March: Endometriosis Awareness Month
Endometriosis is something not easy to talk about. It's hard knowing you have a disease that doesn't have a cure. I've decided to tell my story, if I can help one person understand a little more about what they're going through or someone they know is going through it will be worth it. One in 10 women are diagnosed with Endometriosis and so many more women go undiagnosed. What Is Endometriosis? Endometriosis only affects women and occurs when tissue, similar to the lining of the womb (uterus) grows in other areas of the body.
Some facts about Endometriosis:
• Endometriosis affects an estimated 10% of women worldwide, roughly 176 million women.
• It is estimated that 30-40% of women with endometriosis may not be able to have children.
• 1 in 10 women of reproductive age suffer from endometriosis.
• Because symptoms of endometriosis are often passed off as “normal” due to being a menstruating female, it takes on average 7.5 years from when endometriosis symptoms start to get a proper diagnosis. This is why awareness is key!
• The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain.
Read on to hear my personal experience with endometriosis and how I am learning to manage the disease!
Around the age of eighteen I started to struggle with bad period pain and bowel (gross I know, but honesty here!) issues. I took birth control to lighten my periods and really didn't know what was going on with my body. I always felt something wasn't right, that there was something wrong with me. I always joked I'd be on one of those crazy TLC shows. But every doctor I saw, GYN and Primary Care. I had allergy tests done, colonoscopies, endoscopies, you name it. Nothing came back abnormal. I went through college managing, dealing with the pain because "nothing" was wrong with me. I always felt like everyone thought I was over reacting, minimizing my pain. It was a hard thing to cope with. Learn more about the systems of endometriosis here.
After college I got really into eating clean and healthy, working out more regularly. But I was still in pain. I could hardly sit at my desk comfortably, I didn't ever want to wear jeans or real pants because I always felt bloated and in pain. At this point I was extremely uncomfortable in my own body and I was in the best shape I've ever been in. I finally decided to go back to my GYN after some research and finding out my mom has endometriosis. My GYN at the time was a older male and he was completely dismissive of my concerns. The problem with endometriosis is there is only one way to diagnose it, surgery. He told me you have the surgery or wait it out. (Wait what out btw, the pain? Forever?) I don't know if those were his exact words but he made me feel awful. I walked out that day crying and never went back, and I will NEVER see a male OBGYN ever again. As much as they have studied and as long as they have been a doctor, they do not and will not ever know how it feels.
I found a new female doctor with experience in endometriosis, my first appointment went great. I feel like she listened to my concerns, offered up options and help me to decide to move forward with a laparoscopy surgery to be sure endometriosis was the issue. So in 2014 I had the surgery. I was terrified, not really of the surgery aspect but more so of them coming back to say it was normal and no endometriosis was found. It sounds kind of silly to want to come back with a positive endo diagnosis but after 6 years of feeling terrible I just wanted answers, any answer. And well if your reading all this you know it came back positive.
I felt better than I had in a while for about two years. My doctor told me there is a high chance it would come back at some point. (And that those two years was my best shot at becoming pregnant) Knowing there was a likelihood of my pain returning I began researching more and more. That's where I found Whole30 and that certain foods had a correlation with auto immune diseases such as endometriosis. I did my first Whole30 in April of 2015 and became pregnant with my little Chandler the same month! It totally could of been a crazy coincidence but I knew one thing for sure I felt so much better eating the Whole30 way. Those months of being pregnant and postpartum I almost forgot what my endo pain felt like (nothing compared to birth I suppose)! I was really hoping my pain would never return but it unfortunately did along with my period 6 weeks postpartum. I envy moms who don't get theirs back for months!
So my little one is two now and I'm back to managing the pain. My diet is the number one thing that helps me, I follow a Whole30/Paleo based diet 90% of the time. I have a horrible sweet tooth and that is definitely my downfall. Read more about what to avoid to help endo pain here. (I'll warn you, it's all the good stuff) I try my best to at least stay away from dairy and gluten, I've notice those are the two that give me the most issue. If you have endometriosis or any other auto immune disease I highly recommend trying out a Whole30, it was really eye opening. I've done a few since then to reset myself!
I've also started using supplements such as Magnesium, B-Complex and Digestive Enzymes. I use this ClaryCalm essential oil when I'm having bad pains and a heating pad. I had some more issues around Christmas and couldn't really find an answer other than it possibly being related to the endometriosis or the birth control I was on. So I decided to come off of the pill completely for a little while to try it out. My pain has been significantly lighter along with my periods! I was amazed.
I still have pain for sure but I'm glad I've finally found some ways of coping with it. This is something that I will likely deal with the rest of my life. There is no cure and no real treatment for it. Some days that is hard to deal with but I'm slowly learning what works best for me! Feel free to reach out!
If you'd like to learn more, please visit endometriosis.org.
You can donate [here] to help with research for this disease with no cure.
*facts from endometriosis.org*