Product: Beating Endo (Dr. Iris Orbuch, M.D. and Amy Stein, DPT)
How I Got It: Bought it
I came across Beating Endo well after I was deep into my journey with endometriosis. I had already undergone one surgery and was trying to determine if it was reasonable that my symptoms had started coming back only three months later. Although I had already devoured nearly every book about this chronic condition from the library and felt pretty informed, endometriosis still found a way to make me question myself.
I spent the better part of a year (before and after surgery number one) overhauling my lifestyle. In the books I’d read about chronic illnesses or healthy living, the various doctors and experts emphasized a holistic approach, including focusing on things like food, stress, sleep and fitness. Not rocket science, right?
During this time, I fought to check off every box I could. From experimenting with my diet to exercising every day to doubling down on meditation, I was confident that I was going to kick this endo shit’s ass.
And I felt great for a few months after my first surgery. Until I didn’t. This was when I had to come to terms with knowing my disease was rearing its ugly head again. I guess in a mysteriously wonderful way, I found this book at the exact right time as I tried to figure out where I would go from there.
Some Take–Aways From Beating Endo
There is no cure for endo, but there are plenty of things you can do to beat it.
Downregulating (or “cooling”) the central nervous system is critical to a successful outcome. The authors recommend pelvic physical therapy before and after surgery. For me, I also had great success through building a meditation practice to reset my brain and sleep.
Research in the form of fetal autopsies found an estimated 9 percent of female fetuses have endometriosis (page 7 of the book).
It’s suspected that these fetuses inherited endo cells from their mothers (genetic) or were exposed to dioxins in utero. Dioxins are highly toxic compounds found in the food chain and by-products of household and lawn care products (like bleach). So, if a mother is exposed to dioxins when pregnant, the fetus can be exposed to it, too.
The conclusion of a study at the University of Wisconsin found “dioxin and other toxic chemicals can cause the development of endometriosis and other health problems to which those with endometriosis are susceptible, including certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, and heart disease” (page 18 of the book).
Thank you, Mary Lou Ballweg, for this freaky lightbulb moment (co-founder of the Endometriosis Association).
57 percent of women with endo also suffer from allergies like to pollen, plans, foods, perfumes, cleaning products (page 17). And when allergies were addressed, endo symptoms improved.
90 percent of women with endo presented with G.I. symptoms (despite only 7.6 percent percent having implants on the bowel itself, page 104 of the book). The diagnosis of G.I. disorders like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) signals a red flag to experts like Dr. Larry Orbuch, a sensibly thoughtful contributor to the book.
“If you have endo, you already have inflammation. Pro-inflammatory foods tip the scales,” says Dr. Iris Orbuch (page 153 of the book). I had a mildly combative conversation with my gastroenterologist about this topic when I asked for guidance on dietary changes to help with endo. While there is no one sure-fire “endo diet,” I set out and started doing elimination testing to find what helped ease my digestive symptoms.
“Meds do not treat endo,” says Nancy Petersen, retired Registered Nurse and powerhouse endo advocate (page 13 of the book). Medications may treat symptoms (albeit temporarily), but other co-conditions have to have their own treatment plans (such as pelvic P.T.).
What I Liked
I love the dual perspective of Dr. Iris Orbuch (“the gynecologist”) and Amy Stein, DPT (“the physical therapist”). Each brings insight and information from their specialties, while at the same time, acknowledging the need for a team approach to healthcare. Yes, you can have surgery, but if you don’t prep or rehabilitate adequately, you’re not setting yourself up for success. Likewise, you can go to physiotherapy every day and still not be addressing the root cause of your ailment. This book was a bit of a team sport for me as I read it at the same time as my pelvic physiotherapist.
I also appreciated the acknowledgement and re-enforcement that the way chronic diseases affect a person is a very individual experience (page 16). Don’t listen to people in real life or on social media who judge or criticize and tout absolute truths and no-fail cures. These are simply individual opinions. Just like there is no bulletproof endo diet, there is no exact path to better health. Some things work, some things don’t.
I appreciate that the authors of Beating Endo are adamant about our agency to control our environments, menu and attitude but not our genetics. They bring a lot of other voices to weigh in along the way, including experts in gastroenterology, nutrition and patient advocacy.
What I Didn’t Like
While this book is chock full of great tips and ideas, the message is clear—excision surgery is the gold standard. And while I wholly agree with this (having undergone this personally), what I was left with after reading this book was a sense of frustration for people for whom this surgery is out of reach. What do they do?
I can’t speak to the American healthcare system and its intricacies of insurance and coverage (and how top-tier surgeons do/don’t into this web). In Canada, we have universal healthcare, which means that if and when you can get surgery it’s not going to bankrupt you from the medical bills. But the “if” and “when” parts are not like it is in the States. “If” means that you’ll likely be put on hormone medication as your first line of defence, having to wait and see if it helps (often in a vacuum without being recommended the use other/alternative modalities to help alleviate symptoms). And “when” means contending with the long waitlists to be seen and cared for by an excision specialist (after all, not all surgeons are created equal in their approach to treating endo). One other statistic that stood out to me came from Heather Guidone of the Center for Endometriosis Care. She estimates that there are about 100 endometriosis specialists skilled in excision in the U.S. and 100 in the rest of the world (page 24 of the book). That’s 200 specialists in the whole world to serve one in ten people fighting for a better life. You can do the math and see how ludicrous the odds are to access skilled care in a timely or affordable way.
If you’re exploring endo as a possible diagnosis or are a veteran of the fight, you will surely enjoy the dual lens that Orbuch and Stein offer. It’s a similar style and approach to health that led me to found No Granola, so I have extra appreciation for it. Unfortunately, these are a lot of the management strategies I had to invent and experiment with along the way over the past 10+ years – so, now you have an easy cheat sheet in book format!