I Am Forgiving Myself For Not Sticking To My Endometriosis Diet
One of the first things I learned at my endometriosis support group was that dietary changes can help ease symptoms. The main goal of an endometriosis diet (or endo-diet) is to reduce inflammation, since a lot of our pain comes from inflamed tissue. The foods to avoid include red meat, caffeine, alcohol, sugars and gluten. However, its effectiveness depends on each person.
Finding what worked for me was a slow and long process. I struggled to digest favorites such as bread and pasta, so I reduced my intake of all things gluten. As a long-time "wannabe vegetarian", I happily quit eating meat. I spoke to my GP and she sent me to a dietician to make sure I was not eliminating any essential nutrients.
After a few months, some dietary choices made no difference at all, like quitting caffeine. Others were life-changing: who knew onion could cause me so much pain? I felt lighter and more hopeful. The small benefits I was experiencing made it all worth it. However, sticking to what worked for me, proved harder than I anticipated.
An endometriosis diet is a good thing, yet it is tough to follow
Endometriosis is linked to autoimmune diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease1, which is why eating foods that contribute to inflammation can cause unpleasant symptoms such as joint pain or brain fog.
Since December last year, following a great deal of personal upheaval and moving around, I gave up on eating mindfully. For the past months, I’ve suffered intense stomach cramps, muscle pain, and severe brain fog. I know that my questionable dietary choices are probably contributing to these flare-ups.
Of course, there could be other reasons for my unpleasant symptoms, but before I go to see my doctor I’ve decided to go back to square one with my diet. More importantly, noticing my tendency to self-blame, I decided to give myself a break.
An endometriosis diet is not necessarily cheap
During the last 18 months, I’ve lived in the US, the UK and Spain. And in those three countries, buying fresh organic produce comes at a hefty cost. Additionally, any "free-from" products are always more expensive than anything with no dietary restrictions. Buying a basic margherita pizza will always be cheaper than a vegan, gluten-free version. It is also cheaper than purchasing the appropriate digestible flours required to make a pizza from scratch.
Life with endometriosis is already full of expenses, including medical care, medication, and a vast array of alternative treatments such as pelvic floor therapy or acupuncture. Following a specific diet is an added expense.
Socially, being the one with dietary needs can be awkward
Ordering in, or sharing food with others, is quite tricky. While most people I know can digest anything they fancy, I risk suffering from painful stomach cramps. Yet, insisting others eat according to my needs is something I am not comfortable with yet. For one, I don’t like to impose my wants on whoever I hang out with. Secondly, I hate reminding others about my chronic illness.
Following a strict diet is not a straight-forward, easy lifestyle. It takes money and a lot of effort. Yet as soon as I relax my dietary restrictions, my body wastes no time in making sure I know. Which is why, the bloating, cramps and other IBS symptoms that plague me at the moment, feel like punishment enough.
I am allowing myself to make mistakes and start again
I am human, I have cravings and a limited budget. This week I will start being more mindful of what I eat. If in two weeks I end up face-first into a full-fat pizza, I won’t berate myself. I don’t want to have an unhealthy approach to eating, which is why I’m practicing self-compassion.
Yes, an endometriosis diet may contribute to my happiness, but it is not my entire life.
Have you ever experienced any of the following symptoms?