From surgery and hormones to acupuncture and diet, when it comes to treating endometriosis symptoms, every woman is different.
“I gave up gluten, meat, and chocolate”
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to that which lines a woman’s uterus goes rogue, growing in places outside of the uterus and causing scar tissue, pain, heavy bleeding, and irregular menstrual cycles. So far, there’s no one set cure; some women suffer for years, trying everything they can to deal with the worsening symptoms. Mary Smith, of Lodi, CA, says she found relief in following an anti-inflammatory endometriosis diet. “You basically remove everything lovely from your diet: All gluten, pork products, dairy, chocolate, coffee, and any meat that has added hormones,” she explains. “I was never 100 percent symptom-free, but I went from having a period every 10 days and needing prescription painkillers for the cramps to a 24-day cycle and ibuprofen. I hated the thought of such a severe diet change but after my health improved so much, you couldn’t pay me to eat bread again!” For a glimpse of what it’s like to live with this condition, don’t miss this woman’s harrowing battle with endometriosis.
“I gave up an ovary”
While bleeding, pain, and irregular periods are the most common symptoms of endometriosis, the condition can also cause fatigue, painful sex, depression, pelvic pressure, bloating, gastrointestinal problems, and cramping. Many of these symptoms are dependent on where the endometrial tissue is growing and what organs it affects, which means treatments are targeted to individual symptoms. For Elizabeth D., of Quantico, VA, it meant having one of her ovaries, the organ most covered in tissue, removed. Afterwards, she says, she went on long-term hormonal birth control to keep new tissue from growing. “In doing this, I have kept my period almost entirely at bay for years,” she says. “I’m so happy to have found what works for me!”
“I’m on birth control pills for life”
Infertility or problems getting pregnant is a common and devastating side effect of endometriosis. In fact, it’s often what leads a woman to finally getting a diagnosis—which is exactly what happened to Melissa O., of Prior Lake, MN. She was diagnosed with endometriosis after suffering an ectopic pregnancy. “I had laparoscopic surgery to have some of the scar tissue removed. After that my doctor put me on birth control pills to help keep the endo from growing back,” she says. When she decided to start a family, she quit the pills to became pregnant, eventually giving birth to a healthy son. And delaying going back on the pills was a big mistake, she says. “I know that I’ve had regrowth based on how painful my periods became over the last few years—on my worst days I can’t move, eat, or drink,” she says. “I’ve been back on the pill for about six months and have almost no pain now—I’m so happy.” P.S. An irregular period doesn’t always mean endometriosis; it can also be one of the 11 signs you’re in perimenopause.