4 Things to Improve Our Quality of Life
As an endometriosis patient, I’ve often said “nothing works” or “there is no use” whenever the subject of treatment comes up. Curling in excruciating pain, or horizontal with no strength left, I’ve gone over everything I’ve had. I think of every painkiller, my countless dietary changes, and wonder, what now?
Endometriosis symptoms vary widely in intensity and kind, from one patient to another. Yet, while there is no one cure-all solution, there are new options that can be worth pursuing. Sometimes revisiting old approaches can produce a positive outcome.
I say as a person who regularly struggles with stress and anxiety. I am someone who will easily slip into a somewhat defeatist mood. This is why I need to remind myself that there are always things that can be done, that will reap a benefit, or a change, even if a small one. Small positive steps always add up.
An anti-inflammatory diet is a popular choice amongst endometriosis sufferers. Sadly, the same dietary changes won’t work for everyone. Yet, because one of the most frustrating symptoms of this disease is bloating - hello endo-belly - limiting the amount of triggering foods can have an immediately relieving effect. In my case, gluten-based foods like bread, and anything processed, while convenient and delicious, will cause me to bloat. Yet, simply by going without those foods for one day, my stomach will feel lighter. It may not be completely flat, but it certainly will bother me less.
A complete overhaul of our diets is complicated work. Any long-term changes require a lot of trial and error and help from expert dieticians. But if we are able to limit, or lessen, our levels of bloating for just one day, that’s one triumph worth pursuing.
I take a similar approach with coffee. While caffeine has been linked to the worsening of endometriosis symptoms, in my case it helps me manage my chronic fatigue. I now drink a small cup on alternate days. The days I go without my stomach is more settled.
Drinking more water
While increasing the amount of water we drink can give us a temporary full belly, a hydrated body tends to work better. Water aids in digestion, eliminating excess salt and toxins, alleviating constipation, and favoring bowel movements. Additionally, not drinking enough water may play a role in migraines1, especially in prolonging flare-ups. This is another reason to increase the amount of water we ingest.
Talking to our GP about pain and seeking a second opinion
The hard, tough truth is that this illness has no cure. Many of us will go through multiple surgeries and see only small improvements to our levels of pain. For this reason, it is worth checking in with our doctors to talk about pain relief options. Tolerating pain long term can affect our mental health.2
Alternatively, if we’ve reached an impasse with a particular health professional, it is worth seeking out the help of another. The prospect of looking for a new doctor can be daunting, but I’ve come across some that seemed clueless when talking about severe period pain. Talking to someone who considered my pain levels unacceptable helped me enormously.
Exercise when possible
I am not advocating exercise during a flare-up. During my own endometriosis crisis, I can barely lift my eyelids. Yet exercising, in general, is proven to improve the quality of life of anyone living with a chronic disease. At the moment, I am not at my fittest, but daily walks with my dog are incredibly uplifting. They have helped with migraines and very low-level pelvic pain.
Exercise can be any sort of movement. It can involve yoga stretches, kicking a ball, or dancing around the kitchen. If our pain is not severe, and we can move around, it is worth it.
None of these changes will make the disease go away
Living with endometriosis has caused me to rethink every single of my choices. I've been forced to make adjustments I never thought I needed. For some, living happily with this disease may require an overhaul. Yet in the meantime, tiny actions can bring benefits.
These small positives will add up to a better quality of life. This is something that, as a patient and decade-long researcher of this disease, I can confidently say.
Have you heard about the new tampon technology currently being tested to detect endometriosis?