Endometriosis Diagnosis and Management
Guest Post-Sinead (@mindhealthfood)
I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog for PCOS and Nutrition about my journey with endometriosis, as a lot of women suffering from PCOS also have endometriosis. I believe that it is so important to raise awareness for this illness that affects 1 in 10 women, yet unfortunately, that there is no cure for.
Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of infertility. It is a condition where tissue similar to that inside the uterus, grows in other areas of the body, most commonly in the pelvis. This is usually on the fallopian tubes, ovaries and tissue around the uterus like the bowel and bladder. It is as common as asthma or diabetes, yet not many people have heard of it. Its cause is unknown but it does tend to run in families.
Below are some symptoms that women with endometriosis frequently report:
- pain during menstruation
- heavy menstrual bleeding and clotting
- lower back pain and pelvic pain
- pain during ovulation
- extreme fatigue/insomnia/low energy
Endometriosis can be diagnosed through laparoscopy. This is the procedure where the pelvic organs are viewed telescopically through incisions in the tummy. Unfortunately, it can take years for women to get a diagnosis, in Ireland the average delay is nine years. I was first diagnosed in 2015, after years of heavy, long cycles, pain and fatigue. Since then, I've had three laparoscopies, including an oophorectomy (removal of right ovary and tube). As well as the symptoms listed above, this illness can have a huge emotional impact on a woman. It can be very painful. The constant pain is draining and can leave you feeling exhausted. Endometriosis can affect your life in many ways. I've had days when the pain, exhaustion and anxiety has stopped me from socialising and from being able to go to work.
There is no cure for endometriosis but there are lifestyle changes and healthy daily habits you can start that will boost your immune system and reduce your symptoms. Remember, not everyone's experience and symptoms are the same, but here are 6 ways that you might be able to manage your pain a bit better;
1. Diet: A lot of women with endometriosis will suffer IBS symptoms. After lots of tests and after keeping a food diary, I discovered I needed to remove gluten, red meat and processed foods from my diet and to cut back on dairy and sugary foods. I try to add lots of antioxidants, immune supporting and anti-inflammatory foods to my diet.
You'll find lots of recipes on my Instagram page @mindhealthfood and also tips on how to improve your diet and stay on track.
2. Exercise: Lifestyle changes can help manage the pain. I find exercise very good to ease my symptoms during a flare-up. Regular exercise lowers the amount of oestrogen in the body, promotes circulation and releases endorphins or 'feel good' chemicals in your brain.
Sometimes, during a flare-up, exercise will be the last thing you will want to do, but even a 30 minute walk can reduce endometriosis symptoms. If you've had a laparoscopy or other surgeries, allow your body time to heal before you start to exercise again.
3. Mind your Mind: Reducing stress will help you to cope with and to manage your pain better. Listen to your body. Don't over do it and try to rest on days when you are very sore.
*Meditation and Mindfulness: I cannot stress how effective meditation and mindfulness are. Ten minutes of meditation before bed will support restful sleep. Practising mindfulness helps us to live in the moment and can have a positive effect on our mind, body and spirit. I'd recommend Mark William's book 'Mindfulness: Finding
Peace in a Frantic World' and the app 'Headspace.'
Reiki: A good friend of mine introduced me to reiki a few years ago. This is a form of complementary medicine. It enhances the body's own instinctive ability to heal itself and restores the natural balance of the body to reduce stress levels and increase energy.
4. Keep a diary: Try to keep track of your pain and your symptoms. For me, ovulation is the most painful time of the month. Keep track of nausea, headaches, sweating, 'endo belly' etc. Keep track, also, of what exercises help and what foods make your symptoms worse. This diary will be useful if you are explaining your symptoms to a doctor or gynaecologist.
5. Get Support: Talk to family and close friends, explain how you're feeling and don't be afraid to ask for support. There are also lots of support groups online offering tips, advice and information for sufferers of endometriosis. Do plenty of research and find a doctor you are comfortable with and write down all your questions for them before you see them.
6. Keep Positive: Some days it's hard to, but try to stay positive. Find ways to help keep yourself motivated with the healthy habits. Maybe ask a friend to exercise or to join a new class with you or do what I did and start your own instagram and blog! Anything that will help you to stay on track!
About six months ago I discovered an organisation called 'The Endometriosis Association of Ireland.' They are a charity based organisation who, in the last 30 years, have supported and educated women living with endometriosis and chronic pain. They are entirely volunteer run and the support, advice and vital information that they provide is amazing. They educate women and their families via social media, an online support group, their website and in person. They literally provide a 24/7 service and do all of this while living with their own chronic illness and working outside of the organisation. The amount of misinformation online about this illness is shocking. Since I became a member of the EAI, I have learned so much about the illness. I've relied on the group for guidance and advice a lot over the last few months and I have always gotten support and help when it was needed. I am so grateful to the women running this organisation. I spent years living with this condition before I was diagnosed. Knowing their is no cure for it is very overwhelming, but being part of a group where women understand exactly what you are going through makes it that bit easier.
If you'd like to become a member of the EAI, visit their website at www.endometriosis.ie or email them at email@example.com Membership for the year is €30 or €15 concessionary rate for students, low wages or unwaged.
They held an information day in September of this year, with amazing, informative speakers, discussing a range of topics including; acupuncture, fertility, self-care, mindfulness, pelvic physiotherapy, exercise, diet, positive mental health, pain management and much more.
One fact that I won't forget form the day was that if your mother or sister has endometriosis, you are seven times more likely to get it. I hate the idea of my daughter having to go through this so I will continue to do my best to raise awareness for this illness and to educate myself as best I can.
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