There are many orthodox and complementary methods that we can explore to help improve our own well-being and management of Endometriosis.
These can be summarised using the concept of a box of chocolates, with each method representing a chocolate for us to try and .work out if its right for us; not everyone likes every flavour and as such its a case of 'sucking and seeing' and finding the correct selection that ultimately enables you to manage your Endometriosis and more importantly boost your well-being.
I have personally created this concept as it is a simplistic yet accessible way of managing both ones own medical condition and the array of vast information thats made available from GPs, Hospitals, Therapists, Internet Research and other sufferers.
Everyone will have a different experience of Endometriosis and as such everyone's chocolate box will be different just because we are! However it helps to know that potentially there are a variety of things we can do NOW for ourselves that can positively improve quality of life whilst living with Endometriosis.
PLEASE seek medical advice before undertaking any lifestyle change.
EXPERT PATIENT - KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMATION
In some cases the saying 'knowledge is power' could not be more relevant. It is important that as a patient you arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can, as consistency of knowledge within the medical profession can vary and important details about YOUR health could be disregarded or missed. Read about the disease, its treatment options, learn from others, what are your options?!. As this disease can be a long-term (chronic) illness then becoming an expert is inevitable... but i found it helped make me feel in control when i learned about Endometriosis.
OPTIMISING HEALTH THROUGH NUTRITION & EXERCISE
Like any good new years resolution keeping healthy in mind and spirit can only be achieved through good nutrition and exercise. This can be hard however when you are unable to exercise or simply don't feel like avoiding the guilty pleasures that are technically bad for you.
The key in regards to exercise is finding the right activity for you, either walking or light running, joining a gym and getting professional support, dancing in your kitchen (yes really), swimming... the list is defined by you as only you know what you can realistically do.
Nutrition is an area which is vast and complicated, dependent on your own personal dietary needs. On the links page there is a very useful link to a Nutritionalist database, or speak with your GP/consultant regarding recommendations. Eating sensibly, ensuring a balanced diet consisting of the major food groups in particular focussing on the 5 a day.
Foods that boost the immune system, fight inflammation and foods that are right for you.
Keep treats to a minimum... alcohol, caffeine, high fat content naughty things (you know what I mean)... and I cant stress enough... food is not the enemy its a friend and its there to help.
Keep a diary and log your food choices each day, and mark on there any noticeable flare ups in your symptoms and well being, paying particular interest to pain, fatigue and psychological mood.
Oh and ensure you are drinking the recommended amount of water each day ... flushing away those toxins.
It is important to understand yourself. Every woman with Endometriosis will have a different 'Footprint' that is unique to them. Women with very little Endometriosis can have severe symptoms yet another could have lots of disease but few. Two very good tips to understanding yourself better.
Keep a diary, record, log etc. of how you feel. Endometriosis UK have a very good symptom check where you can print off and draw on a blank figure where your pain is. I use an APP on my phone named period checker. I used to use a spreadsheet. The purpose is to identify pattern, changes, improvements or deterioration medication response etc.
- Mindfulness. I was privileged to have attended a "Breathworks" talk on Mindfulness a few years ago. I learned a technique of relaxing and listening to my body and making a mental note of what felt good and what did not. By focussing on myself I was able to identify better how my body felt.
If, as a patient, you understand where the problem is and how it feels, if you can demonstrate to your GP/Consultant some specific information you will get more from them and also feel more in control.
It is important to recognise the benefits of emotional support. Living with a chronic illness can be hard, with invasive treatments and symptoms that can leave you drained and emotional. If your fortunate to have friends, family or a partner that you feel offers this support then embrace it, however for some people finding someone who understands can be difficult and this is why support groups can be an excellent way of connecting with other women who you can relate to and talk openly with.
Sometimes its a case of educating those around you about Endometriosis and taking a moment to explain to them clearly why you need support, directing them to websites or giving them a print print out/leaflet.
Many women can feel isolated, that no-one understands how they feel. I have heard dozens of times "I wish I could just make someone feel how i feel then they would know", and its important to identify that if you do feel isolated or misunderstood reach out and find people who DO understand. we are out there! and you are NOT alone!
It is important to acknowledge that sometimes we all need a little help. Practical support is the support that goes beyond listening and caring... its the doing. Ensuring that we utilise friends, family and colleagues when possibly to practically ease the burden of illness. For example, bringing in the shopping and packing away, collecting prescriptions,
running baths, giving lifts etc. We don't have to do everything on our own and identifying times when your health is at its worst will help you know when you need support the most.
LEGAL & FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Illness, especially long-term , chronic and persistent conditions, can have serious ramifications to work and finances. The key is to not bury your head in the sand but really to try understand what your options are what help and guidance is available. The Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to advise you as a first point of call in regards to your work and rights, further to this you may need the support of your GP and any employers to work towards a solution.
TIME TO HEAL
After any operation our bodies need time to heal, so it is important that you acknowledge and allow yourself to rest as much as you can, to eat well and to take it easy, especially avoiding lifting / carrying until your scars have healed. Sometimes there is a pressure to get back into work and routine, and some days we feel better but over-doing it can then set you back and possibly damage the healing inside.
(Salted Caramel Cup)
Understanding what medication is available, how to use it properly and ensuring you take it on time and prescribed can be advantageous during times where symptoms such as pain are prevalent. Taking medication is not something anyone should do without researching first and understand why its been prescribed, and even if its with reluctance, taking certain medication can greatly improve the quality of life especially in regards to pain and inflammation.
Pain Management Clinics / Centres are now being widely used as a referral for those with persistent pain. This is to complement any other treatment and to gain better understanding of pain, techniques and methods of pain control to improve the patients quality of life.
There are a large array of different types of complementary therapies such as Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Yoga, Meditation, Deep Tissue Massage and Acupuncture to name a few. Some of these can be available by the NHS (6 sessions) but mostly private. Some colleges offer sessions with training/newly qualified students at cut price deals however this could be a bit of a risk, its best that you look around and try find an established practitioner with experience in Endometriosis,
(aka Taste Explosion)
This is my favourite! we are all individual and as such we all have different things in our lives that make us feel good. This tool is unique, its all about you. My special tool? Catnaps and hot water bottles.... 30 mins shut-eye with my little pink botty!!! .... what's yours? maybe a manicure, chat with a friend, cuddling on the sofa .... basically whatever makes you feel alive, feel better.. then that is YOUR special tool.
SUPPORTING THE CHARITY
(Lemon Sorbet Mousse)
Endometriosis UK does a fantastic job, raising awareness and providing support all across the UK through a website and volunteer network.... what they need is more members and more people donating money or time to help spread the word and raise awareness... so less women have to suffer alone and more progress can be made through research and understanding this devastating disease.