With greater access to knowledge, many people are opting to heal themselves naturally. One way to do so is through food. After all, we are what we eat!
While there is no definitive scientific proof that diet has a significant impact on relieving Endo or PCOS’ effects (due to the lack of research), many women find their symptoms improve when switching to a diet that balances their hormones, minimizes the promotion of oestrogen, increases good prostaglandins and boosts their immune system.
We can achieve this in various ways. In this post, I explain the Endo Diet, which is an an exclusion diet (gluten-free, meat-free, sugar-free and dairy-free), and outline the Probiotic and Microbiotic diets. The Endo Diet is more exclusionary than the PCOS diet, and includes many of the same principles, so I will only discuss the Endo Diet.
GLUTEN AND SUGAR
A study published by the Journal of Human Reproduction found that “intestinal inflammation occurs more often in women with endometriosis.”  Inflammation is credited to candida overgrowth. Candida, a form of yeast found in the intestines helps with digestion, but overgrowth can cause the intestinal walls to break down.  Wheat (which contains the gluten protein) and sugar feed candida. Refraining from wheat (gluten) and sugar aids in minimising inflammation, which may also help mitigate symptoms of endometriosis, such as bloating, constipation and abdominal pain.
Poor cow milk. It’s always a controversial topic without adding endo to the mix. Cow’s milk is arguably one of the most inflammatory foods.  It also promotes oestrogen, which imbalances the hormones in women with endo. With that said, alternatives such as goat, sheep and camel milk are held to be easier on the digestive system, as they contain a different protein to cow’s milk. Almond and coconut milk are also viable alternatives, which also provide all the vitamins and nutrients your body requires. Avoiding dairy does not include yoghurt with “live and active cultures”, but it’s best to avoid flavoured yoghurt with sugar and additives.
“In an Italian population, women who ate at least seven servings of red meat per week had twice the risk of endometriosis compared with those who ate fewer than three servings of red meat weekly.” 
Dr Fabio Parazzini’s research in the Journal of Human Reproduction found that women who had the highest intake of red meat (beef, other red meat and ham) increased their risk of endometriosis by between 80 – 100 per cent!  This may be due to meat promoting bad prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a group of lipids (fatty acids) made at tissue damage sites to deal with injury and healing.  High levels of prostaglandins cause unwanted inflammation.  In contrast, Dr Parazzini noted that women who ate a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables lowered their risk of endo by 40 per cent! 
ALCOHOL & COFFEE
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who drank 2+ cups of caffeinated coffee or a caffeinated carbonated drink per day were twice as likely to develop endometriosis in relation to other women, however the reason remains unknown. 
In separate research, women with gynaecological problems who drank alcohol appeared to have a greater incidence of endometriosis. 
Research focusing on infertile women found that the risk of endometriosis was greater than 50% in women who drank alcohol. 
A probiotic-enriched diet may also help resolve endo symptoms. To counter inflammation in the stomach, it is recommended to eat probiotic-rich foods daily to support the healing of the gut.  This can be done in conjunction with the Endo Diet. Probiotic foods you may consider incorporating into your diet are: yoghurt with “live and active cultures”, miso soup, kefir, sour pickles (naturally fermented without vinegar) and tempeh.
Incorporating the microbiotic diet, which promotes eating and living in harmony with nature, may also be beneficial.  It is mainly a vegetable diet, supplanted by unprocessed whole foods, including: whole grains (brown and wild rice, oat and corn) and beans (chickpeas and lentils). 
For an in-depth list of what foods fall into a microbiotic diet and what foods to avoid, be sure to check Lahey.org.
Be aware, strictly following the microbiotic diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies due to inadequate intake of protein, vitamin B12 and calcium. 
LIVING TO EAT
Maintaining a strict dietary regime for health reasons may require you to fall into the “eat to live” camp. However, opting for a diet to manage your endo pains and PCOS symptoms does not have to be drab. I will help show you that having endo and/or PCOS doesn’t need to constrict your lifestyle. You can also live to eat!
I won’t lie, I was flabbergasted when my mom first brought the Endo Diet to my attention 5 years ago. What would I do without my Doritos?! At the same time I was sick and tired of the pains, so I put my brave face on and tried it for a month. Not only did the pains minimize, but I also found myself having more energy. It was a perfect excuse to experiment with different flavours and ingredients.
My advice for anyone seeking to heal nutritionally would be to try it for a month and see how your body reacts. The change is more mental than physical, so you will need to mentally reconfigure your relationship with food. Reading labels while grocery shopping and researching restaurant menus will become second nature. Since this is a very specific diet, you will find that cooking your own meals will be easier, as you will know exactly what you are ingesting.
There will be times when you’re craving a slice of bread (let alone cake), the tangy cheese flavour of Doritos, or a cuppa Kopi Luwak. At that moment, don’t deny your craving. Have a few crisps, enjoy that slice of cake and slowly sip your cuppa coffee to help refrain from bingeing. A little treat once in a while never hurt anyone. Eventually your cravings will minimize and your body will be accustomed to your new lifestyle.
If you do not want to completely immerse yourself in one go, or have budgetary constraints (following a specific diet isn’t cheap), then pick and choose the features you can commit to and note how your body reacts. When you’re ready, incorporate further aspects. You can even mix and match certain aspects of the different diets. Remember, this is a lifestyle choice, opting for a more holistic and mindful interaction with our food and not a crash diet.
We are eating to live; and for the foodies in us, living to eat.
 Parazzini F, Chiaffarino F, Surace M, et al. Selected food intake and risk of endometriosis. Hum Reprod. 2004;19:1755-1759.
BBC News Article citing Dr Parazzini’s research: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3890139.stm
 Grodstein F, Goldman MB, Ryan L, Cramer DW. Relation of female infertility to consumption of caffeinated beverages. Am J Epidemiol. 1993;137:1353-1360.
 Perper MM, Breitkopf LJ, Breitstein R, Cody RP, Manowitz P. MAST scores, alcohol consumption, and gynecological symptoms in endometriosis patients. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1993;17:272-278.
 Grodstein F, Goldman MB, Cramer DW. Infertility in women and moderate alcohol use. Am J Public Health. 1994;84:1429-1432.
The information published in this post was intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in the content should be considered, or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.