27 October 2010

Endometriosis… the sad tales of a chick in pain

This post is going to border on TMI. Ok, it basically dances all over TMI. I’m hoping that if you know and love, or even slightly like someone with these female issues that this might help you find some answers too.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I was younger. On Father’s Day, the year I was 13, I “became a woman” and started menstruating. I was really excited. That meant that I was growing up. I was almost the last girl in my class (that was a big deal). I didn’t want to get left behind.

The pain
It was exactly around that time that my back started hurting. It was a constant burning, dull, aching pain. I would complain to my parents about how much it hurt. Because my parents listened to me, I got a new bed. I got new bras. They tried everything. By the time I was in high school the pain was unbearable. It was constant, but around my periods it was the worst.

By the time I was in 10th grade, after the doctor trying everything (ulcers, IBS, etc.) I was diagnosed with endometriosis. It’s an autoimmune disease where the lining of your uterus does not 1. grow in the proper places 2. the signals from your body have it “bleed” into improper places in your body instead of out of you 3. can cause damage to your fertility if not treated properly. (https://health.google.com/health/ref/Endometriosis)

That year I had surgery (exploratory pelvic laparoscopy) where they removed a cup of blood and 4 “growths.” They then proceeded to put me on birth control pills to regulate my hormones. That did not work completely. I took pills so I didn’t have a period for a year. Immediately after high school I had break through bleeding for 2 months. Straight. I was worried. This was a reoccurring issue for another year. The Army gave me injections to induce menopause. The explanation was so things would “dry up.” I am the only woman I know that knows what menopause will feel like before it happens.

A month after the injections wore off, I got pregnant. This was a surprise to everyone. I had been told my chances of having a child were slim to none and none was winning.

In the past 8 years I have lived almost pain-free.

Things that did not help:

I read a book about endometriosis that talked about ending my love with dairy products, especially cheese. That was very difficult to do – and did not help.

The same book suggested I eat less meat. Also, not very helpful. As soon as I started focusing my eating more towards a vegetarian diet I was in a lot of pain. Also on that same note – soy exacerbated the problem immensely.

I have not noticed a difference with more exercise in my life. The book and websites said that I should strive to get “enough” daily exercise. Large amounts of exercise only made me more tired and unable to cope with the pain.

Acetaminophen, OTC pain relievers – I still hate taking them. They did nothing to dull the pain and always upset my stomach.

Birth Control pills – I think that on top of a high-carb/low-fat diet, they forced my hormones to fluctuate wildly.

Things that have helped:

Having a baby. Seriously. Pregnancy was admittedly rough. I was very sick. I think I would eat differently and take better care of myself (relax more) to make it easier if I had to do it all over again. I don't recommend this if you're not ready yet, of course.

Breastfeeding also prolonged the lack of pain. I breastfed my son for 18 months.

I have a copper IUD. No extra hormones messing with my natural ones.

The biggest difference: CHANGING MY DIET TO LOW CARB!!! I am virtually pain-free today. Atkins worked miracles for my endometriosis. I don’t lose weight during my period, which is normal. (I did call the Atkins’ hotline and ask about that.) But, I still lose inches, and I don’t hurt. I eat cheese too!  I eat a lot of meat, eggs and tons of fat during my period because I need the vitamins. Also, my cycle was about 21 days when I was heavier. It’s now 25 after almost 2 years of low carb. I definitely think the difference is my diet. I do not eat legumes anymore either. That also improved the pain cycle.

PMS symptoms
I do occasionally have breast tenderness. That actually makes up a large amount of surface area on me (no matter what my size), which makes for uncomfortable times. I started taking iodine after hearing Jimmy Moore’s podcast (http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/%E2%80%98livin%E2%80%99-la-vida-low-carb-show%E2%80%99-episode-283-dr-jorge-flechas-says-iodine-deficiency-is-a-real-health-crisis/5801) concerning iodine. I read a lot of information about it before adding it. That one pill helped a lot of other pain issues I had too. (I used to have deep in the bone/tissue pain in my arms and legs. I don’t anymore with the iodine.) There is no pain prior to my period. Another thing that helped was taking high vitamin butter + fermented cod liver oil. I’ve noticed that it reduces the inflammation and gives me more energy.

I used to be very cranky and, um, not-nice prior to my period. (And since it’s a short cycle, that would make me a bad person to be around.) My moods are very even now that I’ve changed my diet to low-carb. I do feel more run down during that time and hungry, but I feel that’s my body’s way of telling me to slow down and focus on taking care of myself.

Something I’m trying:

After reading these two articles on the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website (http://www.westonaprice.org/womens-health/641-wise-choices-healthy-bodies.html and http://www.westonaprice.org/womens-health/637-treating-heavy-bleeding-and-fibroids.html) , I’m taking a double dose of cod liver oil (see above) during this period. I would like to see if it improves the heavier bleeding and cuts my period days down. I am also hoping that it will make my cycle longer. I am not sure that the oil I take now is high enough in Vitamin A to sufficiently do this. I may have to try it with another higher vitamin cod liver oil. I’ve noticed a lot of the health issues I have could possibly be attributed to low vitamin A. We’ll see how I do. I’ll keep you posted. 

__________ Update: 29 November 2010_____________

The cod liver oil helped some. I think the extra sleep I got for the month also helped. I cut the days down by 2 and added an extra 2 days to my cycle. That's actually super awesome and I am very pleased. Then I went more paleo (-any grains, -dairy) for the last couple days and felt even better. No matter what you read about endometriosis and diet, it's no different than other auto-immune diseases. You basically need optimum nutrition to function optimally. 

___________Update: 20 January 2011 ______________
Gluten free was definitely the way to go. When you have one autoimmune disease its easy to get another one. That's something you actually have to watch for... A strange rash on my hands appears when I eat gluten, so I've cold-turkey ended that. Now it really upsets my stomach if I eat gluten. My hands tend to be part of my livelihood (typing) so I can't just ignore them. Also, my cycle is now officially 27 days long. The extra cod liver oil might have corrected something internally. I only took it for that month. I'm really glad I did that. I've noticed now that I do not eat gluten I am not feeling bloated days before my period. I am sure I am still retaining water. Actually, I used to hold on to up to 10 lbs every cycle before low carb - and now it's exact every time. 3 lbs. That's it. Now I don't need "fat pants" ever. I still eat eggs and dairy (ugh! so addicted to those things!) and I'm starting to add more fermented foods and organ meats to my lists of foods to eat. It's an evolving menu plan.


  1. Thanks for posting your experience. I'm a nutritionist and I do see women with endometriosis, so it is great to hear of a good result with diet and supplements. Keep posting your results - they are really useful.
    FYI, I got great results with paleo for PMS and menstrual pain. http://paleozonenutrition.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/pre-menstrual-syndrome-and-menstrual-cramps-how-i-eliminated-them-completely/

  2. Thanks!

    Recently I took out gluten and that has been very helpful as well. The biggest help so far - outside of my diet - has been getting enough sleep! That can be really hard to do, but it was important.

  3. Happy to read about your experience. I'm French and live in Sweden. I've been finally diagnosed with endometriosis after 7 years of growing pain. They kept telling me it was IBS and stress until I was rushed to the ER. I've been told to cut down dairy and meat and I'm French so you see the dilemma. I'll start atkins on Monday the 21, my birthday. A new beginning ;)