Endometriosis: Feeling this way is NOT normal...are you affected?
Endometriosis is something that not only can make having a baby potentially tougher, but is also notoriously difficult to diagnose. So how do you know if you may have a problem? We speak to one of our expert board advisors Natalie Ferris an endometriosis sufferer herself about her story to diagnosis the things you should watch out for and most crucially the factors that can help:
If I could tell past self one thing before my actual diagnosis of Endometriosis, it would be that severely painful periods aren’t normal. I wish I could have told myself to go and and see my doctor a lot sooner rather than just accepting it as ‘something women have to go through’.
I have always suffered from crippling periods since my teens and was prescribed the contraceptive pill by my doctor at 17. This made my periods a lot easier and I was running like clockwork without any pain, until I decided to stop taking it when I was 25. That was when the pain came back, along with hormonal acne, mood swings and chronic fatigue. Again, I thought that this was normal and every month went through the same ordeal.
It wasn’t until a chance scan that doctors discovered a very large cyst sitting on my left ovary. That was when my journey towards getting answers began.
Endometriosis is hard to diagnose:
I waited on the NHS waiting list for nearly two years before I eventually had a laparoscopy, the results of which concluded I did indeed have Endometriosis. As I hadn’t had any children yet, the doctors decided to drain the large cyst attached to my ovary but did remove several other endometriomas from my womb and Fallopian tubes. I was told if I wanted to conceive I should start immediately while my reproductive area was clear.
That was the start of my own quest to research Endometriosis and see if by changing my own diet and lifestyle I could manage this better myself. What I learnt was very interesting…..
As a personal trainer my lifestyle is generally very healthy. I exercise regularly, I eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and I try and limit sugar. One thing I did find that has made a HUGE difference to me personally was cutting red meat, limiting dairy and reducing caffeine- all inflammatory to the body. Click here to learn much more on Inflammation.
Protein intake was of course a priority to me, working out to build muscle was my intention so of course I was eating a lot of red meat, yoghurt and cheese and very early mornings meant a LOT coffee! I had no idea that these foods sources could actually be making my situation worse. It was actually only the exercise that had kept my symptoms at bay and thankfully I was only diagnosed as Stage 1. Phew.
How does exercise help?
Well studies have shown that regular physical activity helps reduce oestrogen levels and moderates the production of prostaglandin (the body’s pain receptors) which are released during your cycle. Yoga and Pilates moves also gently stretch the pelvic tissues and muscles that could be bound together by Endometriosis. I have since made more of a conscious effort to include yoga into my training and reduce the amount of strength sessions I was doing per week, from 4 to 2. Stress on the body can also aggravate inflammation (click here to learn more) so a combination of exercise to de-stress the body is essential. Make sure you are exercising to feel good, not run yourself into the ground.
Acupuncture, I’ve found, is another great way to regulate the menstrual cycle with Endometriosis. It can help to regulate the smooth flow of blood from the uterus and decrease the body’s immune response. This is important if trying to conceive but also Acupuncture is shown to reduce the production of cortisol (stress hormone - learn more about how this affects conception here) which is equally essential. It has noticeably improved my stress levels and really helped improve the pain at certain times in the month. Alongside this, I’ve been adding some powerful herbs into my smoothies and meals. In traditional Chinese medicine, Endometriosis is linked to blood stasis. Essentially, this means that blood circulation is poor, which contributes to the disease. Quite a few different herbs can be taken that will prevent blood stagnation and promote a healthy qi, or energy.
My top 4 are:
Vitamin D3: many women who suffer from endometriosis also have vitamin D deficiency (same goes for PCOS).
Cramp bark plus: this is a Chinese herbal blend which contains ingredients such as cinnamon twigs, red peony, and various other Chinese herbs. This blend stimulates blood flow and warms the energy channels of your body.
Spirulina: This superfood plant is an excellent source of protein, minerals, and antioxidants. However, perhaps the most important quality for endo sufferers is that it’s an anti-inflammatory. The blue-green, freshwater algae come in both capsule and powder form. It boosts energy and enhances the immune system (click here to learn much more)
Maca root: this balances hormones and promotes fertility. I usually have a scoop full of powder form in a shake every day - click here to learn more.
Six months after my operation I've recently had a follow up scan which showed that although the cyst on the ovary has grown back, there were no signs of any new endometrioma formations. I’m taking this as a positive and a sign that my hormones are finally starting to balance. What’s more is that I now have little to no pain in the week before my period and no acne whatsoever. My cycle has also returned to normal. Although I’m yet to see a positive pregnancy test, all in all I am feeling more and more balanced every month and will continue to do everything within my control to not let Endometriosis stop my dreams of becoming a Mum.
To see more from Natalie and to follow her story check her out on Instagram: @natalief_pt
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.