How a Plant-Based Diet + Self-Care Helped Heal Endometriosis with Jessica Murnane

When Katie and I started talking about inspiring, genuine, influential people we wanted to work with, Jessica Murnane was at the top of the list. Jessica is the founder of the One Part Plant philosophy, podcast and book and a woman who turned to a nutrient-rich, plant-based diet in order to help reduce her debilitating Endometriosis symptoms. 

After learning more about Jessica, I knew I our community would benefit greatly from her experience, knowledge and advice and I am SO excited to share this interview with you. Read on to learn more about what exactly endometriosis is and the symptoms that arise, the options that Jessica was faced with and how what she eventually chose changed her life, some seriously delicious recipes, and so much more. 

MCB: Do you mind explaining what exactly endometriosis is and how it affects the body?
JM: Of course. First off, it’s important to note that endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women worldwide. So this isn’t a rare disease. The problem is that most women will never be diagnosed or ever hear the word “endometriosis” in their lifetime.

So what is endo? Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows on the outside. That growth usually involves the ovaries and bowels, though it can spread beyond the pelvic region (some cases include spreading to the lungs and major organs). During your menstrual cycle, this displaced tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds. Because this tissue has no way to exit the body, it becomes trapped. This can lead to cyst formation, adhesions, and pain.

MCB: What were the early symptoms of your endometriosis? How long did it take to be diagnosed and what did your doctors suggest you do to treat it?
I have Stage IV endo and with the exception of infertility (I never tried to get pregnant), I have experienced every single endometriosis symptom a woman can have. I’ve always been an overachiever! It took me over ten years to be diagnosed. Which is sadly the average (it takes an average of ten years and an average of 8 doctors for women to be diagnosed with endo).

With endo, women can experience one or all of these symptoms:
Very painful periods (pelvic pain, cramping, lower back and abdominal pain)
Pain during or after sex
Blood clotting
Painful bowel movements or urination
Excessive bleeding
Infertility (though many women can still have children)
Fatigue and chronic pain
Diarrhea and constipation
Nausea and vomiting
Urinary frequency, retention, or urgency
Allergies and other immune-related issues are also commonly reported

To answer your other question about treatment...after lots of pain meds, surgery, and trying everything in the book to get doctor suggested I get a hysterectomy or do hormone therapy. I wanted to go the hysterectomy route until food and lifestyle changes totally changed my disease.

MCB: What led you to treat your endometriosis through diet? And what type of diet particularly?
JM: At the suggestion of one of my greatest friends (my book is dedicated to her), I switched to whole foods plant-based diet to help manage my endo symptoms and pain. A whole foods plant-based diet is comprised of unprocessed or minimally processed veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

I had zero faith it would work and I also didn’t the transition was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But after a few weeks, my pain and symptoms started to fade and after a few months, I felt like a brand new woman. That change enabled me to get out of bed again. Which helped me exercise again. Which helped my depression from the chronic pain fade away. It was a domino effect and it all started with the food.

MCB: What was your emotional journey like throughout all of this? Were there any life hacks/support systems you created to help you in times of challenge?
JM: Well, I cried about it for the first couple of months. I thought getting a hysterectomy would be easier than changing my diet. It felt impossible at times. But back then, I didn’t know plant-based food could be delicious.

It’s not really a “hack” because it took me some time to figure it out, but finding recipes and foods that I actually wanted to eat changed everything. I was so upset in the beginning because I thought I’d have to eat brown rice and steamed broccoli forever. I was wrong. Now I eat lasagna, curries, and hearty stews. I actually like vegetables. I just had to figure out how to cook them the right way!

MCB: Do you have a favorite go-to recipe? I saw in your interview with Katie Lemon’s that when you first started to treat yourself through diet, the very real fear-of-never-having-cookies again showed up. Do you allow yourself sweets currently? If so, what kinds of sweet treats satisfy your desires but also nourish your body?
JM: Hell yes, I allow myself sweets! Listen, I used to eat candy nearly every day before I went plant-based. Although, I’ve given up my beloved Sour Patch Kids...I’m not sure I’ll ever give up a little something-something every now and then.

I use natural sweeteners when I bake (maple syrup, honey, and dates). They don’t seem to affect my endo as much as regular old sugar. I love making a batch of my Chunky Tahini Granola or Chocolate Crispy Sandwiches.

MCB: If you could give one piece of advice to women struggling with endometriosis or other period-related challenges — who believe there isn't a one-size fits all type of treatment — what would that be?
JM: Self-care is your first priority. I don’t care how busy you are with school, work, family - you have to take care of yourself. Women with endo push through their pain and generally put themselves last. It’s impossible to feel better if you do not put yourself at the top of the list. Self-care can come in the form of eating healthy foods, taking a shower, getting in your pajamas at 5 pm, laughing, stretching in bed, and/or buying more natural products. It can be small steps and changes each day that will add up to a big one.

To learn more about Jessica, her One Part Plant movement, her amazing endo community, delicious recipes and more, visit her site here

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Devon Loftus