Sunday 11 December 2016
As it is March and Endometriosis Awareness Month I thought it would be great to get a positive story from a young woman living with endometriosis who has had her fair share of suffering. By making positive life changes through diet and exercise Emma has seen an improvement in symptoms such as pain and fatigue. Read this wonderful and inspiring interview with Emma below.
When were you diagnosed with Endometriosis?
I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2010 at the age of 18.
How long did it take to be diagnosed?
A long time – 5 years of no answers, endless hospital admissions and what felt like hundreds of specialist appointments.
What were your main symptoms?
Stomach cramps, pain from exercise, pain with periods, bowel problems like bloating, diarrhoea and constipation, tiredness and low energy, abnormal menstrual bleeding and bladder troubles.
How did Endometriosis effect your life?
Endometriosis has affected my life hugely. Being in pain affects my appetite, sleep patterns and motivation on a daily basis. The most frustrating thing about endometriosis is you never know when the pain is going to come. Unfortunately for me, exercise often brings pain…in 7th form I ran cross country and ended in the Emergency Department on some very strong drugs. I’ve had to accept that sometimes my body isn’t up for heavy weights or hard-core cardio, so opt for a walk or just listen to my body and rest. Having to take pain killers also knocks me back, often leaving exhausted (both physically and mentally).
It has been hard to come to terms with and was even harder when I was younger, I found myself in a spiral of self-destruction. Questioning, why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why am I spending my teenage years in and out of hospital, seeing specialist after specialist?
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve accepted that there is no simple answer that will make life easier. You are the one in control and you have to be willing to try new things and explain your situation to people and generally, people tend to admire the determination and willingness you have to pursuit with life as normally as possible. Living with endometriosis has made me the person I am today, made me more determined to achieve things and overcome the unpredictable obstacles along the way.
What was your diet/lifestyle like when symptoms were at their worst?
My symptoms were at their worst after my first operation. I was still in a lot of pain, to the point where I couldn’t exercise at all. I felt like everything in my world had been turned upside down as at secondary school I played almost every sport and danced. I let this frustration spiral into a journey of self-destruction, eating takeaways and junk food because it made me feel better. I created terrible behavioural patterns, and as it was my first year away from home at university, fast food was a luxury and easy option.
Because I was on so many hormones to manage my endometriosis the weight gained fast. I become extremely self-conscious with my body.
What made you change your eating / lifestyle, did you seek nutrition advice from a professional?
I was so sick of being in constant pain and feeling revolting all of the time. Although most of this is out of my control, I can control parts of it. The better I look after myself, the better my body treats me. Therefore although it can be frustrating and hard to stay motivated, I’m rewarded for living a healthier lifestyle.
I recently saw a nutritionist, Alison from Healthy Eating, who had been recommended through an Endometriosis Support Group in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. I had food intolerance testing done and a personal eating plan made. Alison takes a great approach and believes that everyone’s needs are unique, therefore everyone’s eating plans will be unique for them.
After discussion about my health and medical history, Alison pointed out that my system appears to be out of balance. Surgeries and IBS have taken a toll on my defences – in a nutshell my digestive system is not working anywhere near as efficiently as it should be and nutrients are not reaching the places they should be. Reality was, that if I wanted fight this disease I needed to make changes to my lifestyle and what I was eating.
Alison developed a personal eating plan for me that helped improve the functioning of my liver and gall bladder, kidneys, stomach, spleen, bowel and endocrine system – the plan aimed to improve my energy levels and sleep patterns, reduce symptoms of endometriosis and aid with weight loss.
What dietary / lifestyle changes did you make, and has it made a difference to your symptoms?
My food intolerance testing showed that I am intolerant to soy, yeast and eggs. So I have eliminated these from my diet completely. I am gluten free and steer clear of sugar and alcohol. I believe in whole-food and eating anything that is good quality, fresh and unprocessed. I do my best to follow a primal/paleo diet. My meals include things like meats, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats from coconut, avocado, olive oil and some nuts and seeds. I also incorporate dairy, as I’m a sucker for Greek yoghurt and muesli and a good coffee.
It’s amazing how nutrition can have such an impact on my symptoms. Playing with nutrition has dramatically improved the quality of my life.
How are you now?
If I eat something my body disagrees with I pay the price and regret it pretty quickly! I keep a food diary and track all my symptoms, so that if something is causing problems – I can be proactive and take it to a nutritionist for advice.
Having made changes to my diet I feel healthier, get less pain and have more stable energy levels – I feel the best I have felt in years.
*Check out Sarah's website http://onetreenutrition.com/