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Oh hey, friends. If you didn’t know, I have endometriosis (among other things) and it’s a real pain every month. Over the years I’ve tried pretty much everything I’ve come across to help alleviate some of the symptoms, to varying degrees of success. Every once in a while, I get a question from one of you lovely folks about my general endo routine, and how I manage pain/symptoms/exhaustion. So, I thought I’d write out a post with all the fun details and things I’ve tried.
This is just my experience with everything listed here. I’ll go into depth with studies and a scientific argument later, but I personally enjoy reading a more conversational post about people’s experiences alongside more technical posts, so I thought I’d do that as well. Keep a lookout for those posts to come!
Right off the bat, let me just say that this post is for information/anecdotal purposes only and is in no way to be taken as medical advice or advice at all, really. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness. Talk to your doctor for more information about endometriosis, or if you plan on making any lifestyle changes!
This impacts all individuals who experience it somewhat differently, so bear in mind that my symptoms could be different from your symptoms. This also extends to the impact all of these various experiments have. My body is different from your body!
It’s worth mentioning my history, to get a general idea: when I was 16 I had really terrible periods, my doctor put me on hormonal birth control to try and ease the strength and duration of my periods (at the time, they would last 7-10 days, be quite heavy and really knock me out, which made being a high school student kind of challenging). Over the years, I tried a few different types, but none really worked all that well at alleviating the symptoms, and most came with emotional and physical side effects that just didn’t work for me. So, I stopped taking them at around 23-24 and never looked back. Of course, at that time, I just thought everyone’s periods were like mine, and was still totally unaware that I even had endometriosis.
I finally got answers at 26, after googling home remedies people used to treat PMS symptoms, realizing mine was way worse than what is considered “normal,” and talking to my mom about it. She told me that she had endometriosis, and that the only thing that made it better was menopause (though, mild improvements occurred when she had my brother and I), and that it was definitely something worth exploring with my doctor.
My doctors have determined that my case is not bad enough to require surgery, so I I can just treat the symptoms for now, unless it drastically worsens or further complications arise. And, that’s where we find ourselves today. So, without further ado, let’s just jump right into it!
A Vegan Keto Diet
I’ll start off with the thing that provided the most relief initially (and arguably the biggest lifestyle change I made): going vegan, then going keto. I went vegetarian at 13 and had tried veganism a few times, but it never really stuck. Sometimes around 2011-12, I decided to go vegan again. Shortly thereafter, I also went gluten-free, and this combination really made a huge difference for me.
A little later into 2012, I tried going keto, and this is when everything finally clicked into place. Gluten, sugar and animal proteins are all highly inflammatory, so I think eliminating these, and replacing them with loads of anti-inflammatory foods has really made such a difference for me.
Over the years, I experimented with a few other ways of eating (at one point in time, my doctor even insisted that I had to re-introduce animal proteins like eggs and cheese, but I never felt right about it, and reverted back…and found a different doctor). And am still always striving to improve how I eat, but diet for me was the biggest help.
I notice that when I eat more carbohydrates and grains, my cramps, bloating and PMS symptoms are so much worse. While staying strictly vegan keto, I’ve even had periods that came without any prior cramping or general discomfort and only lasted 4-5 days. For me, this was previously unheard of and has really improved the quality of my life surrounding my cycle. I still experienced pretty severe cramping, dizziness and nausea during my cycle, but I’ll take any improvement I can get.
Okay, we all know that one person who does a ton of yoga and swears it’s the answer to literally everything. Bad back? Do some yoga. Toothache? Do some yoga. Anxiety about the impending housing market crash? Just do some yoga!
Given this, I know how annoying it is to constantly see the same advice posted everywhere. I resisted getting really into yoga for a while, mostly because I wasn’t really attracted to the whole cult-like mentality seemed to be pervasive. But, curiosity got the best of me and I gave it a shot, first starting out with the Yoga With Adriene channel, and eventually moving onto the Down Dog app (neither is sponsored, I just really like them both).
On the whole, yoga just made me more flexible and gave me a way to stretch out the trouble areas during my period. I also found that doing some yoga before cramping started made that first day a little more bearable. It’s not exactly a cure-all, but it has actually made a noticeable difference.
Ugh, this is another one I almost hate to write because I see it everywhere on PMS advice articles. “Period pain? You’re just being lazy and need to work out!” -every woman’s mag ever
Like yoga, however, this one actually works (kind of). For me, the worst days are 1-2, and I’m often so exhausted and in so much pain that I can’t really get out of bed. If I manage to work out before this stage, the endorphins take over a bit and I’ve noticed that the pain isn’t actually quite that bad, and I can even live my life normally with minimal lying on the couch on day 1. Day 2 is kind of hit-or-miss. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to be able to catch things before the serious cramps start for that day, but if I wait too long and the pain sets in, I can really only manage some restorative yoga.
Infrared Heating Mat
This is one of those topics that is going to make me seem a little crazy, but I had seen a bunch of athletes talking about how infrared light therapy helped them with recovery and healing. I know endometriosis is not-at-all related to muscle tears, but honestly, I was willing to try anything to at least reduce the pain and discomfort.
So, this mat is basically a heating pad with jade and tourmaline stones in it that transfer the heat and produce infrared waves (according to many product descriptions). These waves supposedly help to bring blood to the area and stimulate tissue growth and healing.
So, I’ve tried the mat. It does actually produce more relief than my regular heating pad, but I think some of that might be the tiny massage from the stones, and some of it might be that you can control the temperature of this mat better.
No, not THAT kind of mushrooms… Medicinal mushroom elixirs and coffees have been popping up everywhere over the last few years. While they don’t claim to help with menstrual pain (for the most part, I’m sure there is a brand somewhere that does), the blends involving reishi are said to help relax you and help you sleep. I started taking these at night to help combat some anxiety-induced insomnia, but noticed the mushroom elixir also came in handy during my period for helping me sleep, despite the pain. I like the Reishi Elixir from Four Sigmatic (and you can save 10% on your order with the code “healthyliz”).
This one is kind of controversial, but is actually the thing that seems to have helped me the most. Before I go any further, I want to clarify that CBD is not psychoactive and is not the same thing as smoking weed. There are tons of different types out there and a lot aren’t made in high-quality facilities with good ingredients, so it’s important to do a solid amount of research before trying random CBD products.
Basically, I find that for me, the CBD oil helps to relax my muscles and calm those cramps. It also helps with inflammation and pain. It took me a long time to figure out dosing and what kind works for me. Because we’re all so individual, I’m really hesitant to give out too much information without fully explaining everything. So, this will all appear later in a standalone post!
Things that do NOT help my Endometriosis (and some that make it worse)
I figured it was worth throwing this section in here, too, because there are a lot of things that just didn’t seem to do ANYTHING.
- any sort of essential oil balm/tincture/rub (they didn’t really seem to do anything)
- wine/beer/alcohol (I didn’t attempt this medicinally, it’s just something that makes symptoms worse for me)
- sugar/refined carbs – for me, these seem to make all of my PMS symptoms worse, so I try to avoid them