Recently I joined a ton of endo support groups on facebook. Within a few short weeks I noticed the same question being asked by new members: “what should I cut out of my diet?” The truth is, each person is unique and you need to do what is right for you. I dont like using the term endo diet because truthfully we dont know enough about the disease to know how certain foods affect the disease. What you DO know – better than your friends, family and doctor – is what works for you.
Typically if you are being seen by a doctor (an MD) who is assisting you with your pain, or infertility, it would be rare for them to go into nutrition, unfortunately. We seek assistance from each other – people on support groups who have done the nutrition piece of endometriosis. Take it from me, there are going to be a lot of mixed reviews and mine is just one of them. But I thought I would share with you my tips and tricks for converting over to a healthy personalized (plant based) diet.
Before I do, I have one disclaimer: endo vs ethics. If you are cutting out certain foods because of ethics (ie carbon footprints, animal rights, etc) then that is a much bigger discussion. I do agree with this perspective and I recommend you watch ‘Cowspiracy‘, the not yet released sequel ‘what the health‘, ‘hungry for change‘, and ‘before the flood‘ for an in depth understanding of how food production affects the globe. But if you are first and foremost interested in a lifestyle change to experiment with how foods will reduce pain and endo belly, then read on for some tips and tricks from my experience.
- Go slow! Dont assume you can cut everything out at one time. Your body, like any other machine, will break down if you put it under too much stress. “But I should be relieving stress by cutting out crap” you say. Yes well the reality is cutting out foods you have eaten for your whole life will scare the crap out of your body. It needs to know how to rewire.
- cutting back is a good half step to cutting out. If it is easier to cut out artificial sweeteners before you cut out whole sugar, do it. If it is easier to take one sugary food out of your diet at a time, do it. This is your body and you need to go at your own pace. I decided to cut out diet coke first. That was the only thing I was eating/drinking that contained artificial sweeteners so by taking that out I was now left with refined sugar. Slowly I reduced the amount of refined sugar until one day sugar was not what I desired anymore. That is a thing! 🙂
- negative side effects will go away. Its like building a new muscle. Okay maybe thats a bad analogy but after cutting certain things out you will experience a bit of body shock. For instance, coffee headaches and carb headaches are real things. Here are a few side effects to be prepared for:
- cutting out coffee will give you headaches at first. I havent cut out coffee completely but at first when I reduced my intake I definitely had a headache in the morning.
- cutting out wheat will give you pounding headaches. When I cut out wheat I had carb headaches for two weeks straight. I found a really good article that suggested putting salt in my food for those two weeks, or even adding a bit of salt to soda water. It helped a lot! But again, if you have a body that cant take salt, play it safe, please!
- naturally adding more grains and lentils to your diet will cause flatulence. Yeah this is a new one for me. It sucks. It stinks. Like the rotten egg kinda stink. Your body needs to build stronger machinery to break down all the fiber you begin to feed it in replace of wheat. So beware. Mine took 2-3 WEEKS before I noticed a difference. Keep at it though because you need to continue to train your body. My saving grace was mint tea at night after dinner.
- carbs are fair game.“But you just said you took out wheat?!?”. I did. I took out wheat. period. the end. hard stop. Vegetables containing carbohydrates are still good for you. Rice, which has starch is still good for you. If you stick to the premise of the whole food plant based diet, these substances are found on earth with little to no refinement. They are good for you. Now… I am neither agreeing with nor diminishing the gluten argument. Because if you take out wheat, you pretty much cover your bases with gluten.
- foods with hormones should be avoided as they affect your hormones. Endometriosis is a hormone-based/affected disease where estrogen and progesterone are at war with one another. Foods you want to avoid are meat, dairy and soy. I have taken soy out this week and honestly it wasnt that big of a change. But meat and dairy will be a challenge and I will need your help when the time comes. A lot of us are an hormone drugs, so combining hormones from food sources is just bad overall.
- beans bean the wonderful fruit; the more you eat the more you___? Thats another one you need to remind yourself of. If you remove meat and start substituting with beans… be prepared.
- substitutes can be bad too. If you look for gluten free items you will find that a lot of pre-made food is built with corn which is really hard to digest, tapioca which causes extreme yeast infections in dogs but inconclusive in humans, potato which has the same effect as tapioca, or other things that I dont recognize. This can be just as bad as eating the real thing, so read those labels closely. If you have dairy like I do still, the higher the fat content (I believe to be) the better. If the fat ratio goes down they substitute with solid protein and sugar. Not cool.
- if it doesnt taste good dont eat it. There are too many tasty healthy things to eat. If you decide to make something that in theory should be good for you but it tastes like turd, dont eat it. Life is too short for that.
- (I almost made it to 10, but I will stop at 9) *****YOU ARE HUMAN. If you decide to have a slice of your best friend’s baby shower cake, dont beat yourself up about it. Most probably your body will beat you up later anyways.. but thats not the point. Take it in strides. You can do this, and you will do the best you can do.
- oh oh… I have a 10! People will convince you your diet doesnt have an impact. Let me be the first to tell you I am living with a substantially less degree of pain solely do to my diet, and many many many others have felt positive effects too. So tell those people where to go. A good diet helps prime your body to metabolize drugs and fight against ‘disease’ – so there!
Wow, I wrote that all in one breath. I will stop here but make sure you read my three part series on cutting foods out of my diet. Hopefully they help you break some ground.