How to manage endometriosis

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From heavy, aching menstruation to the inability to enjoy sex due to pain, endometriosis can be debilitating. A better understanding of the disease, however, could help you deal with it more effectively. Gynaecologist and fertility expert Dr Danie Botha and yoga instructor Gafieza Ismail, founder of Yoni Shakti and someone who suffers from endometriosis, offer valuable insight.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is ‘the presence of tissue, which, when seen under a microscope, is similar to the endometrium (lining of the uterus) at sites outside the uterine cavity,’ says Dr Botha. It’s a chronic, inflammatory condition that negatively affects your quality of life and fertility.

What are the symptoms?

The most common is dysmenorrhoea (painful periods). It presents in 60–80% of endometriosis sufferers, according to Dr Botha. Other symptoms include pelvic pain, infertility, pain during sex and in rare cases, rectal bleeding with menstruation.

Pain can be anywhere from mild to severe, with some patients reporting that they can’t attempt their normal daily tasks and are bedridden for two to three days, says Dr Botha.

What treatments are available?

The contraceptive pill is often prescribed to help sufferers deal with pain and discomfort. There are also new drugs on the market, but they’re often expensive and may not be covered by medical aids.

If the symptoms don’t improve after a few months on the contraceptive pill, a diagnostic laparoscopy allows the gynaecologist to see inside the pelvic area to make an accurate diagnosis. During this minimally invasive procedure, a camera is inserted into the abdomen through a small cut in the navel. The doctor might then remove any unwanted tissue that’s found.

Real-life tips for management

Lifestyle changes, including an anti-inflammatory diet and gentle physical activity, could help you manage endometriosis symptoms.

‘After my diagnosis, I was desperate to find a cure, so I started working out. While exercise is good for so many reasons, in this instance it didn’t work for me. The friction from the intense activity caused regular flare-ups and more hospital visits,’ says Gafieza.

Instead, she embarked on a yoga journey to manage her endometriosis pain.

‘It was challenging at first, as my body rejected any consistent activity, but I committed and rested when my body needed it. Restoration was as powerful to my learning as my flexibility and mobility.

‘Yoga brought me mental and emotional strength and peace, and helped me to reconnect with my body. In the beginning, I still struggled with 24/7 chronic pain, but my mind was stronger. I became more attuned to my body, and I gained a better understanding of how my body moves, as well as the complicated nature of this chronic condition,’ says Gafieza.

Besides doing regular yoga at her practice to manage inflammation, Gafieza also follows a diet that excludes gluten, sugar, wheat, red meat, caffeine, eggs, dairy and soya.

Where to find local support

Although there are general endometriosis symptoms, everyone experiences the condition differently. Talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes such as altering your diet or adopting a different exercise routine. You can find more support here:

For more advice related to women’s health, read these helpful articles:

For confidential assistance, contact Life EHS; SMS your name to 31581 and the Care Centre will call you back.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.

Reference:

  • Adapted from Life Healthcare magazine. (2016). Endometriosis: Can It Affect Fertility? by Brighton, S. pp. 1819. Adapted with permission
  • Yoni Shakti. (2021). [online] Available at: https://www.yonishakti.co.za/about-gafieza [Accessed 17 June 2021]

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