Curled up, lying in bed, frustrated and angry at the disease causing you so much pain. Sick and tired of listening to people tell you “It’s all in your head” or “You’re sick again?”
Wouldn’t it be great if that last surgery had left you pain-free like you hoped? What about the mountain of medications in your bathroom, making your cabinet look like a pharmacy? Some women are even put into a chemically induced menopausal state to help relieve the symptoms of endo, which one woman describes as “a thousand tiny hands inside grabbing my abdominal muscles, back muscles, and bowels, pulling and twisting them.”
There are natural ways to help manage the condition and its symptoms. We encourage women with endo to educate themselves about all of the options available to them so that they can make an informed decision about the approach that will best suit their needs and condition.
Natural Alternatives to Surgery and Medications for Endometriosis
Exercise and Physical Activity
There are several reasons why exercise can be beneficial for women with endo. Our body releases endorphins during exercise. Endorphins are chemicals that the body produces naturally, mimicking the affects of pain relievers and enhancing your mood. The body will begin producing endorphins after about 10 minutes of exercise. Working out is a great way to start your day because you will enjoy the energy boost and will feel less groggy. It’s also a great way to relieve stress and start your day right.
Lowering estrogen is one of the most common ways to manage endometriosis symptoms. Can you guess what regular exercise does? Yes, it can help lower your body’s estrogen levels and is a natural way to help you keep your hormones in check.
While it is true that the gym isn’t for everyone, don’t let that stop you from being active. Find a nature trail where you can ride a bike or go for a leisurely walk. Being out in nature is a great way to get away from your busy life to take some ‘you time’ and remind yourself of what’s important. For the animal lovers out there, take your dog on longer walks, seek out new walking paths and explore areas of your town that you’ve never visited before.
Regular physical activity can be difficult for someone living with chronic pain — and chronic pain sufferers must listen to their body. No one knows your body like you do and if it is telling you “Not today, you need to rest,” then listen to it. Health and wellness requires maintaining an ongoing dialogue with our bodies, giving it the rest it needs to recharge.
Be sure to consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program.
Yoga and Endometriosis
Yoga is a widely accepted form of gentle exercise that can reduce inflammation and relieving stress. Yoga can open up the body and mind, and increase blood flow to areas in need of healing. There are many resources available ranging from videos to infographics that help guide you through the poses and techniques; for those unfamiliar, yoga sessions generally take you through a series of poses designed to strengthen, stretch and relax different areas of the body.
Whether your goal is to increase energy or relieve stress and tension, yoga can be done any time during the day and can easily fit into your schedule, with most sessions ranging between 20-30 minutes. Early morning, before work, is a great time to get the blood flowing and wake your body up after a good night’s rest. On the other hand, many enjoy an after-work session because it gives them time to quiet the mind and melt away the day’s tension.
If you are planning on doing yoga for endometriosis, there are specific poses that can be particularly beneficial. Poses that target the pelvic and abdominal region can help release tightness and provide relief throughout painful menstrual cycles. Read an article by yoga expert Esther Myers on specific poses for endometriosis.
Eating for Endo
Research continues to point to the link between food and the severity of endometriosis symptoms. That’s right – pain relief may be found in your fridge – or more importantly, by avoiding some of the things in your fridge.
A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that dietary therapy is “more effective than surgery plus placebo to obtain relief of pain associated with endometriosis stage III-IV and improvement of quality life.” Furthermore, the study found that dietary therapy is equally effective as hormonal suppression treatment.
What exactly is dietary therapy? Dietary therapy is founded on the principle that endometriosis is extremely estrogen sensitive. Furthermore, cramps during your period are caused by prostaglandin synthesis. Dietary therapy focuses on reducing or increasing foods that can impact your body’s delicate balance of these hormones. Learn more about dietary therapy and endometriosis.
Here are foods to avoid:
- Wheat, refined and concentrated carbohydrates, refined sugars and honey, and dairy, because they cause inflammation
- Red meats, caffeine, fried food, margarine, and hydrogenated fats, because they stimulate negative prostaglandins
- Tinned and frozen packaged food, additives, and preservatives, because they increase the chemical load on the system
You might be thinking – what exactly can I eat? Good choices include whole grains (excluding wheat and rye), beans, peas, brown rice, vegetables, fruits and oatmeal, evening primrose, walnut oil, flax seed oil, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage and turnips.
Major changes to your diet can be overwhelming at first, so start small. Begin by designating one day a week to follow your new diet and then, over time, slowly add additional days.
Manual Physical Therapy for Endometriosis
You may be surprised to learn that a non-surgical therapy can dramatically improve endometriosis-related pain.
During therapy, which typically consists of a 20-hour treatment program, therapists work to free up the abdomen and pelvic region, where the adhesions that form around endometrial implants can cause significant pain. This non-surgical, drug-free treatment does not involve any of the side-effects of drugs or the risks associated with surgery, such as infection and the formation of new adhesions.
Per a published study, after receiving the non-surgical therapy:
- 39% of participants reported decreased pre-menstrual pain
- 50% had less or no ovulation pain
- 61% had decreased menstrual pain
- 80% of participants reported decreased intercourse pain (Wurn et al., 2011)