Do a google search for endometriosis diet and I'm sure you can find a plethora of articles. I've spent years researching and reading about anti-inflammatory and healing diets. There's lots of great information out there but much of it comes from people who haven't experienced endometriosis first hand. While they helped put me in the right direction, I had to find my own way. In this post I’ll share with you what worked for me and what didn’t. I’m a highly sensitive lady and I think part of the reason is to help expose even the smallest things that could be effecting others.
Unfortunately, the Western diet that many of us grew up on can be highly inflammatory. When our bodies are constantly bombarded with inflammatory foods this inflammatory response goes beyond the gut. It can be seen in how the body responds to any thing from mosquito bites to stress. The first step to turning that around is to eliminate inflammatory foods. The big culprits I avoid are:
Avoiding gluten goes beyond just going gluten free. For me it's important to avoid even the slightest bit of contamination. Check labels to see if what your are eating is made on shared equipment or in a shared facility with wheat or gluten. My last gluten debacle left me in pain for 3 days and I was no where near my cycle starting. All from using some nutritional yeast that was made in a shared facility with wheat products. I also avoid eating places that are aware of food sensitivities. Luckily more and more eateries are becoming aware and sensitive to contamination in the kitchen. I've been to places where they cleaned a pan to cook my food in so there wouldn't be any cross contamination. It's so nice to experience such kindness and be able to enjoy a meal out with friends!
This is a hard one for many of us to give up. If you are as sensitive as me you’ll want to avoid juices as well. I get a sugar crash from beet juice! In that instance it’s better to eat the whole food than the concentrated sugar (juice). Alcohol also falls under this category. I find that it’s best to keep drinks to a 1-2 drink max and to avoid drinking completely within a week of my cycle. One trick I learned to overcome sugar addiction is to open an L-Glutamine capsule into my mouth when a craving kicks in. By the time the amino acid dissolves the craving is gone and I've already moved on to bigger and better things.
Most dairy from conventionally raised (and even some pasture raised) animals can be quite inflammatory. I've found that eliminating cows dairy and soft goat cheeses helped make my cycles smoother. While pasture raised goat’s or sheep’s dairy actually helps me to stay balanced. My body responds horribly to any animal products that come from animals that have been abused and experienced a life of suffering. It’s as though I can feel their pain, and it hurts. Recently I’ve considered eliminating dairy completely as I’d prefer for us to just leave the animals alone. My body doesn’t respond well to a completely vegan diet so I’m still working through that one.
This one was a little harder for me to figure out and let go of. After letting go of dairy cashews became a great vegan alternative for my key lime pie tarts. They are nutty and creamy and so delicious. Unfortunately they also made my cycles hell! This is one food that would cause me pain within 24 hours. Even when I'm no where near my cycle cashews can cause inflammation throughout my entire body within 12 hours.
High Estrogen Foods
In our modern world we are constantly bombarded with synthetic hormones in everything from tampons to our drinking water. With endometriosis there’s already a hormonal dysregulation happening in the body. I’ve found that it’s important to avoid highly estrogenic foods as well. Excess estrogen in the body can contribute to inflammation. Here's what I stay away from:
Meat (and Eggs)
The paleo diet was one of the first endo diets that helped me find relief. Eventually though my body started having horrible reactions to even organic and pasture raised animals. As I started to heal, my reaction to animal flesh got progressively worse. Not only would I experience a lot of pain but I would also have bouts of anxiety and irritability. Chicken and pork are the worst culprits when it comes to estrogen. I've only recently found a brand of local eggs that doesn't overload my body with estrogen. I avoid them most of the time but can get away with 2-3 a week. Just not within a week of my cycle starting.
This is one that I often see listed as a food that’s good for endometriosis suffers which baffles me. Flax is one of my worst enemies! I once did this awesome herbal liver detox that included flax as an ingredient. That was one of the worst cycles ever! 3 days of severe pain and throwing up bad. Flax only increased my already high estrogen load causing tremendous inflammation.
You can find tapioca starch in most gluten free and alternative dairy products. It’s highly estrogenic and can bring on pain within 24hrs. There are some foods which are exceptions but they are few and far between. One of my favorite exceptions are Food for Life brown rice tortillas. Tapioca starch is listed as an ingredient but even my super sensitive body tolerates it well during my cycle. The almond milk yogurt, not so much!
This was a hard one to give up. At the time I was using collards as wraps for super delicious quinoa, kale and sweet potato burritos. They were such a delicious healthy treat. One day I made a curried collard greens soup and had it prepared for when my cycle started and I couldn’t cook. Within 2 hours the pain was making my eyes blurry. I tested the nutritious green again with my food testing method (explained below) and had another inflammatory response. There’s so much competing evidence on whether or not these greens have an impact on the endocrine system that I had to figure it out myself.
Gut healing has been a big part of my journey as well. By healing the gut we can reduce our inflammatory response. When I first started my endometriosis journey I tried a few different diets. One of those was a raw vegan diet which I quickly discovered was not very healing at all.
is a food that can sometimes be hard on my gut as well. I can have it in small portions every now and then. As a regular staple in my diet I notice that I end up with digestive issues and reduced vitality.
are really harsh on the gut. Gut healing takes time and raw foods are harder for the body to digest. Now that my gut is doing much better I find a lot of benefit going raw a few times a year. When focusing on gut healing it’s best to fill the tummy with warm nourishing foods.
I'm pretty adamant about avoiding tap water. I even bring my own water when I go out to eat. Tap water loaded with fluoride (endocrine disruptor) and chlorine. Chlorine is great for killing bacteria of all kinds, including gut bacteria. For this reason I stick to filtered water. Right now I'm borrowing my friend's Berkey water filtration system while she's traveling around the world. If it's some thing you can budget for I highly recommend it! Before that I took my water jugs to the filtered water machine at my favorite grocery store and refilled them for just $0.25. Afterwards I poured the water into a porcelain water jug to get it out of plastic. Just be sure the filters at your water filling station are cleaned or changed regularly.
Find Your Diet
Finding the diet that works for you will take time. We all have different levels of sensitivity and tolerance. What I’ve listed here is a collection of things that worked for me personally. It took me years to find the right diet and its still changing. There are a few methods that I discovered that can help you figure out what foods can help or harm.
The Day 3 Food Test
One thing that really helped me find the right diet was testing different foods on day 3 or 4 of my cycle. This is a little trick that I worked with every month until I was able to get my diet down to a science. On day 3 and 4 the majority of my pain had subsided. I would eat a food like cashews or collards and within 3 hours I’d either be hit with pain (manageable) or not. If you’d like to give this a try, eliminate the questionable food for at least 7 days before the start of your cycle. Try eating half of whatever the normal portion would be on day 3 or 4 and see how your body reacts.
When you are feeling super connected to your body you can skip eating the food and try asking your body about safe foods. To do this, hold the food in your hand while sitting or standing quietly. Calm your breath and come to a meditative state in your body and mind. With a quite mind pick up the food item and ask your body “Will this nourish or harm you?”. It may take a few minutes and a bit of practice but eventually your body will show you a sign. I use this method when I have pain after introducing a few new foods, but don’t know which was the culprit.
This post is meant to be a dialogue. Myself and other endo warriors would love to hear about the obscure foods that make your cycles worse or better! If you try eliminating these foods and see a benefit, please come back and share your experience in the comments. There's a lot more to eat besides carrots and chia seeds on the endo diet. Subscribe to my newsletter to so you don't miss the womb nourishing recipes I'll be sharing. I wish you well in your healing journey!