LIVING WITH ENDO is a series dedicated to endometriosis awareness. These are my stories and experiences living with stage four endometriosis. If you or someone you love has endo, sign up for my exclusive endometriosis newsletter so you never miss a post. With Food + Love the website and blog, doesn’t intend to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
While I was waking up from surgery in the post-operation room, my husband was talking with my surgeon. She said, “I cannot believe your wife has been functioning with this undiagnosed disease in her body for all these years”. And he said, “I can’t either. She’s the strongest person I know”.
Now, this isn’t a testament to my pain tolerance, although I must admit it’s quite high. But a testament to good food. I believe (for better or worse) one of the reasons I’d been functioning undiagnosed for so long was because I’ve been eating an anti-inflammatory diet most of my life. In fact, all of the recipes on With Food + Love are endometriosis diet approved.
As we know (please read my what is endo guide if you need a refresher) the gold standard treatment for endometriosis is excision surgery. And an endometriosis diet should not be used to replace that, but rather as a tool to manage symptoms. Similarly, eating an endometriosis diet (to no fault of your own) may have no impact on your symptoms, but the good food you put into your body is making a difference in your overall health whether you feel a direct impact or not.
What is the endometriosis diet?
Firstly, to understand the endometriosis diet we must understand inflammation. Acute inflammation is a healthy response our body makes to protect us from something like an infection. But chronic inflammation is the constant, unfocused immune activity that flares or causes disease.
A typical anti-inflammatory diet focuses on eating more fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. Likewise a reduction in alcohol, caffeine, dairy, refined sugar and carbohydrates, red and processed meat, toxins (pesticides and chemicals) and unhealthy fats.
As a child I ate a largely Mediterranean diet (anti-inflammatory in nature). My parents encouraged me to eat more foods from the earth and less things from a factory. And as a health coach, I advised my clients to follow an anti-inflammatory diet because you can tailor it to your lifestyle and dietary restrictions. It allows for grace. We’ll get to the grace part, because that part is very important.
Because we don’t totally know what causes endometriosis, it’s hard to fully understand why changing your diet would improve symptoms. But eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is a great place to start. Although I don’t believe in innately good or bad foods, let’s go over what I consider the good food to be on the endometriosis diet.
What should I eat?
FRUIT, ESPECIALLY BERRIES
They’re packed with the antioxidant, anthocyanins (the compound that makes our food pretty colors), which is known to have anti-inflammatory effects. Try this berry superfood smoothie for a vibrant antioxidant boost.
VEGETABLES, ESPECIALLY CRUCIFEROUS
They’re loaded with the antioxidant, sulforaphane. Which is known to combat inflammation. This lemony kale salad is great place to get your cruciferous veg on.
NUTS AND SEEDS
They’re full of healthy omega-3 fats. And omega-3 fats fight inflammation. Try a few slices of this seed bread for your daily dose.
BEANS AND LEGUMES
They fight inflammation, and reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. This coconut chickpea curry is my favorite weeknight meal.
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation. Eating sustainable, high quality salmon is important. Read about my life-changing trip to Alaska with Sitka Salmon Shares.
TEA, ESPECIALLY GREEN TEA
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound, EGGC therefore it gets a lot of love. But all tea is anti-inflammatory. Try this bulletproof tea latte.
It’s packed with the antioxidant, flavanol known to reduce inflammation. The darker the chocolate the better, and this dark chocolate mousse is everything.
Whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice are high in fiber, which contain anti-inflammatory powers. This quinoa skillet is a great weeknight dinner solution.
It’s received a lot of love for its anti-inflammatory compound, curcumin. And trust me, this golden stew is pure magic.
What does grace have to do with it?
Grace: courteous goodwill. Also known as acceptance, compassion, patience and forgiveness. Eating an endometriosis diet is great, but if we don’t have grace we have nothing.
Accepting where you are is half the battle. Illness can limiting, but perspective is liberating when we focus on what you have, not what we don’t. Make good food a priority, but don’t stress yourself out trying to do it perfectly. This is not an all or nothing approach. You don’t have to be perfect at it. Every positive change adds up. So, focus on doing what you can when you can.
Life is messy. Not everything can be planned and accounted for. Somedays you’ll have it together and other days someone will show up with cupcakes. So, eat the cupcake, but without punishment. And then eat an extra helping of spinach in your golden stew for dinner. Consider the moments in life that matter most to you, and whatever they are, make the most of them without punishment.
Above all, cut yourself a break. You’re doing your best, even if you feel your best isn’t super great. Real progress doesn’t happen overnight. It could take months or even years to see results. Patience is a virtue and healing is not linear.
Forgive yourself for the husband you dismissed. The child you forgot to pick up from school. The organic blueberries you can’t afford to buy. The yoga class you keep putting off. The whole day you laid in bed because you literally couldn’t get out it. And for the body that you sometimes hate for being sick. For unforgiving stress is toxic, and a breeding ground for inflammation and disease.