What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You
Do You Have Endometriosis?
About 3 years ago, I stopped taking birth control for the first time in almost 15 years. It wasn’t for any reason other than I was getting married and the current pill had caused weight gain. Then, due to high-stress and yes, laziness, I never resumed this habit. A year went by without a cycle. At the time, all I could think was HALLELUJAH! THIS is what true joy is! Then a good friend of mine pointed out the obvious: “Angela, this is your body telling you something isn’t right.” What that something was, I may never know. About a month later, I did finally start my cycle again. It was irregular, and sporadic, but it was there. And it gradually grew in ferocity, reminding me that as a young adult, I had been diagnosed with endometriosis.
The purpose of this blog is to help others [& by default, myself] realize that heavy cramping, severe pain, and extensive bleeding are not normal and there are ways to negate these symptoms. It’s also to give you some educational tools that will allow you to cultivate new habits that can alleviate pain or simply just give you a platform to share your story and know you’re not alone. The bottom line is: if you experience any of these symptoms, go see your doctor. These signs can be indicative of something greater at play, and it’s important to make sure that above all else, you’re healthy and can continue your journey to finding a balanced lifestyle that isn’t derailed on a monthly basis.
So what IS endometriosis? This disorder happens when tissue grows outside of your uterus and on other areas in your body where it doesn't belong [Mayo Clinic]. It can cause a variety of symptoms such as:
Pain in the lower abdomen, lower back, pelvis, rectum, or vagina
Pain during intercourse
Abnormal menstruation, heavy menstruation, irregular menstruation, painful menstruation, or spotting
Nausea, diarrhea or constipation
Severe abdominal cramping, fullness or bloating
I feel like almost every woman I know can identify with at least 1 of these symptoms, and according to Dr. Eric Surrey of the Colorado Center of Reproductive Medicine:
“The disease is one of the most common gynecologic disorders in America, affecting an estimated one in 10 women, yet there is a lack of awareness and prioritization of endometriosis as an important women's health issue.”
Considering periods have been happening since the dawn of time, this is more than a bit concerning. So what do we do? Let’s start with what you’re ingesting and see how that could be contributing to your pain level.
If you’re anything like me, that time of the month literally turns you into a raving lunatic for sugar. I have noticed a direct correlation to an increased intake of alcohol/sugar to increased pain in the day before, of and the second day of my cycle. The following suggestions might be beneficial to take notice of, and begin tweaking what you eat and when you eat it.
“When attempting to relieve endometriosis symptoms naturally, begin by eliminating foods that lead to inflammation. This includes dairy, processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine and carbohydrates. Eliminate these foods from your diet for at least three weeks, paying close attention to your body changing throughout the process. Alcohol, soy and other high-estrogen foods should also be eliminated from your diet because of their estrogenic effects.” [https://draxe.com/endometriosis-symptoms/]
There have also been several studies that link endometriosis and diets high in red meat/low in greens and fruit. One such study ‘compared 504 healthy women and 504 women with endometriosis, finding that women who ate beef every day were nearly twice as likely to have endometriosis, while those who got seven or more fruit and vegetable servings a week were at least 40 percent less likely.’ Those are some serious stats, and hopefully made you sit up and take notice. I mean, if upping my intake of veggies allows me to walk upright when I’m typically curled up in the fetal position, I think I might give it a whirl.
“So what's going on? One theory is that dietary fat influences your body's production of prostaglandins, chemicals that stimulate uterine contractions and affect ovarian functioning. It's thought that high levels of prostaglandins could lead to higher production of estrogen, which could influence the growth of endometrial tissue. Other studies find a link between high-fat diets and levels of circulating estrogen; the more fat in your diet, the more estrogen your body produces.” [http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/lifestyle-and-dietary-changes-endometriosis]
This is one I can fully, 100% endorse, having tested it extensively. Every article I’ve read sites three or more days of moderate- to high-high intensity exercise for a minimum of 4 hours/week. This will also help you keep a low percentage of body fat. Regular exercise and a lower amount of body fat help decrease the amount of estrogen circulating through the body. [https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis#references]
Not only does movement help release the your abdominal muscles, it also provides a welcome distraction from the pain. Having a buddy system also keeps you honest and committed to showing up for your pre-arranged workout, even if your first instinct is to stay buried under the covers. Keep in mind that a significant amount of jumping, running, and moving up & down, can be uncomfortable when you’re midsection feels so tender and raw. This is when it’s important to listen to your body, and modify as needed. Be honest with yourself and with your coach. We’ve all been there, so we can all relate!
When it’s all said & done, sometimes it does benefit you to minimize movement and give your body the rest and love that it so desperately desires. Some of my favorite go-to’s:
Epsom Salt Baths + essential oils
Heating blanket/rice pillow
High waisted pants [think of it like swaddling an infant with a tummy ache]
There are many other avenues to explore, and I would love to hear what you’ve done in the past. Share with our community so we can keep the education train going! It always helps to know you’re not alone and we all can get a bit emotional on our period [or leading up to it...or after it...wait a minute, when am I NOT emotional???] Can’t wait to hear what have been your go-to’s and what your journey has been.
XOXO Coach Angela