I’m pretty sure I speak for any Endometriosis sufferer that has looked at the Endo Diet and just thought ‘pphhht, yeah ok. And what exactly am I meant to eat?’ The list of foods to avoid is not only long but also full of all the good things in life:
Gluten (cakes, bread, pastries, pasta etc)
Saturated fats and oils
Additives and preservatives
The best way to explain why all these foods are best avoided is to understand that you need to lower your estrogen levels. Endometriosis thrives on estrogen. Feeding more estrogen into your body through these foods will lead to an increase in endo growth which equals more symptoms. Gluten contains phytic acid which aggravates endometriosis. The next 3 on the list raise estrogen levels mostly from the animals being injected with hormones to make them grow faster/bigger or produce more eggs/milk. Caffeine and soy are known as phyto-estrogens and they increase estrogen levels. Alcohol affects the liver and it is vital to have healthy liver function to eliminate excess estrogen from the body. Refined sugar, fried foods and saturated fats cause inflammation. Additives and preservatives add chemicals into the body.
It is near enough impossible to have a social life and avoid all these foods! But I found cutting out the easier ones really did help. I decided to cut out gluten, dairy, red meat, eggs, caffeine, alcohol, soy and refined sugar. After 4 months I decided to loosen up on sugar and alcohol to make going out easier.
It was 27th May 2013 that I started the endometriosis diet. After being advised I could have endo and hours of searching the internet I came to realise why I was eating half the amount of healthy food I normally did but was still putting on weight. Why my stomach ballooned up making me look pregnant. And why the pain was so terrible after eating certain foods.
I had started to feel majorly depressed and reading all the things you can’t have did nothing but make me cry. I think I cried on and off for a week. Every time I thought about all the things I couldn’t eat anymore I felt devastated. Not just because I LOVE chocolate and cakes (well all things sweet actually!) but knowing it would have a major impact on my social life too. Going out for dinner, going on holiday, going to a friends house or even family gatherings. There would always be something where I’d have to say, ‘no I cant have that.’ When before I wouldn’t have thought twice.
I decided to set a date. I gave myself a week to get my head around it and that weekend to indulge. And indulge I did! On the Sunday night, the day before starting the diet we went out for dinner. I had bread, lamb and red wine at the restaurant. Followed by a few more wines in the pub! And when I got home I literally scoffed 2 fairy cakes and a huge Millie’s cookie, all that I’d baked myself. I love baking so the fact I wouldn’t be able to make these things anymore also upset me! By the time bedtime came I was stuffed and my stomach looked about 6 months pregnant!! I was truly uncomfortable. Each mouthful I’d taken in the restaurant and at home was agony. It was like eating glass. Each mouthful stabbed at me and made my stomach bubble. But I didn’t care, this was my one last indulgence before giving the diet a really good go.
I went to bed feeling like a total whale and overwhelmed by my own thoughts on the day ahead. I passed out fairly quickly but by 2am I was woken up feeling the most unwell I’d ever felt. I was sweating, had the most awful burning across my stomach, terrible achy pain in my pelvis and I felt sick. No… I was going to be sick. I rushed to the toilet and hugged it until the sweats turned cold. Next on the list was my good old friend diarrhoea. It was a rough night to say the least. But it spurred me on to make the changes I needed.
For the next few weeks I stuck to the diet religiously and kept a symptom and food diary to try and identify any foods that caused particular upset. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. I went through the biggest sugar craving I have ever had. At times I felt sick and shaky, had awful headaches and sometimes had to force down food. On a few occasions the thought of any food turned my stomach but on other days I felt constantly starving and nothing filled me up!
It got easier though and as I started to notice the effects I was more and more determined that this wasn’t just an experiment anymore. This was for life. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. I was so much happier, the difference was incredible. I no longer had negative thoughts, I COULD conquer this. My stomach was more comfortable and less swollen. It still hasn’t been 100% the same but its bearable. The pain, although still there became liveable. But best of all I was shifting the chunkiness around my tummy and thighs which had built up that I just couldn’t shift before.
The more I carried on with the diet the easier it got. It became second nature to read all the labels. To check to see if the restaurant we were going to had gluten/dairy free items on their menu. Or at least white meat with vegetables/rice if not. More and more restaurants are catering for gluten and dairy intolerances. And many of the supermarkets provide a ‘free from’ range making it very easy to find substitutes. And that is exactly what became my next mission. To find as many substitutes for things as I possibly could.
Here’s some of the best ones I couldn’t live without now!
Chocolate – Booja Booja dairy/gluten/sugar free chocolate (available at Waitrose and during the Christmas period Holland & Barrett’s)
– CHOCOLATE no added sugar, dairy free (Holland and Barrett’s bigger stores. Comes in plain and mint)
Ice cream – Booja Booja dairy/gluten/sugar free ice cream.
– Homemade ice cream – 4 very ripe blended bananas, 2-3 tbsp Meridian peanut butter (Holland & Barrett) few slabs of Holland &Barrett mint chocolate
Sugar – Agave Nectar
Best oil for cooking – Olive oil, coconut oil.
Snacks – Nakd bars (All supermarkets, Holland & Barrett’s) kettle chips, corn chips, nuts, fruit.
Milk – Rice dream milk, almond milk, oat milk.
Soy sauce – Tamari sauce
Stock – Kallo organic vegetable stock gluten/lactose free (Tesco/ Sainsbury’s)
Vinegar- Balsamic vinegar
Worcester sauce – Apple cider vinegar (Works well for me in recipes!!)
Flour – Doves gluten free self raising or plain flour (Tesco/ Sainsbury’s)
Butter – ‘Free from’ spread (Sainsbury’s) or Pure Sunflower spread (Tesco, Sainsbury’s)
Cheese- Feta/goats cheese
Yoghurt- Goats yoghurt
Cereal- ‘Free from’ Museli/ all bran/cornflakes (Sainsbury’s/Tesco)
Sandwiches – Rice/corn cakes with hummous/olive tapenade
Swap red meat for chicken, turkey or fish. If like me you cant stand fish try smoked haddock. Its by far the least fishiest fish!
Chilli con carne/ spaghetti bolognaise – Swap beef mince for turkey.
Chilli con carne sauce mix- 1 tbsp chilli powder,
1 tbsp cumin powder,
1 tbsp paprika,
1/4 tsp onion powder,
1/4 tsp garlic powder,
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper,
2 tbsp cocoa powder.
Mix into turkey mince with tinned tomatoes and kidney beans and drizzle agave nectar to taste. You can also drop the cocoa powder and nectar and make a great bbq powder to rub into chicken breasts.
Homemade pizza base (Amazingly simple!) – 8oz GF self raising flour,
2 tbsp olive oil,
100ml warm water (not boiling).
Sift flour into bowl, add olive oil and water. Mix to make a dough. Spread out into greased (with olive oil) pizza pan. Add topping (use feta cheese) and cook for 20 mins on 180 degrees. You can use tinned tomatoes with oregano simmered down (evaporate excess liquid) to make base sauce.
Eat lots of fruit and vegetables but make sure to wash/peel before to wash any chemicals off that could cause a flare up.
Remember it’s FINE to have treat days 🙂 just unfortunately we have to pay slight consequences! I’ve learnt I usually find they hit me within an hour after eating them.
I’m always so happy to offer help and advice as I know exactly how over whelming and upsetting it can be to try and do this diet. I really enjoy cooking and have found/come up with a wealth of recipes for dinners to make this diet easier. If you ever want to ask any questions you can find me on twitter @hansmith86. I really hope to help people with the knowledge I’ve gained from my own experiences 🙂