Tag Archives: Endo

Can I just say…

10 Dec

Here’s a little something you probably won’t ever hear again from anyone other than me:

This was the most awesome period EVER.

I had some mild cramping on the morning of the first day. I was scared because of what happened last month (it got kinda bad), so I took one lowly advil in the morning – and didn’t need anything else at all after that! I had little to no pelvic pressure, no rectal pain when sitting and my bowels were reasonably well behaved – very little difficulty passing anything and only a tint of spotting – a far cry from my usual. PLUS, I had no intestinal cramping, bloating, aches, chills or abdominal tenderness. I felt normal!! I didn’t hate my reproductive system and I actually had to keep reminding myself that I was having my period.

There are simply no words for how truly wonderful this is.

Part of me is super surprised at how quickly I have seen such dramatic changes in my body (especially around this particular issue). And part of me feels stupid for not doing it sooner (Since I’ve know about the benefits of a gfv diet for several years now). But really, I’m just thankful that this transition has been so easy, that these changes felt simple and straightforward and THAT IT WORKED!!!!

My body is really and truly starting to heal itself and that excites me to no end!!

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Week 6 Report

24 Oct

Eek – the days have been getting away from me. Just realized it’s almost time for my week 7 report and I haven’t done week 6…..bad, bad blogger!!

HOW I’M FEELING:

  • Physically: Feeling well, well, well!! No complaints, more energy.  Fun fact: I’m not as stinky. I have had a lot of issues with mainstream deodorants/antiperspirants in the past – blocked sweat glands etc – very painful, not at all fun. So, I use an organic deodorant only – mainly a blend of different essential oils. It works alright, I’ve just had to adjust to a new normal when it comes to how much stink is ok. As long as I’m not noticeably odorous to those around me, I’m ok with it. Usually, come the end of a long birth though, I’m keeping my arms at my sides!! Recently however, it’s not been a problem. In fact, there have been several times where I have forgotten to put deodorant on and I can hardly even tell. So bonus points there.
  • Emotionally: It was a rough week for other reasons. Food related stuff has been fine.

GI SYMPTOMS:

  • Bowels have been good. Little bit of constipation related to my period as has been the norm lately, but I think less than usual? Tough to say.
  • Over the past few months, I have been noticing a very unsettling thing related to my period. Late in the day on day 1 and peaking on day 2/3 and then resolving day 4, I feel like I have the flu. Like full on influenza – aches, chills, shivering, sweating. Except I don’t. No fever, nothing. And I get WICKED intestinal cramping – small and large intestine. Like it hurts to the touch and I can’t even stand up straight.This past Sunday I spent the afternoon sleeping off a birth, shivering under piles of blankets ’cause I was so chilled, but sweating. And curled in a ball for the pain. I don’t like this one bit. Trying to figure out what is going on with this. Any ideas ?

MENSTRUAL STUFF:

  • HALLELUJA!!!! Shout it from the rooftops!!!! My cramps were SOOOO less than they usually are. I took NO ADVIL!! [not entirely true, I did take meds for the intestinal cramps as described above – but it was certainly not uterine related and it wasn’t until day 3]. I did get some cramping and discomfort, little bit of pelvic pressure but it was nowhere near what I normally get. I kept waiting and waiting for it to get worse and it never did…..After 20 years of wanting to throw up and die with my periods, I can’t even explain what this means to me.
  • This was really only the first period I had since starting the diet (the other one was 10 days in) so I can only imagine it’s going to get better.

WEIGHT:

  • Same

CONFESSIONS:

  • Nothing

SUCCESSES:

  • No advil, no wanting to die, no hating my uterus and wanting to scoop it out like pumpkin guts.

Endometriosis – my story

3 Sep

*See my previous post here for some background information on the facts of endometriosis*

One of the reasons why I’m embarking on this GF/V thing is to try to fix, or at least improve, my endometriosis. I first got my period when I was almost 13 years old. Since that first time it has arrived each month like clockwork and each month it has caused me no end of pain and ‘discomfort’. I remember being curled up in a ball with my mom telling me to just take some tylenol and move on (in her defense, she never had cramps too bad so she thought I was just faking it – she has since repented of her mean-menstrual ways). I was on the pill for a few years in my late teens early twenties with the hope that it would help the pain. I don’t know that it did.

After moving to Toronto, growing up a little and getting more interested in women’s health, I started to wonder if maybe these things weren’t normal. I started tracking my monthly pain, researching things and finally went to a doctor who just wanted to put me back on the pill. I refused. She refused to refer me to anyone else. During this time (thanksgiving 2002) I had my appendix removed. I had thought it was my usual endo pain but it was getting worse, not better and a friend finally convinced me to go to the hospital (thanks Debbie!). I had it taken out the next day. I asked the surgeon to have an OB/GYN in the room to see about diagnosing my endo officially. He told me that’s not what they were doing the surgery for. Afterwards, he told me they had a hard time getting my appendix out because it was all stuck to everything (adhesions!) and that it had likely been giving me trouble for some time. Years later I learned that people with endo commonly have chronically inflammed appendixes (appendices?!).

After all this mucking around, I finally got a referral to an OB/GYN who agreed with me that I likely had endo and offered to do the surgery to remove it. I wish I had known then what I know now as I would have reconsidered having it done because it doesn’t always work but it always causes more scar tissue. Anyway, I did it and I got my diagnosis of stage 2/3 with endo on my bowels as well (which they couldn’t remove). There was some talk of medicating me, putting me on the pill and cautioning me about my fertility and I didn’t see her again. I had no interest in meds, unfortunately I also had no knowledge of the dietary stuff that could have helped.

I think it took me another year or two to figure out that red wine was the devil at certain times of the month. My cramps would be horrendous if I had wine within a week of getting my period. It took me another few years to care enough to stop drinking it at the bad times (what can I say, I’m a slow learner). And truthfully, I have pretty much stopped drinking it altogether (except for the odd glass here or there) in the last two years. I have switched to white because even when I wasn’t close to my period, if I had more than a bit of red wine I would feel crampy the next day at anytime during my cycle. Which is why I am thankful I am getting symptoms when I eat stuff I shouldn’t because I think that’s the only way I will get it into my head!

Over the past number of years I have been working with Laura (ND) to fix my endo. Several years ago she gave me a list of foods to eat (stuff I don’t mind once in a while) and a list of foods to avoid (everything I love). Most of the things she suggested fall into the anti-inflammatory, low estrogen category. Around this same time I also found the ENDO DIET cookbook – which basically re-iterated the no meat, gluten, sugar, caffeine, animals products etc. And was full of recipes of the sort. I have been eating recipes from that cookbook for a while, but always found it hard to stick to that exclusively.

Over the past year however, a number of new health issues have cropped up: gastrointestinal stuff and thyroid stuff.

TMI ALERT: Detailed bowel information to follow…

GI Stuff: About two years ago, I started having new bowel symptoms related to my periods. Where before things would tend to move well, they were now moving not so well and giving me some difficulty – but only on the first day or two of my period. And I was having some “spotting” where I would not expect spotting to come from – and again, only with my period. I talked to an OB at work and their opinion was that I was probably mistaken or it was hemorrhoids. Let’s be honest people, I’m a midwife – I know what kind of stuff is coming from where and I know was getting a small amount of menstrual blood rectally on the first day of my period. Also, knowing I had endo on my bowel, this kind of freaked me out.

About a year ago, I saw a different doctor who promptly referred me to a general surgeon for a colonoscopy – let me tell you, that was probably the worst thing I’ve ever had done in my life! The prep was bad and the procedure was worse. Unfortunately, I’m sure I’ll be having them again in the future – it’s good preventative medicine isn’t it? *shudder* ANYWAY, Dr. Surgeon told me prior to the procedure that it was very unlikely that the bleeding was related to my endo – technically possible, but never heard of. I smiled and nodded and waited for the results. Which were inconclusive. Yay. Basically, they saw a large mass pushing in on my intestine and they couldn’t be certain about what it was. Either it was an endometrioma – basically endometriosis has burrowed into my intestine and now I have a big cyst of the stuff in between the inside and outside layers. Or it was something else in my pelvis pushing in on my intestine (not so comforting). He needed to send me for an MRI to figure out a little more about it. What he could tell me however, was that the intestinal lining on the mass looked very healthy and so he was fairly certain it wasn’t cancer, though he didn’t have the biopsy result yet. Of note, it’s been a few months and I haven’t heard anything so I’m adopting the no news is good news approach.

At that visit we also talked options, which were: 1. Meds to put me in menopause (enough with the menopause already!) or 2. Surgery to remove the affected portion of intestine. Problem with 1 is: I’d like to have some babies, and menopause isn’t going to help that. Problem with 2 is: there would be so much scar tissue from the surgery that it would make getting pregnant very difficult. So, REALLY my options are: I’m screwed.

I had the MRI a few weeks ago and I have my follow up appt next Thursday. As luck would have it, a friend was the one doing the MRI and she told me they didn’t really see anything on my intestines, but they did see something on my ovary. I’m not sure if this makes me feel better or worse.

Oh yeah, I did I mention that 40% of women with endo also have fertility issues? The fun just doesn’t stop!

Endometriosis – the facts

3 Sep

Endo is a condition where the lining that normally grows in the uterus each month to nourish and protect a potential baby also grows outside the uterus. It can be found on the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and bowels. There have even been cases of endometrial tissue found in the lungs and brain (crazy!). Endo usually looks like little blood blisters, in some cases these blisters are bigger and darker (chocolate cysts) and are present in more advanced cases. Along with endo often come adhesions, filmy strings of connective tissue that can pull and twist and turn organs out of their natural position, or stick things together that shouldn’t be stuck. Basically, pelvic organs should be freely mobile, slipping and sliding around each other as they need to. Endo can put a stop to that – it’s basically like glue, gumming up your insides. Some good pictures can be found here.

It also causes pain. Pain from things being pulled in ways they shouldn’t be, but also pain from what is essentially internal bleeding. Each month as the hormones rise and fall to grow that wonderful life supporting tissue in the uterus and then shed the lining if there is no pregnancy, the endometrial tissue outside the uterus responds in the same way. Growing and developing and then being released. Except, unlike what is in the uterus, there is nowhere for it to go. So it just kind of sits there, causing an inflammatory reaction in the body, creating more adhesions, and just generally being a giant pain in the ass (or abdomen – ha!). Endo is classified by the physical characteristics from few spots/adhesions to significant amounts of it – stages 1-4. FUN FACT: The stage of endo has absolutely zero relationship to the amount of pain, symptoms or fertility issues being experienced.

Nobody really knows what causes endo though there are many theories:

Theory 1: Retrograde Menstruation – Basically, when a woman has her period, some of the blood and tissue go up and out the fallopian tubes (rather than down and out the cervix). Since the fallopian tubes are open to the abdominal cavity, that tissue is thought to break free and settle down on an organ or two and start growing there. The problem with this theory is that lots of women have some sort of retrograde menstruation but they don’t all get endo.

Theory 2: A ‘birth defect’ – the thought here is that way back when, when the woman was developing in her mother’s uterus, the cells that were supposed to become the inside of the uterus got lost along the way and ended up where they shouldn’t. They have remained lost but do what their supposed to do each month.

Theory 3: Environmental – Increasing chemicals in the environment are screwing with everything, including our reproductive organs. The big one here are the dioxins used to bleach tampons. Nice. Soak something in wicked chemicals and then put it in a very sensitive, highly absorbent part of your body and leave it there for long periods of time. Repeat monthly. This is a-ok according to the FDA because we’re not eating them, so the manufacturers can put whatever they want in/on them. Conventional pads also have these chemicals in them and are also in close contact with skin so they’re not much better. [public service announcement: please please PLEASE consider switching to reusable menstrual products such as the Diva Cup or cloth pads and teach your daughters, sisters, nieces etc to do the same, we should not willingly keep exposing ourselves to these known carcinogens and hormone disrupters. If nothing else, make the switch to unbleached organic tampons/pads].

Theory 4: Auto-immune disorder – This one is tricky too – lots of people have autoimmune disorders, not everyone has endo. So what gives? The fun thing about auto-immune disorders is that everyone is different – people’s bodies attack themselves in different ways. So where one person gets bowel issues, another gets skin issues, another gets reproductive issues. So if I have an autoimmune disorder and I get some retrograde blood flow, my body doesn’t quite know how to get rid of it so instead, it encourages it to stay. Without knowing specifically how the auto-immune part fits in, it’s one of the most compelling theories we have.

But, like I said. Nobody really knows for sure. (See here for more theories).

Treatment? Also fun – there really isn’t any. Next question?

Seriously, though, there really isn’t any definitive treatment. Some people with take hormones to basically put themselves into menopause for a time and see if it shrinks enough to not come back. Doesn’t work for everyone and hormones are going to screw with other things in your body. Some people have surgery and burn it all off. Works for some, grows back in others, causes more scar tissue (and hence pain) in most. Hysterectomy – basically, scoop it all out and hope that works. It does for some, not for others. Very invasive and most people want to take the ovaries too (which is a bad idea in my opinion) but if you don’t, you’ll still have the hormones and so potentially still have the problem.

Diet – you are what you eat. I can’t believe that people honestly still believe that what you put into your body every single day will have no effect on what your body is/does. Like my grade 7 teacher used to say: Garbage in, garbage out. Endo is an estrogen dominant condition which means that more estrogen will ‘feed’ it as it were. Being a woman, there’s not much I can do about that is there? Well yes, actually, there is – by eating foods low in estrogen and encouraging my body to get rid of estrogen effectively, it may very well reduce the pain and symptoms. Also, it’s an inflammatory reaction so I should be aiming to reduce inflammation also. What are prime sources of estrogen and inflammation? ANIMAL PRODUCTS. Yep, milk, cheese and meat (especially conventional sources) are full full full of estrogen and promote inflammatory responses in the body. Which might not be so bad in small doses for some people. But in my case, I should be running the other way. And hence this crazy diet.

[This is obviously a nutshell, for a great website on all the ins and outs of endo go here]