Endometriosis

On the morning of my appointment to find out the results of my MRI, I made sure to eat breakfast before the appointment to calm my nerves. I’d already skipped breakfast before my MRI and some of my other appointments due to my nervousness. This would be the appointment where I would go in with a full stomach which I thought I really needed since I was going to finally find out if my pain was coming from more than ovarian cysts.

I thought back to the MRI just a couple of weeks earlier experience, but couldn’t’ help it. I remember it being much like I imagined being raised down into a coffin would be. And my feet got really cold. I remember regretting my decision not to wear bigger, warmer socks. I remember the woman who did the MRI being really nice, how she’d asked what kind of music I would like and I said anything but head-banging music and country. Then I remembered where I was and felt bad, trying to redeem myself saying that it wasn’t that bad even though I really did thin it was. She only blinked, smiled and said, ‘Everybody here likes country, I understand it gets to be a little much.’

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I bring Woman Code everywhere I go now so that I can refer to the food plan. I felt really lucky to find Lettuce Inn, a plant-based restaurant in my hometown of Concord. I stopped by for a Flo-friendly meal. 

I remembered how the music wasn’t nearly loud enough to drown out the machine’s  deafening sound. I wanted desperately for it to be over so I could get up and out and finally figure out which song was playing. Oh, and what was wrong with me.  I remembered how I’d asked her after it was over if she saw a mass on my left side and how she’d turned away from me uncomfortable, scared to say too much. How when I assured her that I understood that she couldn’t offer too much information, she’d confessed that there was a large mass followed quickly with a comment about how the doctors would take care of me. I remembered how I’d wanted to push her aside and see the screen for myself. Unsure, really of what that would do other than give me a very short-lived bout of control over my situation that may very soon lead to dread.

I shook the thought and came back to my current appointment and put my nose back in my book. I was reading Woman Code for the third time. Finally the doctor came in and got straight to the point. She said that it wasn’t conclusive but that it looked very much like I have endometriosis. A condition where the cells lining the uterus, endometrial cells, begin to form outside of the uterus. These endometrial cells respond to the rise and fall of hormones that occur during and around your period. Which is why menstruation can be so painful for women with endometriosis.

My whole period life flashed before my eyes, all days spent in excruciating and hundreds of toxic tampons and pads used, ruined underwear, depression and anxiety, all symptoms I’d deemed normal occurrences for any woman who had her period. Now here I was, 20 years later finding out that these were all warning signs. My body trying to tell me that something was up. A woman’s menstrual cycle, it’s flow the pain involved, thoughts surrounding her period, are all an indication of the health of a woman. I was wishing I had paid attention earlier and done something about it before now. But there was no sense in looking back and regretting. I’d done enough of that this past year when it came to the death of my Mom. If I’d learned anything over the past year, it was not to wallow in regret. The best thing to do was to feel my feelings, work through them and allow them to inspire a better present and future.

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Back at my Mom’s house visiting with my sister and aunt, I stayed in the Flo food plan with wild salmon and roasted pumpkin that turned out amazing! Just preheat oven to 400 degrees, drizzle Chosen Foods Avocado Oil on the pan, lay down slices and cover with oil, pink himalayan sea salt, black pepper and roast for about 40 minutes, turning halfway through. 

For me that meant not seeing my endometriosis diagnosis as a death sentence. Yes, it was true that it could cause infertility and was already causing me a lot of pain at times. I’ve read accounts where women end up in the hospital from the twisting of organs, internal bleeding and other complications that were enough to send me into a total tailspin. To make matters worse, my choices for pain relief and possible removal of the endometrial tissue were hormonal birth control and surgery. I denied the hormonal birth control and  Alissa Vitti’s article on synthetic birth control can briefly explain why but I’ll go into more detail with another blog in the future.

Next, the my gyno told me that we could do laparoscopy to biopsy it to make sure it’s endometriosis and remove the mass. I assured her I’d be back in touch about my decisions, took her pamphlets and proceeded to retreat to my car to absorb this new information. I knew immediately that if it could be avoided, I didn’t want surgery. I’d read before that masses can grow back if you didn’t get to the root of the problem and that could mean more surgeries. I shook my head as if someone were still sitting across from me insisting on surgery. But there wasn’t.

The next things I could think of to do was to book an appointment with an Integrative Doctor, one who could help me get to the root cause of my issue and provide support through supplementation and counseling. The only problem was, I didn’t really have a home. I was staying with Mando and his Mom’s house which was so wonderful to be able to do over the summer and to heal after my Mom’s sudden death. But both Mando and I were feeling that familiar itch again, one that’s hard to explain to the people around you, but we both know all too well, means that we’re ready to go.

We had plans and I had vowed that I could take care of my health anywhere as long as we were doing what we loved. It turns out that another associated cause of endometriosis as seen by really getting to know her clients in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Dr. Christianne Northrup notice that the majority of her patients with endometriosis were having a creative struggle in their lives of some sort. Many times she could connect the link between women who were struggling with the choice between children and career. Something I have not talked about very much but I can certainly relate too considering it’s something I’ve often thought about over the last several years without considering its impact on my life.

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I made this Flo-friendly meal in our AirBnb. It’s not always easy to eat well on the road so I recommend getting a kitchen when you can. 

This is also something I will talk about more in a future post but for now I want to share the symptoms of endometriosis, foods to avoid and food and lifestyle practices that I’ve found to be helpful against endometriosis symptoms.

The cause of endometriosis involves many factors-

  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Stress levels
  • Amount of exercise
  • Relationships
  • Genes-although diet and lifestyle triggers this otherwise dormant issue
  • Occurs mostly in women of childbearing age
  • Estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Emotional issues such as the struggle women go through to decide career over having children
  • Feeling stuck creatively

Symptoms of Endometriosis 

  • Painful periods
  • Heavy periods
  • Depression
  • Long periods
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Pain during sex
  • Infertility

Women make experience, all, some or none of these symptoms.

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Getting into the ‘flo’ and synching my cycle with exercise. In this ‘ovulatory’ phase, high impact, group exercise was appropriate. In the luteal phase energy may still be high in the beginning so keeping exercise high energy is good. Then scale back during the final five days with walking, pilates or vinyasa yoga. Menstrual phase requires rest, walking and light yoga. Follicular phase is a good time to try something new that you’ve been meaning to try like Zumba or yoga sculpting. 

Foods To Avoid

  • Alcohol: consumes Vitamin B and compromises liver function
  • Caffeine: increases abdominal cramps and estrogen levels
  • Refined Carbs, including bread, flour, and anything made from refined flour
  • Dairy: causes inflammation
  • Fried Foods and Fats: promotes negative prostaglandins
  • Red Meat: promotes negative prostaglandins
  • Sugar and Honey: causes inflammation
  • Wheat, including breads, pasta, and cake

*list taken directly from floliving website

Foods That Fight Endo

  • Beans, Peas & Lentils
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green tea or Rooibis tea
  • Leeks
  • Live Yogurt
  • Onions
  • Rhubarb
  • Seeds
  • beans, peas and legumes
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like kale
  • oatmeal
  • whole grains *not wheat & rye
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Burdock
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Lemon & Lime
  • Dandelion & mustard greens
  • Watercress

Of all the great food I’ve listed, however, just as much attention has to be put to the other aspects of life. For me, being able to put down roots again get into a good routine with exercise, cooking and eating, is something that I think I very much needed and was preventing me from getting better. My stress levels were still a little up and down not knowing where we would be resting our heads for the foreseeable future. I’ve always loved having a space to share with Mando and to have for myself to decorate, cook and be creative. The moment we began bringing our belongings and some furniture into our new home, I could feel myself getting better already.

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Massage is another great form of self care that I learned to love because my Mom loved getting massages. 

Lifestyle and stress tips for endometriosis encourage getting in touch with your creative side, putting yourself first especially if you tend to be the type of woman that gives too much before giving and taking care of yourself. It has been referred to as the woman who is mothering everyone else before herself. It turns out that making time to ‘mother yourself’ and practice self care daily is vital for good health.

Consider some of these forms of self care-

  • Meditation
  • Take yourself out to a movie or lunch-just you!
  • Baths-especially with essential oils and epsom salt help with endo symptoms
  • Solo walks
  • Face masks
  • Exercise
  • Essential oils like clary sage are great for endo pain. Just use a little and rub over cramping area
  • Castor oil packs
  • Spending time in nature
  • Time with friends and family
  • Creative time for painting, writing, knitting-whatever you like to do!

All of these things and more add up to provide ultimate self care that is easy to forget about. I also think that it’s hard for some people to see what self care truly is after ‘treating’ themselves in the wrong ways for so long. For me, self care used to be having a drink after a stressful day of work or smoking pot and watching a show. I’m not saying these things make you a bad person if you do them, I’ve just come to find that they don’t always help to relieve stress in the same sustainable way that say, exercise or therapy do. So if you’re finding it difficult to practice healthy self care, just try throwing on a face mask between glasses of wine and Netflix, I promise you’ll feel better.

1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis….

Do you or anyone you know suffer from endometriosis?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I’ve talked about, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your gynecologist today. 

Resources-

Woman Code by Alissa Vitti

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christianne Northrup

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue. It affects so many women yet people tend to shy away from talking about it. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers – speak766

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