The first time I went to an endometriosis support group, one word came up a lot: Diet. I quickly learned how certain foods dictate the symptoms we suffer, or worsen our condition. Gluten consumption can lead to inflammation and bloating, coffee and dairy can wreak havoc on your hormones, red meat is a big fat no-no, and the list goes on.
For a while, I was reluctant to make huge changes to the way I ate. Why would anyone voluntarily give up extra-cheesy pizzas or banish ice cream from their freezers? Could I give up my morning coffee? However, the worse I felt after eating certain foods, the more I thought about it. Now, it’s been four months since I decided to follow an “endo diet.” Following is what I’ve learned:
It may put you in a bad mood.
Gone are the days when I could fix myself a quick sandwich or grab anything on the go. My diet is almost completely planr-based and gluten-free. Lunch means coming up with ways of making bread using wheat-free flours, remembering not to reach for cheese when thinking about sandwich fillers. I even cried about this two weeks ago — first-world problems anyone? Most people don’t blink when choosing food. Endometriosis will make you consider each ingredient of every meal. It’s fine if it makes you a bit cranky.
It’s OK not to go cold turkey.
Most of the foods an endometriosis sufferer should avoid are the ones I love. I haven’t wiped out all of my favorites. Sometimes it’s cheese on my fries, others times it’s spoiling myself with a more digestible sourdough-based pizza. As long as I consider these as treats, it’s fine. The more tasty alternatives I find, the easier it becomes. Also, coconut-based ice cream is the work of gods.
The effects may not be immediate.
Avoiding gluten or dairy left me less bloated almost overnight. However, it took two months before I noticed any big changes to my general health. My energy levels are higher and the usual midday slump seems to have gone. My daily bouts of nausea have practically disappeared, and during my period I now only spend one day in bed on average, instead of three or four.
It won’t make you unsociable.
You can still go out and enjoy life, but it’s helpful if you plan your outings. Look up menus online for gut-friendly options, and be prepared to talk about your dietary needs with others. Not everyone will understand, but those who don’t will just have to miss out on spending time with you and some really good food, because …
… it can be pretty tasty.
I recently discovered a recipe for a vegan based nut pie that tastes like Oreo cookies. Plant-based food has come a long way since we first began hearing about it. Recipes by fellow endo-sufferers, like Jessica Murnane, and countless gluten-free and veggie cookbooks make producing delicious dishes easy. (Word of warning: My kitchen has never been messier.)
As it works, it becomes easier.
It’s not so much a diet, but a change in lifestyle. It took me a while to notice any changes. But after four months, I don’t miss the bloating or the stabbing pains in my stomach. The increase in my energy levels makes me see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Life with a chronic disease may be something I actually can do.