Guide on how to manage your endometriosis

Woman in hospital

Millions of women live with endometriosis. In fact, it’s estimated that (more than 1 in 10 women) deal with this condition. It is often painful and inconvenient and can impact your fertility.

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to that found in your uterus (womb) grows in other parts of your pelvis. In addition to pain, it can cause heavy periods and strong cramps. Continually heavy periods can also lead to anemia.

  The early stages of endometrial cancer can cause symptoms. When a post-menopausal woman has vaginal bleeding (present in 90% of women at the time of diagnosis with endometrial cancer), the first thing that needs to be looked into is the possibility of endometrial cancer. If you are pre-menopause as I was I had prolonged bleeding and heavy. As a tumor grows in size, it can produce a variety of problems including:

  • Vaginal bleeding (in a post-menopausal woman)

  • Abnormal bleeding (including bleeding in between periods, or heavier/longer lasting menstrual bleeding)

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge (may be foul smelling)

  • Pelvic or back pain

  • Painful urination

  • Painful sexual intercourse

  • Blood in the stool or urine

All of these symptoms are non-specific and could represent a variety of different conditions. You should see your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms.

OB/GYN Dr. Alan Patterson offers this guide to learning how to manage your endometriosis.

Consider contraception

Taking birth control pills isn’t a cure for endometriosis, but in some cases the pill can help you manage it more effectively. However, all pills aren’t equal in terms of their effectiveness. Some experts report that progestin-only pills are more helpful for endometriosis. Although the cause of endometriosis is unknown, progesterone often helps because it decreases or stops bleeding.

We may also prescribe other pills to block the activity of your hormones or to provide pain relief.

Watch your diet

Diet plays a major role in many health conditions, including endometriosis. Some studies have linked endometriosis to low vegetable intake, so increasing the number of fruits and vegetables that you eat may help. Avoid processed foods as much as possible and try to stick to a more natural diet of fruits and veggies, lean meats, whole grains, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy.

Caffeine may also worsen endometriosis, so you may want to swap out your morning coffee for decaf or green tea instead. You may want to experiment with limiting red meat, sugar, and dairy, which some women find to aggravate their endometriosis.

Choose good fats

Increasing your intake of omega-3 fats can be beneficial for endometriosis. They’re naturally found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as walnuts and flaxseed oil. If you’re not a fan of fish, flaxseed oil goes great in smoothies, which also makes it easier to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

Olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados are also good sources of other healthy fats.

It’s also important to watch out for trans fats, which are normally found in deep-fried foods and processed baked goods. One study found that women with the highest consumption of trans fats had a 48% higher risk of developing endometriosis than women who ate the least trans fats.

Manage your stress

There’s no question that pain causes stress in itself. But managing that stress is important because chronic stress raises your cortisol levels, which can create a hormone imbalance and actually worsen your endometriosis.

Some examples for managing stress include the following techniques:

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Prayer

  • Journaling

  • Deep breathing techniques

  • Physical activity such as walking, dancing, or running

Consider surgery when all else fails

Home remedies and conservative treatments are always a first step in trying to resolve your endometriosis. When these therapies don’t work, you may benefit from a newly FDA-approved medication to treat moderate or severe endometriosis pain, called ORILISSA. Dr. Patterson prescribes this medication, and for many patients, it has worked and continues to work great at alleviating and even eliminating the pain. It can be used to help prevent surgery or after surgery!

When it comes to surgery, Dr. Patterson may suggest laparoscopy or even hysterectomy.

A laparoscopy is usually an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. In this procedure, Dr. Patterson makes two or three small incisions and inserts a surgical tool called a laparoscope. This allows him to see and remove scar tissue caused by endometriosis.

A hysterectomy is a last resort after other treatments have failed. This surgery removes your uterus, and sometimes your ovaries and fallopian tubes as well.

If you live with the chronic pain caused by endometriosis, know that it’s possible to find relief so you can live a more normal life again. 

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