What is the right diet for endometriosis?

I’ve tried many different diet approaches and I have found that when my gut is happy, so is my endo. Before I jump straight into what the diet for endo looks like, let’s understand a bit more about the disease and why diet is important:

 

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Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition and an estrogen dependent disease.

Estrogen is a hormone which plays an important role in the female reproductive cycle; it assists in the growth and thickening of the endometrial tissue, when fertilisation doesn’t take place progesterone (another hormone) and estrogen levels decline which causes menstruation. Estrogen can also be spelt oestrogen by the way (just to clear up any confusion!).

Estrogen is processed through the liver and excess estrogen is then excreted via the gastrointestinal system; therefore the liver and gut both to be functioning well to process and remove excess estrogen. Fat tissue can also contribute to estrogen production, therefore weight management may also be a consideration with endo and overall health.

Why is endometriosis an inflammatory condition? Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows in other places than the uterus. When menstruation occurs the lining (or layers of endometrial tissue) is shed and the tissue located outside the uterus also bleeds. The bleeding creates inflammation, scar tissue, cysts and adhesions. This can also result in organs being stuck together by the adhesions. Therefore a diet that is anti-inflammatory is an important component when managing endometriosis symptoms.

Taking this into consideration, what should the endo-diet look like? I’ve seen many different approaches through social media; some may say that being vegan is the answer to managing endo symptoms, others prefer paleo, or a low-carbohydrate diet (such as the keto-diet). Recently someone told me about ‘seed cycling’ which involves managing the menstrual cycle by consuming different seeds at different stages. There are so many opinions out there, it would be perfectly understandable if you’re feeling confused!

So what is the best approach? It actually depends on the individual, what works for one person may not work for another; for example, if other health issues are coinciding with endo, then the diet may need to be modified accordingly. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to nutrition.

However, there are some guidelines (backed up by science) of what dietary approaches can be followed to help manage endo:

  • A diet high in fibre will help remove excess estrogen. A diet rich in plant based foods such as vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and legumes (except soy based foods). Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli get a special mention for their detoxifying effect and their benefits on estrogen metabolism, turmeric also gets a special mention for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, so be sure to consume these regularly.
  • A diet low in xenoestrogens (xenoestrogens or phytoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body), such as soy based foods and certain seeds such as flax (or linseed).
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods, this means avoiding sugar, processed food, fried food, gluten and animal products that are a product of factory farming. An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, wild caught fish and healthy fats such as olive oil. Meat and poultry are okay as long as they are free from chemicals and not char-grilled, try cooking slowly instead. Eat red meat sparingly and always choose grass fed, as it’s suggested that grass fed meat offers the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (which are anti-inflammatory).
  • Dairy may be ok, it depends on the individual. Stick to small amounts of organic, additive free goats or sheep’s yogurt, cheese or kefir as these are lower in lactose and casein which can cause inflammation. Kefir has shown to be beneficial for a range of therapeutic actions including improving gut health, blood sugar, cholesterol control and immune function.
  • Stick to oils with health benefits such as cold pressed olive oil as it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, but don’t cook with extra virgin olive oil as it becomes unstable and loses its health benefits with heat. When cooking over high heat, use fats and oils with a high smoke point, for example ghee, avocado oil or extra light olive oil.
  • Avoid alcohol, limit coffee to 1 cup per day (or avoid it altogether) and drink about 2 litres of water throughout the day. Lemon in warm water is a great way to start your morning.

If you have other conditions co-existing with endo such as IBS or SIBO, a high fibre diet could make you feel terrible! In this instance wholegrains and legumes (the main sources of protein on a vegan diet) are often avoided and that’s when diet starts to become a bit more complex. Despite this, the guidelines can still be followed but you may need to tweak things and try a low FODMAP diet, a SIBO specific diet or the Fast Tract diet which all remove foods that can create symptoms such as bloating.

There is no quick fix to managing endo symptoms naturally, these guidelines are a long term strategy and should be incorporated into a lifestyle that also includes regular movement. It goes without saying if you’re following a healthy diet for endo, but still drinking bottles of wine on the weekend or devouring entire family size blocks of chocolate on a weekly basis, then you’re probably not going to see the full benefits.

What types of food work for you and what doesn’t? Drop me a note below!

Health and healing,

Meredith x

 

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Floatation therapy

I recently gave floatation therapy a try at Bliss Float.

In case you’re wondering exactly what floatation therapy is all about, it’s basically a pod (see below image) that is filled warm water and salts such as magnesium that allows you to float, the room is quiet and dark and the aim is to completely relax.

Floatation pod

Floatation therapy isn’t new and there are studies that have documented its benefits. Being a health science student, I felt the need to explore these studies myself before signing up to float and indeed there is evidence to suggest that flotation therapy can assist with stress, anxiety, pain and fatigue.

I was initially concerned with feeling claustrophobic, but I quickly realised there was no need to worry, as the pod was completely adjustable including the lid and could be left open if you didn’t want to be completely enclosed. There were soft lights that moved through the chakra colours (colours of the rainbow), if you preferred some light instead of complete sensory deprivation.

So how did I like it? At first I’ll admit it felt strange, I tried to fight the strange buoyant water and alien environment and kept checking the pod lid was open ajar (hello my friend anxiety). After about 15 minutes I noticed a shift, all my muscles relaxed and in fact I forgot they were there until I noticed some leg twitching, then I knew I was in a deeply relaxed, meditative state. I went through phases of being more alert to being more relaxed which I find normally happens in meditation. At the end when the music came on again, I knew I was very relaxed, so relaxed my body felt like jelly. Floating truly felt like a healing experience.

After I managed to drive myself home that afternoon, the effects lingered into the evening, although I experienced some nausea it passed quickly and that night I slept incredibly well. Floating is definitely something I want to do again. Now I’m over the initial strangeness of trying something new, I believe next time will be even more beneficial.

Yours in health,

Meredith x

 

SIBO, FMT, Elemental Diet and more

It’s a new year and to be honest I’m feeling happy to put 2017 behind me, I was on a mission last year – I was determined to ‘fix myself’. I did everything I could to heal my body and gut, trying everything from FMT (fecal microbiota transplant) to the elemental diet.

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First up, I had all my amalgam fillings removed. I tested positive for mercury poisoning which has been linked to all kinds of nasty side-effects, including poor gut health.

I started taking prescriptive doses of vitamins to heal from pyrrole disorder and under-methylation.

I went through another round of treatment for SIBO including rifaximin and neomycin for methane and hydrogen SIBO and another round of herbal antimicrobials, where I took Bactrex along with Allicin and Thorne SF722 undecylenic acid, I’ve also been taking Motilpro for motility. Diet-wise I was following a SIBO specific diet.

I went through FMT (fecal microbiota transplant) to get a healthy person’s gut microbiome followed by a high fibre diet.

I did two weeks of the elemental diet (Physicians Elemental Diet formula) which didn’t help, in fact my results for SIBO came back worse than I’d ever seen.

I even went away to a health retreat where I detoxed from electronic devices, caffeine and ate low FODMAP organic food.

Well did it all work? Not quite. I recently had a stool sample tested and FMT did nothing for me and the elemental diet really didn’t offer any benefits, except I learnt that I have incredibly strong willpower not to eat for two weeks.

This is all incredibly frustrating, there have been times where I felt completely defeated. The thing I learnt from last year though, was that I was putting myself under too much pressure to get better. When I was away at the health retreat, majority of my symptoms disappeared, this is a huge lesson. I think the stress I was putting myself under, just desperate to get better, may actually be contributing to the condition. As a nutritionist to-be, I’m in my second year of university and am learning how much poor health can be linked to our ‘fight or flight’ response (our sympathetic nervous system) and our mental health.

So now I’m taking the pressure off and trying not to obsess about my health. It definitely seems to help, but despite this I know that I still have a healing journey ahead of me. The good news is my endometriosis hasn’t caused any trouble for a few years now, which I’m definitely happy about.

My next step is to try the Fast Tract diet approach. If anyone else has had success with it I’d love to know, drop me a note.

Yours in health,

Meredith x

 

Creamy buckwheat porridge

Fresh from my time off at Gwinganna health retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland, I discovered that buckwheat in small amounts doesn’t upset my tummy. This is great because it’s another food I can add into my diet for some variety, while I’ll remain mostly grain-free, I tend to include foods if they don’t create symptoms.

My retreat away at Gwinganna reinforced to me that reducing stress, taking time to eat and chewing properly are as important as nutrition; I had roughly a 50% reduction in gut symptoms while I was away!

This low-FODMAP recipe makes around three cups of porridge, I only consumed about one cup of cooked porridge and placed the remaining in the fridge. If you don’t have SIBO though, feel free to increase your portion size.

Buckwheat porridge

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buckwheat
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 of a ripe banana mashed
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 6 walnuts chopped
  • 1 tsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp almond butter

Method:

Place the water and salt in a saucepan, once it’s boiling pour in the buckwheat and stir, turn down the heat and cover for 10 minutes.

Then turn off the stove, give the buckwheat a stir, cover again and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Add one cup of cooked buckwheat to a bowl (I placed the rest in the fridge for the next day). Add the coconut milk and stir until combined, then stir in the mashed banana, vanilla, cinnamon and sunflower seeds. Place the almond butter and walnuts on top and it’s ready to eat.

Would love to know how you go with this one, especially if you have SIBO.

Yours in health,

Meredith x

5 tips for managing endometriosis

I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis in January 2014, at that time and for many years prior I was extremely unwell and could barely function.

Endometriosis is a multi-faceted disease so it needs to be considered from all angles. It doesn’t just include monthly pain – the pain for me was daily, but there was also extreme fatigue, depression, gut problems including bloating, constipation, bowel pain and malabsorption of nutrients.

These days I am feeling much better and rarely experience the symptoms mentioned above. There are many factors that have contributed to my improved health and I want to share with you some of my learnings. Firstly, let’s understand a bit more about the disease:

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside this area and creates inflammation, scar tissue, adhesions, pain and sometimes infertility. It is unknown what causes endometriosis but there are a few factors that may contribute to the disease:

Estrogen dominance is one factor that may contribute to endometriosis. If this hormone is not being expelled appropriately from the body it can worsen the disease and create other symptoms associated with estrogen dominance. There are two key components to maintaining optimal hormone levels; the liver which removes excess toxins, including excess hormones such as estrogen (and xenoestrogens) and the gastrointestinal system which is essential for absorbing nutrients and expelling waste.

Here are 5 tips for managing endometriosis:

  • Find your health care A-team; for example, I have the support of a general practitioner, a gynaecologist (who specialises in endometriosis), a naturopath, a gastroenterologist and an acupuncturist. Make sure the people you do see really understand the disease and are up to date with the latest research. Good health care will make a difference. Take responsibility for your own health though, do your research and ask questions; if you’re not comfortable with what your practitioner is proposing, seek a second opinion, it’s your body and you know it better than anyone. Excision surgery done correctly by an endo specialist is widely regarded as the best way to improve symptoms and quality of life.
  • Establish your support network. Having a chronic illness can be very isolating and can lead to depression. Creating my Instagram account healingyogi and this blog, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; the support from other endo sufferers (along with the support from my husband) was incredible. In addition to social media, you can find support networks through friends, family, local support groups and through a psychologist.
  • Consider your diet. As mentioned earlier, if your body is not absorbing the appropriate nutrients and expelling waste/toxins as it needs to, it’s only going to make you feel worse. There isn’t one diet for endometriosis, but there are a few guidelines that can help:
    • Eat a high fibre diet.
    • Buy food as close to its natural state and prepare your own meals as often as possible – eat lots of veggies!
    • Buy organic where possible and reduce the amount of toxins you consume.
    • Eat plenty of healthy fats found in olive oil and wild salmon as they are anti-inflammatory.
    • Avoid soy products such as tofu as they contain isoflavones which are similar to estrogen and therefore can have similar effects on the body.
    • Reduce your sugar intake (including alcohol). Processed sugary foods and drinks can cause inflammation and will only make you feel worse.
    • Drink plenty of water.

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  • Reduce your stress levels. By allowing your body to rest appropriately it will switch on your parasympathetic nervous system and allow your body to do things such as; conserve energy, digest food and reproduce. Find your happy place! Whether it’s playing sport, painting or going for a walk in nature – just do something that gives you time to nourish your body and mind. Not surprisingly, I recommend yoga and meditation as it provides benefits for both body and mind and can help manage pain. Restorative yoga is brilliant for when you are unwell and not up to doing exercise.

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  • Address your digestive problems. If you’re tackling endometriosis it’s important to have your gut absorbing the appropriate nutrients. After many years of gut problems, last year I was finally diagnosed with SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) which meant I was malabsorbing nutrients along with some other unpleasant symptoms. At the time I had blood tests completed and was low in iron and vitamin B12; I suffered from extreme fatigue and brain fog as a result. Research your symptoms and talk to a naturopath / gastroenterologist. Find out what’s going on and take steps to address the problem so it doesn’t create additional health complications going forward.

There is so much more I could write about with regards to managing endo, but these are the 5 points that come first to mind. What are your tips for managing endo? I would love to know your thoughts.

Yours in health,

Meredith