You can plant as many flowers as you want, but without proper soil and water they'll be dead in a month.
We’ve gotten so used to the Endo Belly and Chronic Fatigue associated with endometriosis that we’ve ended up believing they’re caused by the the endo itself - symptoms of the disease. But what if we turned that belief around to see these issues as the actual culprits, the ones causing the endo? Many, if not all, girls with endo suffer from a combination of severe gut dysbiosis and nutritional deficiencies, issues that cause chronic disease across the board. When we heal and seal the gut, and allow our bodies to absorb the trillions of nutrients it needs, we can see an unbelievable amount of healing happen.
That’s why the nutritional healing I speak of here at Heal Endo is different from the “Endo Diet”, because it shows that a combination of healing your gut and infusing your body with a nutrient dense diet can get to the root cause of the inflammation, fatigue, weak immune systems, joint pains, and hormonal imbalances we endo girls are so often plagued with. We need to find the root cause of your imbalances, and focusing on your endo- belly instead of the endo is the key.
Finding the root cause
Impaired gut health is a hot topic in science, and over the past years we've been lucky to have so many studies surface on this issue as a contributing factor to many chronic diseases, including cancer, autism, mental disorders, and auto-immune. And for us endo girls, we have proof in front of us that something certainly isn’t right in our guts: endo-belly.
Endo-belly is our body telling us there’s some major dysbiosis going on. Dysbiosis is a term that describes when your microbiota is off-balance for the worse. It's not usually caused by one isolated factor, but a variety of issues that have allowed pathogens, bacteria, or yeast to flourish where they shouldn't.
A good example is candida overgrowth: a yeast that should naturally be in our normal intestinal flora, but one that has overgrown because of sick conditions inside the intestines. That makes candid overgrowth a symptom if unhealthy intestines - more or less - rather than the culprit. This is the important piece of information I want you to internalize: instead of attacking every symptoms, we need to start healing the gut in totality. That means we need to sniff out why the candida had the opportunity to overgrow, rather than attack the bejesus out of it. In the process we will start to find the root cause of our endo belly.
Endo-warriors, you see, are accidentally reallyyyyy good at attacking our own bodies. We think the endo is the one attacking us, but we have become really good at waging war on ourselves as if our body is an enemy we need to beat. So we starve them of nutrients through intense diets, rob them of relaxation with a mountain of stress, and unknowingly make ourselves worse. The reality is that our bodies are sick and in pain because they’re issuing a cry for help. So put your dietary weapons down (I've seen women on the most insane diets and supplement protocols to "eliminate" candida or parasites that would most definitely make your intestinal lining weep), and let's delve more into the gut...
Let’s Talk Leaky Gut
First of all, did you know there's new research being done that shows 100% of women with endo have leaky gut?? Yup, that's why healing the gut in the absolute foundation of this site.
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is actually not to hard to get when you understand the lining of the intestines are one cell thick. Can you even comprehend how thin that is? That's why these cells can easily inflame and fray when a digestive system has been under siege for long enough. This allows small fragments of food from your digestive system to flow into your body and prompts an immune response as your body fights these "foreign invaders”, and is why you may react to, like, everything. Because if you've had leaky gut for many years, your body can program itself to fight everything that's leaking out, including gluten, dairy, nightshades, soy, shrimp, etc etc etc.
You know what else gut permeability does? Creates systemic, chronic inflammation.
Leaky gut is definitely something we will want to treat in every endo-suffer, because most everyone with chronic disease will deal with this to some degree. When you realize that our intestinal lining is only one cell thin, it’s easy to understand how quickly the lining can become inflamed and break down. However, it doesn't always call for an intense GAPS diet - read my recommendations below to start bringing the inflammation down and healing the lining.
Let’s Talk SIBO and SIFO
Small-Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or Fungal Overgrowth (SIFO) is becoming more diagnosed as it’s better understood. These issues happen when your small intestines become overgrown with a pathogenic bacteria or fungus that should not be there. Most all your bacteria should be in your large intestine, and your small intestine reserved for absorbing nutrients. So when this type of dysbiosis happens, your body can really suffer.
SIBO is now estimated to be the root cause of up to 76% of IBS cases - bet your gastroenterologist didn’t tell you that. It also creates rampant inflammation, leading to leaky gut and other gastro-intestinal issues. It's really annoying in that really healthy foods can cause you intestinal distress (if you've read about FODMOPs you know this), so if have eliminated processed foods, stress, and are using digestive enzymes but still bloating like a balloon, please go get tested for SIBO. Even a leaky git protocol diet - as extreme as it is - will keep a lot of SIBO trigger foods into your diet, so you really have to address SIBO separately from everything if you have this.
The only way to know if you have SIBO is through a breath test*, where the levels of hydrogen and methane in your breath are measured. So, if your doc ran a bunch of stool tests on you and is still stumped, make sure you find someone who will perform this test. If it’s not your doctor - since some docs are still behind the times and won’t even know what SIBO is - find a functional practitioner like me who can.
*This isn’t the only way to know, but it’s the easiest and least invasive way. Stool tests won’t be able to diagnose SIBO
Healing the Gut 101
Here’s the truth, gut inflammation and sickness is caused by many factors, including the following:
- Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
- Diets low in fermentable fibers
- Dietary toxins and those that occur from low HCL, pancreatic enzymes, and fat digestion
- Chronic stress
- Environmental toxins
- Medications including birth control and NSAIDs
- Chronic infections
So before you jump on a leaky gut diet, intense SIBO protocol, or get tested food food allergies and cut out 20 of your favorite foods, I have some advice: Don’t. If you’re not addressing all the factors, we can be doing an intensive diet and not heal the way we should be. That’s why I recommend starting with the following steps:
Replace grains + processed dairy + sugar + veggie oils with delicious, nutrient dense alternatives
Removing inflammatories is the first step in healing the gut. While grains can be a healthy food option for healthy people, if your gut is inflamed these fibers act as a scrubby sponge, irritating the gut lining. Plus, when you cut out grains out, you also remove all that processed fare taking up space where nutrient dense foods should be, and immediately start regulating your blood sugar for the better.
**Please note, the end goal is that you should eventually be able to eat whole (not processed) grains again in the future, but to heal the gut it’s important cut them out for at least 3 months.
Processed dairy can also be an inflammatory for many (I wrote all about the difference in raw versus pasteurized dairy here), which is why it’s important to cut this out for a while too. You may be perfectly fine eating raw or grass-fed dairy products though. Truly, you may even feel better eating lots of dairy fat like raw or grass-fed butter, which is actually anti-inflammatory and full of gut healing butyrate. So listen to your body - not this website or vegan documentary or the endo-diet that told you all dairy is bad for you.
Lastly, processed sugar and veggie oils are incredibly inflammatory. They're two refined foods that should have no space in our healing bodies. Sugar is also a big time snack for pathogenic organisms. Veggie oils I have written in length about that here.
What does this diet look like? Basically everything on my website! It’s not a deprivational diet, but one replete with high-quality pastured animal products (absolutely no factory farmed anything, ever), organic veggies, tons of fats, a little bit of fruit, and no hunger or loss of love for food. Literally, go up to the navigation bar under Foods. Read. All of it.
Removing these triggers alone can have a profound impact on healing your gut without any intense diet, and now you have room in your tummy to eat all the healing foods I preach about on this site! So don’t just cut out foods. Instead, cut out the trigger foods and now EAT EAT EAT. End the endo-perception that we must continuously cut out foods to heal, and instead start replenishing from within. All about eating to fuel your cells here.
Stop toxins from flowing downstream
If your stomach, pancreas, and gall-bladder aren’t functioning properly, you’re going to be sending lots of undigested food into your belly… meaning gross. Gross leads to inflammation. So if diet changes alone didn’t pop your endo-belly, definitely consider these.
Quick school: In general you have to know the gist of what these 3 organs do if you want to heal yourself
- Stomach = protein digester and mineral absorber. Makes a lot of hydrochloric acid to break down proteins and minerals. If your body hates when you eat meat, look here.
- Pancreas = carbohydrate breaker-downer and digestive enzyme maker. If you blow up when you eat starchy foods consider this
- Gallbladder = fat absorber and detoxifying friend. If you feel nauseas look to the gallbladder.
All three work together to take your food, break it down to microscopic bits, and send it on down to the intestines. When these 3 organs are malfunctioning - which they often are in those with chronic disease - dietary change can only do so much until these guys are rehabbed. That’s why you may consider supplementing with HCL, pancreatic enzymes, and oxbile with every meal for a while as you heal.
Calm your system
Mentally, if your body is in distress when you eat, it will never prioritize digestion. Hear that? Never. So even if you’ve cut out processed fare and are eating delicious, grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, and organic veggies, if you’re eating them without chewing or enjoying them, or while fuming over how inconsiderate your boyfriend is, you gotta change your ‘tude. I write all about that here
Physically, intestinal inflammation can be like a wound in some ways, and sometimes it needs to be nurtured back to health. If you’re doing step 1 and 2 from above and still need extra TLC, consider sending gut healing nutrients below. These can include copious amounts of gelatinous bone broth, mucilaginous plants like aloe or slippery elm to help soothe the intestinal lining, colostrum to allow your body to actually knit the tight junctures back together, glutamine as a nutrient necessary in maintaining gut wall integrity, and special spore-based probiotics like MegaSpore to actually repopulate in the gut.
Hey you! please don’t see these supplement recommendations and do what I used to do: continue eating processed foods and add a bunch of supplements. You HAVE TO DO STEP 1 before anything. These are just simple ideas to help after the fact :)
Test, retest, and now consider more intensive diets
If you have done steps 1-3 above and still feel awful when you eat, now is the time to go get tested, work with a professional, and potentially undertake a more extreme diet, like a GAPS or Wahls Protocol. That's because there are definitely other reasons you may still feel lousy, everything ranging from parasites, unknown severe food allergies, auto-immune, or other hidden issues. But it makes sense to test once you know that the changes above aren’t enough to heal on your own, and once you have targeted your own unique issues, then do a more advanced healing protocol.