We caught up with Elaina (The Kind Life) this endometriosis Awareness month! Here, Elaina talks about her personal diagnosis story, sharing what changes she made to manage endometriosis symptoms.
“Women are resilient. Especially those with Endometriosis. For thousands of years, we’ve had to be. Women have a lot to live up. We can reproduce. However, when a woman isn’t trying to make a mini-me, it means she’s likely to be experiencing periods. Society and many people who should never of in the first place tell us it’s normal for us to associate menstruation with feeling significant amounts of pain. This is where I tell you that they were wrong.
How did I find out that I had endometriosis?
My story is similar to the other 176 million women (and counting) who have been diagnosed with Endometriosis. I dreaded every month I saw the red in my pants, tissue or toilet bowl. It carried familiar feelings of apprehension expecting the endless cramping, lower backache, pelvic pain and not to mention feeling like you may pass out or vomit. Check out common symptoms here.
I remember my mother encouraging me to visit the doctors. After years of various testing, I had a diagnostic laparoscopy at my local hospital. From this, they confirmed that I was suffering with Endometriosis. If you want to read my full story, you can here.
I’ve yet to have surgery, however, what I do know is over the three years since I was diagnosed, I have got worse. No longer just in my pouch of douglas, the MRI scans show it’s spread further in my pelvis and is also on my kidney. I’m still having tests at an endometriosis clinic to see if it’s in my diaphragm or ribs. When I get this pains starts, I can’t exercise, lay on my side in bed or even twist my body. Whatever I do is painful, even to breath. Let me remind you, pain like this is not normal. That’s why I’m onto my doctors because someone at some point is going to listen to me.
So, those eight changes, Elaina?
Let’s get to it. There are so many women who suffer from this awful disease. So, I’ve created a list below of things I’ve changed in my life since diagnosis. If my advice below can help you in any way, sitting here with my three cats fighting for the laptop space and eating fewer biscuits than what I normally do during an evening to type this is totally worth it.
I became aware of endocrine disruptors in everyday products.
It’s not my intention to scare you, but are you aware that many beauty and everyday essentials products contain carcinogens and hormone disruptors?
Natural or man-made, Endocrine Disruptors, like the name, disrupt our hormones. These chemicals have been known to cause fibroids, reproductive issues, cancer, endometriosis and neurodevelopmental delays in children. If you check product labels and see ingredients containing any of the below, I would recommend giving them a wide berth! Your skin is your largest organ after all.
• Phthalates. Rife in beauty products, household items and personal care products.
• Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. (DDT) thankfully, it is now banned in most countries.
• Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene. (DDE), a pesticide and a by-product of DDT.
• Dioxins. Found in a lot of dairy products. Think cheese, yoghurts and the obvious, cow’s milk.
I also do my best to avoid the Dirty Dozen cosmetic chemicals which are chemicals used in over 80% of beauty products known to be made from industrial chemicals, carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. You can read more about it here.
Natural contraception over hormonal contraception.
Research suggests that endometriosis may be an oestrogen-dependent disease, meaning the more oestrogen you have in your body, the more it thrives. Research has shown that many women with endometriosis have a hormone imbalance, predominately with higher oestrogen levels. This doesn’t mean the oestrogen is overly high but higher than the progesterone. Women and hormones are complicated things.
It has actually been over two and a half years since I have been on contraception. I strongly suspect I have a hormonal imbalance and after 8 years of trying combination pills and hormonal injections, I decided to stop it all. It took a further 15 months for my body to come back to natural sync. I no longer believe in putting artificial chemicals in my body, especially when there are natural forms of birth control available. I’ve been practising my natural birth control for over a year and it’s never let me down, watch my youtube video to learn more.
Can supplements really help?
Nothing can beat a good diet; however, I think supplementing can never be a bad thing either. I’ve read from various sources that women with endometriosis should try supplementing Evening Primrose Oil, Magnesium, Probiotics and Vitamin B6. Recently I’ve been supplementing Bladderwrack, which is a brown seaweed, high in iodine. I’ve read a particularly interesting study from Dr Greger suggesting women with Endometriosis have iodine deficiencies, so get your bladderwrack (seaweed powder) and give it a go! Watch the video here, comment down below if you do, I’d love to know your thoughts.
I switched over to organic pads and tampons.
As I haven’t been on contraception for over two and half years now, that means I do get my monthly period. I used to invest blindly in sanitary ware and pick up the buy one get one free offer in the supermarket. It never occurred to me to buy organic sanitary wear.
There are a lot of toxic chemicals found in sanitary ware, which helped to make my mind up that I shouldn’t be purchasing them. I’ve been choosing to buy my pads and tampons (say hi also to my menstrual cup which I’ll be trying in a few days time) from a company called TOTM. A company dedicated to starting important conversations about menstrual health and wellness. All of their products are cruelty-free, vegan and biodegradable!
Sadly, despite owning one all my life, I never thought about what chemicals I could be putting in my vagina or what they could do to my body. Tampons that aren’t organic can include toxic chemicals like:
• Chlorine. Bleaches the tampon to give it the white appearance.
• Glyphosate. A herbicide like the roundup weed killer.
• Dioxins. A deadly toxic compound.
• Polyethylene. Think antifreeze or ink.
• Rayon. Cellulose fiber that comes from processed wood pulp.
If the above hasn’t alarmed you, remember the cleaner your sanitary wear, the less risk you have of getting toxic shock syndrome. This is because organic cotton tampons do not have elements that increase your risk of bacteria and other infections.
Down went the weights as I introduced myself to yoga.
I love weight lifting, it’s empowering to be the badass girl in the gym or at home getting stronger every day with every lift. However, when I was suffering, I felt I needed something slower paced. I started watching yoga on youtube and started following tutorials. Yoga is great to get the blood flowing, literally. Whenever I’m fighting off horrific cramping, I hit the mat and move slowly, matching my breath with my body movements. I find this to be a more effective way to deal with pain quickly than swallowing tablets and waiting for them to kick in.
My diet changed, I stopped eating certain foods.
Many people start a vegan (plant-based) diet when they learn about animals and how they end up on the shelves in supermarkets. Partly the ethics made me vegan, but I remember feeling despaired one day after a painful contraception injection and I decided I needed to look after my body better. As a human, we can make as many changes as we like, however, nothing is going to be more powerful than the food we feed our bodies. It’s known that meat and dairy cause inflammation in the body. The last thing you need with endometriosis. For over two and a half years I’ve been vegan. In fact, the day I stopped my birth control, I also went vegan. I can confirm my vegan diet has helped me in regard to the pain I experience. Plants heal my friends!
Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
I find when I eat clean (no junk food, even cutting out gluten and soy) before my period, that I don’t experience as much pain. This was put to the test when I tried raw veganism for a week in the beginning of the year. When it came to my period, I was shocked by how I felt, my pain intensity was lower than what it had been for some time. Truth is, food is what fuels our body. If we aren’t putting good in, is it surprising we are getting bad out? I’m no longer 100% raw as I quite like the odd treat, but I have raw days still to keep on the straight and narrow.
Invest time in your mental well-being and talk to others.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s that Endometriosis is incredibly frustrating. It’s so important you talk to someone who understands. This is even more accessible thanks to the internet. I have friends on Instagram and in Facebook groups who do more than keep me sane! People understand because they are fighting the same battles. I’d also like to add men need advice too, they want to support us ladies, especially our partners who often feel helpless!
Take some time to disconnect, whether that be a walk, meditation or being in nature. It’s so important to value your mental health. Life can be so physically demanding. I like to take time to check in with myself and meditate most mornings. It may sound like a hippy thing to do but it clears my mind and sets me straight. Sometimes you need time to reflect to remember the good things in life when you aren’t in a good place.
Together we are stronger
I hope my tips can help you. I plan to do further blog posts about how I manage my Endometriosis pain naturally. Please let me know if you would like me to write further about this topic.
I know no one asks for the cards that have been dealt, but you have the power to make the best of this situation. What I do know is that together, we are stronger.
A BIG thank you to Elaina for sharing this story and her tips with us! Remember, these are changes that worked for Elaina. Everyone is different and before making radical changes it’s worth seeking medical advice where required – you have to do what’s right for YOU and YOUR body. To read more posts by Elaina head to The Kind Life here or follow on socials.
Interested in learning more about living with endometriosis? Check out some of our other posts on endometriosis and other menstrual and reproductive health conditions.