I’ve been messaged quite a few times on my Instagram page (@endobunny) as to what changes I have made to my diet and lifestyle, in order to manage my health in a more natural approach. So I thought I’d write an article about it to try and help others.
First off, it’s important to say that any changes you make to your diet and/or lifestyle should be done in a “one change at a time” approach to enable your body to grow accustomed to it and also enable you to identify what things are working. It’s also important to say that everyone will react different to diet and lifestyle changes, but if you’re willing to give them a go I hope you get positive results!
With my health conditions, there is actually quite a lot I could do to make my diet and lifestyle better, that I think I’d end up living off water and lettuce for the rest of my life. This is a boring thought, so what I’ve done is make as many changes as absolutely necessary in order for me to still enjoy eating and drinking and had a life at the end of it!
I was unsure how to break it down, so what I’ve done is go through every change I’ve made and then wrote a little bit about which condition it helps and why.
Here we go!
No More Dairy!
Even though I didn’t consume a lot of dairy before I was diagnosed with any of my health conditions, after doing my own research into managing them, dairy was the first thing I cut out. I was also advised on this by my gynaecologist. Why? Well, dairy is thought to aggravate Endometriosis pain and symptoms as well as stimulate Endometriosis growths. At the time, Endometriosis was my main concern so I eliminated products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt from diet.
It’s the hormones in dairy that are supposed triggers for health conditions, such as Endometriosis, but their sugars and fats can play havoc in patients with digestive disorders too.
When I eliminated diary, I found that my Endometriosis pain had lessened to a good degree. And if you think that this was just a fluke, let me tell you that when I started adding yoghurt and cheese back into my diet, it caused an explosion of pain. So back to dairy-free I went.
Currently, I use coconut milk in smoothies and any cereal, don’t eat cheese unless it is on a pizza and gave up yoghurt unless it is homemade or top-quality natural produce. I do still eat chocolate now and then because that is something I just can’t give up! I also limit any amounts of cream and eggs, although eggs are not too much of a trigger.
This diet is good for … Endometriosis
I’ve Gone Sugar Free!
Oh goodness, this was a tough one! Anyone who knows me will know how much I love sugar, chocolate and sweets! I initially went to give this up because of my increased skin breakouts, but I also knew that sugary foods are linked to inflammation.
A quick treat now and then is fine, and you are unlikely to feel any effects, but for those of you who are like me and consume sugary food like it’s going out of fashion, may have noticed an increase in pain or other symptoms.
When you eat sugary food, your blood sugar spikes causes an increase in local inflammation. If you eat enough of it, this inflammation can spread and become whole-body, not to mention the sugar sleeps you may experience after such an rush of sugar-induced energy.
What I’ve done is allow myself only a small portion of chocolate in the day, removed chocolate biscuits from my lunch and say no to chocolate or sugary snacks at work. I’ve also been mindful of how much sugar is in the normal items we get on a weekly basis, such as my coconut milk, fruit squashes or juices. I’ve even switched my normal Nutella breakfast to a Marmite one!
My sugar-free plight has meant my skin has improved in texture and breakouts, my fatigue is much less and I’ve noticed that my conditions don’t feel as inflamed as they did before.
This diet is good for … Endometriosis, Chronic Fatigue
Going Gluten Free
Now I’ll be honest and say that this diet just didn’t work for me. The idea of switching all of our bread and pasta etc or buying additional ones was tricky to start with – all of the “free from” alternatives are much more expensive than their normal equivalents. It’s even more tricky to do if you are living with other people and it’s not you that is cooking the meal – not many people are happy with boiling an extra pan of gluten-free pasta.
Gluten is often considered as the bad thing inside bread and pasta, or carbs in general, and you’ll find a lot of celebrities are of this persuasion (do you remember when Miley Cyrus lost all that weight? Yeah, she blamed it on giving up gluten). It’s almost become a fashion fad to be gluten-free – it’s important to remember that there are people in this world who simply can’t eat gluten because they are intolerant to it.
Gluten is thought to contribute to problems such as bloating, pain and bowel problems, and avoiding it forms part of adopting the low FODMAP diet.
Like I’ve said, I found it hard to stick with, but to be honest I don’t think it did much benefit for me. I was eating gluten-free bread on a daily basis, but we actually realised that my intake of gluten is fairly low anyway. I have one piece of bread for breakfast, I may have another if I have sandwiches (which is very rare) and we might have pasta once a week if that. Now, I know there are plenty more gluten-containing foods out there, but my point is that we don’t really eat them anyway.
This diet is good for … Endometriosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
I’m Packing in Lots of Fruit and Veg
It goes without saying that fruit and vegetables are super important to staying fit and healthy. They contain numerous amounts of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that are undeniably useful for us. There are even some groups of fruit and veg that are known to be anti-inflammatory, flush out toxins or provide you with high levels of specific vitamins.
I’ve always been a big lover of fruit and vegetables, and there aren’t many that I don’t eat, but I often find I get stuck in the cycle of the same fruit or struggle to eat all that I’d like because I simply don’t have enough time. To combat this, what I’ve been doing is packing as much as I can into smoothies and making sure I have fruit and vegetables that I love eating in my lunch box.
My smoothies consist of a frozen berries medley (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants), bananas and kiwis, and my lunch box always contains an avocado (I know they are a bit like Marmite with some people, but I love them!).
I’ve found doing this consistently has provided me with enough energy and brightness for the day, and I’ve had people comment on how much more of a glow I had. Obviously, you want to be careful that you aren’t overdoing it – fruit does contain a lot of sugar (albeit it the good kind) and may stimulate your bowels a lot quicker than you’d like!
This diet is good for … Most health problems
No to Caffeine, Fizzy Drinks and Alcohol
This might seem a bit obvious, but drinks that contain caffeine such as tea and coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol are all big bladder triggers – they can make even a person with a healthy bladder need to keep running to the loo. But imagine if you had a bladder illness already? These drinks can make symptoms 10 x worse, if not more.
If I’ve had the odd cup of tea, I often find my bladder symptoms increase. It’s hard to say no to a good cuppa’ when you’re at work and tea and coffee is the blood of my industry, but I’m so much better at it. Caffeine is a natural stimulant, so it will make your body have more energy and work harder, including the bladder. If people drink enough of it, they can become reliant on it for their daily energy, often feeling really rubbish if they haven’t had their morning coffee.
When you first give up your morning coffee, you may feel hungover, groggy and finding it hard to function, but it is doable – I’ve known people who have lived off the stuff but managed to quit. It’s weird that we think of caffeine as almost an addictive substance.
Whilst fizzy drinks are not stimulants, they do contain a lot of sugar which can make some health conditions worse (again, think of the inflammation). Alcohol on the other hand, whilst it does contain a lot of sugar, it thins the blood and contains toxins that in large quantities can become harmful.
I’ve been good and given up caffeine, we don’t have any fizzy drinks in the house (I didn’t really grow up drinking them anyway), and I am not a big alcohol drinker, so it wasn’t that hard to make these changes.
This diet is good for … Interstitial Cystitis, Chronic Fatigue
Are You Taking Supplements?
I’ve not been a massive fan of taking supplements, such as extra vitamins or minerals. At one point, I was taking extra zinc (for my skin), evening primrose oil (for hormone regulation) and vitamin D. It wasn’t until someone pointed out to me – and I can’t remember who – that you will only ever absorb the amount your body needs and the rest will come out in your pee. Nice. Since then, I stopped, because I decided that my body would let me know via blood tests if it was deficient in something (and it has done).
So, the only supplements I take are those recommended by my GP on the basis of my blood tests. Currently, it’s B12 injections (I’ll have those for life), folic acid (because my blood tests show it as being very low for some reason) and things like iron and vitamin D as and when needed. I also have a few tablespoons of Aloe Vera juice as a detoxer and anti-inflammatory – there will be a separate post to follow on this amazing substance!
This diet is good for … those that need it!
What’s Life Like Now?
Alongside the above diet changes, I’ve gotten better at managing things like stress and pressure – particularly at work. When you are stressed, your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases, your immune systems is more vulnerable and your hormone levels seriously fluctuate. You’re more or less in a state of permanent readiness.
Stress can impact on your symptoms, particularly fatigue and pain – stressing takes up a of energy, especially having to maintain that constant alert state, but it also means that more pain signals get to your brain, intensifying what you experience. Stress can also lead to things such as anxiety, depression and panic disorders – all 3 of which are not healthy.
We each manage stress and perform relaxation in our own way, but typical examples are meditation, managing your work-life balance and doing things you enjoy.
This is good for … chronic conditions like chronic pain, fibromyalgia
If you’ve made any changes then let me know what you did and how you got on!