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.