IS ENDOMETRIOSIS DICTATING YOUR LIFE?
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and is the cause of infertility in 9 to 50 percent of the cases. That’s a statement!
One of those 10 women is actress Lena Dunham. A few months ago she went through a total hysterectomy as a way to end her years-long battle with chronic pain caused by endometriosis.
Recently, a good friend and client of mine wanted to help her sister, struggling with the same condition, better understand her options to relieve her symptoms naturally and asked me for advice.
Having seen how much this has helped her in making an informed decision on what to do next, I wanted to share, so you can, in turn, do the same and help a few women out there struggling with endometriosis find relief naturally.
A diagnosis challenge
Suffering from endometriosis is challenging but not knowing what’s causing your symptoms is even worse.
Thousands of women don’t know they have this common condition and most of them are diagnosed in their 20’s and 30’s after going through an average of 7-10 physicians. Why? It is not so easy to diagnose, and the only way to tell for sure is through a surgical test.
To make the diagnosis even more difficult, some women can have the condition without having the symptoms, and other women can have the same symptoms but no endometriosis.
Either way, that’s way too many years (and way too many physicians!), in my opinion, to suffer from painful cramps, heavy periods, inflammation, pelvic pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and painful sex.
The not so good news is there is no cure for endometriosis. The great news is that there are ways of making changes in your diet and lifestyle habits to significantly relieve your symptoms, keep them in check and not succumb to meds in most cases.
But before we get to that, quick explanation of what endometriosis is and its symptoms so you can bring more awareness to what’s causing you or those who you love some trouble.
What is endometriosis?
A condition caused by one or more of these factors – a hormonal imbalance, more specifically an excess in estrogen; your body’s over-acting immune response to what it thinks is attacking you; and emotional issues.
Quick women’s anatomy lesson. Every month the uterus lining known as endometrium grows and gets thicker to support a fertilized egg. If the egg is not fertilized, the uterus sloughs off the lining which becomes your period. All of this is normal.
What’s not normal is when the endometrium tissue grows outside of the uterus in places such as the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and even the intestines, causing inflammation, irritation, scar tissue and in many cases infertility.
What are the symptoms?
A whole lot of painful cramps, nausea, bloating, vomiting, heavy periods, diarrhea and painful sex. It happens every month just right before or during your period but can also last all month.
It’s also very common that women suffering from this condition develop yeast overgrowth in their intestines, but they never realize it and blame their tummy pain to endometriosis or period pain.
The number one contributing factor to endometriosis is an excess of estrogen, and American women have the highest levels of it in the world. The good news is that we can reduce our estrogen levels naturally by choosing the right foods in our diet and avoiding chemicals in our personal care and household products that cause that imbalance.
How can a healthy diet and lifestyle help?
Immensely. It’ll take you a little longer than taking hormone therapy, painkillers or go through surgery (in extreme cases) but the reward is priceless and sustainable long term.
These are my 3 recommended steps to a healthier and symptoms-free you:
1. Boost your immune system by adding yummy, healthy and nutrient-rich foods and staying away from the worst triggers of symptoms.
Cruciferous veggies work in amazing ways in women’s bodies. Try to add more broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy to your diet. Get also used to more garlic, ginger, onions, leeks, and legumes as they are great anti-oxidants and immune boosters.
Take 25 grams of fiber daily so you can eliminate what you don’t want in your system. Great sources of fiber are quinoa, legumes and non-gluten grains and oats, of course in addition to the obvious leafy greens and veggies.
Reduce your alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar and carbs intake. What?! Why? Alcohol makes your liver work super hard to metabolize estrogen, a super important task to reduce the excess you have in your body; caffeine increases the number and intensity of cramps and your estrogen levels, and refined carbs and sugars cause inflammation.
2. Minimize exposure to xenoestrogens, a type of endocrine disruptor that mimics your body’s natural estrogen and causes estrogen dominance.
You probably know you should avoid BPA, PCBs, triclosan, and Phthalates as much as possible in your personal care, household and other products. READ MORE: GLOWING SKIN FROM NATURAL BEAUTY PRODUCTS
But have you heard of dioxin? This environmental pollutant is public enemy number one because it doesn’t degrade in the environment and has an amazing ability to dissolve in fat tissue, staying in your body for years!
What to do?
Reduce, or even better, eliminate non-organic dairy and animal products, especially red meat. Conventionally farmed cows accumulate dioxin in their fat tissue and are also treated with hormones. This mix can be the perfect storm to start a hormonal cascade. Avoid bad fats as much as possible. READ MORE: NO MORE TRANS FATS IN YOUR FOOD
Avoid pesticides and go organic as much as you can. Apply the 80/20 rule here – eat organic 80% of the time, leaving 20% for when you don’t know where your food comes from. In just 2 weeks you’ll feel the difference. Gluten, especially, causes a lot of trouble, so take a break from it and see how you feel.
Avoid chlorine bleach cleaning products, bleached coffee filters and paper products (napkins, tissue, and paper towels)
Stay away from triclosan in hand sanitizers, hand and body soaps, and toothpaste. Triclosan degrades into dioxin in personal care products.
3. Relieve your pain naturally.
Painkillers provide short-term relief but encourage the underlying cause of endometriosis by straining your liver.
Essential fatty acids will win the battle against pain as they’re considered our bodies’ natural painkillers. Add flax seeds to your oatmeal, smoothies, and soups or sprinkle walnuts on your salads and munch on them as a snack.
Evening primrose oil works really well for many women, and castor oil packs help reduce pain and inflammation.
Already mentioned that coffee increases the number and intensity of cramps, right? Sorry! Don’t kill the messenger…
Try acupuncture! It is my favorite natural healing experience and a method that has worked wonders in relieving my stubborn menopausal symptoms in combination with changes in my diet and lifestyle. I am addicted to the walking-jelly type of feeling after my sessions. If there is one addiction you are allowed to have, acupuncture is definitely one.
If after reading all this, you’re either skeptical or don’t have the time or energy to give it a try and stop your meds, I have a tip for you to give you the time you need to be ready. Get some milk thistle from your vitamin store. This herb contains an antioxidant that strengthens your liver to detox the body of excess estrogen, and it is anti-inflammatory. Milk thistle is the one powerful herb you can rely on if you have endometriosis.
Although I don’t suffer from endometriosis myself, I highly relate because I’ve seen too many women struggle unnecessarily to make sense of it all as they didn’t have the right information or advice, which is the same experience I had going through early menopause. Read my story. Chronic pain shouldn’t become the norm and meds are not always the right or only choice.
If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms and think you may have endometriosis, reach out. I can give you important advice on what tests you should ask your doctor to diagnose it. If you have already been diagnosed and would like to relieve your symptoms naturally and give it a good try, I’d love to hear your story and help you out.