Heather Crosby discovered plant-based and gluten free eating helped her manage her chronic conditions, including intersitial cycstitis. But has always missed bread (like most of us) and has created the Gluten-Free Baking Academy to satisfy that craving. I've partnered with Gluten-Free Baking Academy to give you guys $50 off!Read More
The Leaf Collection is a newly launched tea brand; started by Emma Fitzgerald, who has a background in health and natural sciences, and has spent time researching and perfecting the positive effects of her tea blends on the body and mind. I have genuinely found these teas really helpful in the past few weeks, mainly around calming my anxiety, helping me to relax or focusing my mind.Read More
Many of us with endometriosis get bloating and personally for me, nuts don't help with that! For myself and many others, they are really hard to digest, yet they are also very helpful for endometriosis. Here I talk about which nuts are particularly beneficial in the endometriosis diet and why, and how best to prepare them for better nutrient absorption.Read More
Quitting coffee has been and still is, the hardest part of the endometriosis diet for me, yet there are some very compelling reasons to continue my pursuit of giving up the dark stuff. Quitting coffee is a key part of the endometriosis diet and from my experience, I know how much it helps. This post explores the research on the effects of caffeine on endometriosis and how reducing or eliminating it from your diet could help decrease pain and symptoms.Read More
Recently there's been lots of debate on the trend "clean eating". Whilst I understand the very real negative implications of the label, what I have learnt from the popularity of healthy eating, has helped me reduce the symptoms of endometriosis and has taught me how to enjoy food, after years of living with eating disorders.Read More
My Top Supplements and Super Foods for a Stronger Immune Body
For the past 12 months, I’ve been exceptionally lucky. My last real cold was October 2015. Endometriosis has been strongly linked to a weakened immune system, and many women find themselves catching everything that comes their way, on top of dealing with the symptoms of endometriosis and other conditions it’s associated with, such as IBS and eczema. I’ve had what seems to be the beginnings of a cold, or a few days of feeling slightly under the weather, but it’s never turned into the full-blown whammy. A lot of the time, I get flu symptoms the day before my period and then they disappear once it arrives and I’ve heard other endosisters say the same.
But this week, finally, that good old common cold caught up with me, and it was a hell of a shock to the system. I got through the week and went to work, but I only managed that by coming home, eating well and going to sleep before 9pm. It got me thinking about why how dreaded autumn cold eventually caught up with me, - why now? I’m in a much better place mentally, I have more energy, less pain, I’m enjoying life more. I had expected to get ill at every turn pre-operation, my body and mind felt like it was at breaking point, so it seemed to me the perfect mix for bugs to get their claws in. But no, it gets me when I’m strong.
So what’s the difference? Although I was aware of this happening, I realised I fell ill once all my supplements and ‘super foods’ had run out. I’ve had a heap of things to pay for this summer, so bit by bit I haven’t been replacing things. I kept going for a while, but I guess the storage of goodies in my body finally got to a low, and the troops set in. I like to keep my body perked up with various health foods and supplements, this might not be necessary for your average Joe, but when you’ve been struggling to make it through the day, you know you need to up your game. Plus, endometriosis requires specific nutrients to keep it at bay, so I use some supplements for this too.
Now I’ve realised what an impact these were having on me in the past year and how they’ve kept me going through some tough times without getting ill, and have generally supported my body in the fight against endo, I thought I’d share with you my regular buys.
Supplements and Super Foods for Endometriosis
Viridian Vegan EPA and DHA oil – This is oil is packed full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are excellent anti-inflammatories and also important for healthy hormone function. Reducing inflammation helps reduce pain levels, and omega 3s have been show to have a significant impact on the levels of endometriosis pain in the pelvic area. Also, inflammation has now been strongly linked to depression, which many women with endometriosis suffer from and can also hinder the body’s ability to heal. Of course, you can use fish oil capsules, but I’m vegan, so I go for this one. Viridian’s vegan oil provides a form that’s easily absorbed, whereas many plant-based sources of fatty acids are not so easy for us to convert into usable nutrients – it’s pricey, but worth it basically.
BioCare Vitasorb B – B vitamins are essential to immune support, but are also needed for energy and mental health. They help support cognitive functions and the release of serotonin and dopamine.
Curcumin – Curcumin is the chemical compound found in turmeric and other plants. However, it has a poor level of absorption, so using the extract or eating it with black pepper (which aids absorption), is the best way to get this nutrient. It is an effective anti-inflammatory, which is now linked to improving symptoms of depression.
Holland and Barrett’s Vegan Multivitamin and Mineral tablets – of course, it’s always a good idea to take a vitamin supplement, in addition to eating a healthy variety of fruit and vegetables. It does contain B vitamins, but whether they are easily absorbed I am not too clear on. I would prefer to take a higher quality vitamin supplement, but these do the job for now!
Magnesium – most of us are deficient in magnesium (I’m not making this up, knowledge from a nutritionist!) and not only is magnesium essential for regulating biochemical reactions in our bodies, such as nerve function, but it also relaxes muscles. As a result, magnesium has been shown to be very effective on reducing menstrual cramps and back pain. I take tablets when I remember, but also rub in the oil when I’m in pain or know I’m due on.
Baobab powder – this stuff kind of reminds me of sherbet and has a subtle enough taste to go in breakfasts, smoothies, drinks and desserts. It is PACKED out with vitamin C, which supports immunity and maximizes iron take (which we endosisters are usually lacking in). It’s also rich in B vits, which again support the immune system.
Chlorella – this green beauty lasts forever because I only use half a teaspoon a day. Chlorella has been shown to speed up immune system recovery and tissue repair and renewal. Another bonus and one I know so many endo sufferers will appreciate, is that it can support a digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Astragalus powder – I love this stuff, I felt a noticeable difference in my well being when I introduced this into my diet. It strengthens a weakened immune system, reduces inflammation and helps with allergies by balancing histamine (did you know women with endometriosis are more likely to have allergies?). It also supports the adrenal glands, which can be weakened in women with endometriosis because of the level of stress they are usually under and can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Bee Pollen – Generally a good all rounder, as it is the richest source of vitamins in a single food. It includes B vitamins, amino and fatty acids and protein, which helps our body repair.
Cacao – not only does this make my smoothies and desserts taste amazing, but it boosts feelings of well being and supports the body with iron and magnesium. Both iron and magnesium are important for energy!
I appreciate that this all may seem like quite a lot to stock up on and not to mention costly, but I did it over time and things don't normally run out for a while. These are the products that have worked for me, but look at your symptoms and body and work out what you feel you could benefit and start from there. There's plenty of supplements out there which are recommended for those with endometriosis, so have a look around and pick up some books on the subject if you'd like some more information.
Let me know how you get on!
I know how overwhelming it is when you begin making changes to your diet and you just don't know where to start, especially when you're trying to cut a lot of foods out. It's even more complicated when you're trying to go organic and there's only certain organic produce in stock or in season, etc and you're also trying to keep to a budget. I find supermarkets stressful and don't always have time to go down to our local farmers market on a Saturday, so I now use Abel and Cole and I really enjoy it. I get overwhelmed with the choices and can sometimes get stuck in a rut, so I generally close my eyes and get my bf to do it at the weekend and just see what turns up on Monday! Because it's seasonal, admittedly we are limited to what's available, so sometimes we do get the same veggies in on a weekly basis. Occasionally we may run down to Sainsbury's and buy something different like corn on the cob or green beans (they haven't been in season for ages and I miss them), but this is rare because I usually can't get them organic.
There's only two of us and being vegan, we cut out the costs of meat and dairy - we're also not big drinkers and I of course need to avoid alcohol as it can worsen endo symptoms, so buying a bottle of wine only happens at the weekends and not very often (even then, we can't get through the thing!). Because of all this, our food shopping list is pretty cheap. The most it reaches with Abel and Cole is around £45 - and that's when we've had to buy things like toxin-free household cleaners and detergents, but it can sometimes be just £25. On top of that, I often buy some 'superfoods' like chlorella, cacao powder and bee pollen and there's a few oils I like to pick up and teas from our local health shop. When I need to stock up on those, it could take the weekly shop to around £60 or more, depending on how much I need - for example, if I ran out of a few things it could get expensive, but if it's only one item, then I may only be looking at £5-£10 more.
This food shop covers our breakfasts (smoothies/porridge), snacks and lunches and dinners for the week. We tend to eat breakfast out at the weekends and usually make about two meals at home, so we do spend a little more at the weekend.
Below is what we're currently ordering, giving the season and this changes every few months so it does vary.
Cupboard Goods we stock up on -
Dried beans and pulses (we soak these and sprout them, to make them easier to digest)
Lots and lots of garlic
Supreme Matcha Green Tea by Pukka
Nut butter (I go for one without palm oil, to be nice to planet)
Fresh produce or dry goods we get through so quickly we need to order weekly! -
Avocados (we usually get through 2 - 4 a week)
Spinach/Kale/Rocket/Leafy Greens - we get two of whatever is in season or available.
Sweet red peppers
White and/or red onions
Rice pasta or noodles
Gluten free falafel mix
Blueberries and raspberries - I buy these organic and frozen from my local health store, as they're cheaper and I get more than I would if I ordered them fresh online
Oat milk x 2
Canned coconut milk (if you can get cartons or a company that state no BPA in lining, that's ideal, as many cans have toxins in them that can affect endo in one way or another. Biona are a good choice)
Canned chopped tomatoes (again, looks for jars, cartons or BPA free cans)
One or two bunches of fresh herbs like mint, coriander, basil, parsley or oregano
Exotic/citrus fruit such as pineapple, grapefruit, oranges
Sometimes if they're in season/ fancy a change/ need for a recipe -
Blackberries - I would have these every week if I could, but they're only in season for a short while.
Cucumber - this would be on my regular list, but whenever we buy it we don't get through it quickly enough and it goes off!
Asparagus - this would be on the weekly list, but we make enough dinner for our lunches the next day and I hate asparagus cold and it also goes a bit limp and drab overnight. It's just too complicated trying to work out what else to cook for lunch. But I love it and now I've just said all that I'm going to make an effort to cook with it more frequently!
Celeriac - I'm on the fence about the taste of this, so sometimes, if I'm brave, we order it.
Mushrooms - I so wish I liked mushrooms, but I just can't. They're so good for you and my bf loves them, so occasionally they get diced up small and slipped in to stir-fries and I spend an hour picking at my food. I'm gonna change it though, because they're full of nutrients.
Vegan pesto - when we're feeling lazy/no time.
Coconut yoghurt (not flavoured dairy yoghurt, but yoghurt made from coconuts)
Medjool dates - we'd get these weekly, but organic they're expensive and also high in sugar, which heightens inflammation and pain, so they're usually a treat (stuffed with almond butter).
This list isn't exhaustive so please don't use it as your only guide, because there's so many other beautiful fruits and veggies out there like peaches, plums, apples, yams, runner beans, squash, peas, etc. Our list would be more varied, but because we've gone organic and seasonal, there's only so much we can get and it's also about what your suppliers provides. If I see something in Sainsbury's that's organic and I haven't had in ages, I'll nab it, because variation is key to a healthy diet. Another thing to mention is that the weekly list is a bit rotational, we don't get all that in one week, at one point we were but we just weren't getting through it all and sometimes it's tough having so many vegetables to prepare (Abel and Cole aren't pre-chopped and packaged). We also try not to go over the £45 mark so we only buy what we need, though if we had a bigger budget I would definitely be stocking up on all the fruit! And that's another thing - you might have noticed the list is low on fruit, this is for two reasons really, one is that sugar has an adverse affect on the body, especially inflammation, and once I've had my smoothie, I have to watch my daily sugar intake. Another reason is that it's likely I have a lot of bad bacteria in my gut, from my sessions with my nutritionist, and sugar will feed this bacteria and help it thrive. I will be starting a plan to remove this bacteria and replace it with the good stuff, but until then, I'm trying to not exacerbate it.
So there it is - my weekly shopping list. I hope that helps you get an idea of the kind of stuff to stock up on. I will also be doing a post on what my average daily diet looks like and another post on why going organic is so important, and which fruit and veggies can you get away not being organic.
Enjoy! :) x
So I'm pretty sure you all know by now that I spend most of my life TIRED. Seriously freaking tired (I wanted to use another word, but hey, don't want to offend). Quite naturally, I have been putting this down to endometriosis and I still believe that plays a big part, as it's such a common and persistent symptom for many women.
But recently (I say recently, but I actually mean for 12 months), I've been getting dizzy. Sometimes I'll go a few days without going dizzy, sometimes I'll go dizzy once and other days I'll think I'm falling over a few times in an hour. I did mention this to my doctor, but endo has been so predominant in our discussions that it's been overlooked for quite sometime and he put it down to my anxiety and wasn't really concerned. I have carried on being concerned, but I've been more worried about my endo, so kinda shrugged it off until the next spell.
Then much more recently, the past few months, I've been getting numbness and pins and needles in my feet and ankles out of nowhere. I'll be walking and suddenly feel like I'm walking on ice blocks, except my feet aren't cold. You know when it's winter and suddenly you can't feel your feet and they just feel like this chunky solid mass and you can't really tell where you're stepping? It's like that, but minus the temp change. I've been putting this down to poor circulation, but admittedly, I've been a bit worried.
And then there's the depression. Lately (excluding the past few weeks) I've been getting deeper into my hole. It's hard to explain it now, as today I feel relatively sane. It wasn't that these feelings surprised me, I'd seen them all before - but they felt intensified and were spiraling quite rapidly, in a way that felt uncontrolled by my thinking. It wasn't like I was grumpy and was egging myself on to be grumpier (you know, like sometimes you just want to stay in your mood for a while). It was more like someone had put my brain in a bucket of thick heavy black water and like a sponge, I'd soaked it up, and now my brain was dripping, sagging, unable to hold its weight. It felt physiological.
In addition to the depression, my brain was slow and struggling to function. I'd noticed for a good while my inability to finish sentences because I couldn't remember what I was saying or because I'd forgotten a word and genuinely, genuinely couldn't get it back. I have noticed my incredible lack of concentration and a constant battle to just be able to think - not just clearly, but almost at all. I have had frequent occasions where I've been struggling to form words in my mouth, I even asked my psychologist about this and she concluded this was all the symptoms of a panic attack. I found this strange because I usually know when I'm having one and I'd never really noticed it affect my speech, but she was the expert and besides, I didn't trust my mind or body anymore, who knows what it was doing to me?
So there was that going on. And the tiredness, the tingly legs and the dizziness. On top of that, my skin was DRY. I mean seriously dry. Like cracked hard barren dessert dry - think the scene in the Lion King when Simba is alone and is about to be eaten by vultures before Timon and Pumbaa wade in. It was almost growing in patches, like a rash and I had it specifically at the corners of my mouth. On top of everything else, this had been really really getting to me. I'd moisturise and by midday my skin was flaking again and it was pretty much impossible to cover up.
So of course, I had been feeling like my body was falling apart. My endo was worse and I had all of the above symptoms, which were doing their best to take me down. I had an inkling it was probably to do with not having enough of something, but I also felt it was heavily linked to endometriosis and how that affects the body. I also know my stomach issues mean I'm likely to not be digesting my food properly and therefore not absorbing all the nutrients I need. So basically I didn't look into it that much.
Then a few Saturdays ago, when the weight of all this was pushing down on my mind, I suddenly had the strongest desire to google 'dizziness deficiency'. I hadn't used those two words on the occasions I had googled my dizziness. I had searched dizziness and endometriosis, dizziness and depression, dizziness and anxiety, dizziness and fatigue, etc etc etc. And then guess what?
B12 Deficiency Symptoms:
- a pale yellow tinge to your skin
- Extreme tiredness/fatigue - like, all the time
- a sore and red tongue (glossitis) - so that's why!
- mouth ulcers
- pins and needles (paraesthesia) - yep
- changes in the way that you walk and move around - yes!!
- disturbed vision - yep
- irritability - hell yes
- depression - well, obviously
- changes in the way you think, feel and behave - yup
- a decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement - omg yes!
- numbness and tingling in the feet and hands - yup
- muscle weakness - that explains a lot
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) - this has been driving me crazy
- Cracks at the corners of the mouth - no way, this is ridiculous
- Skin rash - yay, there's hope for my skin!
Did you ever have that moment when you read the symptoms list of endometriosis and your whole body sang in harmony "That's me"? Like it wasn't just a mental response, you could feel it in your cells - your whole body trying to tell you "Yes. That, is what we have"? If no, then I probably seem a little odd to you right now, but when I first saw that list, that is the reaction I had - my whole body felt like it had stumbled upon a treasure chest, after digging up an entire island whilst following a useless map. I completely knew, then and there, that I had endometriosis. When I read this about B12, I had the same response. That is the only other time in my life that I have felt that, so I trusted it. And to be honest, it's completely logical.
The main sources of B12 are:
- some fortified breakfast cereals
I eat none of those. Zero. Zilt. The last time I ate meat and fish was about 4 years ago, even then, I didn't eat much of it. I've been a fully fledged vegan since Jan 1st 2016, and all last year I avoided eggs and dairy like the plague - only ever eating them if I was in an awkward situation when someone has served it up for me or the only option on the menu for a veggie was gluten or dairy. And I gave up breakfast cereals years ago, probably around the same time as I gave up meat - I didn't want all the extra sugar and additives and was quite happy with oats or a smoothie for breakfast.
Of course, I'd known about B12 deficiency and had bought some vegan supplements a while back, but I had only been taking them intermittently and this year I've continuously forgotten to take them, sometimes for weeks on end. I know this was pretty stupid, but I think I'd allowed myself to slip because a) I discovered the brand wasn't very good (sorry Holland and Barret's), so had been waiting on my nutrition plan from my nutritionist to really get stuck in with the good supplements and b) because I knew my body was struggling to absorb things anyway, so I wasn't even sure that the shit vitamins were even partly getting into my body. So I guess I sort of slacked off a bit.
This would also explain, why when I started taking chlorella a few weeks back, which is a source of plant based B12, that I suddenly started feeling a bit more alive then I have in say, about 2 years? I even had a conversation with my boyfriend about it. I had been nervous to bring it up, in case I jinxed it or something and this new found tiny spark of energy died out, or my new sense of occasional lightness in my brain once again returned to the weight of the world. So tentatively, whilst walking back from an exceptionally terrible meal, I said "I don't want to jinx this, but recently - and this might just be a fluke, who knows - I've kind of felt a bit... better." I even used the same description about my brain being a sponge for depression, for this new sensation. It almost felt like my brain was tingling. In fact, now I think more about it, originally I had described it like my brain had been dipped in a liquid, a fizzy liquid full of goodness that was now making its way around my brain - slowly, yes, but it was definitely there. But actually, now I think about it, it feels more like a current, like a little electric charge is pulsing across my brain, bringing it back to life, bit by bit, feeding my grey matter and nursing it back to health. I cannot describe how good this feels to notice this new sensation. Notice something I had not felt in such a long time. Notice something that I hadn't experienced in so long, that I had forgotten it was a feeling.
I put it down to now doing a three day work week - which although was stressful as hell, was giving me more time to recuperate. I also put it down to chlorella, because it's an amazing super food which I had felt I'd been needing for quite some time, and my changes in mood and energy began within a day or two of adding it to my smoothies. However, I didn't take the time to read up on all the minerals and nutrients in the powder and try to work out what was making me respond so well to it. I think I just wanted to watch it for a while, because I still didn't really believe it was real.
And then I found out about B12. Once I knew, I was hooked and excited. I did lots of reading about it. My heart had sank a little, because in an effort to remove inflammatories and hormone disruptors, like meat and dairy, and also in an attempt to be someone who tries to follow a more ethical and sustainable diet, I had potentially yet unintentionally been making myself unwell in other ways. So I really wanted to understand and rectify this as soon as possible. Now for the vegans out there who are suddenly panicking that perhaps veganism isn't the right thing to do, if our body is rejecting it so much - please have a read of this great article. This guys debates the sources of B12 in a much better way than I could, and it put my heart to rest, that at least for me, I am doing this the right way and taking supplements is good enough.
There are much better resources out there on B12 deficiency than the information I can provide, but what I do want to explain, because it had so much of an affect on me, is how B12 supports our cognitive functions and moods. B12 helps our body to create myelin sheaths - these are protective coatings that surrounds all the cells in our nervous system and transmits the electrical signals between nerve cells, which are the messages our brain sends out to our body and to other parts of the brain, in order for us to function. But without B12, this sheath is reduced leading to an inefficiency in the messages sent between cells and resulting in issues that I have encountered, like not being able to feel my feet and where I step, to disorders like depression. In addition, B12 is also partly responsible for releasing chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which are essential for keeping our moods balanced. Without the normal production and distribution of these, mental health problems like depression and anxiety are known to appear or worsen. To find out more about B12 and specifically, its affect on mood and cognitive function, I really like this article by Wellness Mama.
Finally, the B vitamin group plays an important role in converting the fatty acid GLA - GLA helps reduce pain levels and inflammation, as it supports the body's anti-inflammatory process. In addition, and as a side note, B6 is essential to women with endometriosis as it has been shown to reduce the severity and length of periods, as well as aids the removal and regulation of oestrogen. So basically, the B family are not a family to mess with and we quite simply need them around.
So, where am I at now? The following morning after making my discovery, I rushed down to my lovely local health shop (waited for them to open as I had forgotten it was Sunday) and bombarded them with questions around the best supplements for a B12 deficient vegan. They suggested, and quite rightly so, that I probably need all of the B vits if I was low on B12 and recommended me a vegan and reliable brand, Solgar, who unfortunately, at the time, I couldn't really afford. However, I found a vegan liquid version, BioCare - Vitasorb B, which worked well for me as I'm not sure how easily my stomach will digest tablets anyway and the idea of a liquid is that it's easier to absorb. It was cheap, at just over a fiver, and though I'd like to eventually try the more recommended brand, I wanted to get something to test my theory without breaking the bank. The recommended dose is 10 drops a day, under the tongue or in water - FYI, don't do it under the tongue, it's disgusting. I suggest 5 drops in two glasses of water, with lots and lots of mint.
The results? Well for a start, those cracks around my lips are gone and the rash is no more - my skin is still dryer than normal, but no way near what it was (I could literally run my finger across my face and my skin would come off) - I am also taking lots of Omega 3, but that's for another post. My mood is continuing to improve and stabilise, I feel now that my good days are beginning to outweigh my bad and on the bad days, I have enough clarity and mental strength to create coping solutions or counteract the thoughts, or at least, try. I've started having enough energy and a desire to exercise (I haven't worked out for the duration of 2016, I am not exaggerating) - I have now worked out three times in the past two weeks. This is a big deal for me, it has only ranged from 10 - 30 minutes of Pilates, but still, it has felt good. I've started wanting to spend time with people more, instead of only wanting to be with my bed and the birds and I've managed to make plans and not cancel because I'm too tired. I've also felt more alert, more excited, more interested, more inspired, generally - more alive. I don't recall feeling dizzy or having lost sensation in my feet for at least the last week or two and I've not had any spots across my vision recently either.
Now, I know, this could all be a coincidence. I really don't think it is, but I am aware that some of you might think I am being a bit too over excited about all this. But listen, I know my body and I feel different. I feel better. I feel much better than I have in a really really long time. Whether this is the impact of B12 or the belief that it's the impact of B12, I guess what matters here is that I am feeling some positive results. Another thing I know, is that I have self-diagnosed, but I have endometriosis, we girls self-diagnose a lot - "I think it's growing back" "It feels like there's a cyst on my left ovary" "It feels like there's an adhesion between my pelvis and my right ovary" - generally, we are right. But I have booked a doctors appointment and am waiting on that, to discuss it with my doctor and hopefully have it tested - I have not ruled out the idea that some of these symptoms are something else, or are endo or are all related, so I am open to that and take it seriously. But I wanted to make a start - because the fact is, I am seriously missing sources of B12 in my diet, so whether or not I am deficient, I still need it, so why not begin making those changes?
I am not saying B12 is the miracle life changer - I don't think it's my soul source of depression or fatigue, I think endometriosis still plays a huge part in these issues. But it is essential to our wellbeing and physiological functioning, so I do think it needs to be seen as just that - essential. I felt it so important to talk about as I know so many of us are cutting out food groups in order to minimise our symptoms, and I would hate for others to arise in their place! But, as with all my posts - I am not a doctor, so please do seek the advice of a professional if you have noticed any of these symptoms. B12 deficiency can cause permanent neurological damage, so it's not to be taken lightly and it is wise to speak to a doctor so they can establish how severe it is - if you are deficient - and what it the best way to treat it.
I really hope this is helpful and bring back some energy to your life - I know how much us endosisters need it!
As I've mentioned in nearly every post (sorry), I'm pretty short of time these days! But I know a lot of you are really interested in the nutrition based side of managing endometriosis, so I wanted to do a quick yet informative piece on sugar.
Recently, I've noticed some interesting side affects of trigger foods due to my intolerances and IBS like symptoms of endo:
- Wheat and gluten make me feel nauseous, especially at night
- Sugar gives me pain in my endo areas within about 15 minutes and depending on time of the month and how much sugar, this can be extreme and crippling
- Dairy gives me a really bad stomach and I think makes me feel tired
- Caffeine does pretty much the same as sugar, but never reaches the same intensity of pain levels
I haven't had dairy since New Year's eve and have noticed a dramatic reduction in my stomach problems. However, as a result of being so 'strict' with that, I've been a bit more slack in the coffee and natural (I gave up refined sugar last year) sugar areas, such as honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar. I know from research, that a lot of these are digested in the same way as refined sugar, which would explain why, even though my reaction to these sugars are much better than what they were if I ate refined sugar, I'm still getting a dull throb to sharp pain on a continual basis. I've had a lot of stress recently, so have been making black bean brownies, date filled smoothies and eating lots of raw chocolate. I'm not condemning these treats! I'm all for a bit of sweetness in life, it's my favourite, but I've noticed for me at the stage my endo is in (pre-op), eating these things every few days or every day is not helping my condition and I'd prefer to stick to the weekend as treat days.
The first time I stopped seeing sugar as something I needed to cut out or down on because of more than just my waistline, was when I watched Fed Up. Fed Up really hit home to me the impact that sugar had on my body and I began understanding why I reacted the way I did to it and the significant affects it was having on my health. After that, I was able to cut out refined sugar and these days I genuinely can't bring myself to eat a Dairy Milk! That Sugar Film and Jamie Oliver's Sugar Rush have strengthened my views around sugar and have educated me further, so if you're struggling to cut down on the sugar, but know it's impacting on your pain levels or flare up rate, I really recommend watching these!
Each image on the post links through to where you can watch the film/doc. You can also find Fed Up and That Sugar Film on Netflix.
I hope these are useful watches and support you on your journey to managing endo!
The endodiet has worked well for me - I've noticed reduced pain symptoms, much more energy and less digestive aggravation. The endodiet includes foods which have been shown to slow down the formation rate of scarring and adhesions in studies and though I cannot prove that has happened in my case, I can say that I've only had one operation so far and though I need another now, it seems to have progressed at a slower rate. However, we are all different and endometriosis varies in severity and I appreciate that in this case, I am very lucky.
There are quite a few food groups which need to be cut out, which you may view as staples, but over time different foods have become my go-to ingredients and I don't think I could go back as I feel so much better for it and find meals much more interesting. I appreciate that different people have different relationships with food and that cutting out some things will be incredibly hard (coffee is the hardest for me). Be kind to yourself - this is just as important as trying to embrace the diet - getting stressed will cause havoc with your body and could heighten the symptoms of endometriosis. I honestly eat this way 75 - 80% of the time - there are days when I follow the diet completely, others when I have a coffee and some where I have bread, coffee and sugar altogether! My current aim is to get to 90-95% of the time and also have a period of time where I follow it completely, so I can really aid my body in healing, but it's a journey for me and unfortunately lifestyle sometimes gets in the way and the foods I need aren't available or I just feel like I really want that cup of coffee!
As you experiment and makes changes, you'll notice what triggers an upset stomach, fatigue, pain, etc and you can begin to know how to tailor the diet to suit you. I feel this is really useful as if you're out for dinner and there aren't any 100% endo-friendly diet options on the menu, at least you can choose something which will have fewer reactions. For me, I've noticed dairy and wheat together is a disaster for my intolerances, so for example, if I want to go for pizza and there's no gluten free option, I'll have a marinara (garlic, oregano, sauce) and I actually completely prefer it now. I can handle milk in my coffee if there's no nut milk alternative (soy is best avoided as it increases oestrogen levels), but a completely milk based drink will upset my stomach. Refined sugar causes my pain to heighten, especially around my period and coffee does the same, whilst also causing my anxiety levels to hit the roof (anxiety and depression are very common in women with endometriosis). If you're struggling to adopt the lifestyle completely, I would just start tuning into your body and working out what you react to most strongly, and cut those bits out first. It's also worth considering what foods are going to possibly increase the growth rate, like soy.
From my research¹, the common foods which are recommended to cut out are below. I have briefly listed the main reasons for avoiding, but I will also release posts with further information exploring these areas. It's worth noting that I am not a nutritional expert, just an enthusiast and the following is what has worked for me personally, but is perhaps not for everyone.
- Wheat/Gluten - IBS and endometriosis seem to come hand in hand, and though it is not clear as to why yet, it is clear many women experience both conditions. Wheat and gluten are inflammatories which can heighten pain and our bodies also find them hard to digest, causing more IBS symptoms.
- Dairy/Eggs - Dairy is another inflammatory and another food many find hard to digest, which often aggravates the IBS symptoms in endo sufferers. In addition, farm animals are often fed hormones or soy, which will then be processed by us and affect our hormone balance and increase oestrogen levels.
- Meat - Red meat has been linked with a higher risk of endometriosis. Women who ate red meat seven times a week or more were shown to be up to 100% more likely to have endometriosis than women who ate red meat three times a week or less.² White meat does not have the same impact, but as mentioned earlier, farms feed their animals fake hormones to fatten them up and these are then ingested by us and increase our oestrogen levels. If you'd still like to continue eating meat, it's worth reducing your intake and changing to organic as they are fed natural diets.
- Soy - Soy has been linked to endocrine disruption and increasing the severity of endometriosis, yet other studies have claimed it can help with the condition. Until there is more concrete evidence, I prefer to avoid soy as I don't want to run the risk of worsening the disease, but I suggest you look into the area for yourself and draw your own conclusions which work for you.
- Caffeine - Caffeine is an inflammatory and stimulant, so will increase pain but also heart rate and potentially make us feel panicky. It also has been shown to increase oestrogen levels in studies and puts a strain on the liver as it tries to remove the chemical, which in turn reduces the removal of excess oestrogen.
- Alcohol - Alcohol is known to increase inflammation and has a similar affect on the liver as caffeine. It also requires particular nutrients to process it - these are the same nutrients which are essential hormone regulators, but are used up in an attempt to remove alcohol from the system.
- Sugar - Again, causes inflammation and actually blocks the production of natural anti-inflammatory chemicals. It is also feeds Candida, which is often a problem in women with endometriosis and additionally, takes nutrients from the body in order for our systems to process it. In particular, our bodies use vitamins A, C and E when digesting sugar and these all play pivotal parts in strengthening the immune system, which is already weaker in women with endometriosis.
There's a whole host of foods recommended for reducing the symptoms and the development of endometriosis, and a range of other foods that improve general wellbeing, which is so important when fighting endometriosis or any illness. Suggested foods groups and great alternatives are...
- Fruits and vegetables
- Grains like quinoa, gluten free oats, buckwheat groats, amaranth, polenta and wholegrain rice
- Goods fats found in cold pressed coconut and olive oil, nuts and seeds
- Pulses and legumes (soaked and in moderation)
- Herbal teas such as green tea, raspberry leaf, ginger
- Dairy free milks such as almond, oat and hemp
The Recipe section of the site will offer interesting and accessible meals, snacks, treats and drinks, whilst the Nutrition page will highlight the benefits of particular food groups.
¹ Majority of these dietary guidelines are shared on the internet, as well as found in 'Recipes & Diet Advice for Endometriosis' by Carolyn Levett and 'Take Control of Your Endometriosis' by Henrietta Norton.
² Information from 'Take Control of Your Endometriosis' by Henrietta Norton.