Lately, many patients have been reaching out for info on the Endodiet. I have to start this blog with a disclaimer that I am not a nutritionist and any and all dietary changes should be discussed at length with your physician. That being said, I am happy to pass along information that has helped me as a patient and that has helped the patients I work with.
When I first went to see my endometriosis excision surgeon, he asked me if I had given up soy, dairy, gluten and cut down on red meat to help with my endometriosis symptoms. It was the first time I had heard that a change in diet could have an impact on how terrible I was feeling. Although, when I reflected back on my life, I noticed that when I ate an excess of gluten and dairy, I felt very ill.
It's been five years since I started following the endodiet and it really has brought me relief. Granted, diet is not a substitution for excellent excision surgery. I truly feel that when I had a lot of disease, no matter how strictly I followed the diet, I still felt very ill. But following the endodiet post excision has benefited me greatly. I saw a decrease in my bowel related symptoms as well as a decrease in bloating. Also, eating better helped give me more energy and reduced my endo related fatigue.
The endodiet means different things to different people. Some encourage patients to follow the FODMAP diet. Others recommend doing Whole 30. Others encourage patients to stop eating alcohol, caffeine and sugar on top of gluten, dairy and soy. After consulting their physician, I always encourage patients to start with cutting out gluten, dairy and soy and then branch out from there. Having a chronic illness is stressful and dieting can be very stressful for some people. In the end, I always tell patients to be gentle with themselves and do their best.
There are also food intolerances tests that can be done by your doctor that can actually measure the inflammatory reaction your body produces to certain foods. I did the ALCAT test and found it very helpful.
Tackling the Impossible
As a lover of food and an admitted stress eater, I found following the endodiet was and still IS no easy task. I had to start following it gradually, cutting out banned foods one by one. I actually did a pizza and bread goodbye tour! I would say goodbye to pizza with bell peppers and then cut it out. I then would say goodbye to Sicilian pizza and cut it out! I then would say goodbye to Sicilian pizza with bell peppers and cut it out! I found this technique to be helpful as cutting out foods I loved felt like a loss that had to be acknowledged.
Once I started paying attention to what I ate, reading all of the ingredients listed in prepared foods, I couldn't believe how gluten, dairy and especially soy, were hidden in so many items. For example, who knew that all of the spray olive oil and canola oils have soy in it? Did you know that some frozen hamburger patties and even Twizzlers have gluten in them? Often you will see the words "contains milk" in items that I never would have guessed had it to begin with.
Every Day Challenges
Unfortunately, things on the endodiet aren't always affordable or easily accessed. There are very few fast food restaurants that have options that are gluten, dairy and soy free. Not everyone has access to stores like Trader Joes. Whole Foods is another option for those looking to follow the endodiet but the prices at Whole Foods can be quite high. Following this diet often relies on patients to cook their own meals. Managing daily life stressors while managing a chronic disease can make it hard to find the time and energy to cook. Finally, for those who do love to cook, having plain grilled meats and vegetables doesn't always satisfy the food lover or the stress eater. Even though I cut many foods out and do my best, I would say I follow the endodiet 95% of the time and try not to beat myself up for that 5% of the time I get off track.
Tips and Tricks
What I have found most helpful is to make lists of my favorite foods and do my best to find substitutes that are not harmful to my body. I have found endo friendly treats for when I am stressed and have those cravings that will not go away. I have discovered fast food restaurants that I can go to when I need a quick meal. Dominoes gluten free pizza with no cheese and bell peppers in no way compares to the local pizza I love in NY, but it can satisfy my craving. Chipotle is also a great option for patients. My local supermarket makes fresh to order sushi. It is delicious, quick and also healthy! When I need a quick meal, I sometimes buy an organic rotisserie chicken at my local grocery store and pair that with a salad or frozen vegetables.
I have found some great substitutions for dairy. I love Trader Joes unsweetened almond milk. I can even use that when making mashed potatoes and no one knows the difference! I now use soy free earth balance as a butter substitute. I have found that I can substitute almond meal for flour in baking or in making a rue for my chicken pot pie. Some patients really like the Daiya products as a cheese substitute. I am sad to say that I have yet to find a yummy and satisfying substitute for cheese.
Below are some of my favorite resources for the endodiet. Just remember to be gentle with yourself. Say kind words to yourself as you try to change your diet and lifestyle, it is not easy. Be your own biggest supporter and source of encouragement!
What Top Endometriosis Excision Surgeons are Saying About the Endodiet
Dr. Tamer Seckin
Center For Endometriosis Care
Vital Heath Institute
Awesome Nutritionists Who Know a Lot More About Endodiet Than I Do:
Erin Luyendyk RHNhttp://www.thenutritionista.ca/
Dian Mills: http://www.endometriosis.co.uk/Healthyeating.html
My Favorite Blogs I Send Patients to For Recipes, Ideas and Inspiration:
Fellow Endo Warrior: Jessica Murnane http://jessicamurnane.com/
Allergen Mom http://detoxinista.com/
My Favorite Endo Friendly Finds:
Love Simple Mills Chocolate Cake Mix, Pizza Dough Mix and Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix: http://www.simplemills.com/
Love Ancient Harvest Pasta: http://ancientharvest.com/product-category/gluten-free-supergrain-pastas/
Love So Delicious Coconut Products, especially their whipped cream and yogurt: http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-frozen-desserts/cocowhip-original
Trader Joes Guilty Pleasures: Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream, Snickerdoodles, Kettle Cooked Potato Chips