Endometriosis... a whole person approach
Every so often we get celebrities sharing their stories of the big uncomfortable bloat that can go hand in hand with endometriosis; how their tummies go from flat and toned looking to huge and pregnant looking within hours. And I see this and think “yes!” let’s discuss how endometriosis is about so much more than painful periods! Rarely does the discussion go much further.
I was working with a health coaching client recently, who had never been told that her endometriosis was at the root of her battle with fatigue, her IBS, her episodes of low moods. She had assumed she was just unhealthy and not good at coping with life and pressures and beating herself up over her “failures”, when in reality, she’s been soldiering on juggling the demands of life with effectively one hand tied behind her back. Nobody had ever explained to her that endometriosis is about more than tissue that resembles the period blood you expect to have in your uterus, growing outside the uterus (in-fact, studies now show endometriosis lesions have different characteristics to the uterine lining that makes up your period blood, but that’s a whole other blog). You see, endometriosis is a whole-person disease. It’s an inflammatory condition, believed to be genetic in nature (evidence of endometriosis has been found in foetal tissue and symptoms can appear before puberty), it’s oestrogen-dominant (hormonally fuelled) with characteristics that some argue mean it should really be classified as an autoimmune condition. And when you look at it more closely, you can see why.
Endometriosis, better known for cripplingly painful periods, goes hand in hand with bowel problems, painful urination, thyroid issues, high incidences of diabetes, more likely diagnosis of PCOS, chronic pain, fatigue, fertility issues. Each one of these issues feeds into the next. So, if you’re struggling with any of these, you need help and support and that’s before we talk about the crippling pain each month. Or, on the flip side, you could be someone who really doesn’t have too much by way of period pain but has all the rest of it and so your endometriosis is missed year after year.
A condition that affects so many parts of your body and life requires an approach that does more than just target your uterus. What all of the above have in common is that they have at their root systemic inflammation. What does this mean? It means that endometriosis is a disease that shares many characteristics with cancer: It’s invasive, it spreads, it’s fuelled and given strength by the environment in which it lives, but thankfully, doesn’t actually kill us in the way cancer can. It means if your body is constantly having inflammation added to it through life stress, poor diet, alcohol, environmental toxins, sleep issues, financial worries, too much or not enough exercise, it will thrive. Endometriosis lesions can pop up in any part of the body, not just your pelvis. And it means if you have endometriosis, self-care has to become a way of life, not something we give a nod to on a Friday night with a bubble bath and a glass of prosecco.
Putting women on various hormonal pills does not address the issue of your whole-person health. You cannot manage endometriosis merely by blocking some of the hormones, that’s just masking it. And whilst helpful for a while, leaves women on a roller-coaster of side effects, switching their hormones on and off, which in many cases are unwittingly adding fuel to the endometriosis fire. It’s a whole person disease, so requires whole person management, so we are talking mindset, nutrition, creating healthy boundaries with workplaces and family members, finding out what works best for you with exercise, knowing your blood results for blood sugar, thyroid, iron, various nutritional markers. Working on a food plan that suits you and your life that you can actually stick to. It involves helping you really know yourself and your stress triggers and signs that you are out of balance. It involves time management skills so you can pace yourself. It involves learning and sticking to relaxation/meditation practices that repeatedly put your body and mind into deep relaxation. It involves a team of professionals: Health coach, acupuncturist, women’s health physio, referral to surgeons (pick one whose life passion is highly skilled excision surgery) where necessary. None of these things will cure you, but together, will help you manage your endometriosis so it doesn’t steal the life you want to live away from you.
And it’s not a “do this for a few months and you’ll be fine” approach. Life happens, stress and events outside our control happen. Divorces, bereavements, global pandemics. Your hormones change after childbirth and as we head into perimenopause. Which means your plan needs to constantly evolve. What might have worked ten years ago might not work for you now. You need to frequently re-visit Project You and tweak and refine. And know that in putting the effort into your whole-person health management, you are taking the driving seat in your life and your health. You’ve got this.
Marianne Killick is an author and women’s health coach specialising in hormone balance. She transforms women from feeling confused, powerless and unhealthy to informed, empowered and with a zest for life. Working with women for over a decade, Marianne’s expertise lies in helping women understand how their bodies and hormones work, empowering them with the knowledge and tools to make realistic and achievable changes. Marianne works with women 1:1, via online courses and group coaching. If you are struggling with the hormonally based problems, perimenopause or want to prepare to thrive not just survive in mid-life, then Marianne is your woman. www.mariannekillick.com