Hormones and Diet
OK let me start this blog by saying categorically I am not a doctor but what I am going to share is my personal journey and experience plus what I have learnt along the LONG road that is living with Endometriosis.
Being a woman and living with periods is quite frankly, dull at best and excruciating at its worst. There are so many of us out there suffering with 2 very serious conditions – Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Both of these have far reaching effects on our overall health and wellness.
Let me tell you a little about my own journey. I started my periods at 13, my body rapidly changed from a slim healthy child to an overweight teenager. By 15, our family GP put me on the pill to manage my painful periods. At 19, I had my first scan and was told my uterus looked “heavy” but there were no further investigations.
I lived with pain all the time – pain during sex, pain when I passed a bowel movement, pain before my period and then pain, heavy bleeding and just general malaise during my period. It continued to escalate until the pain became unbearable. I collapsed at a shopping centre and lost consciousness due to the pain. I woke up in hospital. I didn’t realise this was a turning point- finally there were some more investigations.
A CT scan revealed I had Stage 5 endometriosis, over 40 cysts spread over my uterus, bladder and bowel. My ovaries were pushed together (this was what was causing the fainting). I had my first surgery and this was the beginning of a long journey. I had hormone treatment that replicated menopause, I had more surgeries. There was even talk of a hysterectomy. I was told that I would never have children and that if by some miracle I did conceive I would never carry a baby due to my scarring.
I did everything the doctors told me and sometimes life was better and other times, worse. I saw a pain management specialist who just prescribed a ton of medications. I was at the end of the line with traditional medicine and I started investigating alternatives.
I saw a Chinese herbalist and tried out a herbal tea and acupuncture. It gave me some relief. I tried intense chiropractic plans that were actually quite uncomfortable. I saw a naturopath who prescribed a load of treatments including supplements. She recommended I changed my diet but in truth, I was not strong enough to do this at the time. If only I knew how much my diet would impact my health.
So the good news is I went on to have 2 beautiful sons and am happily married and enjoy a generally pain-free life. However, I still have flare ups and they really knock me around. They are considerably less frequent and less intense. I know my diet and health regime have loads to do with this.
• 50% of women with PCOS are either obese or overweight.
• Insulin resistance can make it harder to lose weight.
• Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and endometrial cancer.
• Being obese is a risk factor.
• Having allergies is also a risk factor – this includes hay fever, eczema and food intolerances.
• Higher risk factor for heart disease.
All this makes for depressing reading – as if living with a painful condition is not hard enough, we now need to face the very real prospect that these diseases may have on our long-term health.
The more I read and research, the more I learn about how we can better manage our symptoms and overall health. There is still not enough research into the impact on our mental health but suffice to say living in pain does not make us feel bright and sunny.
So if you are living with PCOS or Endometriosis, here are a few things I have found in my research that you can try to improve your quality of life:
Gather your support network – I seriously spent too many years hiding my pain and feeling alone and isolating – we all have people who love us who want to support and care for us, so let them.
Take up some regular walking
Just 20-30 minutes a day. Here is what you will notice. You will feel more positive and better able to cope with your symptoms. You might notice a decrease in the severity of your pain and your periods. Getting some fresh air will also change your outlook and can shake up a pain attack.
Remove all oestrogen type foods from your diet
This includes any meat with added hormones and certain soy-based foods.
Research has found a link between a high-fat diet and the level of oestrogen in our bodies so go for a low-fat diet.
Maintaining a healthy weight
This is shown to improve our overall health and wellness and can reduce our symptoms.
Take a high quality probiotic.
I am not talking about a cheap one from the supermarket. Do your research and investigate one that includes both a pre and pro-biotic. Take it regularly and you will quickly notice a change. This year alone I have taken 6 rounds of antibiotics and wow, this probiotic certainly kept things in check.
Add supplements but again the right ones
Focus on getting plenty from a healthy diet but add in the following that research has shown can assist both PCOS and endometriosis: B Vitamins, Vitamin D3, Chromium, Zinc, Magnesium and Omega 3.
Go for real foods and avoid processed foods
Think fresh fruit and veg with good proteins.
Address your gut health to assist with insulin resistance, common in PCOS. This is a blog in itself but many of the above points will assist your gut in healing.
Be kind to yourself
Sometimes we can cope better with our illness and it is then we should consider making lifestyle changes. When we are low and suffering, it is hard to consider how we can get through the next attack, let alone consider making positive changes.
I have only recently embraced rest as a real thing in terms of my treatment plan. Rest is key – we must give ourselves permission to stop, reflect and allow our bodies to heal. Take baby steps with rest but this is an important aspect of your healthy lifestyle.
I hope this blog has given you some ideas to help you enjoy a better lifestyle whilst living with PCOS or Endometriosis.