When my doctor told me I had endometriosis, I didn't know what it meant or how it would affect me. Did endometriosis mean cancer? Was it fatal? Luckily, the answer to both of these questions was "no." However, I would soon find that being diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows on other organs, would change my life.
Ever since I began menstruating, I have experienced long, heavy periods. I remember one particular menstrual period that lasted about two weeks and prompted me to begin using the pill to keep my periods regular. My doctor did a laparoscopy and made a diagnosis after I began keeping a journal of the symptoms that I experienced, which included painful sexual intercourse and pelvic pain, back pain, abdominal pain, painful urination, bloating, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea around the time of my period. I have been living with endometriosis for nearly 10 years now, and I have learned that there are several nonsurgical ways to manage the painful symptoms associated with this condition.
Birth control pills can help in managing endometriosis because they can reduce blood flow and the length of your period. Extended-cycle oral contraceptives, such as Seasonique and Seasonale, may also be ideal because they allow you to menstruate once every three months instead of every month. The hormones in the pill can also help prevent further growth from occurring.
Pain medications can help relieve painful cramps and other symptoms. Some women find relief through over-the-counter pain medications. If this doesn't work, talk to your doctor about using a prescription-strength pain medication.
Your diet can worsen the symptoms that you may experience around the time of menstruation. Keep a food journal to see if consuming caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, greasy foods, refined foods, fatty meats, or food allergens (e.g. dairy, gluten) has any effect on your symptoms. Also keep in mind that carbonated beverages and foods that are high in sodium can contribute to bloating.
My doctor recommended that I start taking fish oil supplements to help reduce pain. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil, have been found to reduce inflammation in women with endometriosis.
If you're living with endometriosis, be sure to keep a journal of your symptoms at all times. If you notice that your symptoms get worse, it could mean that your condition is progressing, and you may require surgical treatment.
Heating pads are one of the best home remedies that I've found for relieving cramps. If you don't have a heating pad available, a warm bottle of water works just as well.
Managing endometriosis without surgery isn't always easy, but it can be done. One of the things that I've found over the years is that it's so important to find a doctor you feel comfortable with. Never be afraid to talk about your symptoms—even the ones that may seem gross. Your doctor has probably heard far worse, and letting him or her know if things are improving or declining plays a key role in managing endometriosis.