It looks like I’m not the only one who is frightened and discouraged by diet choices that involve huge changes all at once, like going gluten-free or sugar-free. I feel for those with Celiac or something that forces them into a huge change, but without you know, DEATH ITSELF twisting my arm, it’s really hard to commit to a huge dietary change.
But I also know what a huge difference food makes on your well-being. In college I pretty much exclusively ate pre-packaged meals that were either frozen or just add water type things. And surprise surprise, I felt awful almost all the time. I guess I just figured that everyone’s bathroom time must be traumatic and awful. Nope! You should not feel like you’re dying when you poop. Who knew?
By making simple, healthier choices, my health improved drastically. It wasn’t too hard to cook the meals I had enjoyed pre-packaged and only required a little extra time. I’m by no means a chef, but I can cook pasta and prepare little cheese-and-cracker lunches for myself (even though I still really miss lunchables. RIP lunchable lunchtime).
So when people tell me how great they feel now that they cut meat out of their diet or never eat sugar, I totally believe them. I’m sure they feel awesome and I know I would too! But I can’t change all at once like that. Maybe if I were a chef for a living, or had mealtimes being a huge part of my day. But with fulltime ever-changing freelance jobs, weekly doctor’s appointments, and freaking tax season, I simply cannot devote hours and hours each day to totally redoing such a fundamental part of every day.
But you know all that because I just posted about my #1 diet life hack – which you can read here! And because that post was so popular, I’m back with a couple more baby steps you can use to improve your endometriosis symptoms – or symptoms of anything hormone-related, like PCOS or even just normal, healthy periods! “Normal healthy periods” may sound hunky-dory but no matter how normal and healthy they are, they still suck and they still make you feel pretty out of sorts.
Why does endometriosis, PCOS, and even a normal period make you feel bad? Because hormones.
No, that’s not a typo. Just because hormones. Hormones are awful. If everything isn’t just so, you can wind up wanting to kill yourself just out of the blue. Less extreme problems can include feeling half asleep all day and then not being able to sleep at night, complete loss of appetite, and all kinds of abdominal pain. Hormones can mess up your whole life. They make girls weepy and manic-depressive. They make boys angry and restless. And if you’re a really, really lucky person (like me – thanks PCOS) you get to do BOTH because sometimes ya got estrogen and sometimes ya got testosterone – but you almost always want to kill things.
So what can you do?
Here’s a couple of simple things to remember when dealing with hormone-induced hell.
1. FIBER IS YOUR FRIEND
Fiber does this really cool thing where it chills your hormones the f*ck out and helps you stay neutral. When you’re swinging on the mood swing, you can really appreciate how nice it would be to have a little neutrality in your life. It can also help with physical pain and bloating and any of the MANY symptoms of overactive hormones. If you’re going through puberty, EAT FIBER ALL THE TIME. If I had known, I would have.
Why does fiber help? With estrogen, testosterone, and any hormone really, any excess is, like most things, excreted. That means you poop it out. But if your poop is runny or if you’re not pooping at all, those hormones get to hang out in your system and raise hell. Fiber gives you nice, solid BMs that’ll take those hormones right out of ya, leading to a more balanced hormone situation. Fiber also decreases your risk of diseases like reproductive cancers in both men and women in this way.
There are actually two kinds of fiber and they’re both important, but in this case what you’re looking for is soluble fiber – this fiber is found in oatmeal, granola, apples, oranges, strawberries, pears, nuts, blueberries, celery, and carrots.
2. SUGAR IS YOUR ENEMY
Look, it really broke my heart to type that. And that’s the kind of thing that, if I was you, I’d start zoning out now. But hang tight – I will never tell you that you have to stop eating sugar. But here’s some things you should know…
Sugar stimulates your hormones. Yup. That means it wakes up the estrogen beast. It FUELS it. It gives it strength. Ya don’t want that.
But cutting sugars out of your diet completely? For me, that’s just too big of a goal. My cousin, who is a dietician, said she never tells people to stop eating sugar. What she does recommend is counting how many sugary things you eat – sodas, tea, and candy. Then decrease it.
If you find you’re eating like 15 pieces of candy throughout the day at work, try cutting it back to 10, then 5. Have a schedule of certain snack times when you’re going to mindfully have a piece instead of just snacking absent-mindedly. Cutting out soda is an AWESOME way to lower your sugar intake. For me, I replaced it with all-natural fruit juices. Natural sugar, yes, but that’s much better than refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
This brings me to another easy thing you can do to be healthier in general – stop buying refined sugar for cooking and sweetening tea or coffee! Buy Sugar in the Raw or other brands of natural, less-processed sugar. I’ve been using the raw sugar for so long that I actually dislike the taste of refined white sugar now. It’s not as dimensional as raw sugar.
And ladies: I know better than anyone that during “that time of the month,” pretty much the last thing you care about is eating healthy. And I know how badly you want sugar – notably, chocolate. AND I know that chocolate is a legitimate treatment for a lot of symptoms. Yes, there is a reason you crave it. It can really help you!
But around “that time of the month” is the time when you most need to cut down on sugar. Maybe you can’t cut sugar all the time, but for a week or two you could be strong and go on without it. And the chocolate cravings? Try dark chocolate or cacao. Less sugar, but with all the cramp-fighting mood-boosting chocolate benefits. Or maybe try chocolate covered fruits like strawberries or apple slices! Just a little bit of chocolate filled out with the healthy natural sugar found in fresh fruit – along with all the vitamins and antioxidants fruit carries.
Another good chocolate-with-less-sugar fix is trail mix! You fill up on the nuts and seeds, but you can hit the craving with the little chocolate chips.
And this will sound crazy – but here’s a recipie I’ve tried and swear by – avocado chocolate mousse. I LOVE chocolate and HATE avocado, and I loved this. No avocado taste (but you still get its superfood benefits) and it’ll satisfy any chocolate-lover’s craving:
CLICK HERE for this awesome healthy chocolate mousse recipe!
Anyway, in short – do what you can to cut back on sugar when your hormones start to cause problems. With endometriosis and regular period pains, that’s just once a month that you really need to go all out in avoiding it. If you have PCOS and you’re trying to get pregnant, consider cutting back on the sugar while you try.
If you do mess up or it’s a special occasion or whatever happened that made you eat sugar and you start to feel the effects of the hormone boost, turn to your friend fiber to get rid of as much of the excess hormones as you can. But remember that fiber only gets rid of the extra hormones – normal hormone levels will still be hyped up on your sugar intake.
These tips are a little tougher than my easy tips in the last post. But it’s still not a crazy upheaval like many fad diets, and if you have endo or PCOS, you’re already tough enough to take on this next level. You CAN do it! Every little thing you do for your health is hugely beneficial. Feel proud of each little step! Backslides will happen. Don’t linger on that. Do what you can, and be proud of it. These baby steps have helped me to feel so much better.
I still eat a lot of sugar – more than I should. The good news there is that once you cut back on the sugar, it’s easy to keep up. I gave up sugar for Lent last year, and once the 40 days were up you bet I broke out the candy. But I found no desire to graze on it all day as I had before. Just little treats for dessert or after a doctor’s appointment – rewarding yourself is important. You’ll soon find that you really don’t need sugar all the time, and you’ll enjoy life just as much eating a little as you did eating extravagant amounts.
So go forth! Have some oatmeal! Move the candy bowl off your desk at work! These simple choices will really help you feel better, sick or not. Hormones are a problem for just about everyone, and we all need all the help we can get. I hope you’re all A.W.A.P. ~ as well as possible!