It’s possible to make lots of health improvements and reduce the pain, fatigue and other symptoms you are experiencing with endometriosis with holistic therapies, mind body approaches and even conventional medicine. However, in my opinion, you have to also address your nutrition – what you are eating, how you are eating and your digestive system as well.
How do you know if your digestive system is working optimally?
- You have at least one easy bowel movement a day
- You don’t suffer from bloating, excessive fullness, burping, farting or discomfort or pain after eating.
- You have energy to do what you want to do.
- You can generally enjoy a variety of foods without worrying too much about how it will affect your stomach.
Slow and steady progress
My personal approach is to make slow and steady progress instead of making radical changes that are unsustainable. You want to be making choices and introducing new changes that you can imagine yourself doing years from now. Endometriosis is a condition that needs to be managed long term so this approach will bring you the greatest success.
Nutrition is individual
Nutrition is personal and what works for you is not going to be the same as what works for someone else with endometriosis. However, there are some basic principles that are going to be beneficial to everyone.
Tip: I suggest you take a notebook and start writing down what you are eating and what symptoms you experience in order to track how different foods affect you. This information can be so beneficial especially when you are working with a holistic practitioner.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables:
Fresh, high quality vegetables need to be the basis of your diet. Why? They are anti-inflammatory (super important because endometriosis is strongly connected with inflammation, particularly in the digestive system), provide lots of minerals and vitamins and keep the bacteria in your intestines happy.
Tip: Pay attention in the next couple of days to how many fruits and vegetables you are eating and aim to increase by 1 serving a day. Yes, it’s that simple! Just increase by one serving a day. In a couple of weeks when this new amount of fruit and vegetables seems normal, increase one serving again.
Your goal is to be eating at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. More than that is also good once you are consistent with 5 servings
The more variety in the fruits and vegetables you consume, the happier the bacteria will be.
Tip: So that’s one reason why nutritionists say “Eat the rainbow”. Try to have a colourful plate of vegetables because vegetables of different colours provide different nutrients.
A healthy digestive track (that’s all the area from your mouth to your anus) should have a diversity of good microbiota. These microbiota help our bodies fight infections, process vitamins and digest foods. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria so by adding fermented foods to your diet, you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system and enhancing your immune system.
Regular consumption of probiotic food can reduce the presence of inflammatory bacteria in the gut and restore good bacteria that may have been destroyed by antibiotics. Consuming probiotics has also been shown to reduce symptoms from other illnesses where inflammation is involved, such as irritable bowel disease.
Here are some fermented foods to try:
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi
- Kombucha, a fermented tea made with live bacteria and yeast
- Some soft cheeses, such as feta, cheddar, gouda and provolone
- Fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso
- Water kefir, a fermented drink similar to kombucha
Naturally fermented pickles or pickles that are made without vinegar
If this interests you, you can find a lot of information online about preparing your own probiotic foods at home. Here is one site I found with useful information: https://www.healendo.com/fermentedfoods
High mineral foods:
Certain minerals are necessary for overall and hormonal health and you’ll want to try and add them to your diet as much as possible such as zinc, magnesium, selenium, calcium
Try to add some of these foods into your regular diet so you can increase the minerals in your diet. While supplements may be popular, using food as your medicine is always better if possible.
Foods high in zinc: almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, cocoa and dark chocolate.
Foods high in magnesium: brown rice, buckwheat,spinach, almonds, avocado, almonds, cashews, spinach, brazil nuts and cocoa.
Foods high in selenium: brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, eggs, oatmeal
Foods high in calcium: almonds, tofu, edamame, oranges, molasses, flax, tahina
Foods to avoid:
You knew there was going to be some bad news, right? Sorry in advance.
I highly recommend that you first make changes adding in foods I mentioned above BEFORE you start removing foods from your diet. This is commonly referred to as “crowding out” and can make the process of eliminating foods and improving your health much easier. Also, remove one food at time, get used to the change, experiment with different alternatives before you remove another food.
Food is highly associated with love and many other positive emotions, people, events, religion and culture and removing a lot of different food types at once can be overwhelming and feel really uncomfortable. That is not my intention at all! So, please go slowly. You may feel enough of an improvement with adding foods in and only cutting out a few items and you won’t have to remove everything I am suggesting.
There are a few issues with dairy. Firstly, dairy foods contain a lot of hormones because of the hormones the animals are injected with in order to increase production. Unfortunately, those hormones can also influence our own hormonal system and cause hormonal imbalances in our body so it’s best to avoid as much as possible.
Milk protein creates an acidic environment in our blood which is connected with inflammation and infection in the body. Even people who don’t immediately react in an obvious way to lactose (the protein in milk) find they feel much better without eating dairy. Less phlegm in their chests, less nasal discharge, more energy and clearer thinking.
When you remove dairy from your diet, you should give yourself 3-4 weeks to feel the benefit. I personally felt a huge difference in less than a week but I know from other people’s experiences that sometimes it can take longer. Some people never feel a specific change after removing dairy but their overall health improves, which is the ultimate goal.
If you are concerned about consuming enough calcium, you can find alternative sources of calcium from non-dairy sources. See above for more information.
Sugar and other sweeteners
I don’t think anyone will really be surprised that sugar is not a healthy food for anyone but in particular women with endometriosis.
When you eat sugar, your body releases more of an inflammatory chemical called prostaglandin 2 and then blocks the anti-inflammatory chemicals you want. Inflammation, especially chronic inflammation, causes heightened pain, which is a real problem if you have endometriosis. Balanced blood sugar is absolutely vital to healthy and balanced hormones and your energy levels.
Reducing and eliminating sugar and other sweeteners from your diet, is not easy but it is worthwhile. Even reducing by a small amount can be beneficial. Substituting fresh fruit and high quality dark chocolate can be one way of coping with the initial sweet cravings. As your blood sugar stabilises, you will find that you actually want less sugar. Really.
Today wheat contains a much higher amount of gluten than in the past and can cause lots of different problems for women . Wheat does not negatively affect every woman with endometriosis and it can also be dependent on how much you eat. I did read one study that showed that 75% of women had a significant reduction in endometriosis related pain when they went wheat free so there is strong evidence that the majority of women with endometriosis can benefit from reducing or eliminating wheat from their diet.
What can you eat instead? Rye, buckwheat, spelt, oats and products made from them. Today there are plenty of pasta and crackers and breads made with alternative grains including lentil flours, quinoa and others. Experiment to see what is tasty for you and agrees with your stomach.
There are so many different nutritional approaches and I have just given you a small taste of some positive changes you can make to your diet to reduce the severity of your endometriosis symptoms and help yourself back on track to better health.
Please bear in mind that changes to your diet might take time to take affect and show an improvement in your symptoms. This is a marathon not a sprint. You are making long term improvements to your health. Be kind and patient with yourself.
Some of the information from this article I learned in Hani Eisenkrat’s course הקורס המלא לתזונה התומכת לריפוי של אנדומיטריוזיס. If you are interested in learning more about nutrition that supports your improved health, I highly recommend you take Hani’s class.
You can find out more about Hani here: https://www.facebook.com/BriahEndometriosis
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