Endometriosis Diet for Menstrual Pain Relief and Food to Avoid - My Success Story (Part 3/3)
What does the diet do? In short, it helps in
1) anti-inflammatory (less pain) function,
2) promotes less estrogen (endo grows with estrogen), and
3) builds up the immune system.
However, knowing what not to eat can make a significant difference in the way an endometriosis sufferer feels. In fact, endometriosis diet is about eliminating foods that increase negative prostaglandins, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and prostaglandin F2a (PGF2a). Negative prostaglandins stimulate estrogen, which is the main hormone that wreaks havoc in an endometriosis sufferer.
FOOD TO AVOID in Endometriosis Diet
The following are 11 foods to avoid when following an endometriosis diet:
1. Red Meat
Meat promotes negative prostaglandin PGF2a production. Red meat may contain growth hormones that include estrogen. If meat is your main source of protein, you can obtain the protein you need through other protein-rich foods such as chemical-free fish, organic or free-range chicken, beans, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseed and sesame seeds.
2. Saturated fats and oils
Foods that are high in fatty acids stimulate the production of negative prostaglandin PGE2 and PGF2a. Fatty acids are found in saturated fats, oils (coconut oil, palm oil, etc.), butter, margarine, lard, organ meats, and fried foods.
Fried food, margarine and hydrogenated fats stimulate negative prostaglandins; they should be avoided.
Sugar, in all forms (refined, artificial or natural) produces a more acidic environment within the body that can encourage the inflammatory pain of endometriosis. Therefore, limit the consumption of any food with high content of sugar, such as chocolate, sweeteners, drinks, sweets and honey to the minimum.
Wheat contains phytic acid that can aggravate endometriosis symptoms. Wheat contains gluten and studies have found that many endometriosis sufferers appear to have gluten sensitivity which can cause an increase in painful symptoms. Studies have also shown that 80% of women who took gluten free diet have reduced painful periods. Therefore, products containing wheat and gluten such as breads, cakes, pasta, and so on should be avoided or limited.
5. Soy products and Soy Protein Products
Like wheat, soy contains phytic acid; however the levels of phytic acid in soy are considerably higher than wheat. High levels of phytic acid in soy are known to irritate the digestive system and reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Soy products also contain high levels of phytoestrogens, toxin which seems to be particularly detrimental for women with endometriosis. Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and promote breast cancer in adult women. Soy is found in many food products including granola, pasta, imitation meat, soy milk, soy yogurt, soy based cheese, etc.
Exceptions are fermented soy products--tofu, tempeh, and miso. The processing method used by traditional Asian to make this fermented soy products get rid of most of the toxins and make the beneficial phytochemicals more available in the body. Tofu and tempeh are a nearly complete protein and as such are an excellent alternative to meat in a balanced meal. Miso stirred into hot water with a strip of kombu or nori seaweeds is a rich source of minerals.
High consumption of caffeine has been found to increase estrogen levels, which can trigger endometriosis flare ups. Hence, caffeine-rich foods to avoid with endometriosis include coffee, tea and soft drinks. Coffee is a known phytoestrogen. Since it is a phytoestrogen, decaffeinated coffee may still be able to act as an estrogen. Consuming more than two cups of coffee a day may cause estrogen levels to raise.
Optimum liver function is essential for clearing out excess estrogen which in return helps to control endometriosis. Overconsumption of alcohol is best known for causing the liver damage where the liver will swell with acute intoxication, sometimes painfully, and will show fatty infiltration and enlargement. Alcohol ingestion also interferes with vitamin B12 absorption. Eliminating alcohol from the body stresses the liver and this hinders it from expelling other toxic such as excessive estrogen from the body.
8. Dairy products
Dairy products should be avoided as they stimulate the production of negative prostaglandin PGE2 and PGF2a, which can worsen the endometriosis symptoms. The primary dairy foods that you should avoid with endometriosis include milk and cheese. To fulfil calcium requirement for the body, other good sources of calcium are sesame seeds, almonds, salmon, sardines, seaweed, figs, and calcium fortified foods such as orange juice and oat milk.
Note: When substituting dairy products such as pasteurized milk with soy milk, don’t forget that soy can also aggravate the endometriosis symptoms.
9. Refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates also encourage the inflammatory pain of endometriosis. Examples are white bread, cakes, noodles, pasta, flour, pastry, etc. Most of their natural nutrients have been removed. Refined carbohydrates deplete the body’s nutritional stores as they are needed in order for the body to absorb the nutrients in the refined carbohydrates. This can also lead to increased endometriosis symptoms. A better substitute is unrefined carbohydrates such as gluten-free wholegrain breads, pasta, brown rice, potato, kumera (sweet potato) etc.
Note: When substituting refined carbohydrates, remember to look for gluten-free (wheat-free) products, as wheat can aggravate endometriosis symptoms.
10. Additives and preservatives
Processed, frozen and pre-packaged foods should be avoided when following an endometriosis diet as they are full of additives, preservatives chemicals, and many other ingredients that promote ill-health and negative prostaglandin PGE2 and PGF2. These additives and preservatives aggravate inflammation and worsen the menstrual pain.
Some women have reported to achieving great health improvements by following a diet to address Candida yeast infection. I happened to be one of them. Donna Gates, in her book, “The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity” has shown strong connection between endometriosis and candida yeast overgrowth. I did the questionnaires in this book, and found out a lot of similarities between my endometriosis symptoms and the symptoms of candida overgrowth in one’s body. A study by the Woman's Hospital of Texas examined 50 women with endometriosis and found that 40 women showed bacterial overgrowth. After eight weeks of candida diet, significant reduction in symptoms was achieved. Yeast foods to be avoided are breads, Chinese Steamed bun (e.g Char Siu Bao), bagels, pretzels, muffins and sugars. I followed the Candida diet, and I have seen tremendous improvements with my Endometriosis symptoms.
Endo Diet is Too Difficult to Follow
After reading the list, do you feel that the Endo Diet is too difficult for you to follow? That’s how I felt in the beginning. However, I didn’t have a choice. I have exhausted my choice in fact. I have decided against surgical operation. Operating theatre in the hospital is the last place I wanted to be. Medication did help to alleviate the pain, but I didn’t want to rely on it forever. I figure I have suffered enough from this disease and I would do almost everything I can to stay symptom free! So, I was determined to try this diet.
IT'S WORTH IT
Well, it wasn’t as hard as I thought, once I fixed up my mind. I follow this Endo diet about 80-90% of the time. Sometimes, it is just too difficult to follow; sometimes it is just not possible, or unprepared on my part like when I am travelling for work. At other times, I like to cheat and take a break from the restricted diet. I think we should give ourselves a break occasionally.
What I am trying to say is, if you can go full force, that is excellent, and you take shorter time to get there! Others may want to do it 75% of the time. That is still excellent, as it is probably a big change in diet for you, and you will be that much healthier; the symptoms will likely to reduce, or it may take longer time for you to achieve the desired results, but you will get there, just later.
I will be honest here, there are days I just say, “forget it just for today” and eat everything wrong. Most of the times, I saved myself from temptation by telling myself that I will only take the “forbidden food” when it is of supreme quality. Since I don’t get to eat top-notch supreme quality food every day, it helps me to control my intake and temptation. When the rare opportunity comes, I do reward myself for my discipline and perseverance. It is a nice short break on occasion, but then I do get right back to eating healthy again as I want to build up my health.
For a start, you do not have to start out full force, and you need time to find out the food that is acceptable by your tongue and stomach. Do a little at a time and work up to it. My advice is, print out this page, and read it again and again, until you can remember the Endo Diet. Then, you will get reminded before taking in any food. You can try eliminating dairy or wheat first and see how you feel. Give it a yourself a few weeks before adding a certain category of food back into your diet to see if it is the food that triggers pain, bloating, bowel, yeast or bladder problems. Keeping a food diary will be helpful for you to look back and find out which foods are the culprits!
People who do respond to the diet often report that it takes a minimum of four weeks before any improvement is noticeable. For me, it took me three months. To deal with endometriosis, diet change is an excellent foundation to assist you in reducing the symptoms, and it definitely helps you to regenerate your health.
Yes it is difficult at first, but it is so worth it to feel GOOD!
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