Eating in cafés or restaurants can cause endometriosis patients a huge amount of anxiety and even trigger flares or, in some cases, IBS symptoms.
But spending your life eating at home isn’t exactly exciting — even for the best cooks. Going to a restaurant is a nice way to treat yourself, and meals with friends and family are a huge part of how we spend time with people. They’re also a much more endo-friendly way of socializing than, say, partying until 4 a.m. (Though if you can handle it, I salute you!)
After many years of flare-ups, pregnancy-sized bloating, and embarrassing stomach issues, I believe I’ve finally made my peace with dining out. And so, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that have made dining out enjoyable again.
I am a food geek. I love doing research and finding out about new vegan and gluten-free places in London or the cities I’m traveling to. Now that the world is becoming more allergen-friendly, it’s much easier to find these places. Get on Google and add yourself to different Facebook groups; endometriosis groups, vegan groups, and gluten-free groups all share links to new restaurants that are opening. You can also do your own research and create a hit list of places you want to try, so you can suggest them to friends when you plan to meet up.
If you’re going somewhere that’s more meat-focused or heavy on the gluten, call in advance or have a look at the restaurant’s menu online. Chances are it will have a dairy- or gluten-free menu, but it’s likely not readily available unless you ask. If not, most places can make something up or just omit your triggers, and if worse comes to worst and the restaurant of choice has mains you really can’t eat, order a mix of sides.
Having the courage to ask
One of the biggest issues with eating out is confidence. It took me ages to build up the confidence just to ask about vegan or gluten-free options. I was scared waiters would roll their eyes or think I was just jumping on a trend. If you’re really worried about it, let them know you have a condition and that some foods really affect it. As soon as I say this, I nearly always get a kind and helpful response.
Still, this doesn’t mean mistakes do not happen! For some reason, I often have to send back my food. I hate complaining in restaurants, but I know I will suffer for the mistake, and I can’t keep putting my health at risk and my life on hold while I take time off to deal with a flare due to a gluten-based pizza. So I now let waiters know if there’s been a mistake. I often apologize because I can’t help it, and I am always kind about it. But I still ask. It is frustrating that I have to wait longer, but it’s something I’ve come to be more relaxed about, and I know that I’m doing the right thing for me in the long run.
Get to know your triggers
One of the reasons I struggled with eating out in the beginning was because I didn’t fully understand my triggers. When I first started the endo diet, I thought I could eat pizza without cheese and be fine. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. It took me a few times to realize that. It’s also taken me a few pizza joints with terrible gluten-free bases to get to know the good ones. But you get there in the end, and it’s so worth it when you do!
I didn’t keep a food diary back then, but if I had, I would have known sooner what was setting me up, and could have avoided some pretty embarrassing episodes and painful flare-ups.
Striking a balance
Sometimes, you just really want that dessert. The pressure you put yourself under to always be strict may be stressing you out anyway and could do more damage to your body than the tiny brownie you want for dessert.
There are some things I don’t bend on and some things I can be more lenient with. Come to understand what those foods are, and if you want to make an allowance, just balance out the rest of the meal or day.
Despite all the different things we need to be aware of, I love food more than ever since starting the endo diet. Have a look online, and get exploring!
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.