Managing Disease Through Diet | Jessica Murnane

Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Soup | A Couple Cooks

Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Soup

Jessica Murnane, of the blog with the same name, is someone whose life has been turned upside down by whole foods (in a good way). After suffering chronic pain with endometriosis, she heard the idea of eating a whole foods diet to help manage the disease. She took the plunge and a few weeks into the diet, her pain started to fade. Today she’s essentially pain-free and eats a plant-based gluten-free diet, inspiring others to do the same through her blog and podcast. We’re not only big fans of Jessica but very interested in the link between diet and disease, so we’re so excited to present this Healthy & Whole post with her story. 

Almost five years ago, I was faced with getting a hysterectomy. My endometriosis had become so severe that I couldn’t make it out of bed most mornings. In addition to the stomach pain and knock-you-out periods, I suffered from urinary urgency, painful sex, fatigue, diarrhea + constipation (yes, both), and excessive bleeding. The sad thing is that I didn’t even know these were symptoms of endometriosis. I just thought these things were my norm…the way my body “was”.

Jessica Murnane

When I was finally diagnosed in my late 20’s, things didn’t get much better. I went through a couple of surgeries, pain killers, “natural” pain killers (wink), and even therapy to deal with my depression caused from the pain. Nothing worked. My doctors told me they weren’t sure what else they could do. They said a hysterectomy was my best option. And I agreed to it.

Then I got an email from a friend that changed everything. She sent me a website that outlined how a whole foods plant-based diet could help manage or eliminate endometriosis pain. The designer in me rolled my eyes at the site (it was super outdated and had about 30 different fonts). The skeptic in me questioned the legitimacy of the site (my doctors for sure would have told me about this whole diet change thing!). The dairy-sugar-bacon-soda-cookie loving me thought there was no way in hell I would ever give up any of the foods I loved (no way).

Changing my eating habits didn’t even feel like a possibility for me. It’s really sad and a little embarrassing to admit, but back then I thought it would just be easier to get the hysterectomy than change my diet. Changing what I ate wasn’t just about the food I put in my mouth. Food had all sorts of traditions and feelings surrounding it. No more fondue dates with my husband. No more pizza nights with my friends. No more late night summer ice cream runs. Making this change was fueled with so many emotions, but mostly fear.

But I had nothing to lose and I think part of me liked the challenge. So I agreed to try. But only for a month. I was gonna get the hysterectomy anyway.

Because I’m writing this piece for the Healthy & Whole series, I think you know what happened next. My pain and all my other symptoms started to fade after just a few weeks on the diet. My taste buds began to change and I began to crave the things that were good for my body. I created new traditions and celebrations surrounding my new planty-ways. After just a few months, feeling good and pain-free was now my norm…the way my body “was”.

Spiced Red Lentils and Rice | A Couple Cooks

Spiced Red Lentils and Rice

Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream Sandwiches | Jessica Murnane

Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream Sandwiches | Jessica Murnane

Rosemary and Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes | Jessica Murnane

Rosemary & Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes | Jessica Murnane

Was it easy? Hell no. I cried the first month not knowing what to eat or how to cook for my new lifestyle. But I slowly began to gain confidence in the kitchen. I learned to become more patient with myself. And I discovered that change doesn’t have to be all or nothing – it’s about working through things one part at a time.

So where do you start? The simple answer is…you just have to start. I’ve included a few recipes of my own and from A Couple Cooks to get you going. All are whole plant-based dishes (even cookies!). Try one out and see what you think. Start small or go all in. Just do what works for you!

Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream Sandwiches
Rosemary & Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Spiced Red Lentils and Rice
Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Soup

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 4:17 am

    Such an interesting article – like you guys, I’m very interested in the link between what we eat + health and how our diet can shape our journey to wellness. It’s so inspiring to see what good has come out of the changes that Jessica has made!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 8:09 am

    I don’t want to air all my problems on a blog, but I’m really glad I read this post! I would say, my issues are similar and I’m trying to manage with diet as well (the drugs are making me loopy and they are not working!) I really need to start exploring diet for my the issues I am having and hopefully they will get resolved.

  • Reply
    lynsey |
    March 4, 2015 at 9:22 am

    As a nutritionist i love hearing these stories about how people’s lives changed all because of what they put in their body. The connection between diet and disease is really powerful, and by sharing these stories I know so many more will be inspired to push out of their comfort zone and experience it first hand. Thanks for sharing. xo

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Thanks so much for letting me share my story here. You made me look goooood. Your site is so damn beautiful. Thanks x A Milli

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 9:57 am

    So happy to see Jessica over here telling her story. She is such an incredible inspiration in this food/heath/environment/wellness movement! And of course you two bring so much to the table as well, important stuff that totally needs to be discussed!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Very inspiring story!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    March 4, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I love reading stories like this. Taking charge of your health is an incredible, empowering thing. Each of these recipes looks amazing! Can’t wait to try the sweet potato one.

  • Reply
    Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth
    March 4, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing Jessica’s story. Food is always the best medicine in my book!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
    March 4, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Wow, what an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story Jessica. And as importantly, thank you for showing all of us that our bodies are resilient and when given half a chance, can often heal with proper care and food.

  • Reply
    Zoe McCaslin
    March 11, 2015 at 6:17 am

    I’m happy to hear Jessica has transformed her life for the better through diet. I have recently embarked on the same journey. I have RA and suffered extremely painful episodes rendering me almost unable to walk. I have started a Paleo Diet Lifestyle and two months in, my health has been on the up and symptoms of the RA piratically non existent. I strongly believe in what we eat and how that effects our lives goes hand in hand. I have started a blog detailing my journey. Please feel free to take a look. If I can help just one person, it will have been a success.

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