There are many ways to achieve the things we want in life and when you look at how different people approach their goals and the things they want out of life, they could typically be placed into two compartments: pushing or nurturing. What is interesting is how these two approaches can affect us on an emotional and physical level and how they might affect our level of happiness with the very things we are trying to achieve. We might achieve the same outcome but it is how we feel along that journey that is really the key point here and I believe particularly relevant when we consider our health as being the main goal.
The Pushing Approach
You tackle things with vigour and with a “to do” list. You feel that as long as you achieve everything on that “to do” list, then things will work out well. You are adamant about doing things right and following a process 100%. You believe that you have to push yourself through to get things done. Now, if we have to demonstrate this example within your health journey, you might believe that there are a list of foods you should eat and that you should eat only those foods, that there are specific supplements you need to take and a set protocol you need to follow. Your “to do” list is about working through everything on a daily basis and believing that if you just do these things, everything will be okay.
You push yourself to do them. There is little pleasure within the process or within your journey. Secretly you believe that it is a type of penance for having endometriosis, that you have to do them. Because you really don’t want to do them at all.
The downside of this approach is that you will generally resent what you are doing. You will feel a type of stress around doing it as you are resisting that you have to do it. The likelihood is also that you will feel tired about the thought of doing any of it. It will feel overwhelming and believe that it is all too hard.
The Nurturing Approach
This approach is about tuning inward and feeling into what you want to do. It is about really embracing where your body is at and what it needs from you right now. It is about taking your time, about reviewing information and viewing your experiences as a test, an exploration and something new to try. If you were to use this as an example within your health journey, you would see everything as something fun to try, a new adventure of things to explore. The test would be around figuring out what works for your body and feeling into what your body needs right now – no matter what someone says or suggests.
It is about really nurturing your body and what you are trying to achieve for your health, based on how you feel physically and emotionally. There is no pushing and there is no deadline. There most certainly is no “to do” list. It is about layering up on ideas and suggestions and feeling into what you personally want to try next and what feels good within your body.
It is about asking yourself what you need right now, today and in this moment and recollecting what made you feel good in the past and simply doing that. Whether it is something as simple as deep breathing, sitting still with the birds or drinking a smoothie. It is really about asking what it is your body needs right now.
This is, of course, a much calmer, better place to come from as it doesn’t involve stress or force. We appreciate what is available to us and simply incorporate what feels good as we need it. We use information as we want and filter out what we don’t. We experiment and try and keep doing what makes sense in our mind and body.
It is gentle, intuitive and yes, far better for your health and approach.
The Challenge with this concept
It takes time to find that sweet spot of knowing what your body needs and being able to tune inward is a remarkably hard thing to learn. We are often too busy to sit with that simple thought of “what does my body need?”. The other challenge is knowing what information to try and what to let go. There is so much information and often it is overhyped and overemphasised when it is often not even required or relevant. Articles and content on the internet often has an element of fear within it, which is why we feel we must do it. Sifting through all of the information can be a stress within itself.
When I created my REACH beyond Endo program, I incorporated all the things that I had layered-up on within my own journey. Everything is in there – from the food choices that truly helped me to the cleanses that really shifted my endo. I did all that sifting through for you, so you don’t have to. From an information source, it is sound and researched.
What I wish I could incorporate more of is a mindset that comes with wanting to heal the body. It is never about pushing or forcing or doing all the “right things”. It is never about “having to do all these things for my health”. It is about looking at the information and deciding if it feels right for your body, based on what is within it and then deciding if you want to experiment and try it.
I invite you to try this experiment with me:
Next morning, when you wake up, ask yourself: what would make me feel good, vibrant and alive right now?
Now, experiment with what that might be for you. From my experience, it could be doing some Yoga, some stretches, deep breathing exercises, eating a fresh bowl of fruit with some freshly made juice, a bowl of hot porridge, listening to happy music, calling a good friend, connecting with others and feeling like you belong to something, walking the dog, cuddling the dog, tending to my herbs, reading a fun book, going outside in the sunshine….
You get the idea. Just find the things that make you feel good and do more of those. They might include all of the above or just some but it is for you to experiment with and test for YOU. What makes YOU feel good? If you feel any sense of overwhelm, slow down and do less. Tune in and keep asking “what feels good to me right now?”.
Report back in the comments below…
Sometimes I look back on my journey and I do wonder how I did it all. So many different diets and supplements, so many cleanse techniques with some scary after effects and yet I kept going. I kept trying new things. Whenever I read about something new to shift my experience with endometriosis, I would try it. It didn’t even matter how bizarre or unproven it sounded. I would just try it and test it for myself. I was relentless at finding relief and luckily I eventually did find it.
My motivation was clear: Get rid of the pain & symptoms and finally live a normal life.
So, I thought I would start with some basic strategies you can use to shift some of your nasties, really quickly.
Nasty #1: Extreme Nausea
I was plagued by nausea for most of my life. I got so used to experiencing nausea that I learned how to mentally talk myself out of it, on many occasions. It used to be particularly bad on planes and in cars. I remember my mom having to clean up my puke on more than one road trip when I was young!
It was only later in life that I connected the dots on what made my nausea worse. I guess you learn the hard way on what your body rejects when you get sick far too often. The interesting thing is that my body started to speak more loudly on what it wanted me to eat and drink during those times of nausea and what I learned through years of study, is that the very foods that I craved during those times were also the foods that were more supportive of my liver health.
So what should you eat if you experience extreme nausea?
The key ones to avoid are rich fatty foods. Even if those fats are good fats, they still need to be processed by your liver and hence feeling the nausea. I can promise you that nothing makes you want to be sick than consuming too much rich fat!
The other major one is sugary foods. I remember many kids birthday parties, where I would consume far too many lollies and sweets and really bear the brunt on that, later in the day.
My recommendation, based on my own experience for feeling better: Stick with really bland foods. Nothing too spicy, nothing to rich and stick with the basics. Fruit for breakfast, vegetables, home-made soups and salads for lunch and rice with steamed vegetables for dinner. Use a good salt on everything. Just try it for a week and see how you feel. The biggest alleviator of nausea would have be drinking bubbly water and putting a sprinkle of salt in the water. Salt definitely seems to help with nausea.
The other big alleviator is lemons. Lemons in water, lemons in your food and even having lemon oils infused into the air.
Nasty #2: The Dreaded Pain
When I first began my journey I wanted to believe that there was one remedy that could instantly alleviate my pain. I searched for years trying to find one miracle supplement or herb that could do just one job: alleviate pain. What I didn’t get at the time is that pain is not something you fix that easily. Pain is your body crying out for help on many levels and wanting you to pay attention to all of it – not just looking for a quick fix.
Over the years I tried all sorts of focal points: hormone imbalances, digestive issues, emotional imbalances, stress relief and doing cleanses like my Candida Challenge and more advanced ones like Liver Flushes.
I was hoping one of these would be the miracle fix but what I didn’t realise is that each aspect that I added was actually making up a series of puzzle pieces to overcome the imbalances of my whole body.
So, I wish I could tell you there was one thing that fixed the pain. I wish there was one dietary suggestion or one specific cleanse or one fabulous supplement but I simply don’t think there is just one thing. It is about layering up on things that help your body rebalance. It isn’t really just about targetting pain because pain is merely a symptom or a consequence of the imbalances going on in your body. What you really want to be focusing on is those imbalances and correcting them, one layer at a time.
However, in saying that I can give you some focal points to help you alleviate pain:
- Avoid inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy and sugar. They really do make things worse.
- Focus on foods which are high in anti-oxidants. Google high anti-oxidant foods and you will discover they go far beyond the simple blueberry 😉
- Reduce the level of stress you have in your life as much as possible. This means paying attention to your thoughts, your environments and noticing when your heart-rate goes up and when you feel anxious, stressed or worried. Shifting our mindset and working on releasing negative past experiences is a huge help with all of this.
- Get them bugs out of your body! There are many unwanted fungi, bacterial overgrowths and parasites that can cause huge imbalances in our body. To begin with, start with the Candida Challenge. Candida has been shown to be closely linked to women with endometriosis and there are even studies to prove that pain with endo can be alleviated with the elimination of Candida overgrowth in the body. Read more here
Nasty #3: The “Fall Over” Fatigue
It is just the worst feeling. You are just permanently tired. Even when you think you have gotten enough sleep, you still don’t wake up refreshed and energized. You struggle to get anything done because the energy to do it, just seems overwhelming. Your worst time of day is around 3pm, where you could easily just fall asleep at your desk!
There have been a few lessons I have learned over the years on things that made me feel more tired. What I worked out is that fatigue represented my body simply not coping or having “too much work to do”. Interesting how our body simply translates that into a mental feeling of overwhelm 😉
So, what could be making your body feel like it has “too much work to do”?
One of the key things is looking at your meal portion sizes. Cut back on how much you eat and you will feel a huge transformation on how tired you feel. A big meal is a huge amount of work for your body to get through. Break it into smaller portions throughout the day and eat more often and you will naturally feel lighter and more energized. Naturally, choosing the right kind of foods also play a part here 😉 Give your body the work at the right time. Eating a meal really late at night and then going to bed within 3 hrs after consuming it, is not ideal. If you are able to shift your dinner to lunch or eat your dinner super early – like 5pm, you will feel a shift there too. Give your body enough time to digest it all and break it down.
An obvious one is sleep. Many of us assume we can go to bed late and just sleep in. Nope. You want to be in bed and ready for sleep by 10pm. No later. Try it! You’ll be amazed at how much better you sleep and feel.
I have to go into your thoughts and patterns here too. Stop telling yourself that you are tired all the time. I totally did this and found myself repeating the phrase “I am so tired” all that time! This just creates the same result. The other thing that will really drag down your energy levels is repeated negative thoughts or feelings of overwhelm. Try to catch yourself thinking those and let them go or shift your thoughts that make you feel happy and light instead.
I could go on for hours on all the different symptoms we experience with endo and there are a heap more to cover but these are some of the most common ones I get asked about all the time. If you have a symptom you would like help on, let me know and I can add it as a blog post.
The good news is that you can alleviate these symptoms and feel better. I know you can.
I accidentally stumbled on a really random podcast this morning where these women were talking about “Wellness Warriors” and their views on the messages they share. Ironically, I stumbled on the podcast because the image of one of the girls reminded me of the well-known wellness warrior Jess Ainscough.
They had this interesting perception of shame around health, which I had not heard before. That ultimately by saying to women that they need to eat healthily and take responsibility for their health, that this need to control the disease is inherently bad. That by pushing this message, women feel a sense of shame for not living up to an image of being healthy. They also expressed that it made women feel like they simply need to do more and more to feel healthy. They don’t believe that disease is something that is under our control but rather that it just happens and has no boundaries and it can happen to you, whether you are healthy or not.
Their view is that we would feel a sense of personal blame for having endometriosis or any other condition because we “didn’t do enough” or “weren’t healthy enough”.
There have certainly been moments when I have felt a need to do more and more or where I have questioned this idea of trying to be this “uber-healthy” person and that in itself causes a type of anxiety, which thereby actually makes us feel less healthy. (read here and here)
I do have a few struggles with their views and I would be hugely curious to hear your perceptions on all of this.
The need for control
I think for me, having a feeling of control over endometriosis was refreshing. I wanted to have control. I wanted to know that there was something I could actually do to feel better. I had never had anything offered to me before that gave me any sense of security or comfort in knowing that I could make my endo symptoms better or worse. I would get all of these random endo flare-ups and there was never a logical reason why and it was incredibly frustrating to be told over and over again… “there is nothing else we can offer you, Melissa”.
With having endometriosis, we are often ignored by doctors for years without getting a proper diagnosis, we are often left to simply try to deal with the pain and the symptoms and I think owning what we have and working with it, really helps us actually feel better. I found that it helped me to know that I could try things, that there were foods that were making things worse and that there were supplements, treatments and techniques that I could try and experiment with that could help. It was giving me hope and to keep searching and trying things on my journey. Some would work and some wouldn’t but doing nothing felt worse. Do you agree?
What empowerment means to us
I guess to some people looking at our diet and our lifestyle as something we need to change is something that we view as something hard, like an item on our “to-do” list. It becomes about “commitment” and “sticking to things”. There may be some feelings of shame around this I guess – like if you feel that you are “bad” for eating certain foods or that you didn’t “resist” something. I guess I can see this as making us feel worse and that we might shame ourselves if we aren’t “perfect”.
However, that has never been how I view all of this and the work I share. I personally believe that what we eat and how we treat our body and discovering more about our body empowers us in a way we had never been aware of before. It allows us to learn about how the body works and what it needs to feel well. It isn’t just about a “healthy diet and lifestyle” but truly digging into the mechanism of the body and what it means to make it work better. I guess, you could describe it like a mechanic, who wants to understand everything about how a car runs – all those intricate parts all working together to combine together. The same way expert car people will know what oil to use or what fuel gives you the most power etc, there are things we can eat, ways we can move, things we can do for ourselves and our body, which better serves us. It empowers us to better deal with endometriosis.
I am not talking about surface level things like taking a few supplements and cutting out some foods but actually understanding more about endometriosis, the responses it has in the body and harnessing what is available to us to better manage it. I really want to stress that this goes far beyond a simple healthy diet and moving your body. It is about really addressing the symptoms of endometriosis and how the body works.
The cool thing with it is that they are available to all of us. They are not restricted to those who can fly half-way across the world to have specialist surgery or some fancy new treatment but rather they are things which we can choose to incorporate as we feel ready to allow us to simply feel better with having endometriosis.
It therefore just makes sense to do them. We don’t do them because we have to. We do them because we choose to. Because we don’t want to be sick and tired and we don’t want to just lie around complaining of our pain but we would rather do something, than nothing at all.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you feel shame for not living up to some “healthy” version of yourself? Does it make you feel better or worse in attempting to incorporate my suggestions?
Over the years I have been delving into so many ideas on possible triggers for endometriosis. A big part of the REACH Technique© dives into the emotional component and how to overcome some of the stressors we have experienced in our lives. Initially, I really struggled with this concept though. It seemed slightly off-field to be talking about our emotions and our childhood trauma’s when the rest of what I share has a more practical focus. Could things that happened to us really affect our health that much? What is this whole idea of the “mind/body” connection anyway?
Having read the book “What your doctor may not tell you about Menopause” by Dr.John Lee, I came across some interesting insights about cortisol (our stress hormone) which could explain quite a few things about hormone imbalance, endometriosis symptoms and the tie-in with the emotional aspects of our health.
Cortisol plays a heap of important roles within the body as it regulates our blood pressure, kidney function, muscle building, protein synthesis, immune function and regulates glucose and fat levels. Many of these functions will have a connection to how our body regulates endometriosis particularly when you think of the immune system and kidney function.
One of the key correlations with cortisol and endometriosis is how it relates to our thyroid. I guess I like to think of the thyroid like our regulator. When it is working well, we feel grounded, our body temperature feels stable and we have consistent natural energy levels. When our cortisol is super high, this will affect our thyroid regulator. If cortisol is too high or too low (from cortisol exhaustion), then the thyroid simply becomes less efficient. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter which hormone we pick, all of them are affected by the cortisol elevation. So, in a nut-shell: stress in any form is not a good idea if we are wanting to have a normal hormone balance – whether that is our thyroid, our oestrogen or our testosterone.
The typical approach to irregular hormone imbalances has always been to focus on addressing the hormone which is out of balance, so we might take progesterone to try to regulate oestrogen dominance or we might take thyroid hormones to try to get our thyroid to work better but… what if we should be focusing on managing our cortisol levels instead?
So, my theory that came through my own journey and the exploration of stress on a deeper level is that all those emotions we have held onto from our childhood or through an emotional experience need to be released and “free’d” from the body. The saying of “you’ve got baggage” really does come to mind here. We need to let that stuff go because when we carry it around with us, it triggers those stress responses on a constant basis. A simple example is having a fear of never having enough. No matter which life situation you might go through, you are likely to come accross a situation where you might feel you are not getting enough. This could be as simple as not feeling like you are getting enough value for the house you are paying for or simply not feeling like you are getting enough sleep, food, water etc. With the plaguing though of “I am not getting enough” as your driver, you are likely going to feel stressed out when this thought or feeling is stimulated. It is set on “repeat” and will be stimulated constantly, driving up cortisol on a constant basis. What ultimately happens is that you are constantly feeling stress, overwhelmed and anxious. What is likely is that you had this thought after something happened to you as a child and all you need to do is let it go, work through it and shift it to something else.
Within the REACH beyond Endo program, we dive into various tools and techniques on how to free the emotional baggage that comes with life. These tools are highly effective as lowering that elevated cortisol which is triggering all of the consequences of high oestrogen and other hormone imbalances. When we free the emotional stuff, we free the initial trigger. Ultimately, we are diving deeper than just looking at the symptom of hormone imbalance but are actually addressing the reason for it.
There is always a mind/body connection to any condition when we consider the importance of cortisol in the picture. We can personally modulate and control the amount of cortisol we have in our body simply by shifting how we think which in turn changes how we feel. That is our power and our ability – to control how we think and to choose whether we are going to let something stress us out or not. They key thing is to make the choice and ultimately give us better control of all those funky hormones!
If you spend any length of time searching for information on what to eat to better support yourself with having endometriosis, you’ll eventually find that information contradicts itself and you are simply not sure what to believe anymore. One website says you should totally eat a Paleo diet for endometriosis, another says to avoid meat at all costs and then a third says you should go 100% vegan. What is a girl to do?
I want to make this easier and simpler for you by focusing on 3 key areas to look at and to help you direct your focus towards the things that actually matter.
1. Look at the goal you are trying to achieve
Within the REACH beyond Endo program, we specifically look deeper at triggers for pain with having endometriosis. One of the key reasons for pain is a heightened inflammatory response by the body. This can show up for you with elevated pain levels, high amounts of bloating, puffiness around the face and arms, an intolerance to certain foods and allergy symptoms.
So, our first goal with our diet is to attempt to lower this inflammatory response by the body. Therefore, your diet needs to have a strong focus on avoiding things that trigger more inflammation and also ensuring you eat enough foods that reduce inflammation.
When looking at our example above on whether to avoid meat or not, we need to look at the scaling of meat in terms of how inflammatory it is on the body. When your body processes meat, it will use much more energy resources to break down that meat. This means, your body will produce far more metabolic reactions and waste just to break the meat down. High levels of these metabolic reactions could be a contributing factor leading to oxidative stress on your body. The more oxidative stress, the more of an inflammatory response you will experience.
We can apply a ranking scale towards most foods and you will find that typically the most favourable foods to eat, which lower that inflammatory response are your dark leafy greens, plenty of fruits and vegetables and anything that is really fresh and close to nature. You can also assess the inflammatory levels of your foods by looking at an acid/alkaline charting of foods to give you a good indicator on which foods to have less of – even if they are a healthy food choice. For instance, nuts which are a great source of heaps of valuable good fats, are still considered reasonably acidic on the body and should therefore only be eaten in moderation.
2. How do you feel?
This is a fairly obvious question but one we seldom consider. We often get swayed by what someone else has said or what is perhaps trendy at the moment but the reality is, we are all different and certain foods appeal to us, certain foods make us feel better than others.
I’ll give you an example. For months I had been trying to come up with a good breakfast to eat. I had been told by an Osteopath that I should avoid fruit as it was simply too high in fructose and that it wasn’t good for my liver. So, I avoided fruit of any kind for months. I tried all sorts of other weird and interesting breakfasts but most of them left me feeling more hungry, slightly deprived or just tired after eating them.
We recently moved house and for the first few days it was just too challenging to try and prepare my fancy breakfasts that had by now evolved to require a stove, heaps of crumbing ingredients, frozen fruit etc. etc. *I’ll share that recipe with you soon ;). It was far easier to just pop down to the shop, by a few varieties of fruit and top it with a few nuts or some mixed muesli. So, I did and I instantly felt different. I had more energy, felt fuller for longer, didn’t feel super tired after eating and also felt more satisfied somehow.
This, of course, may not be the case for everyone who eats fruit but ultimately we need to eat what makes us feel good.
I do just need to mention a caveat though. I don’t mean “feel good” on an emotional level. Because, we have all had those cravings for biscuits or a tub of ice cream when we’ve had a bad day and yes, at that moment it does fill some kind of emotional void but ultimately, it doesn’t make you feel good on a physical “body level”.
Tuning in towards what makes you feel good on a “body level” is about listening, acknowledging what you ate and how it made you feel and connecting to dots between what you eat and how you feel both physically and mentally. Then, go out and eat the foods that really make you feel good – regardless of what the current diet trends might tell you!
3. Does it really address endometriosis?
One of the most common diets out there is the Endo Diet. The purpose of the endo diet is to give us guidelines to follow on what to avoid and eat with having endometriosis. The problem I have found with this diet is that most of us tended towards focusing on the “things to avoid” list and didn’t give enough thought to what we were eating instead.
Within my REACH Technique©, the first step and focus is on truly replenishing your diet with the right amounts of nutrients and in the high doses that your body needs. With women with endometriosis, I have found that certain minerals and vitamins tend to be low, such as selenium, magnesium and the Vitamin B group. What we need to do is ensure we are amping-up the number of nutrients we can possibly get from our food.
So, to give you a simple example of how this looks different.
If we were simply following the endo diet, we might choose to have some gluten-free toast with peanut butter for breakfast. Though this is an ok meal and it certainly avoids some of the inflammatory culprits like gluten, butter and sugar (peanut butter instead of jam), it doesn’t truly nourish or replenish what might be missing from your body nutritionally. So, instead, we could opt for a smoothie made with a frozen banana, barley grass powder, some cacao powder, almond milk, slippery elm powder and a dollop of nut butter. We could have a bowl of fruit to go with our smoothie such as blueberries, strawberries and cut up apple. We are still full, we are still satisfied but with option 2, we have avoided inflammatory culprits but also loaded the body up with heaps and heaps of anti-oxidants, liver cleansing nutrients and supported our bowel health at the same time. See the difference?
With having endometriosis, we want to focus on how we can use our food as medicine. What foods, powders, phytonutrients, spices, superfoods etc, can we add in, to truly nourish and support our body to feel better? Our key focus here is to find foods that are high in anti-oxidants, high in specific vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, B, iron, selenium, zinc and foods that aid and support our liver health. Not a small task but totally possible. Get the total picture within the REACH beyond Endo program.
This is your journey and only you can determine what really helps you feel better but there are also fundamental considerations with having endometriosis that can be better supported by what you eat. Food is a great source of medicine and we have it accessible to us, each and every day.