Blog / 2015 / Treating Endometriosis: a Gluten-free Diet and Other Information About Eating Right

March 5, 2015

In honor of Endometriosis Awareness Month, I’ve decided to share about my healing journey in some detail. I remember searching for such stories after I was first diagnosed. It didn’t matter that every woman’s path with the disease was so different: I was desperate for any hints. Hopefully, my account will help other women make the right choices for themselves.

When I left off last year talking about my endometriosis, I’d been gluten-free for about six months. Now that it’s been another year it’s safe to say I won’t be going back to gluten full-time. It’s not so much that I feel so amazing when I’m off gluten; it’s more that when I have slipped up on the diet now and again I get more headaches and pelvic pain.

That said, for three months in 2014, I flirted with sourdough bread and I felt okay about it. Apparently the fermentation process with the sourdough breaks down the gluten effectively. I’ve been off sourdough again since the beginning of the year, and I don’t see a significant change in my pain and general well-being, so sourdough is something I’ll indulge in when I feel like it.

before and after portraits of a woman who got married
Gwenn Seemel
Before and After: Wedding
2006 and 2007
acrylic on bird’s eye piqué
30 x 54 inches (combined dimensions)
(These works are from a series about women in transitional moments in their lives.)

The other dietary stuff I do comes from Chinese medicine. Though I haven’t gone back for the acupuncture and herbs (mostly for financial reasons), I stand by Chinese medicine’s more nuanced approach to the disease, in which endometriosis is a combination of imbalances in the body that tend to start with our stomach and intestines since that's where new input enters our body daily.

The more disciplined Chinese medicine approach to diet mostly involves these 3 things for me:

  1. Timed drinking and eating.
  2. The idea is to allow your stomach to properly process whatever is in it, while also ensuring that you remain properly hydrated. Since most food exits your stomach 2 hours after you're done eating and liquids by themselves do so after 45 minutes, I follow a cycle of drinking a lot, waiting at least 45 minutes, eating and drinking a meal, waiting at least 2 hours, and then drinking a lot again and starting the cycle over. I start my day off with 16 or 20 ounces of water—often warm and with lemon juice, but never refrigerated. And when I eat and drink, I think about filling half my stomach with food, a quarter with liquids, and leaving a quarter empty.

  3. Avoiding food mixing.
  4. Though most foods take about 2 hours to pass out of the stomach, fruits only take 1 hour because of the way the sugars and fibers interact. If you eat fruit and other stuff together, the different digestion rates may mess with your system. I’ve found that my insides are happier when I eat fruit mostly separately from other foods.

  5. Avoiding cold foods.
  6. The coldest drink I have these days is room temperature, and I’m very careful about when I eat frozen treats. Ice cream chills your stomach, forcing it to work a lot harder to digest whatever you’ve put in it, so I don’t eat anything frozen unless my last meal has passed out of my stomach.

For more information about treatments I’ve used, check out these articles:

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