Over the last couple of years, there's been increasing awareness of polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS, a common hormonal disorder. But even with people opening up about their experiences, it's still a condition that most doctors find difficult to diagnose. According to Dr. Zoe Arugay-Magat of LifeScience Center (LSC), it's because there's no single test for PCOS: "There is a long list of symptoms and test results that generate a PCOS profile. PCOS is a multi-organ disease, not just gynecological, which adds to the difficulty."
Unfortunately, another condition among women that's equally hard to pinpoint is endometriosis, a disorder in which the tissue that typically lines the inside of your uterus is growing outside of it instead. It can affect the tissue lining your pelvis, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
Like PCOS, a lot of its symptoms are too similar to other gynecological issues. It also varies for every person, with the most common symptoms being extreme period pain and pelvic pain, heavy periods, periods that last more than a week, bleeding between cycles, gastrointestinal pain, pain during sex, leg and back pain, painful bowel movements, and struggling to get pregnant.
Endometriosis diet: best + worst food
One of the best ways you can lessen the symptoms of endometriosis and minimize the discomfort and pain is to focus on food that's anti-inflammatory. What kind of food should you be seeing on your plate then? An anti-inflammatory diet is generally plant-based, leaning towards vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, and other unprocessed food.
Think about food that has the most nutrients. Fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains, for example, are high in fiber. For iron, incorporate dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, beans, and nuts into your meals. For the good kind of fats, salmon, sardines, chia, and flax seeds are good for you. Foods that are rich in anti-oxidants are also a must: Go for fruits like berries and oranges; and for dessert, there's dark chocolate! These are tweaks you can do to your current diet, but if you see your body reacting negatively to these, it's best to consult a doctor to make sure you aren't allergic or doing anything more harmful.
Of course, there are some food that you know you should probably avoid if you have endometriosis. Trans fats, which can be found in fried and processed foods like pizza, donuts, and pastries, are known to be unhealthy. It increases the risk of developing heart disease.
Here's a bit of bad news for anyone who loves steak: There's some research linking the development of endometriosis to people who consume a lot of red meat. Some have also suggested that eating a lot of red meat may be associated to higher estrogen in the blood, and since endometriosis is an "estrogen-dependent disease," red meat could increase the risk of this condition. And if you can, limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine to avoid further inflammation in the body.
Endometriosis diet: how to deal
As mentioned, there's still so much research that needs to be done to fully understand endometriosis. It can be frustrating to find ways to manage the symptoms of endometriosis; it'll probably take a lot of trial and error on your part. There are ways to manage the pain, though, like heating pads, anti-inflammatory drugs, birth control, and even physical therapy that could help relax your muscles. Relaxation techniques include yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and massages.
There's also the option of surgery where a doctor removes the lesions, but this doesn't mean that new lesions won't grow in the future. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 40 percent to 80 percent of people who underwent laparoscopic surgery still experience pain within two years of the procedure.
What a lot of people might overlook, though, is that having a support system is also crucial, especially when you're dealing with a disorder with no cure. If you've been diagnosed with endometriosis, consider looking for a community of people going through the same thing. You might be surprised by how comforting it can be to hear from someone who knows exactly what you're going through. If you're not quite ready to be that vulnerable, turn to social media. Look for hashtags related to endometriosis and "connect" with someone there.
And remember: Even if it feels like there's so much you can't control, your body is not your enemy. There's a way to live with endometriosis, and you're not alone.