Lifestyle Changes for Managing Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition that affects women of reproductive age worldwide (about 15%). It is a condition that affects the reproductive system where endometrium-like tissues proliferate in other organs that are outside the uterus like the ovaries. The tissue normally only grows in the uterus in preparation for the implantation of an embryo, but in endometriosis, the cells may stick to other organs, then as they try to shed like during a menstrual cycle they have nowhere to go. The trapped blood from these cells can then cause inflammation of the nearby organs and tissues. The cause of the condition is unknown and there is no current definitive cure. The symptoms that are experienced in the condition include:
- Painful menstrual cycles and heavy bleeding
- Painful intercourse
- Painful bowel movements
Though there is no known definitive cure for the condition, however, there are ways to manage the condition and reduce the risk of it.
Effect of different types of Food on Endometriosis
Making changes in the diet can help an individual dealing with endometriosis better manage the condition. These changes include the consumption of more fruits, whole grains, and vegetables and cutting down on processed food, red meat, and excessive alcohol. Some of the food tips that can help with endometriosis include:
- Increased eating of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – High fiber intake has been associated with a lowering of estrogen levels which could help manage endometriosis. They are also very potent antioxidants. Research suggests that antioxidants can decrease menstrual pain, painful intercourse, and pelvic pain severity in individuals with endometriosis.
- Increased intake of omega-3 fats – These fats are anti-inflammatory fats that can be gotten in fatty fish, and some animal and plant sources. They usually help build up the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving molecules in the body. These help to fight the two main symptoms of inflammation which are pain and inflammation.
- Gluten-free diet – there is some evidence that this may be beneficial to individuals with endometriosis. Research suggests a significant reduction in the pelvic pain experienced in individuals that adhered to a strict gluten-free diet for about 6 months.
- Soy intake – soy contains phytoestrogens which are plant compounds that can mimic estrogens. Research has proposed that these compounds can block the effects of estrogen and thus reduce endometriosis.
Foods to Avoid
Foods that an individual should avoid with endometriosis as they worsen the condition by boosting the estrogen level, increasing the inflammation and pain include:
- Alcohol – the consumption of alcohol can make endometriosis symptoms worse. Wine, beer, and spirits should be avoided. At most, they should have only one or two drinks per week.
- Caffeine – The consumption of this should be limited to about 400mg or even less.
- Red meat – Increased consumption of red meat has been linked to the increase of estrogen levels in the blood. This increase may increase the risk of the condition since endometriosis is an estrogen-linked disease.
- Processed food – A lot of packaged processed food contains pro-inflammatory constituents like sugar and saturated fat. They are also low on beneficial ingredients like fiber, zinc, healthy fats, and magnesium.
- Sugary drinks – Energy drinks, soda, sugary fruit juices, etc., often have high levels of sugar which can worsen inflammation caused by endometriosis. An individual should limit their sugar consumption to about 26g per day.
Lifestyle habits that help manage endometriosis
Apart from the regulation of the type of food consumed, there are other ways to help manage the symptoms of endometriosis. They include:
An individual that is in pain from the symptoms of endometriosis may not be in the mood for exercise. However, running, brisk walking, biking, and other forms of aerobic exercise may directly result in the reduction of the estrogen levels in the body which may lead to fewer and lighter cycles. These exercises also help release endorphins which make the individual less sensitive to pain.
When there is endometriosis pain, an individual can soothe it by nestling a hot water bottle or a heating pad on their abdomen. The temperature should not be too hot to not burn their skin. Also, a warm bath or shower can help ease the discomfort experienced or a soak in a tub. All of these can help the individual relax and distress.
The constant state of pain can increase the stress level of an individual. This stress can lead to the worsening of the symptoms of endometriosis, also making the individual more sensitive to pain. This makes it very important for the person to try and relax. Deep breathing and meditation are ways that they can achieve that relaxation. A counselor can help teach the individual the best methods to achieve this state of relaxation.
A gentle massage can help release tension, helps in relaxation and can soothe sore muscles. It can also help in the relief of endometriosis pain. A study has shown that women that were suffering from endometriosis experienced significantly less pain during their cycles when they got regular massages. However, they should avoid any abdominal massage because those tend to make the pain much worse.
Acupuncture is a practice where very fine needles are used to stimulate precise pressure points on an individual’s body. This raises blood flow levels and releases natural pain-killing chemicals into the bloodstream. This can then help lessen the pain of endometriosis and help the individual go about their normal activities. There are also very minimal side effects that are related to acupuncture; it is very safe.
The condition can have major effects on the body and mind of the individual suffering from it. It can make them feel very depressed and even anxious. This can stress the person out and lead to a worsening of the symptoms. Scheduling visits with a mental health specialist can help an individual manage the situation. Also, joining a support group for women with endometriosis may help as well. It is also important to seek support from family and friends especially when experiencing the worst of the symptoms.