I started this blog writing about my successes managing endometriosis naturally by making radical changes in my diet. In my first post on this blog, more than a year and a half ago, I described how large blood-filled cysts on my ovary, of which I was told would never disappear, shrank to the level that doctors no longer wanted to see me.
I feel like I need to write an update about my journey. With this type of conditions, it’s a journey for life and there are many challenges – the most significant of all, obviously, is to stay on track, keep eating the good stuff and keep avoiding the bad stuff – forever.
And I will be honest with you – it’s not always easy.
Challenge #1: Your fucking mind
The biggest pitfall is that once you get better, you tend to tell yourself – just a little bit of this, and a little bit of that won’t hurt. Your mind is really an expert at coming up with all sorts of excuses and rationalisations.
The problem is that even a little bit of this or that will hurt.
However, in many cases, you don’t experience the consequences immediately after eating that slice of bread or the yummy chocolate brownie. While some foods immediately trigger my IBS, clearly telling me that I should not eat that, the connection is much less straightforward with my eczema and endometriosis symptoms. Especially with my endo, the pain only comes around my period. With my skin, there could be a delay of a few weeks after I start breaching my diet.
Challenge #2: Life is not always plain sailing
I am an emotional binge-eater, who has a tendency to use food as a tranquiliser. I am quite confident that I am not alone. My resolve to stay committed to my Wahls Protocol type of a diet is constantly challenged by various upheavals that simply happen in life.
Last year was particularly emotionally challenging. My recovery from a relationship with a narcissist reached a point when I finally saw the truth for what it really was. And it was hard. There were many emotionally difficult moments. Since sugar works like a natural sedative for me, calming my overly sensitive nerves at times of disturbance, it was hard to stay 100 percent away from the toxic white stuff, even though I know that it contributes to inflammation and speeds up ageing.
Challenge #3: Stay on track 100 percent of the time
I would permit myself a bit of bread here (even though I know it triggers my IBS), binge on peanut butter or cashew nuts (which give me bloating), eat some eggs, even some delicious butter (both of which I have tested sensitive to). I would regularly devour a whole bar of 80 percent chocolate in one day and eat too many raw fruit and nut bars – moderation is a real problem with those things for me.
The basis of my diet remained solid, just as I described it in my earlier posts, and when compared with the majority of the population, one would say they my diet is super-healthy.
But here is the problem. If you have those systemic issues, if your body for one reason or another tends to rebel against you, you really can’t afford indulging in the forbidden fruit, not even a little bit.
In October 2016, I attended a lecture by Dr. Terry Wahls, the American professor of medicine who reversed her fairly advanced multiple sclerosis by following a carefully researched diet (for those of you who don’t know Terry Wahls, I recommend this article). She has since replicated the success with many patients. She was quite frank about what being slack about your diet means. There is a massive difference between following your protocol 75 percent and 100 percent of the time, she said. Eating the right way only 75 percent of the time is better than eating the standard western diet but it won’t give you the results you need and want – and the results you need and want is a reversal and eventually remission of your condition.
Challenge #4: More or less well-meaning friends and family members
Chances are that you are the first one and the only one in your community trying to stick to an autoimmune diet. You eat much better then the vast majority of your friends (I am not even talking about your family members who most likely eat the more or less the standard diet of whatever country they are from). Your friends might understand you and even admire you, but they would not tell you “Don’t eat that cake”, when you get tempted. They will most likely tell “of course, once in a while, you can indulge yourself, that’s nothing, you are doing so well already.” It’s up to you to make up your mind about this – it’s who is going to suffer a flare-up. I sometimes suspect that your faltering resolve makes your friends feel better about themselves and their own food struggles.
I guess having a coach or attending a support group of people who are in the same situation might help stay on track and resist the temptation. I don’t have either so I have to coach myself.
The failure and the flare up
So what happened to me? Six months ago, I started having abdominal pains again and a scan confirmed that the cysts have grown back. The doctors are once again talking about surgery.
Since then, I tried to clean up my act and the pain went away. In fact, I didn’t need pain relievers during the first day of my period for about four months (a big success in my period history).
However, as soon as I got better, I got slack again. I was testing my limits – thinking that perhaps organic sour dough bread won’t hurt, or organic butter, or a piece of cake just once a week…
I got a massive flare up of eczema. I used to get this eczema on my hands but this time it spread elsewhere on my body.
I went to see a GP but corticoid creams are the only solution they offer. Not my cuppa.
It made me clearly see again that I need to fully recommit to my diet. I know it works. It has worked before, it will work again. I have to be honest with myself. I was not following my diet 100 percent. I kept negotiating with my body. But my body has made a statement.
I am thinking to get some more food sensitivity testing done to get clearer guidance on what to avoid.
I plan to keep my mind on the goal as strictly as possible and perhaps experiment with some new recipes to expand my menu. Maybe inserting more variety will help eliminate the tendency to treat my self to all the stuff that hurts me.
I started by making that lovely vegetable soup with turmeric that you can see in the picture 🙂 I am notoriously lazy when it comes to cooking and whilst I cook everyday, once or twice, I only cook stuff that is simple. I just fried a bit of onion in a bit of ghee butter and then threw in some chopped courgette, celery stalks and red pepper. I added water, turmeric and salt and boiled it for an hour. Quite nice actually.