5 tips for managing endometriosis

I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis in January 2014, at that time and for many years prior I was extremely unwell and could barely function.

Endometriosis is a multi-faceted disease so it needs to be considered from all angles. It doesn’t just include monthly pain – the pain for me was daily, but there was also extreme fatigue, depression, gut problems including bloating, constipation, bowel pain and malabsorption of nutrients.

These days I am feeling much better and rarely experience the symptoms mentioned above. There are many factors that have contributed to my improved health and I want to share with you some of my learnings. Firstly, let’s understand a bit more about the disease:

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside this area and creates inflammation, scar tissue, adhesions, pain and sometimes infertility. It is unknown what causes endometriosis but there are a few factors that may contribute to the disease:

Estrogen dominance is one factor that may contribute to endometriosis. If this hormone is not being expelled appropriately from the body it can worsen the disease and create other symptoms associated with estrogen dominance. There are two key components to maintaining optimal hormone levels; the liver which removes excess toxins, including excess hormones such as estrogen (and xenoestrogens) and the gastrointestinal system which is essential for absorbing nutrients and expelling waste.

Here are 5 tips for managing endometriosis:

  • Find your health care A-team; for example, I have the support of a general practitioner, a gynaecologist (who specialises in endometriosis), a naturopath, a gastroenterologist and an acupuncturist. Make sure the people you do see really understand the disease and are up to date with the latest research. Good health care will make a difference. Take responsibility for your own health though, do your research and ask questions; if you’re not comfortable with what your practitioner is proposing, seek a second opinion, it’s your body and you know it better than anyone. Excision surgery done correctly by an endo specialist is widely regarded as the best way to improve symptoms and quality of life.
  • Establish your support network. Having a chronic illness can be very isolating and can lead to depression. Creating my Instagram account healingyogi and this blog, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; the support from other endo sufferers (along with the support from my husband) was incredible. In addition to social media, you can find support networks through friends, family, local support groups and through a psychologist.
  • Consider your diet. As mentioned earlier, if your body is not absorbing the appropriate nutrients and expelling waste/toxins as it needs to, it’s only going to make you feel worse. There isn’t one diet for endometriosis, but there are a few guidelines that can help:
    • Eat a high fibre diet.
    • Buy food as close to its natural state and prepare your own meals as often as possible – eat lots of veggies!
    • Buy organic where possible and reduce the amount of toxins you consume.
    • Eat plenty of healthy fats found in olive oil and wild salmon as they are anti-inflammatory.
    • Avoid soy products such as tofu as they contain isoflavones which are similar to estrogen and therefore can have similar effects on the body.
    • Reduce your sugar intake (including alcohol). Processed sugary foods and drinks can cause inflammation and will only make you feel worse.
    • Drink plenty of water.

IMG_6753

 

  • Reduce your stress levels. By allowing your body to rest appropriately it will switch on your parasympathetic nervous system and allow your body to do things such as; conserve energy, digest food and reproduce. Find your happy place! Whether it’s playing sport, painting or going for a walk in nature – just do something that gives you time to nourish your body and mind. Not surprisingly, I recommend yoga and meditation as it provides benefits for both body and mind and can help manage pain. Restorative yoga is brilliant for when you are unwell and not up to doing exercise.

thehealingyogi

  • Address your digestive problems. If you’re tackling endometriosis it’s important to have your gut absorbing the appropriate nutrients. After many years of gut problems, last year I was finally diagnosed with SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) which meant I was malabsorbing nutrients along with some other unpleasant symptoms. At the time I had blood tests completed and was low in iron and vitamin B12; I suffered from extreme fatigue and brain fog as a result. Research your symptoms and talk to a naturopath / gastroenterologist. Find out what’s going on and take steps to address the problem so it doesn’t create additional health complications going forward.

There is so much more I could write about with regards to managing endo, but these are the 5 points that come first to mind. What are your tips for managing endo? I would love to know your thoughts.

Yours in health,

Meredith

Melbourne healthy eats

It’s been a while between blog posts but I’m happy to be back. I just completed my first semester studying nutrition, it’s been full on, but I’m loving learning about how food can help us to heal our body.

Recently I took a trip to Melbourne to visit friends and family. I lived in Melbourne, Australia for my entire life up until a year ago so I have a strong connection to the city. Melbourne is blessed with a diverse culture and as a result it has a unique and inspiring food scene, which includes healthy eateries. During my visit I was so inspired by the food being served I thought it was worth sharing. If you happen to find yourself in this beautiful place anytime soon and are in need of a healthy and delicious feed, give one of these eateries a go:

20161218_081012.jpg

  • Coin Laundry Cafe – located in the charming inner city suburb of Armadale, it is a cute corner cafe and a local favourite, it has a friendly vibe and serves up delicious food including excellent gluten free bread (yes, gluten free bread that actually tastes great).
  • Transformer – posh sister of veggie bar in Fitzroy, this restaurant serves up inspiring vegetarian food in a sophisticated atmosphere.
  • Walk Don’t Run – another cute cafe in Armadale serving up organic, locally sourced produce with a menu that allows it’s healthy and tasty ingredients to shine through. 
  • Serotonin Dealer – located in Richmond, this cafe is all about boosting your happiness via your tummy, which makes a lot of sense really when you consider that most of your serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for mood balance) is produced in your gut.
  • Heal Thy Self Co this was my regular when I lived in Melbourne. The delicious seasonal menu is built on bio-availability, eastern medicine and high performance psychology.
  • Tahina – Simple, healthy Israeli street food in Northcote. Try the green shakshuka!
  • MOM cafeif you have gut issues, this is your place. The menu was built by nutritionists, doctors, naturopaths and chefs and it caters for pretty much every dietary requirement you can think of.

If you visit any of these places or can recommend any other healthy cafes then drop me a note below!

Yours in health,

Meredith x

 

 

Tackling fatigue

Fatigue is something everyone can relate to, we all get tired and run-down at one point or another in our lives. What happens though when it takes over your life? Constant fatigue, brain fog, lethargy, aching muscles, to the point where even the most simple tasks become difficult. When it doesn’t go away, even with a good nights sleep, you know there’s a problem. This is what I’ve been dealing with for the last 6 months. It’s been so overwhelming that I haven’t been able to work or function normally.

IMG_20150424_085135

My naturopath believes I have adrenal fatigue, this condition is where the adrenal glands don’t function properly and below the necessary level. It is believed to be caused by prolonged levels of intense stress and poor health that result in strain on the body. For me personally I have been dealing with severe endometriosis, gut issues (SIBO) causing nutritional deficiencies, I had 2 surgeries last year, moved interstate and my husband has also been tackling his own health issues; when you look at all these factors, it’s no wonder I’m exhausted.

On a positive note, this week after 6 long months I feel like I’m starting to improve, I’m trying not to get too excited and tread carefully because I know I’m still not completely well. So, what has helped? The first step has been listening to my body and resting when I need to; the biggest lesson for me was when I took on a full time job after moving interstate to Brisbane, I struggled from day one and when I could hardly make it up the stairs at work I knew something was wrong, after 2 weeks I quit. Now, about 3 months later I’m starting to feel a little better, so I thought I’d share with you my tips for tackling chronic fatigue:

  • Rest, whenever you feel you need to, sit down for 10-15 minutes (don’t sleep during the day though) and sip a cup of herbal tea or water.
  • Try incorporating meditation and deep slow breathing, or breath regulation and lengthening (a technique in yoga called pranayama), it is a wonderful experience for your body and mind.
  • Cut out caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants. If you’re working, try taking a week or two off, schedule a holiday to get through the worst part of the caffeine withdrawal and help recharge your body.
  • Light exercise every day is important, try yoga – restorative or yin yoga, they are superb for fatigue. Walking is great too, try 15-20 minutes of light walking in the morning and/or evening. Don’t push yourself beyond this though.
  • Get outdoors and get some sunlight, (not excessive amounts of course) it does wonders for your state of mind, along with being the best source of vitamin D which is essential for assisting in the absorption of vitamins and for maintaining a healthy immune system.
  • Talk to your doctor to get an overall health check and get a blood test. I was deficient in iron and B vitamins so taking quality supplements has helped enormously.
  • Eat a healthful diet and drink plenty of water, reduce your intake of sugar and eat home made meals made from unprocessed ingredients, including plenty of vegetables. All of this sounds obvious, but in our fast paced world it can be difficult to maintain, organisation and preparation is key.
  • Aim for 8-9 hours sleep a night and get to bed before 10pm. Try taking magnesium – I was waking during the night cramping (a sign of being deficient in magnesium), since taking a supplement powder I sleep like a baby.

 

Do you suffer from chronic fatigue? Are there any other tips that work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yours in health,

Meredith x

 

Endo awareness month

March marks endometriosis awareness month. Endometriosis affects approximately 1 out of every 10 women, it is a chronic illness with no cure, it can cause debilitating pain, chronic fatigue, anaemia, infertility to name a few. It can have serious psychological and social impacts on a woman’s life.

About 1 year ago I had major excision surgery to remove endometriosis, it involved 7 hour surgery which removed 90% of my endo that had stuck all of my lower organs together including my bowel and following surgery was a stint in intensive care.

A year on so much has happened, but my health is still a work in progress. The moment I forget about my health, don’t eat the right food, allow excess stress and anxiety to creep in I feel it; the symptoms flare up which include pain, ‘endo-belly’ which is bloating usually associated with period pain and digestive problems. It just confirms for me the importance of nurturing your body and mind. My surgery was mostly successful, but there is no cure for endo, but by embracing self-care strategies it can make all the difference to your quality of life.

endometriosis aus high tea

This month, March 2016 there are plenty of awareness events happening around the world. I will be attending a high-tea organised by Endometriosis Australia to recognise endometriosis awareness month. By attending these events we can create awareness and end the silence.

Meredith x

 

 

A year of recovery and growth

The first day of 2016. How are you feeling? Personally, I’m ready for a fresh start; I feel as though last year was a culmination of the last 7 years of poor health. Yep 2015 was a doozy with 2 major surgeries due to endometriosis which included a bowel resection and re-implantation of a ureter to save one of my kidneys. Along with this I was diagnosed with SIBO which as with endometriosis, took years to diagnose.

So was my endometriosis excision a success? Has eating a healthful diet improved my condition? What are the key factors for improving health when dealing with a chronic illness such as endo? I’ll try and answer these questions for you.

IMG_2499v1

The first surgery this year was endometriosis excision which had covered my entire pelvis, all my lower organs were stuck together, including part of my bowel. In preparation for the surgery I was eating well but taking the new ‘wonder-drug’ for endo called Visanne. For me personally I felt little relief on the drug and continued to experience breakthrough bleeding. During surgery I lost a lot of blood which my surgeon believes could be because of Visanne, as a result I ended up in intensive care and had multiple blood transfusions. For those of you taking Visanne, if it’s working for you then great, but if you’re preparing for surgery then talk to your doctor, I would recommend to stop taking it pre-surgery.

Since my operation I have had a new endometrioma on my left ovary, I believe this happened about 4 weeks after surgery when I started taking a new pill Norimin and I experienced some breakthrough bleeding. There are also some adhesions and scarring which occured from the surgery which are unavoidable. The second surgery to save my left kidney was a success which I am happy to say. Unfortunately there is no cure from endometriosis and I still experience some dull aching and pain on my left side, but being on the continuous pill (so no periods) has been a relief. If I need surgery again my doctor believes a full hysterectomy is the only option for me due to the severity of my case. On the fertility route (which I started exploring about 4 years ago)  IVF is considered too risky now and my chances of getting pregnant through an egg donor are less than 30%. Not the best news but I’m learning to deal with my situation and move forward in a positive way.

How has diet helped? Eating a balanced wholefoods diet and drinking plenty of H20 has helped in many ways; reduced bloating, better digestion and improved energy levels, are all improvements that I have seen. After being diagnosed with SIBO I have recently just finished a course of antibiotics and have just started a new diet to treat this, the diet is a phased approach the first is very restrictive. I’ll share my learnings and experiences with this as I progress through the journey. I am focused now on healing my gut, as I believe it is the basis for good health.

Another factor that I believe has a huge impact on overall health is excess stress, so do what you can to remove it from your life. This will be a key focus for me this year, to remove negative energy and excess stress and continue to focus my energy on the positive aspects of life.

The last year has been full-on, along with my health struggles, my husband also went through brain surgery which was hugely stressful (as you can imagine). With 2015 now complete, it’s time to move forward; after everything we’ve been through my husband and I decided to sell our house, leave the city we’ve both lived in our whole lives and make a fresh start in Brisbane, as I write this my house is filled with packing boxes, I’ll admit it is stressful, but without action there is no change.

The last year has taught me how strong I actually am and it’s also given me a deeper sense of empathy and compassion. 2015 has instilled my love of nutritional medicine and yoga and I will continue on my journey in 2016 to find health, peace and love. Wherever you are at on your journey, I hope you find happiness and health in 2016.

Yours in health,

 

Meredith x

Evening rituals for a good night’s sleep

Getting a restful sleep is important, from personal experience if I sleep too much or not enough it can affect me physically, mentally and emotionally.

Incorporating rituals into your evening can help your mind and body relax and fall asleep more easily.

IMG_9702

My first suggestion is to keep the lights to a minimum, especially after your evening meal, keep only the necessary lights on and try lighting some candles to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Try not to eat a large meal at night and avoid eating after 8pm – if your body is busy digesting food it will prevent you from sleeping well. Alcohol and caffeine both disrupt sleep so try drinking herbal tea instead.

If you watch TV, turn it off at around 9pm (same goes for the computer/tablet) and begin your wind down, try some gentle stretches, restorative yoga or meditation, you only need to put aside 10 minutes, you will find your breathing slows and as you practice your mind will slow down too. Another ritual to try is yogic breathing or pranayama, if you’ve never tried this before, here is a simple sequence:

Close your eyes and sit down in a comfortable position. Slowly breathe in for 1,2,3 counts, hold your breath in, then breathe out for 1,2,3 counts, then exhale again for 2 more counts. Repeat this process very slowly about 3-4 times. This breathing technique is lovely at any time of the day if you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

When you’re ready for bed, turn the main light off and just keep a lamp on. Avoid watching TV, or looking at your phone, keep electronic devices away from you with the sound turned down.

For those of you dealing with pain I’d suggest investing in a lavender heat bag, you can heat it in the microwave then pop it in bed with you.

Try rubbing a few drops of lavender essential oil on your hands, neck and then slowly breathe in the scent, it is very relaxing, I do this every night.

I would suggest setting a alarm for the same time everyday, even weekends, this may seem overkill but getting a good night’s sleep is also about waking at the same time to set a pattern for your body, over time you won’t need an alarm but while you’re having trouble it may be worthwhile. Another tip is to get up as soon as you wake up, if you wake at 5am instead of your usual 6am, your body is telling you it’s time to get up, sleeping longer can make you feel tired and groggy.

Happy zzz’s!

Yours in health,

Meredith

Post-surgery yoga

These are my go-to yoga postures I practice when recovering from endometriosis surgery. After surgery I usually only practice Hatha (physical) yoga after about 4 weeks or when I feel my body feels ready for some gentle exercise. Everyone is different though, so listen to your body and if a pose just doesn’t feel right, or hurts in any way – stop. If you’re unsure, check with your doctor.

As it happens I am currently recovering from major surgery. Due to multiple surgeries and having a stent in my left side, I haven’t practiced regularly for about 6 months. But patience and practice is key, over time strength can be regained and flexibility will improve.

So here is my guide to post-surgery yoga. It is restorative and relaxing, there are no standing poses. I would recommend natural, slow breathing throughout, if you can move with your breath that’s great too.

Pose 1 – Child’s pose

This is a restorative, hip opening pose. Kneel on the floor, touch your big toes then sit on your heels then separate your knees. Lay your torso between your thighs, Lengthen your tailbone from your pelvis and your skull away from your shoulders. Your shoulders should feel wide and relaxed. Hold for 2-3 minutes.

childs pose

 Pose 2 – Toe squat

The toe squat can be challenging, especially at first. This pose places pressure on the knees, toes, feel and ankles. If you have any problems in this area perhaps it’s best to avoid or try for a shorter duration with a cushion under your knees.

This is a great way to begin your practice, it is uncomfortable but also a big, juicy stretch for the feet and toes. It strengthens the ankles and opens the toes and feet.

Begin by kneeling, sit on your heels, then tuck your toes under, sit on the balls of your feet. Hold for 1-3 minutes.

toe squat yin yoga

Pose 3 – Cobbler’s pose

I find this pose incredibly soothing. It stretches the thighs and groins, opens the hips and stimulates the abdominal organs, helps digestion and eases period pain. It is also great for the lower back.

Sit on the floor with your legs straight, then gently bring the soles of your feet together. Rest your hands on your feet. Allow your knees to fall gently apart. Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed. If you find it difficult to sit up straight, sit on a cushion or block. Hold for 3 minutes.

cobblers pose

Pose 4 – Cobbler’s pose with forward bend

While seated in cobbler’s pose, try bending forward, move very slowly and place your hands, to the floor. Hold for approximately 1 minute.

forward bend cobblers pose

 Pose 5 – Baby dragon

This is a beautiful, hip and groin opening low lunge. It can be uncomfortable on the knees so place some extra cushion under the knee if you need to.

Begin on your hands and knees, step one foot between your hands. Make sure your knee is directly above your heel. Slide the back knee as far back as you can. Either place your hands on your front knee or on the floor, either side of your foot. Hold for about 3 minutes on each side.

baby dragon yin yoga (1)

 Pose 6 – Frog pose

Another deep groin opening pose, frog pose helps alleviate menstrual cramps and aids digestion. There is a slight back bend involved which compresses the lower back. If you find it places to much pressure on your knees, place something soft under them.

Start in child’s pose and slide your hands forward. Separate the knees, then gently separate the heels as pictured below. Hold for 3 minutes.

frog pose

Pose 6 – Extended puppy pose

This pose is similar to when you see a dog doing a ‘play bow’, with their bottom up and head down. Puppy pose stretches the spine and shoulders, it is very calming. Hold for 1 minute. Oh and yes that’s my dog in the photo – he loves to participate in my yoga practice!

Come onto all fours, place your hands under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Walk your hands forward and slowly lower your chest to the floor. Keep your arms straight, just above the floor. Move your forehead towards the floor, arch your back towards the floor, rest your arms on the floor and push your hips back to lengthen your back. When coming out of this pose you can slowly move back into child’s pose.

puppy pose

Pose 7 – Gentle seated twist

Gentle being the key word here, if you’ve had surgery on your abdominal area, it’s unlikely you’ll feel like doing lots of twists! This pose stimulates the abdominal organs, improves digestion and blood circulation, lengthens and strengthens the spine, shoulders and hips, it is also a very relaxing pose so great for anxiety or stress.

Begin sitting cross legged. Sit tall, relax your shoulders and sit evenly on your bottom, keep your abdomen firm. While inhaling raise your arms above your head, then exhale and lower your arms to the right side of your body, the right hand should be on the ground beside you the left on your right knee. Rotate your head and tuck your chin in so it’s tilted to your right shoulder. Sit tall and breathe slowly for about 1 minute, repeat the process on the other side.

gentle seated twist

Pose 8 – Side neck stretch

This pose helps alleviate neck tension. While seated gently tilt your head to the right, extend the left hand down and hold your head with your right hand, you should feel a deep neck stretch on the left side. Breathe slowly and deeply, hold for one minute on each side.

neck bend yoga

Pose 9 – Meditation, either seated or lying down in corpse pose (savasana)

Savasana is just as important as all the other yoga postures, the goal is complete relaxation – which is difficult to achieve. I often meditate in a seated position, especially after surgery as lying down can be uncomfortable. If you choose to lie down in savasana, try placing a bolster or cushion under your knees to help alleviate the pressure on your tummy. Hold your position for at least 10 minutes and try to focus on the different parts of your body, relaxing each part as you go. See my recent blog post for a more detailed guide to meditation.

relaxing meditation

I’d love to know your thoughts, have you tried yoga before? How has it helped you?

Yours in health

Meredith x

Meditation

Over the last 5 months I have been unable to practice physical yoga, one thing I have been able to do though is meditate. Meditation is an integral part of yoga practice and some say meditation is yoga.

Meditation has brought me peace during my recovery and allowed me to relax even when in pain. It is hugely beneficial, especially if you are an anxious person like me and find it difficult to ‘switch off’.

I thought I’d share with you my approach to meditation, I usually practice every day when the house is quiet for around 15 minutes, I always feel better when I do, I sleep better and my mind is clearer.

IMG_20150617_151516

Here’s my step-by-step approach to meditation:

  • Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Remember the point is to relax and focus your mind, so if you can stay awake the more beneficial the session will be, at the end you should be relaxed but also refreshed.
  • Close your eyes and start to focus on your breathing, take a couple of slow, deep breaths.
  • Start to focus and slowly relax your face, your lips, between your eyebrows, jaw, tongue and cheeks, then slowly move down your body focusing and relaxing every part of your body from your shoulder blades to your groin and finally to your feet.
  • Then focus on the sounds around you start outside the house and work your way inside, try and focus on each noise for a little while.
  • Allow the thoughts to come and go, don’t be disheartened if you feel like too many thoughts are distracting you, meditation takes practice, over time it will get easier. If you only have 15 minutes to spare, set a soft, relaxing alarm on your phone to gently remind you it’s time to finish your session.

Yours in health,

Meredith x