Pain killers, a hot water bottle, chamomile tea, and perhaps some chocolate are likely companions to many women every month during their cycle.
Sometimes, however, though those things aren’t enough to combat severe period pain, where a medical condition may be lurking beneath. Endometriosis is a condition that goes beyond a painful period. More than 6.5 million women in the United States and Canada are affected by this disease, and 89 million women are affected worldwide, according to the Endometriosis Association.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a hormonal and immune-system disease where tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus in other areas of the body, such as the abdomen and on the ovaries, bowel, and bladder. These growths cause pain, bleeding, formation of scar tissue, and other medical problems.
“I’d dealt with chronic pain for about 10 years. It was severe. When you’re in that state, you just watch your life go down the drain.”
Signs Of Endometriosis:
- Extremely painful periods that are not relieved by a heating pad and over-the-counter analgesics
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Pain with intercourse
- Heavy or irregular bleeding
- Diarrhea and/or painful bowel movements
- Painful urination
The problem with endometriosis is that it often goes undiagnosed, as women are often embarrassed or confused by their symptoms and and delay seeing a doctor. Even when they do seek help, all too often doctors fail to take menstrual pain seriously and brush off patients’ concerns.
The result is that the average time between onset of symptoms and a diagnosis is more than nine years. Women who are diagnosed earlier can save themselves years of pain and suffering, and are less likely to have a hysterectomy due to the growths than those who go undiagnosed.
Treatment Of Endometriosis
According to NHS Choices UK, “Endometriosis gets better by itself without treatment in about three in every 10 cases, but it becomes worse without treatment in about four in every 10 cases.”
This means that treatment of endometriosis can take on a number of different forms, but no one treatment works across the board for everyone. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be prescribed pain medication, hormone therapy, or seven surgery to remove the growths.
“I stayed away from processed foods and cleansed my lifestyle of chemicals and synthetic ingredients. I got rid of beauty products containing parabens and my pain was cut in half over night.”
Aside from these methods, there are also alternative approaches to helping with easing the pain of endometriosis.
Briana Bolden, Yoga teacher (RYT), macrobiotic lifestyle coach, spiritual healer, and creator of the Canadian Macrobiotics blog, says she was amble to finally overcome her illness for the past four years through a combination of a macrobiotic diet, yogic practice and Chi Gong or Qi Gong (a meditative practice similar to Tai Chi, which helps to manipulate energy and involves a breathing practice and physical movement).
“I’d dealt with chronic pain for about 10 years. It was severe. When you’re in that state, you just watch your life go down the drain,” says Bolden. “It becomes hard to function and it affects everyone who comes into contact with you. Other people see this and it makes them feel very helpless.”
Diet And Environment
In December 2011, Bolden began a macrobiotic diet, which largely involved plant-based whole foods.
“I stayed away from processed foods and cleansed my lifestyle of chemicals and synthetic ingredients. I got rid of beauty products containing parabens and my pain was cut in half over night,” she says.
The Endometriosis Association has come forward with breakthrough research suggesting that endometriosis is part of a larger issue of hormonal disorders in women, with overwhelming research linking the toxic chemical dioxin and others to increased risk of endometriosis. “Dioxin and other toxic chemicals can cause the development of endometriosis, and other health problems to which those with endometriosis are susceptible, including certain cancers and autoimmune diseases,” according to the Endometriosis Association website.
And endometriosis is on the rise. The percentage of women with endometriosis reporting symptoms before age of 15 has jumped from 15 percent during the early to mid-1980s to 38 per cent in 1998.
Health, Fitness And Healing
Bolden’s embraced Hatha Yoga as part of her fitness routine during her healting process.
“Endometriosis has to do with stagnation of energy in the lower abdominal area [according to Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM],” said Bolden. “I did a lot of yogic exercises that got my energy moving and helped open up and strengthen my hips and lower back. I didn’t know that the lack of movement actually made the energy stagnant. I had to strengthen the areas and release tension, especially for the pelvic girdle, hips, back, and legs.”
The many benefits of yoga are well-known, though there’s little research that’s been done on whether practicing yoga can help with endometriosis. But as with many chronic medical conditions, regular exercise and movement is often helpful for alleviating painful symptoms.
Whether you suffer from endometriosis, menstrual issues, or any other form of chronic pain, Bolden notes that, “Everything affects energy and changes on the energetic plane manifest into reality. Chemicals in the energetic body will affect the way the energy flows within.”
In other words, stressful life situations, exposure to toxic environments, products, people, and emotions, can affect your physical health.
Bolden runs a free Sunday morning meditation class near Toronto, Canada, and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her class is a big part of the relaxation and mindfulness practice that helps ease chronic pain and other degenerative illnesses. She looks forward to achieving all of her physical goals now that she is free from pain.
- “Endometriosis: Treatment.” NHS Choices. April 23, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2015. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Endometriosis/Pages/Treatment.aspx.
- “Press Release: Know the Facts about Endometriosis.” Endo-Online: The Voice of the Endometriosis Association. March 1, 2015. Accessed March 18, 2015. http://www.endometriosisassn.org/inthenews.html.