How to get your endo diet groove on

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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! 🙂
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. (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.
  10. 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.

Happy eating!

Part 2 – cutting out artificial sweeteners

Where do I even begin. OK, so if you read part 1, I had my aha moment and replaced diet coke with seltzer. That allowed me to take out the aspartame found in diet coke and feel the positive affects of eliminating the chemically manufactured sugars from my system.

So here is what happened next. My body was starting to transform from the inside out. As I mentioned before it wasn’t like my waist size changed or that I went from being flabby to fit. It’s just that my body started using the natural fuel and stopped feasting off the fat reserves that refused to go away. Thats when I got very nerdy and dug into some research to figure out what I had been – and what I am – doing to my body.

It all started with the science of google and facebook. The more I was googling about sugars the more I was being fed some interesting ads on facebook. But one stood out to me and I took the time to watch an animated video by Dr. Cary Nelson. His video articulated the affects of artificial sweeteners (specifically from drinking diet sodas) on the gut, and how our bodies are not reacting to these substances in a healthy way because they are not naturally found in nature. Hmm… Dr. Cary brought up a point about yeasts in our gut that feed off artificial sweeteners. This point is still debated, but I looked into the point about how the gut ends up storing these sugars as fat.

I know this video is long (and it ultimately is an ad for his probiotics) but it is very informative and very well told. http://probioticamerica.com/presentation.php

Was this for real? Because I, and millions of others, have been led to believe through powerful marketing that artificial sweeteners were approved by the FDA as a diet ingredient and was a healthier alternative to sugar. So how could this be?

Lets look at the differences between the types of sugars. Natural sugars are derived from fruits and vegetables. These sugars are processed in the body as a familiar substance because our bodies have been created to recognize and digest these. The fibers in these foods also aid in the digestion. Then there are sugars from sugar cane, or sugar beets. We can touch upon Stevia later. We can refine sugars by taking the ‘sugar’ compounds out of its natural form, and purifying it to make white sugar, brown sugar, and any other kind of sugar you care to eat.

Figure 1 Processing sugar beets.

Courtesy of StatCan

Now lets look at those ‘sugars’ and the ones we have manufactured in a factory – what we so commonly call artificial sweeteners or NAT (non-caloric artificial sweeteners). Lets go back to Dr. Nelson’s theory on how these chemicals are stored as fat.

Natural-Sugars-Vs.-Added-Sugars-Artificial-Sweeteners

Courtesy of greedyhealthjunkie.com

Check this out, courtesy of greedyhealthjunkie.com. It makes sense though, doesnt it? We dont know how to process them, we try to do something with it, out glucose levels rise, and in defense we store these substances as fat for later use. AAAHHHHHH.

Yeah thats a rude awakening.

Sugars:

Glucose (simple sugar) is found naturally in foods with carbohydrates.

Fructose (simple sugar) is found naturally in fruits and honey.

Sucrose (complex sugar) is half glucose and half fructose.

Other sweet substances include high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, and molasses OR saccharine and aspartame.

So here is the skinny. Artificial sweeteners for the most part were stumbled upon over time, mostly as accidents. These were discovered to be non-caloric (or ‘fat free’) and hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar. A wonderful history of artificial sweeteners is outlined in a study published in Neuroscience 2010 by Qing Yang. These sweeteners were adopted by the dieting market to provide dieters with a sweet substitute to caloric sugar. The idea was to allow you to eat sweet foods without gaining weight. While the industry in the United States was booming, in parallel so many other countries banned these sweeteners due to the plethora of data showing linkages to waistline increases, occurrences of diabetes and obesity, and neurological imbalances. Despite these data points the government continued to push on with funding the production of artificially sweetened goods. During the Bush (Junior) administration it was time for the report (published jointly by the WHO and FAO Expert Consultation on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases), which is reviewed every few years, to be reevaluated. The 2002 report which was about to be published, indicated that artificial sweeteners were in fact increasing weight, child obesity, and diabetes. But there was no way this article would be published ‘as is’ with the Bush administration so heavily backing the diet industry and its ‘ingredients’. The report, which can be found online, was published in 2003 with vague results on this subject.

Thereafter, although aspartame was banned for a short period of time in 1980, many other sweeteners have come on the market and the Non-caloric Artificial Sweetener (NAS) industry has boomed. And yet, an overwhelming amount of evidence has shown the causation of NAS linked to childhood obesity, obese newborns from mothers who are chronic NAS-sweetened beverage drinkers, diabetes, and depression. In fact, an out poor of Coka Cola funded research has conversely shown that NAS have reduced the waist sizes of individuals after switching from regular sugar sweetened beverages to NAS-sweetened beverages, but ignores the (or rather, omits) evidence showing increased waist size compared to controls (controls = those NOT consuming NAT-sweetened beverages) . We continue to ignore the facts, and we continue to promote new and ‘better’ sweeteners like Stevia – a natural sugar that today has been okayed by the FDA.

“Based on its review of information and data submitted by industry, FDA has concluded there is no basis to object to the use of certain refined Stevia preparations in food. These refined Stevia preparations may be lawfully marketed and added to food products sold in the United States.” – FDA

While I understand that the FDA is unwilling to ban a substance that may not yet be proven as a harmful substance, this also comes from the same administration that fails to do anything about the mass marketing of McDonald’s marketing toward children. You cant for a second tell me this quote was compelling enough to leave well alone:

“Ronald McDonald never sells to children. He informs and inspires through magic and fun” – Shelley Rosen, Senior Director/Strategy. McDonald Corporation.

But for sake of argument, how much would the FDA do even if there was proof Stevia and others sweeteners were in fact harmful? You can see here what they have done to rebuttal sound evidence put forth by reputable organizations.

Im rambling on now. Let me come full circle. In the last few years a field of study known as the human microbiome has shed light on the impact of good and bad bacteria in our bodies that 1) help us fight against illness 2) maintain stasis, and 3) when imbalanced can cause illness. This relates heavily to Dr. Cary Nelson’s idea of gut yeast feeding on our sugars. Key opinion leaders in the human microbiome field are now presenting strong evidence that artificial sweeteners have a direct impact on the bacteria in our gut that ultimately communicate with hormones and neurotransmitters to lead to weight gain and depression. While this is an indirect affect on our weight, it is compelling evidence to once again suggest these chemically manufactured substances are wreaking havoc in many ways.

If I can serve as one example of what happens when these NAS are eliminated from the body, I hope I can be the one voice of reason you are willing to listen to. If you know me, you know Im not a gimmicy person, I dont fall into diets and I dont follow anything without doing the research. Everything above is strong evidence, and my own internal body is all the evidence I need. After a month of no NAS in my body (as I became mindful of drinks and foods with NAS in them and quickly eliminated them from my diet) I felt better than I have ever felt in my life. I have been eating better – because I crave healthy food –  and the fat stores that were always with me since puberty (that slight little muffin top, those lovely love handles on my lower back, the discrete little gut) have all disappeared now that my exercise is actually burning MY fat.

What next?

…to be continued

Part 3: Juicing.

Resources: (additional to those linked within)

WHO/FAO TRS 916 report

 A bitter aftertaste: unintended effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome

Non-Caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges 

Documentary: Fed Up

Documentary: Hungry for Change

Ted Talk: Jamie Oliver – Teach every child about food