Endometriosis: Dr Larisa Corda discusses symptoms on This Morning
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Endometriosis affects one in 10 women in the UK, which adds up to around 1.5 million people. It takes about eight years on average to be diagnosed with the painful chronic illness and even when you receive treatment, the condition is not curable and you will inevitably have flare-ups and bouts of debilitating pain. Very little is known about managing the condition, so Express.co.uk chatted to the experts to find out the six things you should do during an endometriosis flare-up to manage the pain.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects women in a number of ways. It can cause pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, and/or fertility problems.
But essentially, the condition varies so much from person to person that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it looks like. That’s why so many people go undiagnosed.
Cosmetic doctor and hormone expert, Dr Martin Kinsella from BioID Hormones said: “Endometriosis is characterised by misplaced overgrowth of endometrial tissue, which is supposed to grow on the inside of the uterus but grows on the outside instead.
“This misplaced tissue continues to behave as endometrial tissue usually does, thickening, breaking and bleeding at certain times of each menstrual cycle.
“This results in pain and the tissue overgrowth can affect a woman’s fertility.
“Although the exact cause of endometriosis isn’t completely understood, most doctors and research suggests that hormonal changes and genetics are the main cause.”
If you’re a woman struggling with endometriosis, you probably know all of the information about what endometriosis is.
However, do you really understand why it flares up from time to time? Dr Kinsella explained that flare-ups are a result of fluctuating hormones.
He said: “Endometriosis is an oestrogen-dependent disease, meaning it thrives off oestrogen. And, many women with endometriosis also have a hormone imbalance, often with oestrogen dominating.
“Oestrogen dominance is when the levels of oestrogen and progesterone are out of balance. It’s actually a type of oestrogen, called estradiol, that regulates how your uterine tissue grows.
“So if you have endometriosis, high levels of this hormone can trigger inflammation and symptoms.
“Many women report feeling sharper or less severe pain at certain times of their lives, for example, puberty, menopause and pregnancy, because the oestrogen and progesterone fluctuations during these times cause endometrial tissue to grow faster or slower.”
Endometriosis is often treated a laparoscopic surgery to remove the lesions and then contraception such as the coil or contraceptive pill.
However, treatment for endometriosis may not always be necessary if your symptoms are mild, you’re not having fertility problems, or you’re nearing menopause when symptoms may get better without treatment.
Endometriosis sometimes gets better by itself but can get worse if not treated, Dr Kinsella pointed out.
He said: “Anti-inflammatories may help reduce the pain and hormone treatment can be effective at limiting or stopping the production of oestrogen, which can reduce the amount of tissue in the body.”
However, what else can you do besides taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin?
It’s worth noting that everyone’s symptoms are different and you’ll want to treat the symptoms you have, whether that’s abdominal pain, pain during sex, pain when going to the toilet or a heavy flow during your period, or bleeding between periods.
Hannah Samano, the founder of Unfabled, the first cycle care platform, has suggested six things to treat endometriosis flare-ups (reassuringly, this advice comes from experience working with a whole community full of endo-warriors, so Hannah knows her stuff).
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CBD – you won’t believe the wonders!
According to Hannah, CBD really is the main thing that helps the endometriosis community on her site.
She explained: “It’s relatively new to consumers, it’s only been mainstream for a few years – but it really helps.
“Evidence is growing to suggest that CBD can be beneficial for endo symptoms. It’s packed with anti-inflammatory properties and its mild analgesic properties can help to reduce pain.
“Topical CBD balms can help hugely to soothe and relieve aches and pains. We have options like Daye’s balm which contains concentrated levels of pure, whole plant hemp extract with naturally occurring CBD.
“You can go for a topical option, but you could also choose an ingestible CBD oil. Our Remedy does a CBD Oil with geranium, lavender and sweet orange – designed to help you relax, wind down and sleep.”
Heating pads can be such a lifesaver to alleviate pain! Applying heat to the abdominal area can help to relax your pelvic muscles and keep the blood flowing, which can reduce cramping.
Hannah said: “you can go for a hot water bottle, heating pad, or you can go for an alternative like BeYou’s Period Pain Relief Monthly Patches, all of which can ease your cramps and period pains.
“BeYou’s alternative is designed specifically to create a ‘cooling tingle’ on application and slowly deliver a cramp-numbing sensation to the skin over 12 hours.”
One scroll on Instagram through dedicated endometriosis pages supports the evidence that these relief patches really do work magic, so it’s worth a shot if you experience severe cramps.
In a similar vein to heating pads, warm baths surround your body with heat, which can help provide relief for your pain, Hannah said.
She added: “CBD can also be of great help, and you can get CBD bath melts which combine natural oils and butters with a CBD – to help you relax your body.”
When you’re in the bath, try to stay off your phone and use the time to really unwind.
You could even give your body a scrub or do a hair mask and face mask to step up the pampering another level (if you have the time and energy!)
We all know that what you eat has a major effect on how you feel in general – and it can effect your endometriosis symptoms too.
Hannah said: “Research has shown that anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce symptoms, so eating and avoiding certain foods can certainly help.
“Try to eat a diet full of greens and vegetables, as well as omega-3 rich foods – think fish, seeds, nuts, etc. Green tea is also a great option to include in your diet.
“Refined carbohydrates are inflammatory so can inflame your gut and cause the pain to worsen, so avoid those where you can and limit dairy too – we all know dairy can cause discomfort for anyone, let alone those with endometriosis symptoms!
“There are so many dairy alternatives around you can give a go instead.”
Don’t feel too bad if you have a few treats though. It’s hard to eat perfectly when you’re in pain and feeling miserable!
Ginger tea and turmeric
If you find it tricky to cut things out of your diet, think about what you can add to your diet instead.
Hannah said: “Tea can aid with pain by simply warming up your body and helping to soothe your stomach.
“Ginger and turmeric both have benefits, and there are teas made specifically too, like Oh My Flo tea, which is made up of adaptogenic herbs and botanicals to support your hormonal health, boost energy and soothe mood swings.”
Exercise and moving the body
Sometimes when you’re dealing with symptoms, the last thing you want to do is exercise.
In the endometriosis community, exercise is a touchy subject. Some people find it frustrating when exercise is recommended as a treatment for the condition as it feels so impossible when you’re in extreme pain.
Hannah said: “Never force yourself to exercise if you can’t! Always listen to your body.”
However, if you think you can manage a little bit of physical activity, it will help.
The expert added: “Simple movement can however help with the pain – think of what endorphins can do for you, it’s a natural mood booster and can also help to curb depression or anxiety that come with endometriosis.
“Of course, it’s not a cure and it won’t be the best option for lots of people – if you want to relax and lie still with a heating pad on, that’s absolutely fine too. It totally depends on your body and your symptoms.”
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