Roughly 10% to 15% of women in their reproductive years grapple with the sometimes life-disrupting pain of endometriosis. It’s a complex, chronic inflammatory condition that happens when cells that usually line the inside of your uterus grow outside the uterus. With no place to go, the displaced tissue attaches to other parts of the body, most often in the pelvis or lower abdomen, leading to inflammation, swelling and sometimes scar tissue in the affected areas.
Common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Pelvic pain
- Abnormal or heavy menstrual flow
- Pain during intercourse
- Bowel and urinary disorders
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chronic fatigue
- Infertility or difficulties getting pregnant
Living with endometriosis can be challenging. Along with partnering with your gynecologist to manage endometriosis through traditional treatments, such as hormone therapy and surgery, there are ways to relieve the severity of your symptoms to live more comfortably.
Try these four self-care strategies to help you feel your best.
1. Maintain a healthy diet
There is still much to learn, but research increasingly shows that eating foods that fight inflammation and balance estrogen levels can help reduce your endometriosis symptoms. Studies show that women who include more fruits and veggies in their diet have a 40% reduced risk of endometriosis.
In particular, you can lower your inflammation load with:
- Plenty of antioxidant-rich colorful fruits and veggies
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish, avocado, nuts, seeds and plant oils, such as flaxseed and canola
- Dietary fiber through fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Including foods on your plate that contain minerals like magnesium and zinc to help relax your muscles and regulate your menstrual cycle
Top foods to avoid with endometriosis
It’s just as important to understand what foods can raise your inflammation and estrogen levels. Among the food you should try to limit or stay away from include:
- Added sugars (cake, cookies, candies, sodas and other sweetened beverages)
- Sandwich meats and hotdogs
- Butter, whole milk and whole fat cheese
- Fried, processed and fast foods
- Fatty red meat
- Poultry skin
- Sugary drinks
Stress can negate the benefits of healthy foods, so don’t get hung up on rigid, restrictive eating. Focus on balance and a variety of proteins, fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds—a prescription for healthy living.
2. Break a sweat
You may not feel like moving when you are hit with pelvic discomfort, but regular exercise often does wonders to ease the pain, reduce estrogen production, improve mood, reduce depression and anxiety and support the regular sleep you need.
Start with low to moderate impact workouts like swimming, cycling and brisk walking, gradually increasing the intensity and frequency as your body allows.
Pelvic floor therapy may also help ease the symptoms of endometriosis by helping to relax and improve the function, strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor muscles.
3. Reduce stress
Stress can exacerbate pain, so anything that relaxes you, like a warm bath, heating pad, reading or listening to music, may help provide relief. Try tapping into acupuncture, massage, yoga, mindfulness meditation or other stress-relieving strategies to calm your mind and body.
4. Seek support
Living with the chronic and sometimes daily life-disrupting flare-ups of endometriosis can also take its toll on your mental wellbeing and place stress on your relationships. Your doctor can refer you to a trained counselor and provide information on local support groups.
Online support resources such as My Endometriosis Team can be invaluable to help you connect with others who can relate to your journey living with endometriosis.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for coping with endometriosis, so you may have to try different strategies to find what works for you.
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