The Endo Wild Ride: Blood-sugar roller-coaster
And 8 Tips to Help You Escape Today
One piece of information I try to nicely shove down your throats is that every endo girls is different. Some have radical pain, some have none. Some have IBS to the most severe degree, others don’t even bloat (not kidding). Some have movement induced flairs, some have stress induced flairs, some have sex induced flairs, some have no flairs, some have 24/7 flairs. Catching my drift? There’s no one size fits all approach to healing, because there’s no one type of endo girl!!
How…. annoying. Right? I mean, it would be much easier to diagnose and treat (and I could offer group classes) if everyone was the same.
However, there are a handful of things I do believe all endo girls deal with across the board. And one, interestingly enough, is rarely linked to endo when it comes to the standard dietary recommendations: Blood-Sugar Dysregulation. That’s right, it’s the endo girls’ enemy #1 on many levels, but it’s rarely focused on. For PCOS yes, for Endo no.
More often we hear remove allergens, remove meat, remove dairy, remove eggs, lower fat, remove remove remove. Then, by removing all these incredibly nourishing foods that balance blood sugar, we end up eating a lot of fruit, a lot of starches, a lot of grains or gluten free things, and our blood sugar rollercoaster gets supercharged, and the symptoms get worse, so we remove even more, and suddenly we’re only eating fruits, starches, and grains, and the blood sugar rollercoaster is now going lightspeed, and…. OUCH. Insert big fat endo flair, insert energy draining, insert fingernails chipping and hair turning brittle, insert endo-belly, a whole lot of un-health. Bummer.
Wait, what is blood sugar again?
I’m glad you asked ;) If you’ve forgotten, blood sugar isn’t just some boring phrase created for us to ignore. It's quite literally, the amount of sugar in your blood! That's why blood is sticky: glucose. So blood-sugar regulation is simply a fancy phrase meaning the delicate dance your body does all day long to keep the amount of glucose in your blood within a healthy - and very minimal - range.
Glucose isn't just table sugar though, it's what all carbohydrates are in their most simple form. So your papaya breaks down to glucose as your Twix bar breaks down to glucose. Yes, the papaya has vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making it much healthier than the Twix. HOWEVER, in their most simple forms, both break down to glucose.
Glucose is fine when you eat a balanced, whole foods diet - think papaya + fats + proteins + veggies. It's problematic when all you eat is glucose - like papaya + cereal + low fat milk (even nondairy) + bananas + breakfast cookies + cold pressed juice + acai bowls + bean/grains + more papayas. It doesn't matter if it's "healthy" or not, refined or unrefined, gluten-free, processed or whole foods sugars. Glucose = glucose. ------------> Read Pic
No matter what type, glucose = too much insulin = chronic systemwide inflammation. I wrote about it extensively here if you want another crash course on how this affects endo.
How To Know if You’re Stuck on the Sad Sugar Ride
Most of us actually have no friggin' clue we have blood sugar dysregulation, so ingrained in us are the issues that accompany it. Since most of us have been dealing with it since childhood, we honestly don’t even know there’s another way. I myself had no idea I was in so deep until the wild ride was one day over (hindsight is 20/20 it turns out). If you're like me, here are a few clues you’re in deep:
Hangry: Hunger + angry. Before meals you feel shaky, irritable, or weak. If meals are delayed you’re a demon - or maybe you’re faint. When hunger strikes, you find it hard to go another second without eating. You may even define yourself by this as a hypoglycemic. This is probably most people you know.
Can’t not-snack: If you ate breakfast and then told you “no food or drinks beside water for 5 hours” you’d be terrified, angry, and claw at me. In fact, you may not be able to go more than 2 hours without snacking or drinking anything besides water.
You’re addicted to “sweet”: I work with a lot of girls that say they never eat sugar, but oh-my-lawdy do they eat sweet! Cold pressed juices, paleo things smothered in maple syrup or honey, 6-10 servings of fruit per day, “healthy” treats/snacks such as breakfast bars, snack bars, chia puddings, sorbets, pancakes … all with just as much glucose as a whoopee pie. Could you easily not eat "sweet" for a week?
Your emotions and energy levels are wild: maybe your temper flares, your emotions fluctuate, you're energized then crash. Fatigue is very present in your life. Maybe you think you’re hard wired for chronic stress and anxiety. You also think this is pretty normal since everyone has this problem, right?? Ahem....
You can’t seem to lose weight, no matter how many low-calorie or low-fat diets you do: And you especially gain weight around your middle. You may even be in a calorie deficit and still be gaining weight, this is very possible for someone who's insulin resistant (have blood sugar chaos)
Endo-Belly: need I say more. Constant bloating can be a big sign that there's way too much glucose in the system.
You have diabetes, pre-diabetes, reactive hypoglycemia, or PCOS: obviously at this point you have clinical levels of blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance, I just have to say it in case there's any question at all :)
Ok, how’d you do reading those, any one of them resonate? I'm guessing at least a handful did, because I know very few people who aren’t on the blood sugar rollercoaster. Except some of my bad-ass clients who conquered that sh*t and are living the dream ;) You know who you are.
The Endo Elephant in the Room
If you’re confused how you got here, please know it’s not your fault!! It’s really not. The world is so confusing when it comes to health, with the government itself pushing grains and demonizing fats. Ugh.
I even just, this very second, looked around some trendy sites for endometriosis + food and, well, most of it makes me sad. Just about everything is sweet: vegan sweet French toast or pancakes, “natural" sugary beverages, juices, and smoothies, “healthy” cookies, cakes, bars, granolas, oats covered in fruit and honey. Things that aren't sweet are still 100% glucose driven: There are gluten-free breads, toasts, pastries, pastas, pizzas, bowls and bowls of grains, beans, starches, sugars in hiding. These recipes are meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, mostly low-fat and thus NUTRIENT-FREE and INSULIN-SPIKING and therefore inflammatory because of both. But wow, they sure do look delicious … for dessert ;)
Don't worry, I'm not judging, this is exactly how I used to eat, and I was so convinced I was eating healthy (they all said so!) I could not believe I was consuming up to 4 pound of sugar per week, albeit “healthy sugar”. I also couldn't believe I could stop, but oh how my life changed when I cut the sweet crap. Even though I felt at the time like I was dying a little inside, I now couldn't imagine what eating that way again would do to me -- Oh wait, yes I can, it would pull me right out of endo remission. [That's how significantly blood sugar dysregulation can affect us endo girls, remember that]
How to Stop the Ride: 8 tips
Ok, you get it, you’re sadly in the blood sugar quagmire and ready to get out. You can’t imagine what it would feel like (or if you’ll even survive) going for 4-5 hours without eating, or somehow stopping that craving for sweet, but you’re ready to try. And good on ya!!
For some of you this won’t be easy - because being on the blood sugar rollercoaster is a little bit like being on crack - but here are a few pointers to start easing you out of glucose purgatory and starting to heal anew.
1) First, just replace processed foods with whole foods
This is the simplest step needed for those of you eating a lot of processed foods, be they gluten free or not. If it's in a box or a bag, swap it out with whole foods fare. This is the best switch to do today on so many levels, and I know you can do this! Fill your carb coffers with carbohydrates that offer nutrients, like sweet potatoes and squash, instead of processed refined fare that offers you nothing. If you're already doing this, read on :)
2) Limit fruit to 1-2 servings (not pieces) per day
I sometimes have to work hard to convince my clients why this is appropriate since we’ve been told for so long that fruit is healthy. And it is... kind of. Think of fruit as a vegetable with sugar in it. So it’s a healthier desert option, but not a healthier meal option, persay. Eat fruit, enjoy it in moderation, eat it with fat to prevent sugar spikes (like apples + almond butter, strawberries + cream), but be aware if your cravings for it are much higher than you realized - Some of you may literally be eating 8-10 servings of fruit per day. Also be aware of serving size - some jumbo fruits are actually 2-3 servings, while some smoothies, juices, and bowls become a whopping 4-5 servings of worth of fruit!
3) Don’t cut out carbs completely
This goes out to you fad dieters who are already googling keto on a separate page. Ketogenic diets are extremely low carb, less than 50g per day of carbohydrates per day. Where there is a time and place for such a therapeutic diet, I don’t believe it’s for most people, and even more so if you’re of childbearing age with hormonal imbalance as I assume you, dear reader, are. If you want to be able to stick with this food shift long-term, such a restrictive diet won't help you make this a lifestyle change - which is what you want this to be. So eat lower carb, and whole foods carb (also know as low + slow carb).
General rule of thumb: Axe simple sugars and processed refined foods, then allow a moderate amount of starches and fruits. This is like prioritizing fats, proteins, and non-starchy carbs as the staple of your meal, rather than prioritizing starches (like the USDA tells you to do). Make this fun, enjoyable, and delicious - not your next fad diet.
4) But cut the sugar. All of it
This might hurt! Go through your pantry and fridge and work diligently to remove all your hidden sugars. This includes ketchup (they have sugar-free organic ketchup now), honey mustard, mayo with sugar, tomato sauce, salad dressings, condiments, etc etc etc. Look for honey, molasses, maple syrup, fructose, and all the other natural sweeteners too. Why is it in everything? Because we, as a nation and world, are addicted. Food manufactures are simply supplying us our drugs. Read labels.
5) Unsubscribe from sites and instagrams that tempt you.
OMG the photos are so pretty!!!! But looking at some of these recipes all I can see (as a nutritional therapist dedicated to helping women from endometriosis heal into remission) is that these women bloggers, authors, and cooks are soooooo addicted to sugar. I know they’re very well meaning, but don’t let them tempt you because they can’t break up with “sweet” themselves. Thank them, and break up with them before they send you another recipe for “healthy” vegan breakfast cookies or “high protein” chocolate cups. Focus on healing.
6) Eat protein and fat at every meal, and make your breakfasts count!!
Yup, I’m that woman with endometriosis who advocates for meat, eggs, and even raw dairy if you can tolerate it. Only 100% grass-fed or pastured, of course, duh. And lucky for us, proteins and fats are the only two macronutrients that don’t spike blood sugar. That's why this is the only way you’re going to be able to survive when you replace that rich carbohydrate food source with something that won't cause the insulin-spiking systemic inflammation. So don't just cut out more, replace that glucose hit with delicious, satiating fats and proteins.
The best place to start? Breakfast!! Breakfast sets your whole day for success, so make it your goal to eat as much fat + protein (filled out with veggies of course) as you can at this morning meal so that you can attempt to make it to lunch without needing food. When you achieve this goal, I give you permission to dance embarrassingly wherever you are.
**If you can't digest protein or fat I have another blog coming for you, hang in there :)
7) Eventually make your meals bigger so you can wean off of snacks
You rarely hear this piece of advice because so many dietitians are telling you to snack all the time to "keep blood sugar stable". They're telling this, of course, to a land of blood-sugar zombies. Truth is, if you want to really step off the rollercoaster for good, aim to slowly wean yourself off snacks while you make your meals much much bigger (per above). Big enough and nutritious enough to hold you over 4-5 hours between meals to keep you from snacking. This won't be easy - or even possible right now - for most of you, but keep it in the back of your mind as you get stronger and less addicted to quick-energy fixes. This will help re-sensitize your cells to insulin again, as long as your meals are serious.
Rule of thumb to start moving this direction: If you find yourself crashing or craving anything within 2-3 hours of eating, immediately up the amount of fat, protein, and the size of your meals. I don't care about the calories - if you're not making it a few simple hours then you’re simply not eating enough, and by not eating enough you're forcing yourself back on the rollercoaster.
8) Pretty please don’t calorie restrict.
This is the hardest thing for some women to conquer, and may be why your paleo (or even keto) diet is leaving you with as much fatigue and blood sugar issues as before. When women adopt these diets, they may do so with a goal of being thin in the back of their minds. Again, not your fault, we were trained this way. So, now’s the time to UN-train this practice. Calorie restriction and/or skipping meals affects our rollercoaster the same as too much sugar.
The cool thing is that by eliminating sugars and refined foods, and limiting starches and fruits, your body will naturally crave what it needs. This is called intuitive eating, following your body’s cues to eat what it wants, when it wants. You may even find that your body wants to gorge on certain foods while you give her the green light to eat what she’s been starving for, maybe for decades. So let her eat, and watch as she climbs off the blood-sugar rollercoaster all by herself :)
Please eat, ladies, eat real food in its whole food form that's not a desert in disguise. If you do so, many of you should start to see "miraculous" results of pain, bloat, skin issues, fatigue issues and more start to minimizing within a few weeks. Who needs those chocolate breakfast bars anyways ;)
I am a Nutritional Therapist, certified though the Nutritional Therapy Association, but I am not a dietitian, doctor, or medical professional, and this site is solely for guidance and information to give people more information to make an informed decision about their own bodies best treatment plan. Please check with your doctor or care provider before making changes in your life