being restricted in use or banned in the US for the past several decades, these chemicals were detectable in the blood samples of women in our study and were associated with increased endometriosis risk,” Victoria Holt, lead author of the study, said. “The take-home message from our study is that persistent environmental chemicals, even those used in the past, may affect the health of the current generation of reproductive-age women with regard to a hormonally driven disease.”

RELATED: This Aussie Woman Is Turning Her Struggle With Endometriosis Into Breathtaking Artwork

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‘After 3 Miscarriages, This is How I Processed the Trauma’

With October marking International Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, we spoke to survivor of multiple miscarriages and women's health lobbyist Samantha Payne, CEO and Co-Founder of Pink Elephants - Australia’s only national support service dedicated solely to miscarriage and early pregnancy loss.

Here's her story.

What is your experience with miscarriage?

I have lost 3 babies to miscarriage, my first was a missed miscarriage - I walked into a scan expecting to show my then-toddler her baby sibling on the screen only to be met with 'I'm sorry there is no heartbeat.' I had to endure a weekend with that baby dead inside of me before I could be fitted in for a D&C.

My next miscarriage happened 6 months later - I started to bleed on holiday with friends, I told no one, I was deeply ashamed. I passed that baby alone in the shower at 3am, forever traumatised as I had to flush the remains down the toilet.

My final loss was just last year another miscarriage I started to spot and I just knew, the Doctor that saw me this time asked if we could see a flicker on the screen she thought there was a heartbeat, astounded we asked for a second opinion, where it was confirmed my baby had died.

How did you process the trauma?

With my first two losses, I didn't cope. I poured everything into Pink Elephants and having another baby. I had another pregnancy but was completely terrified the whole time, I didn't bond with this baby, no names, no gender reveal, wearing a brave face every day pretending I was grateful. When Johnny was 4 months old it all caught up with me: I had postpartum anxiety and post-traumatic stress as a result of my losses and not processing the trauma. With counselling and medication, I began to heal and process my losses. My loss last year was different: I took bereavement leave, I gave myself permission to grieve our baby girl and mourn my future with her. I spoke with others in our community, I went back to counselling, and I took the time I needed to start to heal.

How did you get the courage to launch Pink Elephants?

I don't think it was courage, in the beginning, I think it was my anger at the lack of support and validation that I chose to channel into something positive.

I never want my daughter to go through what I did in the way I did. Women deserve so much more than what we currently get.

Last year took courage to come back and work in this space again after bereavement leave - the physical and emotional pain was real, the triggers of other women's stories are real but they are also cathartic. As is the change we create, I feel like my work is meaningful and makes a difference that's what carries me on, I know we can do so much more with the right support alongside us.

I want to next see more targeted action from our government - in particular the Department of Health - in addressing this issue. It's no longer ok to turn a blind eye to the death of our babies, our trauma, and our poor mental health because of the system failing us.

How can we support a friend that has been through loss like this?

You can be there for her, you can validate her loss, don't reduce it to 'at least' comments. You can't take away her pain but you can provide a safe space for her to share and feel listened to, empathised with, and supported. Like any other bereavement send flowers, we have collaborated on a LVLY nurture flower posy as a way to do this. Remember there is no timeline to grief and it's ok for her to still be upset for many months after, remember her due date, acknowledge it at the time, support her through other friends' baby showers.

How can women experiencing miscarriage access support?

They can head to www.pinkelephants.org.au to access our circle of support, which includes online peer support communities to connect with others through miscarriage, trying to conceive again, and pregnancy after loss. Specialised emotional support content, as well as shared stories and journeys, can be accessed through our website too.