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Health

Top Tips for Living Well with Endometriosis

By 6th February 2019 June 12th, 2019 No Comments

Endometriosis is when the cells that line the uterus (endometrium) also grow on other organs in the body. These cells that grow outside the womb act as normal uterine cells – thickening and bleeding, just as the endometrium does during a period.

I have endometriosis and it’s something I feel really passionate about, and have worked on curing naturally for the last few years.

Seeking out unbiased and helpful information can be overwhelming, I know – especially when there are so many opinions, confusing facts, and a whole host of ‘treatments’ available. In my experience, western doctors push birth control as a means of handling the symptoms, masking the symptoms without addressing the endometriosis at its core.

I found out I had endometriosis after YEARS of having issues with my periods and going to countless doctors for help – all of whom offered me birth control as a way to treat the symptoms I was experiencing:

  • Excessive mood swings – especially in the 10 days before my period
  • Extreme pain – sometimes the pain was so bad I would pass out
  • Irregular cycles – from 23 – 36 days! They would change drastically each month
  • Acne + weight gain – my hormones were so out of whack that my skin + weight massively fluctuated with each cycle

It wasn’t until I went to a female doctor that I was finally diagnosed (after numerous hospital trips and tests). I was then, however, offered a hysterectomy as the final solution for curing my endometriosis – I decided then and there to look at alternatives as I couldn’t believe something so invasive and permanent was my only option.

For the past few years I’ve been using these tips below and have noticed DRASTIC changes. Compared to the symptoms I was experiencing above, I now have almost zero symptoms – I still experience some pain during my menstruation, but it is nowhere near as bad as it was. I have relatively acne free skin, I don’t gain weight as easily, my cycles have now gotten down to an average of 28-30 days (which for someone who used to regularly experience chaotic cycles, this is huge!!) and in general my mood is pretty stable.

My top tips for living well with endometriosis:

NOURISH YOUR BODY WITH FOOD

The number one thing that helped and still helps me is having control over my diet. When I’m consistently eating whole plant-based foods, my endometriosis hardly ever rears its ugly head. If, for example, I’m on holiday and allow myself to eat a lot processed, sugary foods, I notice symptoms almost right away! I’ve outlined below what works for me with regards to diet:

I say YES to:

  • Eating balanced meals consisting of carbs, fats, veggies + proteins
  • Healthy carbohydrates -sweet potato, brown rice, sourdough bread
  • Good fats – coconut, avocado, almond / OR peanut butter, olive oil
  • Clean proteins – beans, quinoa, tofu, tempeh
  • Leafy greens – spinach, kale, collard greens, rocket
  • Herbal teas – I like chamomile, mint, and all the Yogi tea varieties!
  • Matcha/Golden Lattes – I love matcha tea in latte form (find recipe here) and sometimes enjoy a golden milk – also known as turmeric milk (recipe here)
  • Adaptogens: ashwagandha, chaga, reishi, maca (one of my favourite + non negotiable additions to my endo recovery! read about adaptogens here)
  • Agnus castus + vitamin supplements – Vitamins D, E, C + B complex + evening primrose oil

The things I avoid most of the time:

  • Caffeine – when I first got my diagnosis I completely cut all caffeine from my diet. I’ve slowly reintroduced caffeine into my diet – first with matcha tea which has a much lower caffeine content compared to coffee – and have now I’m able to digest coffee too. I try to use coffee as fuel rather than a pick me up – it works for me to have it first thing, after a lemon water, to fuel a workout rather than to help me get over that 3pm slump.
  • Processed foods – when I say processed foods I mean foods that have gone through a massive amount of processing to get them into the state they are when you consume them – think pre-packaged cookies, sweets, ready meals, etc. I tend to eat a 80% whole food diet which still allows me room to indulge when I want to, but I try not to go too far beyond that percentage.
  • Dairy – even if I didn’t eat a plant based vegan diet, I wouldn’t consume dairy. It is linked to so many hormonal issues, and for me personally, it’s not worth the risk. When I used to consume it, I would always feel gross afterwards – my skin would flare up with acne, I’d get bloated and lethargic, I always had stomach issues – it never left me feeling good!
  • Sugar – I consider ‘sugar’ to be the refined white stuff that is highly processed and contains a number of unsafe chemicals that keeps it so white. The only sugars I like to consume are ones found naturally in fruits, date sugar, and coconut sugar. That’s not to say I don’t ever eat ‘refined’ sugar, but I try to limit my intake to avoid bad reactions and endometriosis flare ups!
  • Alcohol – yes, sorry to say it, but booze is the worst for any hormonal issues. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with alcohol for the last 15 years. Growing up a self labeled ‘party girl’ left my hormones in a state, and after massively cutting back over the last few years, I’ve recently taken the next step and gone sober. I’m not suggesting that everyone do this, but be aware that if you do have endometriosis or any other female hormonal imbalance, alcohol does nothing but wreak havoc – so maybe stick to drinking on special occasions rather than having a glass of wine every night with dinner.

At the end of the day, what you choose to eat and put in your body is UP TO YOU. It is always a personal choice, and if you have had any issues or bad relationships with food in the past, it’s important to keep within your own safe boundaries when it comes to diet. Trust your own body and instincts. Do what’s going to be sustainable and safe for YOU.

REDUCE STRESS + INCREASE SELF CARE

Secondary to the food I now eat to manage my endometriosis, finding time for self love, and reducing my overall stress levels are integral for my ongoing health journey. So often, we use stress as an excuse for over-working, we thrive on being busy, and we seem to judge how successful we are by how ‘productive’ we are. All in all, this equals for a pretty stressful life. It doesn’t matter if you live in London and work a 60 hour week, or if you work at a yoga studio in Bali and spend your afternoons on the beach – stress will still find you!! Here are some things I’ve incorporated to help manage my stress levels.

  • YOGA – carving time out of my day for yoga has an amazing effect on my hormonal balance. A gentle flow can do wonders for my stress levels. If you only do one pose, try a simple standing forward fold. Take the feet hip distance apart, fold from the hips, keep the knees bend if the spine rounds, relax the head and neck, and grab the elbows. Relax in this pose for a minute or two and notice the immediate calming effect.
  • MEDITATEthis is by far the most mood altering practice for me, but one of the hardest. It’s taken me almost a year of on/off practice to finally find a routine that works for me. I am someone who needs ‘habits’ in order to make things stick. So incorporating this into my morning routine has allowed me the space to meditate without even thinking about it. I use the Calm app and highly recommend it. You can try it for free, and then subscribe to it you want more access. If you can’t or don’t want a paid subscription a good free alternative is Insight Timer.
  • ALONE TIME – I’ll preface this by saying I don’t have kids, or pets, so yes it’s slightly easier for me to find some alone time without worrying about who will take care of my dependents. However, whatever your situation, if you can find even 5 minutes alone – time to just breathe, walk, sit, read, have a quick bath, whatever you fancy – it will have a huge positive impact on your hormones. I cherish those moments I have to myself and make them count.
  • ESSENTIAL OILS – this is something that’s still relatively new to me, but also something that I am falling in love with the more I learn about it. I love using oils for stress, energy, periods. You name it, I can find an oil for it! I often turn to reliable ones like Lavendar and Tea Tree, but I also use a hormone balancing blend of cypress, sweet basil, clary sage and geranium for managing my hormones – you can find the blend recipe here.

GIVE YOUR BODY SOME LOVE

  • USE A MENSTRUAL CUP – I’ve added this to the self care section, as for me it really is an act of self love to mindfully choose to use a menstrual cup in favor of other products. I sometimes use organic tampons depending on the situation, but for the past 2 years I’ve used a cup 90% of the time and I love it. It’s good for my body, my purse and the environment. What’s not to love?
  • DRY BODY BRUSHING – If you’re new to body brushing – its essentially a lymphatic draining process that not only helps rejuvenate the top layers of your skin – leaving them silky and smooth, but it helps move toxins out of your body and leaves you feeling pretty pampered.
  • SLEEP – sounds simple but one of the harder ones to master. Studies show that getting a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 9 hours sleep can help with a whole host of hormonal issues. Endometriosis in particular puts so much stress on the whole endocrine system, that we have to take the time each day to reset properly. Start small, track your sleep patterns, and go from there. I use an eye mask to ensure I sleep through the night without being woken up from any lights or distractions.
  • FACE MASK – sounds basic as hell but damn do I feel good after doing this. Body and face care is the ultimate act of self love. Take time each week to have a face mask and notice how that becomes a ritual that you then associate with relaxation and self love – try my homemade recipe here.

MOVE YOUR BODY

  • GO FOR A 10 MINUTE WALK – one of my favourite things to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed – which can make hormonal imbalances worse almost immediately – is to go for a short walk. If you are unable to walk then why not try a 10 minute stretch or meditation instead.
  • STRETCH – if you don’t have time for a full blown yoga session, of can’t afford to attend regular classes, sometimes a good old fashioned full body stretch will do just the trick. I like to get up from whatever I’m doing throughout the day and stretch my body. Do whatever feels good for you, and don’t push yourself too much unless you’re already warmed up!
  • YOGA – as a yoga teacher and student, I love to practice daily as a way of balancing out any higher intensity workouts I do. I also love the feeling of slowing down, stretching out, opening up my joints and building strength from the inside. If you don’t have access to a yoga mat, that’s OK. I have some easy suggestions of poses you can do at work or from home here.
  • LIFT WEIGHTS – I love to lift weights as a way to raise my heart rate without my body being under the kind of constant stress that it would be if I were running a 10k. I find that when I do too much high intensity exercise (45 mins or more per session), my cortisol levels rise too high and have an adverse affect on my hormones.
  • OTHER EXERCISE – I sometimes run, but again find that my hormones don’t respond super well to long periods of static state exercise. Instead I prefer to do 20 or 30 min HIIT routines with long breaks between sets. You can find some short and effective work out suggestions here. My heart rate goes up enough to keep healthy, but not at the expense of my hormones.

Resources + recommendations

  • I love the book The Hormone Cure by Dr Sara Gottfried
  • I use the CLUE app to track my monthly cycles
  • I like to use the CALM app to meditate
  • DOWN DOG is a great free app for yoga flows
  • I use this period cup

***If you’re reading this + think you might have endometriosis then please speak to your doctor first and push for a diagnosis before embarking on any treatment journey.

It’s important to be open with your approach to curing your endometriosis naturally, and know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Having said that, remember that you do not have to take birth control unless YOU WANT TO. It is always your decision, and you can research all your options before committing to take something.

What I have written about above worked for me, and has been compiled in the hope of helping others like me. It’s important to note that I am not a nutritionist or health coach, so I’d suggest that if these methods vary drastically from your current lifestyle – that you check with a doctor before doing anything. Some of the herbs/adaptogens I mention can have adverse effects on people who are pregnant or have diagnosed medical issues.

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