Written by Marianne Zander | Monday, 20 March 2023
Living with endometriosis can be painful and frustrating. Western medicine can offer some relief, but for many, it doesn’t alleviate all the symptoms or address the root cause. Oftentimes, endometriosis sufferers experience more benefits from natural approaches that can help combat pain and discomfort.
Endometriosis is a painful condition that occurs when tissue that resembles the uterine lining grows in other areas of the body. This endometrial-like tissue can grow and attach to a woman’s ovaries, the outer surface of the uterus, ligaments that support the uterus, fallopian tubes, bladder and bowel. You can read more about what it is and the symptoms here.
Natural remedies can offer relief by controlling inflammation, assisting in muscle relaxation and helping to improve overall health (Rishe & Galan, 2022). As someone who suffers from endometriosis, here are my top five tips:
Minimise foods that cause or exacerbate inflammation. Potentially problematic foods include:
Replace these with fresh, wholefoods including high-fibre fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy omega-3 fats. Not only are these great for staving off inflammation, but they also assist with constipation, which can be problematic for those suffering from endometriosis (Rishe & De Pietro, 2022).
Regular exercise is great for overall health, but it also helps release endorphins that assist in pain reduction and may assist with inflammation (Schubert & Diggles, 2020). Everybody is different, so it’s important to choose forms of exercise that work best for your body. For instance, one study found that those suffering from endometriosis may have reduced lower back strength, flexibility and balance (Álvarez-Salvago et al., 2020). That said, some exercises may further aggravate endometriosis-related pain. If this is the case for you, be patient and don’t be afraid to modify exercises or work closely with a personal trainer, physical therapist or exercise physiologist. You may even find you can perform specific types of exercises at certain times during your cycle but you may need to modify – or opt for less strenuous movement – if pain persists. For instance, you may swap out your heavy lifting sessions in the gym for swimming or yoga instead.
Think of this as physical therapy for your pelvic floor. While it may sound strange, this type of massage can address problems with the pelvic floor, the bowl-shaped group of muscles inside the pelvis that helps to support the bladder, bowel, rectum, and uterus. Pelvic pain can occur when muscles of the pelvic floor are too tight, resulting in muscle irritation and muscular pain, known as myofascial pain (Phan et al., 2021). To help treat myofascial pain, a specially trained physical therapist performs external and internal manipulations of the pelvic floor muscles. This helps to relax contracted and shortened muscles, which in turn can help alleviate pain in the pelvic floor – just as it would in other muscles in the body. Massage therapy can also help reduce severe menstrual pain caused by endometriosis (Valiani, et al., 2010).
Experiencing chronic pain can be stressful and stress can heighten sensitivity to pain. Because stress can worsen pain, it’s important to incorporate stress management strategies to avoid this vicious cycle. Meditation can be an extremely beneficial tool in helping to reduce unnecessary stress. Even just a few minutes a day can help slow a busy mind, reduce feelings of uneasiness and provide an opportunity to relax. If you’ve never meditated before, there are plenty of free videos and apps online that offer guided meditation sessions. Taking time to relax can also prove beneficial. This could include taking a short nap during the day, listening to music, going for a walk, or simply taking a few deep breaths to quiet your mind. Getting enough sleep is also particularly important, as not doing so can cause changes in hormone levels, inflammation, and pain (Johnson, n.d.).
Some studies indicate that acupuncture treatment on specific acupuncture points appears to be an effective pain treatment for endometriosis (Rubi-Klein, et al. 2010). Acupuncture uses very thin needles inserted at strategic points on a person’s body to stimulate muscles, nerves and connective tissue and can be used to help increase blood flow, reduce inflammation and cause endorphins to be released. People receiving acupuncture may experience an immediate sense of relaxation while others may require multiple sessions before seeing results.
Endometriosis affects everyone differently so it’s important to find a natural health routine that works best for you. Try to remain open-minded and don’t be afraid to try new things. You may not see results straight away, and what works for you this month may not work for you next month. But taking a consistent, holistic approach can offer significant pain relief for those living with this debilitating disease.
Marianne is a health and wellness coach with a background in personal training. She holds special interests in complementary medicine, gut health and vegan nutrition. Passionate about living a holistic lifestyle, Marianne founded This Wellness Life and takes an all-natural approach based on key pillars of wellness including mindset, movement, managing stress levels and maximising nutrition.
She’s been able to combine her passion for natural health with her professional career in communications in her role at Endeavour College where she contributes to content and course development and helps promote and launch new initiatives, projects and systems for staff and students.