Around one women in 10 live with the painful condition endometriosis, where cells similar to those lining the womb grow elsewhere in the body.
Despite being relatively common, the condition is poorly understood and many women go undiagnosed for years, although a number of celebrities - including Lena Dunham, Julia Bradbury and Whoopi Goldberg - have helped improve awareness by talking about it.
As the cells associated with endometriosis grow, they react to the monthly menstrual cycle and bleed, causing inflammation and pain. There’s no cure, although treatments including painkillers, hormone treatment and sometimes surgery, can help.
Gynaecologist and surgeon Dr Iris Orbuch, has co-written Beating Endo, with physical therapist and pelvic pain specialist Amy Stein, who describe ways to overcome the disease’s effects and break its hold, through a ‘multimodal’ programme.
Multimodal is essential because years of misdiagnosis lead to a spiral of co-conditions that need to be identified and treated as well.
“No woman should have her life put on hold, her personal relationships broken, her career stunted by a disease we know can be dealt with,” declares Stein.
They outline four ways to deal with the effects of endometriosis
1. The right physical therapy and basic exercise - As endo cells distort the organs of the body’s core, the muscles and nerves underlying the organs are also distorted. That hurts, and the body tenses against the pain. To reverse that process, you need physical therapy with a good physical therapist, but until you do, a number of basic therapeutic exercises can be performed to ease the muscles. They include slow, deep breathing; a pelvic floor drop where you release the pelvic muscles; a pelvic floor stretch, where the pelvic floor is dropped while squatting or lying down with knees to the chest and feet together; a hip rotator stretch where you lie with knees bent and one foot on the opposite thigh which is lifted and pulled gently towards you; a hip flexor stretch which is a gentle lunge and hold, and an abdominal stretch, where you lie on your stomach with hands flat next to your shoulders, exhale and slowly push your upper body up with both hands and hold briefly.
2. Nutrition - Transition towards an anti-inflammatory diet, which is as organic as possible. Give up dairy, gluten, soy, and sugar.
3. Taking care with your environment - A huge number of synthetic chemical substances used in household products and standard objects qualify as endocrine disruptors, which may contribute to intensifying endometriosis pain. That can mean beauty products and household cleaning products.
4. Mindfulness - Pain happens in the brain, and research shows the brain’s ability to disarm it. Try yoga, table tennis, snowboarding, plus self-talk and walking the dog. Mindfulness cools the central nervous system and lets the mind restore and even repair the body.