Are There Foods That Heal Ovarian Cysts?

Ovarian cysts are relatively common, especially in premenopausal women. About one in 12 premenopausal women develop ovarian cysts large enough to require treatment.¹

Many women are looking for a natural way to deal with ovarian cysts, and they may consider changing their diet as one possible way to do this.

Does diet really have an impact on ovarian cysts? Are there foods that heal ovarian cysts or foods to avoid if you have ovarian cysts?

Have you considered clinical trials for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is an ovarian cyst?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on the ovaries. There are several types of ovarian cysts. 

There are two main types of ovarian cysts:

Functional ovarian cysts

These are the most common types of ovarian cysts. They form as a result of the normal function of the ovaries during the menstrual cycle. Most ovarian cysts are small, don't cause symptoms, and will usually go away on their own within a few weeks to a few months.

Non-functional ovarian cysts

Non-functional cysts are not related to the normal function of the ovary. There are various types, including:

  • Cysts related to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). These have a structure similar to functional cysts, but there are many of them in each ovary.

  • Dermoid cysts, which can contain a variety of tissue types (including hair, teeth, or bone). These develop from cells in the ovary known as stem cells, which can potentially become any other type of cell.

  • Endometriomas, which are made up of the same type of tissue as the lining of the uterus.

  • Cystadenomas, which develop on the surface of the ovary and can be filled with fluid or mucus.

  • Malignant cysts, which contain cancer cells. These are rare but are very dangerous.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Functional cysts are usually small and asymptomatic. Non-functional cysts can become larger and may cause symptoms, including:

  • Pelvic pain, including during menstrual cycles or sex

  • Aching in the thighs and lower back

  • Irregular periods or abnormal uterine bleeding or spotting

  • Tender breasts

  • A feeling of pressure or bloating in the abdomen

  • A felt need to urinate and evacuate bowels more often, possibly along with difficulty fully emptying the bladder or rectum

  • Weight gain

If an ovarian cyst ruptures, it can cause severe pain. Cysts can also grow to the point of twisting an ovary, which can induce nausea and vomiting. This is a medical emergency; if you experience these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately. This often needs surgical intervention and may result in ovary removal. 

What causes ovarian cysts?

While the exact cause of ovarian cysts is not fully understood, they are thought to be caused by several factors, including hormonal imbalances, genetic predisposition, and problems with ovulation.

Problems with ovulation usually cause functional cysts. They are the most common type of ovarian cyst, while pathological cysts are caused by abnormal cell growth and are more likely to be cancerous. 

Other risk factors for the likelihood of developing ovarian cysts include age, which is more common in women of childbearing age. However, they can also occur among the following groups:

  • Postmenopausal women

  • Those with reproductive history of never having been pregnant

  • A history of endometriosis or pelvic infections

  • The use of certain medications such as hormone replacement therapy or fertility drugs. 

An ovarian cyst, called the corpus luteum, also forms naturally during pregnancy, which supports the early stages of pregnancy before the placenta forms. The pregnancy-related ovarian cyst can remain even after pregnancy.

How does diet affect ovarian cysts?

Diet may play a role in the risk and management of ovarian cysts, but more research is needed to fully understand the link.

A 2003 study also showed that a diet high in red meat and cheese might increase the likelihood of developing a certain type of benign ovarian cyst, while green vegetables appeared to decrease the risk.² However, another study actually found that women with ovarian cysts had a lower average consumption of cereals and meat than the average for the population.³

Another study in 2016 found a slight increase in functional ovarian cysts in women who had more fat in their diets.⁴ However, this was not statistically significant, and it’s unclear whether there is truly an association between fat intake and the risk of cysts.

Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise may help to reduce the risk of ovarian cysts. However, it’s important to note that changes in diet alone may not be enough to prevent or treat ovarian cysts. More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between diet and ovarian cysts.

PCOS and diet

Diet is believed to play a significant role in developing and treating PCOS. Weight loss through diet and exercise can also help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce symptoms.

Some studies have suggested that a diet high in processed foods and sugar may increase the risk of developing ovarian cysts due to PCOS, while a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may reduce the risk. Specific diets like the Mediterranean or low-carbohydrate diet may benefit women with PCOS. 

In general, the main impact of diet on PCOS is believed to occur through weight loss and improved blood sugar control. Reducing inflammation may also play a role. 

It's important to note that every individual is unique, and what may work for one person may not work for another. It's always best to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to discuss the best dietary approach for managing PCOS.

What to add to your diet

While diet alone cannot cure ovarian cysts, incorporating certain foods may help to alleviate symptoms and promote overall health. 

Consider adding the following to your diet to help manage your ovarian cysts.

Fiber-rich foods

Fiber is essential for maintaining healthy digestion and regulating hormones. It helps to eliminate excess estrogen from the body, which in turn may reduce the risk of ovarian cysts. 

Foods that are high in fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Magnesium-rich foods

A 2015 study demonstrated that magnesium supplementation could aid in pain management.⁵ This study used magnesium supplements, but some people may want to try consuming extra magnesium in their food instead of taking supplements. 

Among the foods highest in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and almonds.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, may help reduce inflammation and promote hormonal balance. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may improve the health status of women with PCOS.⁶

Anti-inflammatory foods

Foods such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic contain compounds that might help to reduce inflammation, which is linked to the formation of ovarian cysts. 

Some studies show that curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, might help to reduce the risk of ovarian cysts and improve menstruation characteristics in women with PCOS. However, not all studies have shown this effect.

Vitamin D-rich foods

Eating foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy products, may help improve the symptoms of ovarian cysts in people with PCOS. 

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention if you have been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst and experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Sudden, severe abdominal pain

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

These could indicate a ruptured ovarian cyst or ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary caused by the cyst), which needs immediate medical attention.

The lowdown

While the exact cause of ovarian cysts is not fully understood, research suggests that diet may play a role in developing and managing some types of ovarian cysts. 

A healthy and balanced diet may help reduce the risk of ovarian cysts, and specific diets like the Mediterranean or low-carbohydrate diet may benefit those with the condition. However, consulting with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for personalized dietary advice is important. 

While dietary approaches may have an impact, they may not be enough on their own to prevent or manage ovarian cysts.

  1. Ovarian Cysts | Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA)

  2. Diet and risk of seromucinous benign ovarian cysts (2003)

  3. Biomedical Importance of Diet in Ovarian Cysts : Occurrence in North-Western Iran (2013)

  4. The Association of the Dietary Fat and Functional Ovarian Cysts in Women of Reproductive Age Referring to Three Hospitals in Mashhad, Iran, 2014 (2016)

  5. MAGnesium-oral supplementation to reduce PAin in patients with severe PERipheral arterial occlusive disease: the MAG-PAPER randomised clinical trial protocol (2015)

  6. Impact of different omega-3 fatty acid sources on lipid, hormonal, blood glucose, weight gain and histopathological damages profile in PCOS rat model (2020)

Other sources:

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