Is this a common side effect?

Endometriosis is a disorder where endometrium-like tissue grows outside the uterus in areas like the ovaries, abdomen, and bowel. It’s currently estimated to affect roughly 7 million women in the United States alone, but this number could actually be much higher.

Although pelvic pain is the most common symptom, women report a range of other symptoms, including weight gain.

Doctors have differing opinions on whether weight gain may be directly associated with endometriosis. There isn’t any formal research linking this symptom to the disorder, but anecdotal evidence persists. Keep reading to learn more.

The tissue lining the uterus is called the endometrium. When cells that resemble the uterus lining, called endometrial cells, grow outside the uterus, there are a number of symptoms you may experience, including:

Weight gain may not be a direct symptom of endometriosis, but certain aspects of the disorder and its treatments may cause you to add on weight.

This includes:

  • hormonal imbalances
  • certain medications
  • a hysterectomy

Endometriosis has been linked to high levels of the hormone estrogen, according to the Mayo Clinic. This hormone is responsible for the thickening of the endometrium with your monthly menstrual cycle.

Some women may even have a condition called estrogen dominance, which is also a possible cause of endometriosis.

Too much estrogen in the body can lead to a number of symptoms, including:

Weight gain is another symptom of this hormonal imbalance. You may specifically notice fat accumulating around your abdomen and on the tops of your thighs.

Your doctor may prescribe hormone medications, like continuous-cycle birth control pills, the vaginal ring, or an intrauterine device (IUD) to help treat your symptoms.

During your normal menstrual cycle, your hormones thicken and then break down the endometrial lining.

Hormone medications may slow tissue growth and prevent tissue from implanting elsewhere in the body. They may also make your menstrual cycles lighter and less frequent.

Some women report weight gain with oral contraceptives and other hormone medications. The synthetic version of progesteroneprogestin — is likely the culprit.

Although researchers have concluded that hormonal birth control doesn’t directly cause weight gain, they do agree that certain side effects may be to blame. This includes fluid retention and increased appetite.

A hysterectomy is a surgical treatment for endometriosis. It can involve the removal of your uterus, cervix, both ovaries, and fallopian tubes.

The type of hysterectomy performed determines which parts of your reproductive system are removed. For example, a total hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus and cervix.

Removing just the uterus may not be effective, as the ovaries produce the estrogen and can create pain in tissue throughout the body. This intervention is usually saved for the most extensive cases of the disorder.

After a hysterectomy, you can no longer get pregnant. Without your ovaries, your body effectively enters menopause.

You may experience a range of symptoms that result from the lack of hormones estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms may include:

Other common symptoms of menopause include:

When menopause occurs naturally, symptoms start gradually. When menopause happens more abruptly, like as a result of a total hysterectomy, your symptoms may be particularly severe.

In a 2009 study, women who had a hysterectomy before reaching menopause experienced the highest risk for weight gain in the first year following surgery.

Again, research is mixed on whether endometriosis directly or indirectly contributes to weight gain. If you believe you’re gaining weight as a result of the disorder, there are some lifestyle changes you can make that may help.

They include:

The foods you choose have an impact on your weight. You may have heard to shop the perimeter of your grocery store — that’s actually solid advice, because that’s where the whole foods are. Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Eating whole foods versus packaged foods gives your body the nutrients it needs to thrive while avoiding empty calories, like added sugars, that add to weight gain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, experts recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of a more vigorous activity each week to maintain and lose weight.

Moderate activity includes exercises like:

  • walking
  • dancing
  • gardening

Vigorous activity includes exercises like:

  • running
  • cycling
  • swimming

Don’t know where to begin?

Hormone medications and surgical treatments, like a hysterectomy, may cause weight gain. If you’re concerned about these options, talk with your doctor.

There are other treatments available, like taking pain relievers as needed. Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), may help with menstrual cramping.

Lifestyle changes may also help. For example, taking warm baths or using heating pads may reduce your cramps and pain. Regular exercise may also ease your symptoms, all while aiding your weight loss efforts.

If you have endometriosis and feel it may be contributing to weight gain, make an appointment with your doctor. Take note of any additional symptoms you’ve been experiencing.

Your doctor may discuss alternative treatment options, as well as lifestyle changes that can help you feel better and stay in a healthy weight range.

It’s always a good idea to contact your doctor before making significant changes to your diet and exercise routines. Your doctor may even have suggestions or refer you to a specialist, like a dietitian, for additional support.