Dried Fruit and Endo: Are They Pain Triggers?

As many people with endo know, we often have multiple other health issues, especially ones affecting our guts.

In addition to having endo, I have irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS. This issue plagued me for years on and off, though I had it under my better control once I reached my late 20s compared to when I was first diagnosed in my late teens.

Constipation after hysterectomy

At the end of 2019, I finally had a hysterectomy to deal with unrelenting pain and heavy bleeding associated with adenomyosis. This is a close sibling disease to endometriosis, where the endometrial tissue invades the walls of the womb.

I was happy to discover that in addition to a reprieve from bleeding, menstrual cramping, and PMS, I also experienced a remission of my symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC), which is a bladder disorder, and IBS.

Specifically, I went for many months without diarrhea. This was a record since being diagnosed two decades prior. However, this relief was short-lived as I began to experience constipation, which became more frequent and severe as time passed.

It's hard for me to not think this was somewhat related to the hysterectomy, as it started occurring shortly after. While having IBS meant I was no stranger to constipation, it wasn't something I experienced often and hadn't in a long time. 

Unfortunately, all of the things that used to offer me relief, such as fiber supplements, were not helping me this time. I did finally get results by taking daily magnesium supplements (which also do benefit endo, as I hope to cover in a future post), and for over a year, that was enough to help me out.

More recently, around the last holiday season, I started to have issues with constipation again. As with the time before, it started slowly, only happening once or twice a week and it was milder to moderate.

Adding dried fruit to my diet to help with stomach issues

Then the problem ramped up to the point where I had issues every other day and was extremely uncomfortable. So, I finally started on another regimen my doctor had suggested: adding prunes and other dried fruit to my diet.

Dried fruits are high in fiber, which is why they work so well in treating many cases of constipation. I bought a bag of prunes and a bag of dates.

I began adding a couple of prunes to my morning breakfast bowl of oatmeal and granola and a couple of dates as a simple after-dinner dessert, and presto! My constipation went away.

I was enormously relieved and thought I had found a successful, not to mention healthy, long-term solution. But as fellow spoonies (those of us with one or several health conditions) know, these kinds of things often are not alleviated so simply, and complications always lurk around the corner. 

After a couple of weeks of my new diet emphasizing prunes and dates, I began to notice an old familiar feeling I hadn't experienced in quite a while. I would wake up and realize my breasts were swollen, sore, and incredibly tender to the touch.

I also ached all over, with a general flu-like feeling, and felt extremely tired. I even got some abdominal cramping sensations, similar to those I would get right before or with the onset of my periods when I used to get them.

I realized I had PMS. Ever since my hysterectomy, I don't get PMS symptoms very often anymore, even despite keeping my ovaries.

Increase in phytoestrogens and PMS pain

This has been a very welcomed thing, as my PMS was very painful. I am guessing getting rid of my adeno-filled uterus and excising other endo via surgery helped rid my body of a lot of excess estrogens that can lead to PMS problems.

Now, I usually only get these symptoms if there's a month when I eat or drink foods that are usually known to have a lot of estrogen (whether artificial or natural). For instance, I try to make sure I don't have much soy because eating too much of it can definitely trigger PMS and period-like pain.

My PMS pain was very bad this month, so I started thinking about what my diet has been like recently, which of course, brought me to the addition of prunes and dates. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicion: most dried fruits like prunes and dates, but especially dates, are packed with phytoestrogens. I have no doubt the significant increase in these in my diet led me to have this problem.

So, of course, now I have to cut back on prunes and dates. I don't know if that means I will relapse with constipation.

It's always a bummer when something that helps treat one of my health conditions turns out to trigger symptoms or exacerbate another condition. It's always been a delicate balancing act.

For now, I am going to just see what other options I can utilize or maybe only use prunes and dates sparingly as needed for more severe bouts of constipation and not as a daily staple.

Have you ever found something that helped one health issue but bothered your endo or vice versa? What did you do?

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