March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, recognizing a condition that affects nearly 200 million women around the world. When the endometrial tissue lining the uterus grows outside of it, this tissue bleeds during menstrual periods. But because the blood can’t escape the body like regular menstrual flow, it can cause inflammation, scarring, lesions, and significant pain.
Medical science has a better understanding of the symptoms of endometriosis than its causes—and some of the treatments are surgical—but, if you suffer from the disorder, you can lessen its impact with these natural approaches.
Dealing with it
First, the symptoms: Added up, they’re equal to the worst bad periods imaginable and then some, with the potential for back pain, severe cramps, heavy bleeding, and pain during or disruption of normal digestive processes. Toss in pain during sex, lasting fatigue, and infertility, and you have the potential for real misery. Worse yet, the condition tends to run in families.
But beyond over-the-counter pain relief, prescription medication, and surgery, women who deal with endometriosis can take steps to alleviate their symptoms with some simple changes in diet and daily routine.
Turn to turmeric and ginger
You’re probably familiar with this golden spice, especially if you’re fond of Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, but you’ve also seen it add color to food products from baked goods and ice cream to popcorn and cereal. It’s a dominant component of curries – and you can buy it in capsule form for the anti-inflammatory capabilities of its active ingredient, curcumin. In addition, you can make turmeric tea. Add a teaspoon each of turmeric and ginger to boiling water, with honey and lemon to taste, and drink up daily to maintain benefits, or three times a day when symptoms loom.
If you’re not a turmeric fan, try ginger by itself—especially if you experience nausea because of endo. This spicy plant root has a long history as a treatment for upset stomachs.
Manage your diet
Take a long-term approach to symptom relief by looking for anti-inflammatory foods and skip choices that can cause inflammation. On the list to rule out: trans fats, alcohol, caffeine, red meat (fat may encourage prostaglandin production that leads to more estrogen production), dairy, and processed foods with refined sugar. Great choices are rich in omega-3 fatty acids—flax seeds, salmon, and walnuts, for example—along with vegetables and fruits, especially green leafy vegetables, broccoli, blueberries, and celery.
Warm it up
Cramps can tighten up the pelvic muscles, and heat can relax them. Anything from a warm bath to a heating pad or hot water bottle can help, and you even can hold a hot mug on your abdomen while you’re drinking tea in your favorite comfortable chair.
Get a move on
Regular exercise carries all kinds of benefits, of course, among them reduction of stress and even pain. Given that stress makes endometriosis worse and vice versa, working out can help lessen many of the painful aspects of the condition. From gentle, low-impact yoga routines to brisk walking and higher-intensity running, set up an exercise routine as part of a conscious commitment to self-care.
Make your health a priority
From mild to severe, endo can disrupt life in many ways, and natural adjustments to your daily routine can help you manage it. Talk with your primary care practitioner about your symptoms, and ensure that you’re doing as much as you can to maximize your health.