Recap: Nutrition & Endometriosis Workshop

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On October 25, 2017, Merritt Jones, the founder of San Diego-based Natural Harmony Reproductive Health led a workshop regarding nutrition and Endometriosis.  Ms. Jones is a licensed acupuncturist and certified nutritionist, as well as one of our local EndoSisters.  She and I have been wanting to host this workshop for quite some time and I was ecstatic that our efforts came to fruition!  I know that many of our local Sisters were unable to attend, so I tried to take detailed notes.  And Merritt graciously shared her Powerpoint presentation with me so I could share it with YOU!

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After Merritt’s Endometriosis diagnosis, she began a mission to not only help herself but those in the Endometriosis Community.  As Merritt said, “It’s time to get loud about this disease.  We deserve better.  We deserve better support!”

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A nutritious diet can help with symptoms, but everyone is different and responds differently to various foods.  There is no one size fits all approach.

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The immune system, Endometriosis, and inflammation are pretty much bosom buddies.  When Endometriosis lesions are present in our bodies, the immune system is constantly trying to attack the lesions since they really don’t belong there.  So, the immune system is always on…and the constant effort to fight lesion “invaders” leads to a state of constant inflammation.  Which usually leads to more pain and other issues.

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So, eating foods that can cause or exacerbate inflammation can be like throwing gas on the fire.  We’re not perfect and we all cheat, but we need to be moderate when we decide to cheat. But what are some foods that can increase inflammation?

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She isn’t saying that we cannot eat inflammatory foods, but these foods may cause inflammation and worsen the symptoms of Endometriosis.  We just need to cut back on inflammatory foods that affect us, be wary and in tune with our bodies, as well as try to eat the BEST quality of foods that we can afford.  For instance, if we want red meat, look for organic and grass-fed livestock.  Want some real butter (hey Mom, what was the name of special butter you brought us?)?  Again, organic and grass-fed.  Got a hankering for some fish?  Choose wild-caught instead of farmed fish.

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ALL milk, even grass-fed organic milk, contains hormones and estrogen, which is truly awful for Endometriosis.  According to Chinese medicine, phlegm is a sign that the immune system is working overtime.  And even some studies have shown that mucous membranes release more fluid during inflammation.  So if you have a glass of milk and it makes you phlegmy, you may have an inflammatory response to dairy.  The same may be true for anything you eat or drink that makes you clear your throat of phlegm (gross…).

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Merritt recommended timing when you eat meat well – monitor when your pain occurs and avoid eating meat during that time.  For example, if the first few days of your period are painful, avoid eating meat a few days (or even a week) before you start your period.  Heck, she suggests cutting out dairy, meat, gluten, coffee/caffeine, refind sugar, and cold foods a week before your period (or when you generally anticipate pain).  See if cutting out these inflammatory feeds makes a difference.  And when you do eat meat, be sure it’s high quality: truly grass-fed meats.  Grass-fed organ meats (such as the liver or kidneys) are also extra good for us. Nutrients!

A question was raised about eggs.  If you must eat eggs (I looove eggs!), make sure that they are good quality eggs. Cage-free and organic eggs were recommended.  And when the yolk is almost orange, it’s super-duper nutrient-packed!

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Nightshades are a group of veggies that many suspects are potentially inflammatory.  These include tomatoes, potatoes (yams/sweet potatoes are okay), eggplant, peppers, and goji berries.  Studies go back and forth on the topic and findings, but it may be best to reduce the number of nightshades you incorporate into your diet (including processed foods: ketchup, marinara sauce, hot sauce, etc.).

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Gluten, for everyone, is hard to digest.  Some people have a gluten sensitivity and feel the effects more.  If you’re dealing with chronic inflammation, it’s recommended to avoid gluten and lessen the load on the body’s digestive and immune systems.

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Caffeine and sugar may cause inflammation and cramping.   Merritt stated, “if you take nothing else from tonight’s talk, cut out sugar and caffeine!”  She also suggested that IF you need caffeine, switch to tea (less caffeine than coffee) or coffee alternatives (which feed the need for the morning ritual).

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If you have leaky gut syndrome, it’s said that symptoms and inflammatory responses may be caused by pretty much anything that you eat.  In a nutshell: in a healthy gut, the small intestine is tight and food can’t pass through until it fully processed and digested. With Leaky Gut Syndrome, that intestine is loose and proteins and particles are able to get into the bloodstream, which causes an insane immune response.  If an elimination diet doesn’t help with Endometriosis symptoms, you may want to examine the state of your gut health.  Everywell offers a test (for a few hundred bucks) that you take at home and it may show you what foods you have a reaction to, which may lead to a discussion about leaky gut syndrome.

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Merritt mentioned that bone broth is supposed to be really good for healing the gut and maintaining a strong and healthy balance inside there.  AND…she strongly recommended not starting any supplements until you talk to someone to verify the validity of the claims AND what is best for you and your body.

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As many of us may already know, Endometriosis is an estrogen-dominant disease.  Too much estrogen may spike our symptoms.  So, avoiding foods which raise or mimic estrogen levels may lessen Endo symptoms.  Also, the liver metabolizes estrogen.  We need to treat our liver better, whether it be through diet, exercise, supplements, or a combo of each.  The next line must have struck a chord with me…because I had written it in all caps in my notes: BE NICE TO YOUR LIVER!

 

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Certain foods can help manage estrogen dominance, especially a plant-based diet best.  “Plant-based” does not mean vegetarian – it refers to a diet based mostly on plants and good, healthy meats (as discussed earlier).

A list of anti-inflammatory foods that Merritt handed out to each of us includes:

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The question was asked about IBS and this list of foods – many of which may upset those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Merritt suggested that if you suffer from IBS, make sure that the food is really well-cooked.  Also, incorporate broth into the diet.  Focus on getting the gut healthy before aggravating symptoms of IBS.

She also suggests a homemade ginger tea twice a day; once in the morning and once an hour before bed: 1-inch chunk of ginger (peeled) with 1/2 tablespoon of raw honey.

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Oh man…nobody likes to see the list of FATS!  Focus on the healthy fats; try to limit the inflammatory fats.  I asked about peanut butter (I looooove me some peanut butter).  She recommended organic peanut butter over the regular peanut butter you may find on the shelves of the grocery store.  Almond butter is an alternative (yuck…).

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Fermented foods are good for the gut…all kinds of good bacteria and probiotics.  However, if you’re avoiding nightshades, no kimchee for you because of the peppers and spices.  What the heck is a “real pickle,” I asked – it’s cultured; not made with vinegar.  WHAT?  I had no idea – so here’s a recipe that I’m bound to try one of these days.  And yogurt? What’s that doing back on the list?  Remember – not everyone is going to cut out dairy…and there are non-dairy yogurts out there.  However, non-dairy yogurts tend to have a lot of sugar in them – be careful and read the labels.

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Again, this is based on Merritt’s own schooling, research, and personal experience.  These suggestions may, or may not, affect you in a similar way.  We are each responsible for determining what makes us feel our best.  And if you don’t know where to start with the extensive list of things to try eliminating from your diet, Merritt suggested starting with processed oils (soy, canola, peanut, cotton seed, safflower oils).

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In the future, Merritt may be able to talk to us about acupuncture and possible benefits it may provide for our health, well-being, AND Endometriosis symptoms.  Stay tuned!

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We had a few questions before Merritt wrapped up the presentation:

Q.  Are chicken and fish okay to eat?
A.  Good quality chicken is important; make sure it’s organic chicken.  Wild caught fish is going to be a great source of anti-inflammatories.  You may want to avoid farmed fish.

Q.  What are considered good beans and what beans are “bad beans”?
A.  The lists and opinions are extensive!  She suggested Googling (click here).

Q.  Do you have any thoughts on taking active birth control pills continuously?
A.  Sometimes it’s necessary, but there are pros and cons to both.  Birth control does deplete B vitamins. get if you’re taking a continuous BC pill, be sure to start a B complex.

Q.  What’s the difference between dry needle and acupuncture?
A.  Dry needling is a technique adopted by physical therapists – it’s not acupuncture.  It’s the manipulation of acupressure points for pain and it can be helpful.  Physical Therapists are not trained as acupuncturists (different schooling, length of study, etc.), but there may be some high-quality PTs out there doing it.  It may be great for ortho issues but for more complex issues, like gynecological issues.  Acupuncture may help longer and more fully.

Q.  What’s this “cold foods” reference on our handouts?
A.  It’s a Chinese medicine thing.  Many believe that warm foods easier for the digestive system to process. Cold foods require more effort for the digestive tract.  Add ginger to cold foods to “warm it up” to the digestive tract.

Q.  If you exercise, is it better to eat before or after the workout?
A.  Totally up to your body and what feels good to you.  if blood sugar issues, don’t skip the snack or meal.

Q.  Does milk thistle help the liver?
A.  It can aid the liver.  Merritt uses a complement of herbs to help with liver cleansing.

Q.  Does lavender increase estrogen?
A.  Merritt wasn’t sure about this.  Now I’m curious and want to look into it, too.

 

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Please remember that these are my notes on Merritt’s presentation.  They *may* be inaccurate and are my interpretation of what she said. 🙂  As always, please feel free to do your own research, or reach out to Merritt or your own healthcare providers for more information.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in the workshop was:  Be flexible.  Our diet is practice; not perfection!  Find a balance that suits your needs.

I would like to extend a MASSIVE thank you to Merritt for sharing with us, and for all that she is doing (and will do) for our Community.   You’re a treasure and I value you so very much.

Live-Streaming: EFA’s 2017 Medical Conference

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If you can’t attend the Endometriosis Foundation of America’s 2017 Medical Conference, you can still watch it online! The EFA announced this morning they’ll be live streaming the event!  Saturday, October 26, 2017, 8:00am-5:30pm Eastern Standard Time.

Sharing from their Facebook post:

The Endometriosis Foundation of America is happy to announce that we will be providing a livestream of our conference tomorrow! Our live broadcast will be available on https://www.facebook.com/endofound and on our website endofound.org from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM EST. We encourage comments, questions, and sharing of our conference posts throughout the day. Please use #endofound #breastovaryendo #breastcancerandendowhen writing about the conference! We hope to see you online.
https://buff.ly/2xsWDXW

You know how I feel about this incredible organization. 🙂

Tomatoes & Endometriosis

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During our September support group meeting, I was munching on some cherry tomatoes when one of our girls stated, “I thought tomatoes were bad for our Endo…” Damn it. Now I have to research…AND during a camping/survival skills trip in early October, I learned that the ENTIRE tomato plant (except for the tomatoes) is poisonous!  What?  How amazing is that?!?

Anyway, I digress…back to research.

My first page I found digging into tomatoes and Endometriosis introduced me to a word, “lycopene.”  What IS lycopene? It’s a carotenoid – a plant pigment – and specifically, lycopene is responsible for making fruits and veggies red…like TOMATOES.

In 2008, Dr. Tarek Dbouk announced at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine Conference that a study found lycopene could prevent or reduce the production of a protein that promoted adhesion growth. Numerous studies claim that an increase of tomatoes and tomato products in the diet reduces chances of various cancers and cardiovascular disease (although the FDA was found very little evidence to substantiate the claims).  It has been suggested that women with Endometriosis may be able to reduce their symptoms by increasing their lycopene consumption.  Although studies have suggested the lycopene may act as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and help reduce adhesion formation, further studies are needed.

So after reading all of that, you wanna cram your fridge full of tomatoes and other red fruits and veggies right? Well…not so fast (there is always a flip side).

Tomatoes belong to a family of plants known as nightshades.  Some studies have suggested that nightshades may increase inflammation or worsen symptoms of autoimmune diseases.  Healthline published an extensive article on nightshades and various findings and theories on the effects of conditions or sensitivities.  The author also suggests (if you suspect you may have issues with nightshades) to cut ALL nightshades out of your diet for four weeks, then reintroduce them and see how you feel: the ol’ Elimination Diet.  Sounds easy?  Well, here are some fruits & veggies that are nightshades:

  • eggplants
  • goji berries
  • peppers (sweet, bell, chili, etc.)
  • potatoes (except sweet potatoes and yams)
  • tobacco
  • tomatillos
  • tomatoes

This also means that spices derived from those are included in the list of “avoid nightshades”: cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder, and paprika.  Um…think we’re done? Nope…think again – ketchup, marinara sauce, hot sauce, and salsa all are made from nightshade components. Not an easy task avoiding nightshades.

But are tomatoes the only source of lycopene? Nope – plenty of other fruits and veggies contain lycopene:

  • apricots
  • asparagus (that’s not red!)
  • basil (again…not red!)
  • gac fruit (what is that?!?)
  • goji berry (aka wolfberries; careful…it’s a nightshade)
  • papaya
  • parsley (it’s green!)
  • pink grapefruit
  • pink guava
  • red cabbage
  • red bell peppers
  • red carrots
  • rosehips
  • sea-buckthorn
  • watermelon

A 2015 study tested 10 fruits and veggies in raw and processed forms to discover which had the highest lycopene content.  A breakdown of the tested fruits and veggies (lowest to highest lycopene quantities) in their raw forms: watermelon, asparagus, carrot, grapefruit, gac, red cabbage, sweet peppers, papaya, tomato, and pink guava.  In processed food form, the following order was determined (lowest to highest): mango juice, canned carrot juice, cherry tomato paste, watermelon juice, dried apricots, marinara sauce, sundried tomatoes, canned tomato juice, canned tomato puree, and canned tomato paste.  That being said, they concluded the study by stating, ” The appropriate dose and duration of lycopene supplementation remains to be determined.”  It’s been said that just 8 ounces of tomato juice a day can help increase the levels of lycopene in your system. But, but, but…TOMATOES…nightshades…Endometriosis…!!

Last night, Merritt Jones of Natural Harmony Reproductive Health taught a class on nutrition and Endometriosis and discussed nightshades and why they may be harmful to Endometriosis-sufferers and should be limited or avoided altogether.  But, she also stressed finding what works best for your body, your digestion, and your symptoms.

But wait! There’s more…a flipside of the flipside!  Healthline also wrote an article about nightshades and inflammation in regards to arthritis pain.  Some people with arthritis who avoided nightshades did not experience any symptom relief after eliminating nightshades, so they were encouraged to continue to eat them due to the health benefits that they provide.  The pros outweighed the cons for those individuals.  AND, Ms. Jones informed us at last night’s class that if cutting out anti-inflammatory foods does not help reduce symptoms, you may be suffering from a bit of bad gut health, possibly even leaky gut syndrome.  Always talk to your healthcare provider if things aren’t working – something else may be going on.

So now what?  Tomatoes are good for you. Tomatoes are bad for you.  “Tomayto, tomahto” – do your own research, try the elimination diet, see how you feel, and follow your gut (but do make sure your gut is healthy!).  BUT if you do want to increase your lycopene intake, there are plenty of other options (food and supplement-wise) besides tomatoes.  And, as always, please talk to your healthcare providers before starting any new supplements.

What am I gonna do?  Man, I love me some tomatoes.  I have a little carton of them on my desk right now – delicious, cherub tomatoes.  I really don’t know what I’m going to do.  So, that means I’ll likely do my best to cut them out (and other nightshades) to see if I notice a difference in how I feel – and decide after I reintroduce them back into my diet.

But what about you? What are you going to do? Or what have you already done – and did it make a difference? I’d love to hear about it…drop me a comment below.

Resources:

Annual Review of Food Science and Technology (Manuscript; 2010) – An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene

Canadian Medical Association Journal (Article; Sept. 2000) Tomato Lycopene and Its Role in Human Health and Chronic Diseases

Daily MailEating Tomatoes Could Help Fight a Painful Womb Condition that Affects 2 Million Women in UK

Dr. WeilTomatoes for Endometriosis?

Healthline (Article; June 2017) – Are Nightshades Bad for You?

Healthline (Article; March 2017) – Nightshade Vegetables and Inflammation: Can They Help with Arthritis Symptoms?

Journal of Basic Sciences – (Article, 2015) – Evaluation of Lycopene Contents from Various Fruits and Processed Food

Journal of the Natural Cancer Institute – (Article; July 2007) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Evidence-Based Review for Qualified Health Claims: Tomatoes, Lycopene, and Cancer

Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons – (Article; Apr-Jun 2007) Patients with Chronic Pelvic Pain: Endometriosis or Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome?

LiveScience– (Article, Oct. 2015) – What are Carotenoids?

Livestrong – (Article; Oct. 2017) – List of Nightshade Vegetables & Fruits

~ Again, I am a layman.  I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge.  Please take what I say with a grain of salt.  If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings.  Or challenge them.  And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always.  Yours ~ Lisa

Feel Good Fridays!

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Another week has flown by and October is nearly finished. Already?!?

Last night was our monthly support group meeting.  We talk about a lot of things besides our illness, and it’s a great feeling to just be yourself and hang with people who know what you’re going through.

And now with the #MeToo movement all over social media, talking about things can really help – not only help connect with others, but free a piece of you that may feel trapped.

So, today’s quote:

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” 
― Shannon L. Alder

Whatever it is, don’t hold back. Be yourself, completely.  And share. Talk. Express.  Without fear. ❤

Have a wonderful weekend.

Blogs I’ve updated this week:

Dungeons & Dragons & Donuts – added our September session.  Stay tuned for October’s addition (our next session is this weekend!)

Endometriosis Foundation of America: 2017 Medical Conference

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If you’re in the New York area (or able to travel), the Endometriosis Foundation of America will be hosting a 2017 Medical Conference on Saturday, October 28, 2017: “In honor of ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month,’ this one-day conference will explore the relationship between sex hormones at the molecular level in the etiology and treatment of breast, ovarian cancer and endometriosis.”

It is open the general public (tickets cost $100) and it will be an information-packed day with a wide range of guest speakers, panelists, and topics.

For a comprehensive schedule of topics and speakers, click here.

To register and purchase your ticket, click here.

Can’t go but still want to help in some way?  Donate to the Endometriosis Foundation of America (and show support for our 2018 Bloomin’ Uterus Endometriosis Awareness & Support Walk) by clicking here.

Oh…to live on the East Coast right about now!!! 🙂

 

Pelvic Pain Solutions: Limited Time Discount!

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http://www.pelvicpainsolutions.com

Our friends at Pelvic Pain Solutions are offering a deal for our Readers. ❤

If you’re in the market for pelvic seat cushions or pelvic therapy pads, you’ll receive 15% off by using the discount code, LW15!  But hurry…the coupon expires on November 1, 2017.

If you haven’t heard of Pelvic Pain Solution’s pelvic therapy pads, they offer hands-free hot or cold compresses: the EndoFEMM Pad, the Endo-lite Travel Pad, the  Pelvic Floor pad (which extends from pelvic bone to tailbone), and the Multi-Comfort Pad (which sounds divine: coverage of the tummy, pelvic area, lower back, and tailbone!)  I have my EndoFEMM and freakin’ LOVE it!  I wrote a little review of my experience here.  I own the full size and the travel size versions.

I’m workin’ the fitting the pelvic seat cushion into my budget, but Pelvic Pain Solutions (and other people who have purchased them) say they’re helpful for pelvic discomfort and relieving pain and tension.  I’ve recently discovered the life-changing benefits of having a lumbar pillow on the back of my chair at work at in my Jeep and have high expectations for a pelvic cushion!

Thanks, Babette, and everyone at Pelvic Pain Solutions for all that you do. ❤

 

#MakeItVisible Campaign!

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For the month of October, Healthline is hosting an awareness campaign of ALL invisible illnesses and they’d like OUR help!

Do YOU have an invisible illness?  Why not participate? There are two weeks left in October. 🙂  Let’s inundate the internet!

WhyTo educate and raise awareness that not all illnesses are inherently visible and to raise financial support for the U.S. Pain Foundation in support of all invisible illnesses.

WhenThis campaign was launched on October 1 and will continue through October 31, 2017.

What: Share an image on Social Media that makes your condition visible with the hashtag #MakeItVisible. For every #MakeItVisible submission Healthline is donating $1 to the U.S. Pain Foundation until we reach our $5,000 goal. 

Who: You! With your support, Healthline will be able to bring more communities in to unite and honor all invisible illness communities in order to break the stigma that one has to “look sick” to be living with a condition.

Feel Good Fridays!

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Another week is gone, with too little time to read or write. Bah! Soon, I hope!

BUT…there’s always time for a Feel Good Friday’s quote!  And today it’s all about YOU!

“Self-care is a deliberate choice to gift ourself with people, places, things, events, and opportunities that recharge our personal battery and promote whole health—body, mind, and spirit.” 
― Laurie Buchanan, PhD

I hope that you’re able to focus on a bit of “Me Time” this weekend.  Honor yourself, inside and out.  And pass it on.

Love, Lisa