Endometriosis Awareness takes place across the globe during the month of March with a mission to raise awareness of a disease which affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide.
Endometriosis is an invisible illness that affects one in 10 women. Endometriosis is a female disease in which endometrial-like tissue is found outside of the uterus. This tissue, which normally lines the uterus, is associated with monthly menstruation and is often characterized by abnormal painful and heavy periods, as well as pelvic pain, severe cramps, and pain with sex (dyspareunia).
In conjunction with Endometriosis Awareness month, here are 5 tips on how to manage your endometriosis.
1. Take a deep breath
Research shows that people who have persistent pain tend to hold their breath or take shallow breaths into their upper chest. We also know that deep breathing helps to calm the nervous system, which is responsible for how much pain we can feel. With deep breathing, you can stretch the abdomen, ribs and pelvic floor, which can all get tight with endometriosis and pelvic pain.
2. Decrease inflammation in your diet
75 percent of women with endometriosis who eliminate gluten and wheat from their diet will experience an improvement in their pain and abdominal symptoms. Gluten and sugar are known to cause more inflammation in the gut, and endometriosis symptoms worsen with inflammation. Elimination of dairy and dairy products also reduce inflammation.
Leafy green vegetables like kale, as well as vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, will help with lowering inflammation in the body, boosting immunity, enhancing detoxification, and overall improving gut and hormone health. Eating a largely plant-based whole foods diet will reduce abdominal and pelvic pain.
Yoga has been found to be very therapeutic for women with endometriosis. From the stretching that occurs in the pelvis, hips and abdomen, to the deep breathing and relaxation, the benefits of yoga are endless. Yoga also allows the nerves to slide and glide through the tissue, which helps to calm the nervous system.
Strength training is important for overall health and wellbeing. While stretching is important for releasing tension, it is equally important to build strength in surrounding muscles such as the buttock muscles, back muscles and upper body muscles. There are so many benefits to exercising, not just for physical health but also for mental health, as well as pain reduction.
At least 50 percent of women with endometriosis will experience painful sex. This is directly related to tension in the pelvic floor muscles. Women with endometriosis need to learn to relax their pelvic floor muscles. A physiotherapist can give some helpful tips on how to do this.
4. Vitamin Supplementation
We usually think of melatonin as a sleep supplement, and indeed, it is the natural substance that increases at night in our brains to tell us to get some sleep! However, melatonin is also a powerful natural detoxifier, especially of excess or harmful forms of estrogen, and perhaps this explains its powerful role in endometriosis care.
Short for N-acetyl-cysteine, NAC is a powerful supplement that increases glutathione, one of the most important detoxifiers naturally produced in our bodies. However, many of us aren’t producing quite enough to keep up with the demands put on our bodies by chronic exposure to environmental toxins and even overproduction of our own natural hormones – including estrogen.
Antioxidants such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins E, C, and D have some healing and anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to help with endometriosis pain. They can also metabolize estrogen.
5. Manage your stress
Stress is the biggest contributor to poor health in the 21st century, and the case is no different for women with endometriosis. When we are stressed, cortisol increases throughout our bodies. When cortisol is being overproduced, it burns through progesterone, and when progesterone is low, periods become heavier and more painful.
Massage can help release muscle tension and soothe the nervous system. Women with endometriosis can try gentle massage starting away from the pelvis and hips and slowly working towards the hips as the massage concludes. Having a foot massage can also ease tension in the back and pelvis.
Acupuncture can also be really helpful for easing tension in muscles and relaxing the nervous system. Acupuncture can be helpful for pain, as well as for regulating periods and for fertility.
Remember: you are not alone in this journey. We are here to help!
At Denver Fertility, we have two physicians, Drs Albrecht and Ambler, who routinely treat women with endometriosis. Please call our office and make an appointment.