As I write this, I am experiencing a flare-up. You know–that uncomfortable feeling you get in your belly that leads to pressure, swelling, gas, your choice of either diarrhea or constipation to follow, and debilitating pain that comes out of nowhere. Okay, just kidding about it being your choice. Sometimes you get both!
“What did I eat today?” is usually the first thing I ask and I will spend many long-lost moments trying to figure this out. Sound familiar?
The truth is, while I do believe symptoms of endometriosis can be lessened or even prevented to a certain extent with diets like the endo diet, I also believe you could eat all the right things all the time and still experience symptoms.
You see, I did everything right today and adhered to my trusty endo diet plan. No dairy, soy, gluten, caffeine, alcohol, red meat, fried foods, refined sugar, or highly processed foods, and I even gave myself extra credit and a gold star because I juiced organic celery this morning before breakfast. Go me! Yet, I still experienced an endo flare. But why? And most important question is, why go through all that work of eliminating foods, especially ones I really enjoy, just to go through hell anyway?! While I cannot answer this for everyone with endometriosis, I can tell you why I will continue to eliminate all the trigger foods mentioned above, even if it is not a guarantee.
One of the main reasons I avoid these foods is because I know my body does not need them to thrive or survive. I mean, I am not going to die if I never eat bread or gluten again. I understand that sometimes when you deprive yourself of certain items, you think or feel like you are going to die (like when I gave up coffee), but you are not going keel over, I promise. For the most part, I have found many alternatives to my favorite foods that allow me to feel like a normal human being. It is only when others point out my dietary differences that I am reminded I do not eat like most everyone else. Sigh.
Another reason I will continue eliminating common trigger foods is that I wonder: if my body reacted like that under nearly perfect circumstances, what the heck would it have done if I threw all caution to the wind and had that caramel Frappuccino with extra whip and its whopping 66 grams of sugar?! The thought terrifies me! Before I discovered the endo diet, I pretty much ate whatever I wanted. I was also miserable 90% of the time, had flare-ups nearly every day, hospitalized due to blacking out during painful episodes, moody, and generally just felt unhealthy. Paying closer attention to what I ate and fueled my body with has lessened all these symptoms greatly. I am proud to say I have been on the endo diet for three years now! I know that eating this way is simply better for me overall. My skin is clearer, my weight is managed, good cholesterol is up, and bad cholesterol is down, blood pressure is in check, and I am generally a healthier person because of it.
Does eating this way have any cons? Yes, it does! Eating out at restaurants with family and friends personally brings on anxiety attacks, and I find that I rarely reach my zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, some of my B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, and copper daily requirements, just to name a few. Nothing a good multivitamin cannot fix, however!
While endo flare management looks different for everyone, I do believe we can all benefit by changing our diets. Even if it is not the end-all to endo, you can still minimize symptoms by starting here. Is it perfect? NO. Is it the right thing to do for our bodies? YES. There is currently no cure for endometriosis but that does not mean we cannot help ourselves in the meantime by using nutritious food to mitigate some of the unpleasantries that accompany this disease. Even if it helps a little, it is worth something.