How I used a gluten-free diet to control my endometriosis
Before I start, I should probably tell you a bit about what the hell endometriosis actually is. It’s when the lining of a woman’s womb decides that claiming the general womb/ovary area as their domain just isn’t gonna cut it and so decides to grow literally anywhere it pleases (lung, eye, knee- you name it, someone’s womb lining has set up shop there before). This means that women with endo are in excruciating pain very often.
I’ve had endometriosis for almost a year now and have tried the combined pill and an oestrogen pill, one of which I was allergic to. My doctors have suggested I either stop my periods all together or have a laparoscopy plus insertion of a Mirena coil, which I have now lined up later this year. During the time I have to wait for a surgery, though, my periods are still horrific.
I was at the end of my rope trying to find a solution when I discovered an article by Cobie Smulders. In this, she relays her experience of cervical cancer and mentions using dietary and holistic methods to help her body heal and be the healthiest it could be. After some research I soon found many women do the same, using holistic diets to help cure or improve endometriosis.
The diet for endometriosis sufferers centres around the idea that the foods we should put into our body should be anti-inflammatory, this means no processed food, dairy, red meat, sugar, gluten/wheat, caffeine. Soy especially is a complete no go as it contains oestrogen already and hell, I have enough of that thank you very much. So this diet was going to basically cut out every type of food that keeps me going. Most websites agree that sticking to this is near impossible, it’s like a vegan diet but on steroids.
So for the purposes of my experiment I decided for my next period to cut out gluten, red meat and dairy for two weeks (one week before the period and the week during) to see the effect, if any, this had on my unruly womb. First off, I forced my ever-supportive boyfriend to do it with me; he decided in solidarity he would also take the gluten free plunge. A trip to the ‘free from’ section of Sainsbury’s, a lot of asking store workers where the hell the ‘free from’ section was and £50 later I had the perfect fridge.
My meal plan ingredients included salmon, gluten free pasta, gluten free pesto, tons of brown rice, rice noodles and, of course, avocados. My doctor, who was on board with the diet, also encouraged me to keep a period diary to record the results. My entry for day one read: Morning began horrifically, Starbucks only do soya milk or cows milk, so not even a decaf coffee is on the cards for me. Also I realise how embarrassed I am to ask if things are gluten free for fear of being judged as a ridiculous millennial hipster trying to get a picture for my like-minded social media followers.
Lunch: gluten free bagel, gluten free pesto and vegan cheese. Am I the only person on earth who had no clue there is gluten in pesto? Hungry again after approx. 15mins. Dinner: fish broth- not as bad as the name suggests. Current feeling within: no bloating, still cramping.
One thing I can say for sure is Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my endometrial lining wasn’t eradicated in a day, nor was it in a week. However, the bloating that endometriosis sufferers will know all too well had subsided. As week two began I noticed my ability to bounce back was better, and instead of many days in bed I was out as soon as my heaviest days were over. I also felt healthier in myself, my period nausea subsided and my 4-months-pregnant-looking belly was gone.
Overall, I believe it would take a good few months of being gluten free to see serious results, however the small results I saw in the two weeks encouraged me to carry on being GF just before and when on my period. So if you have endometriosis and are willing to do some very serious meal planning, then creating an anti-inflammatory based diet used as a guideline to reduce intake of but not completely rule out certain foods, may help ease the symptoms.
I can also completely agree with the notion that ruling out certain foods when there is no need is entirely ridiculous, and the ‘clean eating’ fad dieting can be incredibly toxic. But if like me you’re at your wits end with endometriosis it’s definitely worth a go. It can be done through cutting down on foods instead of cutting out certain foods, and that’s where I believe the most important difference lies.