Endometriosis is a painful condition that interferes with a person’s ability to perform their daily activities. If you have endometriosis you know exactly what I mean. From chronic pelvic pain, digestive issues, painful periods, low back pain, and inflammation. Managing endometriosis symptoms can be a struggle. Symptoms can range from mild, to moderate to severe and vary from person to person. Some prefer or need medication to help them achieve relief from their symptoms. While others seek natural, alternative methods for symptom management and pain relief. The endo-elimination diet is one of those methods that can help by focusing on the role that nutrition plays in symptom management. Let’s talk more about what the endo-elimination diet is and if this is something that is right for you to manage your endometriosis symptoms.
What Is the Endo-Elimination Diet?
The Endo-Elimination diet is a type of elimination diet that focuses on removing specific food groups that are considered to be pro-inflammatory. This particular diet focuses on decreasing dairy, gluten and added sugar. Dairy can be problematic due to the sugar known as lactose which can be difficult to breakdown and digest. Lactose is well known for contributing to digestion related diarrhea, cramping and discomfort. Gluten is a protein that is found in many grain and wheat foods. For those that are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant they may experience bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It is also believed that gluten contributes to the inflammation cycle within the body which has an effect on hormones and their receptors. This causes issues with malabsorption of vitamins and minerals that are necessary to regulate hormones. Lastly, added sugars are also suspected of contributing to inflammatory responses in the body and contributing to low-grade chronic inflammation. Added sugars are quite often found in processed food products such as soft drinks, cereals, cakes, and snacks.
It is believed that these pro-inflammatory foods contribute to symptoms experienced by endometriosis sufferers. Common symptoms that are experienced by those with endometriosis include pelvic pain, low back pain, nerve pain, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
Phases of the Endo-Elimination Diet
There are two phases of the endo-elimination diet. The first phase is the elimination phase in which you will remove all dairy, gluten and added sugar over a period of 2-3 weeks. The length depends on whether you would prefer to have a separate week where you focus on removing added sugar or include it throughout the elimination phase. During the second phase, which is known as the challenge phase, you will slowly reintroduce all dairy, gluten, and added sugar food products to determine what foods trigger symptoms to occur and should be omitted from your diet.
Phase One: Elimination
During the first week of the elimination phase, you will eliminate all dairy from your diet. You will instead consume plant-based or lactose-free dairy options. As you move into the second week of the elimination phase you will be removing all gluten from your diet. Food items such as pasta, bread, pastries, cereal, granola, noodles or any food that contains wheat or grains. Instead look for alternative products that are nut-based and gluten-free. When removing gluten from your diet it’s important to bear in mind that there are many products that contain hidden traces of gluten in them. So make sure you read the labels and make sure they are indeed gluten-free. The last step is to remove added sugars from your diet. Examples of foods with added sugar are pastries, soft drinks, cookies, cakes, pastries, doughnuts, ice cream, and desserts. It is also important to read food labels to identify if products are indeed without added sugars and understand the different names for sugar. If possible aim to refrain from processed foods. This is a great way to eliminate added sugars in general.
Make sure that you are tracking your body’s reaction to the removal of these foods as well as the symptoms you experience. This will prove helpful during the challenge phase and afterward when you have completed the elimination diet.
Phase Two: Reintroduction
Once you’ve successfully completed the elimination phase you can progress to the challenge phase. This phase will have you slowly reintroduce these potentially inflammatory trigger foods into your diet. Over a period of 4 weeks, you will start slowly introducing the foods you eliminated in the order that you eliminated them. So, starting with dairy you will begin by adding small amounts to your diet on day one and slowly increasing your portions until you have progressed to larger portions by the 7th day. You will continue this process for each food group. As you are adding these foods back into your diet it’s important to make note of any symptoms you notice recurring or becoming more severe.
Is This Approach Right For You?
While this approach can be helpful in identifying potential food triggers that are causing symptoms to arise and contributing to inflammation. This may not be the best approach for everyone. Especially those that have a prior history of disordered eating patterns or that for medical reasons need to adhere to a specific diet as outlined by their medical professional. It is important to discuss this diet with your doctor to decide if this is a good option for you. The endo-elimination diet is quite restrictive and can be challenging for many due to the fact that many major food groups are being eliminated. So this isn’t something that should be entered into lightly.
With that being said if you are a person that is struggling with painful endometriosis symptoms and you are looking for a way to manage these symptoms with natural lifestyle modifications that you can include in your treatment plan this could be beneficial for you.
It’s important to note that this diet is not intended for weight loss. Its specific purpose is to identify food triggers and food intolerances that contribute to inflammation and endometriosis symptoms. Also, this diet is not intended for long-term adherence. There should be a specific start date and end date. The main goal is to transition out pro-inflammatory trigger foods and increase anti-inflammatory foods that help to manage and decrease symptoms.
Ready to Start?
Before you rush headfirst into this diet, consider working with a health or wellness coach so that they can guide you through the diet and help you analyze and track your results. The endo-elimination diet is, after all, an elimination diet and can be super restrictive and challenging especially during the first few weeks. Working with someone that can help you navigate the in’s and out’s can be super helpful while improving your adherence and decreasing your stress.
Things that are important for you to consider before starting this diet are:
- Your current state of health
- Relationship with food/Disordered Eating Habits
- Doctor Recommendations
What to Do During the Endo-Elimination Diet
- Track and record your current symptoms BEFORE you start so you will know if there are any improvements during the elimination phase.
- Prepare for the elimination phase. Remove foods that you will need to eliminate beforehand and make sure you are stocked up with acceptable alternatives and essentials you will need during that week.
- Plan meals ahead of time. Finding recipes, and knowing what meals you will eat during the week will help you with preparing and cooking meals as well as helping you know what items to buy when you’re grocery shopping and stocking up.
- Understand and research ingredients on food labels. Even when items say things such as sugar-free or gluten-free it’s important to take the time to read those ingredients to make sure there are no added sugars or gluten products.
- Avoid and refrain from processed foods if possible. While cooking from scratch isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, it may be the best thing during the elimination phase. Many processed foods contain a lot of added sugar and ingredients that are indeed pro-inflammatory removing these foods can prove to be beneficial in decreasing and managing symptoms.
- Log meals and track symptoms daily. Keep track of how your body reacts to foods as you eliminate or reintroduce them. This will be key in helping you determine what foods you need to limit or omit.
Plan Ahead & Be Prepared
If you decide to implement this diet make sure that you have done your own individual research and have discussed it at length with your doctor. Make sure that you have a gameplan and you planned ahead what you want to do and are prepared for each phase and step of the diet. Also, make sure you set aside time to analyze your results once you have completed the diet so that you can properly assess and make informed decisions regarding your nutrition and symptom management plan.
About the Author.
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I am an Esthetician, Lifestyle Wellness Coach, Content Creator, and Writer. My intention is to provide you with education and awareness about women’s health, nutrition, fitness, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. I primarily help women that are seeking holistic and natural solutions to managing their chronic condition, improving their lifestyle and combating anti-aging concerns. I offer coaching programs and courses that are designed to help you redefine your health and defy aging. You can find my content on a variety of social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
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(1.) What is Endometriosis-Mayo Clinic
(2.) Outline of Endo-Elimination Diet
(3.) Information on Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Anti-Inflammatory Foods