What is endometriosis and how to manage it?
1 out of 10 women worldwide have endometriosis - yet many people do not know what it is. Actor, presenter and comedian Sarah Maree Cameron is one of those 176 million women. As the Ambassador for Endometriosis Australia, Sarah Maree gives us the rundown on the signs and symptoms of endometriosis and natural ways to manage it.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis Australia defines endometriosis as:
Endometriosis is present when the tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) occurs outside this layer and causes pain and/or infertility.
How many women live with endometriosis?
1 in 10 women worldwide. It is estimated that endometriosis costs Australia 7.7 Billion annually!
Because period pain is so common (9 out of 10 women), young women may think it's normal to have pain. Lacking awareness about the signs and symptoms of endometriosis means that they may suffer severe period pain for years, using heat or painkillers to ease discomfort - rather then talking to their doctor.
Check out this great article Endometriosis: what we don’t know is costing us a fortune
Can I prevent endometriosis?
The bad news is that we can't prevent or cure endometriosis. On the bright side, there is plenty we can do to help ease pain and keep flare ups to a minimum.
I personally follow a Low FODMAP diet and am a vegetarian. The change to my diet has helped me immensely. I also do yoga and get acupuncture as I find these to assist in pain management.
Sarah Maree admits that although those changes were recommended to her, it took her time to change her habits:
As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
How can I recognise the signs?
Chronic pain, heavy periods and fatigue are just some of the many symptoms associated with endometriosis. In some cases, endometriosis may also lead to infertility, bowel and bladder problems.
Painful periods is the obvious one but for me, I had pain everyday when my Endo was at its worst. Frequent headaches as well as a few migraines - although I haven’t had one migraine since I had my hysterectomy.
Is a hysterectomy a cure for endometriosis?
A hysterectomy isn’t a cure for Endo, as there is no cure, but I have found it to have worked for me as I didn’t have much quality of life beforehand. I’d lost all my passions as I’m an outdoors person but couldn’t even get off the couch. On top of the pain, I also had to deal with a lot of ‘brain fog’, which meant I’d give up making decisions because my brain was just so tired from sending pain signals that it didn’t have much gas to do anything else.
I think I have endometriosis - what should I do?
Keep note of symptoms and see your GP. Discuss plans to have ultrasounds and get a referral to see a gynaecologist as the only way to diagnose Endo is through laparoscopic surgery, which a gynaecologist will have to perform.
Sarah Maree also warns that the diagnosis process can take some time:
Doctors don’t want to perform surgery if they don’t have to. Each surgery carries its on risks not to mention scar tissues - which can be more painful than Endo. That’s why documenting everything is so important because it becomes a reference point for you and your doctors.
What are your top 3 tips to live well with endometriosis?
1. Use a mix of western and eastern medicine to look after your body.
I’ve had many surgeries but I also see a Chinese medicine doctor to assist with my diet, massage, acupuncture and yoga.
2. It's all about body love - there's nothing 'wrong' with you!
I thinks it’s really important to not view your body as ‘lesser’ because you have something ‘wrong’ with it. There's nothing 'wrong' with you. You are more than your organs. You still have a body that serves you everyday - eyes, ears, fingers and toes. Appreciate and love your body because if you don’t, the mental toll of hating your body will only worsen whatever other issue you’re having to deal with.
3. Remember that you are not alone.
Find support groups if you need them. I know women who go to counselling because they know their mindset isn’t a positive one as a result of their diagnosis. We all need to be kind to our body and love it. It’s the only one we have so we just need to work with it. It will take a community to help get you through, as I said, I see many people to manage my Endo. They all contribute so positively to my management plan and I’m incredibly thankful to have them in my support network.
Thank you Sarah Maree for sharing your experience and insights with our community.