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Parabens – the hidden enemy.

In one of the Endometriosis Foundation of Kenya Awareness forums, I happened to mention a word not too familiar with many – parabens.  Despite watching a very detailed clip on how the parabens affect us, I realized that not so many people had actually acknowledged the magnitude of their effect on our health, and especially for women affected by endometriosis.

Parabens 1

 

However a participant in the forum called me up a few months afterwards and expressed her discouragement in getting genuine products that were paraben free in the market (Kenya). After a few conversations I recommended a criteria that would help anyone trying to identify these products (paraben-free) in the initial purchasing experience;

 

    1. Do not shop when in haste – the process of choosing your products will involve going through the ingredients of your bathing soap or shower gels, lotion, facial creams and hair products to rule out the possibilities of any parabens. It will therefore require more of your time and patience to identify at least two or three products that can suite you, your budget and lifestyle.
    2. Avoid shopping alongside your major purchases. Select a day specifically for the shopping of your cosmetics,skin care and hair care products (especially during the first three purchase cycles/ trials). Note also that some of these products might be pricier than the products that contain parabens and hence it would be advisable not shop together with your major buys.
    3. Choose a day or time when you are more relaxed of mind and less stressed out…..why? Because when you are stressed and agitated or fatigued, you want to rush your purchases. This might lead you to buy the next best product  ( which might have parabens) or might end up frustrating you further because it’s taking longer than you anticipated which in turn increases the opportunity of inflammation in your body,leading to pains and the cycle goes on…..endo-warriors understand this phenomenon clearly.
    4. When looking out for parabens, they usually form part of a longer name eg. Butylparaben, Methylparaben, or Proplyparaben – being some of the most common ones, so be alert.
    5. Some products have their ingredients written under the peel-off-paper….look out for this and gently follow the arrow direction to see the ingredients below it.

So what are parabens?

parabens

Parabens are chemical that form part of the ingredients that are used as preservatives in the lotions, soaps, shower gels and hair products that we use. They prevent the growth of bacteria In order to ensure that the product stays fresh for a longer period. They are more like the brandy they add to wedding cakes to make sure they don’t go stale before the big day. Are they dangerous? Not at all. Only issue is that they are deemed to be xenoestrogens or agents that mimic estrogen in the body. Well, for women with endometriosis, our number one biggest enemy is estrogen. Endometriosis is said to be feeding or thriving in estrogen, and that is why most of the hormonal medication administered has progesterone to counter that.

Are parabens safe for women without endometriosis? I wouldn’t vouch for their use. Research may not yet be conclusive but there are indications that they could be associated with cancer related to the woman’s reproductive system.

So, there you are…..more enlightened for your next purchase of lotion or hair shampoo. If it’s too much of a task, my advice would be to keep it as close to natural as you possibly can.

Paraben-Free

Till next time, stay healthy.

 

 

Does painful menstrual period equal endometriosis????

Hot water bottle

The birth of my second baby came in with a lot of mixed emotions. Happy as I was to be a mummy second time around, the challenges of handling two little people who both needed my undivided attention, dealing with the healing process and a back that was hurting like it was being paid to ache seemed to overshadow the joyous moments I was expected to be celebrating. When I went in for my first post natal visit (6 weeks after the birth), my blood pressure was at an all-time high. I remember the nurse calling in the doctor to the triage after her efforts to try bring down the reading became futile. The doctor, who is very humorous, tried to engage me in a story that they both thought would calm my nerves – in vain. As far as I was concerned though, I was fine; I was relaxed, in fact, for me the clinic visit was a break from the norm. However the BP machine was revealing something totally different. I had serious high blood pressure. As usual the doctor interrogated me on what was going on in my life – which I assumed was under control, and reassured me that some women get what they call Postpartum Preeclampsia – a rare condition where women suffer high blood pressure after birth. He prescribed some medication to bring it to normalcy and asked that I try taking things easy. After a few weeks, the pressure had gone down considerably and eventually was stabilized.

What is the point of sharing my experience? It would have been very easy for the doctor to classify me as a person with hypertension and condemn me into a lifetime of medication and serious lifestyle change implications. Just because I suffered postpartum high blood pressure did not mean that I was now to live with hypertension. Am sure if not checked, it could have led to more serious consequences, but my point is that this was just a symptom of a condition that affected a few women after birth. And just as this symptom does not necessarily put you in the category of long time hypertension patients, so does painful periods not put you in the category of women with endometriosis and vice versa.

We have learnt over time that endometriosis can be categorised into 4 stages, with the 4th being the worst as far as the extent and complication of the disease is concerned. And yet there are women who are in stage 4 and experience no pain whatsoever. They even are clueless that they suffer from the condition. Whereas painful periods might be one of the symptoms of endometriosis, it is important to note that not all women with endometriosis experience painful menses. Some (me included) have or have had irregular monthly periods and the pain is not in any way related to ovulation or the flow of the menses. In fact, because the pain does not coincide with the menses, these women are tempted to believe that the root cause of their pain could be brought about by something totally different.

Dysmenorrhoea

Painful periods could be a symptom of many other ailments such as pelvic inflammatory disease or dysmenorrhea or adenomyosis (or any other condition – am not a doctor) – some of which could be treated with antibiotics, hormonal therapy and a bit of lifestyle changes.

pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid

However with endometriosis the treatment and management story is a bit longer. Although there are a few cases of women who have received healing or manageable pain relief for a while, endometriosis seems to pause a tougher challenge to the sufferers and the medical fraternity. Are we invalidating women who suffer excruciating pain with their periods and do not have endometriosis? Not at all. However, it is very important to establish the cause behind the pain – and sometimes the good news is that it is not endometriosis. Are we therefore condemning women with endometriosis to eternal damnation? Again, I want to say a resounding NO! Whereas the condition has remained a mystery as far as its cause and treatment are concerned, there is a lot of hope in bringing the pain and other symptoms to manageable scales through diet, positive living and lifestyle changes. Every woman with or without endometriosis should endeavour to understand her body in order enjoy all the seasons of her life.

Adenomyosis

In our efforts to create awareness on this invisible condition affecting millions of women, let us be careful not to confuse and condemn women with painful periods (and without endometriosis) into the statistics of endo-warriors. In sisterhood (endo-warriors), let us continue to support each other through this gruesome journey and embrace those who fall prey to this debilitating condition. Remember that just because someone is having a prolonged cough doesn’t mean that they have tuberculosis or just because someone has had a stressful period in their time and their heart has been palpitating abnormally that they have a chronic heart condition. Let us all be sensitive in packaging our message in such a way that it is clear what endometriosis is and what it is not.

Endo picture

To all the endo-warriors, I salute you all. To the families and friends that play the supportive role, we are grateful. To those who are suspecting the condition based on their symptoms, we implore you to get a diagnosis early.

To your Health!

Nkatha Ogutu.

 

 

And above all else, give it to God

Pain triggers….part 2

As soon as I posted the article on pain triggers and their tried & tested solutions, I realised that I had left out the very most important solution of all times – our faith in God. What’s the pain trigger here? Doubt.

Doubt

Doubt, disbelief, uncertainty, hesitation…..get the word? Endometriosis, just like any other chronic ailment can cause a lot of doubt in your abilities, can get your self – confidence waning, and cause hesitation when dealing with other people as you aren’t sure of their love and support. Endometriosis, for many women can be and is a long journey. And as is with many long journeys, you find that a few people get tired and drop off along the way. Not everyone rides with you to your destination. And this is the story of life. Some get on at the bumpiest stretch of the journey and stick it out till the end. Others get on during the smooth highway and when you approach the bumps, they decide to get off. We on our part have no choice but to go the entire stretch. We really have no choice as we cannot live our lives in somebody else’s body, we cannot borrow somebody else’s script. And so the best thing to do is accept, own it and hard as it may seem, make the best out of each part of the journey.

Dependence on other people for love and support is just one of the human basic needs. However before we can depend or love anyone else, we need to love and believe in ourselves. The second most powerful commandment is to ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’. You’ve got to do it for yourself first before you can be able to replicate it to your neighbours. And so we as endo-warriors must learn to love and be gentle on ourselves. If for some reason or the other, we do not have a strong support system, we should not get totally discouraged. We must draw strength from within before we can expect it from others. Endo-warriors are women of strength, but even the strongest of people have a breaking point. We must realise that taking in more than we can handle will break us and lead to frustration and stress and then aggravation of the condition. Each of us should know their threshold beyond which they must take a break or breakdown. You must know what works for you at each breaking point, a massage, a walk in the park, reading a book, watching a comedy or simply standing under a hot shower (my favourite).

But even before we get this far, there is one who commands us in Deuteronomy 31.6 to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” What other fountain of faith and strength is better than this one? What promise could surpass the one the Lord our maker has made for us? What other refuge could be safer than His bosom? God knew us long before we got endometriosis; He knew the pains and procedures we would go through. And why is He allowing this to happen to us? I have no answers to that. Just as I do not have answers as to why He would allow someone else to go through Lupus, Diabetes, Autism, and many other ailments, or natural calamities. But He has given us His promise that he will never live us. He is by our side each and every moment and if we call upon Him and believe He will carry us through.

Whatever your faith is, I can attest that when you go before God, the burden always seems lighter, the future brighter and challenges look easier. For some reason, you even get solutions that you had not phathomed before, the clouding in your mind dissipates, your focus becomes crystal clear and you have immense inner strength and stamina that you cannot explain. God never tires of our cries, our pleas or our demands. We might not always hear His answers to our prayers from His voice, but through the Holy Spirit and other people, He sends us His love and support. He is the strongest of support systems because even when we run away from Him, He never runs away from us. He is where we are, and we can call upon Him whatever hour in whatever situation. He is not limited by time, by the traffic jam or a demanding boss. He will be there when you call Him and answer you even before you finish your request. His grace is sufficient for us all. You will not be taking up someone else’s time of request because you are spending too much time with Him. And you never have to feel like you have been at it too long either – the more time you spend with Him the better He feels.

So there you are. Now you know where to take your doubt and hesitation to. Now you know where the strongest support network you could ever ask for is. Now you know that there is a friend who stands by you in every situation, every minute of your life…..where best to be but by His side? Where best to take your pain and anxiety that to the Lord? Build your Faith and take it to Him who knows better than any other. Bless you all endo-warriors and all those who stand by us through it all.

 

Look above

Pain triggers and tried-&-tested relievers

As an endo-warrior, you learn to read signs and symptoms of pain as it encroaches from a distance. At first it might be difficult but as you ‘get used’ to the seasons of this debilitating disease and understand your body, you can monitor and pinpoint the triggers that bring about your pain. The symptoms of this ailment are as vast and different as the number of women it affects. And for each woman, the pain triggers and intensity differ from the next warrior. But a few may be common with a larger group although each woman is her own best physician – you have to try out what works best for you. And when you get it, stay by it. So what are these triggers that cut across?

Stress & Anxiety

stress

Stress and anxiety top the list of pain triggers. I realize stress is inevitable in the world we live in today. However, it is not so much how we can avoid stress, because that is almost impossible to do, but the issue is how to contain it to manageable levels. Stress is virtually everywhere. It is at work with the pressure of deadlines, in schools with the emphasis on performance, at home with balancing relationships, on the road, in the mall…….everywhere.

Endometriosis brings a lot of anxiety in the lives of the warrior and her loved ones. There is financial anxiety due to the high cost of treatment, there is anxiety when faced with different decision on the course of treatment and especially when hospitalization and surgery are involved, there is a lot of anxiety if there is infertility looming in the shadows, there is anxiety of what tomorrow holds and what the consequences would mean for your loved ones – the list is endless but we keep soldiering on. These numerous issues causing anxiety coupled with the daily stresses everyone else is going through can and will usually take a toll on an endo-warrior. So how do we avoid succumbing to stress?

Well, for starters we must remind ourselves of the power we hold within us. Our minds are powerful instruments and can determine our success or failure in anything we aspire for. Attitude makes a big difference to our outlook on life and circumstances and determines how well we respond to outside forces. Every moment in your life, you have two choices to make with what is thrown your way – either to use it against yourself or for your own good. For instance, I have days when the pain is completely unbearable. A while back I would beat myself up for being such a ‘failure’ – for succumbing to pain and being unproductive. But I realized that even if I got up and struggled through a task, it was really counterproductive. Neither was I accomplishing much on the task nor was I doing my body any justice. So now I have learnt to love me better – if it is beyond bearable, take a break, rest, sleep. And amazingly after the nap, if the pain has subsided, I could sit up and read a book or laugh away a comedy. The choice is in our hands….okay, head.

The other way to deal with stress is to ensure that we have a good support network. Have people who are close to you understand your symptoms and what you require of them in your lowest moments. Be open about what works for you and let them give you the necessary support and love during these moments. And in your pain free moments, remember to reciprocate, give of your time and love to them.

You could also create regimens that ensure life’s stresses do not take a toll on your body, your health and mind. Get rituals that relax you and rejuvenate you leaving you feeling fresh and new. You could take a mini vacation – one that needs no elaborate travel plans, it could be by curling up with a good book, going to the spa, taking time off from everyone at your favourite eatery or nature park or simply just soaking yourself in the tub at home with a few scented candles.

Look for things that bring you laughter and joy. Have a drink out with friends, go dancing or listen to your favourite music. Go to church or meditate on the word of God in a secluded quiet time – you know yourself best so get doing that which reminds you that life isn’t that serous after all.

Diet

diet

When the rest of the world says they are on diet and eating healthy, we do not necessarily concur. Other peoples healthy might be our poison. For example most people will leave out the white bread and go for the healthier ‘whole meal’ one. While this is great for them it is nowhere near healthy for us. Anything filled with gluten just begs the pain to sprint back at you.

Endo-warriors must avoid anything in this categories of food – red meat (unless it is from free range animals), gluten, dairy products, coffee, alcohol and soya among others. The issue on diet is wide and I cannot claim authority to cover it conclusively. For more information click the link below for a comprehensive endometriosis diet. http://www.endo-resolved.com/diet.html

Lack of Exercise

exercise

Exercise is important for everybody but more crucial for anyone with a chronic condition. Our bodies were made for movement and actually crave it. Exercise strengthens our heart, joints and prevents diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. With chronic illneses you must also avoid excessive weight as this tends to complicate your issues further. Although most people prefer vigorous and intense exercises, endo-warriors are advised to engage in regular but less strenuous exercises, and for shorter periods of time.

Just like everyone has a different pain trigger, we are all attracted to different types of exercise. It is advisable to go with the one that you most enjoy so that you look forward to doing it and get disciplined at doing it regularly. I love to dance to good music and even if I might not go clubbing I will walk to it or dance away in my bedroom till am dripping of sweat.

For more information on why exercise is important for you please follow the following link. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

Sunshine

sunshine-smiley

A lot of the medication that is used to regress the growth and spread of endometriosis has adverse side effects on our bodies. Besides the temporary ones such as nausea, weight fluctuation, migraines among others, some of the medication eats away on your calcium levels and bone density and if used over a long period could lead to osteoporosis. Intake of calcium supplements and foods rich in calcium is aided by sunshine and vitamin D.

For the longest time, I did not comprehend why I needed to take a shower just to warm, actually burn my knees and joints. They felt cold and had a numb pain until I got into a hot shower and I felt relieved. That is when I realized that my body was craving Vitamin D and sunshine because of the depletion in calcium after long years of being on the endometriosis treatment.

Get some sunshine girls, it feels great and it help build your bones.

I might not have exhausted all the triggers on this article. Please share what I might have missed out in the comments below and how you have been able to counter the particular trigger.

As always, looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Time and Chance

The race

Ecclesiastes 9:11 “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”

For everyone else under the sun, time and chance is up for their taking. However, for endo-slayers and people suffering from other chronic illnesses, it is different. We live in the space and time that chance affords us. We sometimes cannot afford to plan. We go by the season of our lives. When in pain, we battle it out, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We are at war. We have no choice, we must go to the battle field and battle it out until the season is over, when we can contain the enemy for a while.

Endo slayer

When we are in recess from the battle field and are in a great peaceful season, we must MAXIMISE our time, our energy, our enthusiasm, our passion. We cannot afford to waste a minute of a good day, because unlike other people, we do not have the luxury of many good days at our disposal. We aren’t even sure tomorrow, let alone the next minute will still be part of a good day.

I remember some days I would wake up with so much energy, with no signs of pain and a body feeling renewed. I would call up my sister and give her an outline of things I need the two of us to achieve in the following days. It would feel like a year’s goals but for me I would feel like we can accomplish them in a few days. It’s like a burst of energy overcomes and overwhelms the body so that nothing really looks invincible. I even go ahead and book meetings with associates, schedule trainings and get my days packed away with no minute to breath. Why?

Well, we have learnt that we must be intense. We must be intense with our close and dear ones, our family and friends, we must be intense with our dreams and passions, we must be intense with our work and businesses, and we must engage ourselves fully. We must put in more than our very best in every relationship and task because when the next downtime season checks in, we will have banked enough to take us through it.

We have learnt to grab every opportunity and chance that comes our way in the great season, cling onto it for as long as it lasts, use every minute of it exhaustively and give more than our best and leave a legacy in our highest moments because we aren’t sure what lurks around the corner.

Deepest pain

Time and chance happens to all…..but for anyone with a chronic illness, we have a time when we can take the chance and we have a time when we cannot.

Endometriosis – a very expensive disease to have

Oh yes. Endometriosis is a very expensive ailment to have. And I don’t mean just financially. I mean, socially, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. Mmmhhhh! You may wonder how. Lets tackle each area to get a better understanding. (warning: this might be a long read)

Financially:

empty-wallet_gal

From the very beginning, endometriosis requires highly technological techniques and experienced doctors to diagnose it. It is diagnosed through laparoscopic surgery which involves the insertion of a camera through your navel as they observe your insides on a big screen. Now by the time the doctors ask you to do this, you have already made endless visits to the hospital, beenthrough other invasive tests, had a couple of medication down your throat and most likely a few admissions due to pain or related issues.

Laparocopy

Also note that I mentioned that the doctors need to be experienced in this mode of diagnosis and treatment. Such doctors charge their worth and more even just for the consultation and they are few and wide apart.

After the diagnosis and trial of one and another treatment regime after another, most women resign to the fact that they have to live with this condition and thus look for ways to bring the symptoms and pain to manageable levels. This will require total lifestyle changes. Diet for women with endometriosis is not a nice-to-do fad that you can pick and drop at leisure. They have to learn the foods that trigger their pain and inflammation and cut them out of their lives completely. They do not have the luxury of having to be off-red meat, off-gluten, off-dairy or off-whatever else for a season, it is for life. How expensive are the alternatives? Well, some are manageable while others can be considered not necessary. But to imagine that you have to change what you eat as you allow the rest of the family to enjoy their food means that you have to have an additional budget negligible as it may be.

If you weren’t an exercise person, well you will need to invest in at least a pair of sneakers and a few gym clothes.  With endometriosis, it is not advisable to do very rigorous exercises. It is recommended that you exercise for about 20mminustes a day. Highly recommended is stretches, yoga, Pilates, or brisk walks. You can eventually graduate to intensive exercise as the healing progresses.

I had earlier mentioned that endo just gets you to make tough lifestyle choices and changes(discussed in details in another article). It’s not just about diet. It is also about what you come into contact with, what you apply on your skin, the soaps you use for your clothes and many other things. If this does not dent your finances, I don’t know what would.

Socially:

bydls 2

Endomentriosis will cost you friendships and relationships. From people thinking that you suffer from attention deficiency syndrome, to others believing you are a pretender and others just thinking that you are a total weakling. There is also another category that will think that you either do not like to work or you are a snob – I mean, why is it that we get to attend all your parties but when we call you to ours you are always sick. And how come when a certain report is required in the office is the day you call in sick?

Let me just point out a few problems with these theories and beliefs that people may form about an edno-warrior:

  1. We do not seek attention (although some people may use this as a platform to lobby for attention – but for how long?). Why? The hard truth is that we realize that after some time people will get tired of giving us the attention. They will get tired of you not showing up for their fun activities, they will get tired of you always being under the weather, they will get weary of being there for you all the time and for you not being able to reciprocate even for half of what they do, they will get tired of visiting you at home or in the hospital, they will get tired of doing your share of the work in the office……and they will move on with their lives. We understand that even our loved ones get weary of the disease and they must go on with their lives. So as you crucify us for seeking attention, just remember, we also would like to go on with our lives, pain free.
  2. Related to number one is that, we do not fancy those green gowns with an open back and the food in the hospitals. Heck, we do not like being caged behind some old patterned green curtains all day, sharing a bathroom with other sick people and being confined to a bed for 23 hours a day. Mind you the needled in our wrists and arms are not the best of accessories and neither are the nurses who keep waking you up 10 times in the night (to check on you vitals) our favorite cup of tea. Actually, I think the most depressing moments are when the visiting hours are over and everyone struts away with their stilettos all clad up or in serious business suits ready for another meeting to close a deal, ready to meet a friend or two for coffee or ready to get home to family and relaxation. I mean, really, who wants to be the one left in that hospital bed with green clothes and not-so-good food? Not I. But guess what, endo warriors will have this as part of their lives, many seasons in their life.
  3. A rich businessman with an expansive hotel facility believed that those worth being his customers already knew and visited the country club. He pointed out that he had no need for a marketing team as the people who needed to know about his facility already did. He argued that those who never knew about the facility, did not need to know about it because they would not appreciate the value and neither would they be willing to pay the premium for it. The same applies to endo-warrior. You may wonder where I am going with this. But if someone keeps exclaiming “Kwani you are sick again? Are you alwasys sick? How come you didn’t let me know you are unwell so that I can visist? Or say a prayer?”….then really they are not worth being called your close friends.

No offense but just like the exclusive facility, endo warriors have realized the value of true friendship and invested heavily in people who form a good support network. And those within the support network need not be given a call when a sister is hospitalized because they are the ones who probably rushed her to hospital. They will not need to be sent prayer requests as they do it on a regular basis with her. They even know when her voice or facial expression says that her pain scale is way through the roof. They understand what works and most of the time will give her dosages of what uplifts her spirits and gets her mind off the endo. So if you have to wait to be called and informed, if you feel like this sister is always under the weather, or like she is asking for much too much attention, then consider yourself not a friend( at least not in her innermost circle). And she means no offense; it’s already too fatiguing to keep up with the endo pain, drugs and symptoms for her to manage rallying you for company or friendsip. No pun intended.

  1. Endometriosis is painful…..really painful. Sometimes it feels like you are pushing out a 10 kg baby that just won’t get out. Other times it feels like the 3rd world way is somewhere between your lower abdomen and your lower back, and the weapons being used are crude and ancient. The drugs weigh heavily on your body – some cause menopausal symptoms of heat flashes, making you irritable and moody. Now, how tiring is it to fight the pain? Add onto this the symptoms of induced menopause or other side effect of drugs? Geee, tell me again endo-warriors, how do you manage to stay above water? How do you manage to balance a day at work, with family, friends? How do you do it?????

And this is not half of the challenges.

Emotionally:

emotinally

Who loves pain? I know I don’t. Endo causes a lot of physical pain, but it also contributes to negative emotional pressure. If it is not being left out of your social circle because of pain, maybe it’s being declared an ice queen or a moody brood. This can cause emotional scarring especially to teenagers and young women.

On a more personal level, endo can create feelings of self-doubt. Many times you might not accomplish what you wish to do in even double the time. This will leave you frustrated and angry. Other times, other people will be assigned what you are great at doing because you may be considered unreliable. Feelings of being left behind by your peers due to down times may also make you feel like you are failing or falling short in your dreams and purpose. Watching the world strut by as you wallow in pain is not a great feeling. We would like to be strutting along, exuding health and vitality and accomplishing one dream after another. The fact that we run behind schedule can be very frustrating and corroding to our emotions.

Spiritually:

Sun must set

Am sure many will read this with one eye brow raised. Yap. It can be very challenging to your spiritual wellbeing when suffering from a chronic illness. From feelings of despair to feelings of abandonment by God, to wondering what great sin you committed and questioning God of His fairness, the heart is challenged. Sometimes the downtime is way too long that you might feel like this is the final leg. Other times the pain is too much that prayer does not seem like part of the solution. In fact sometimes people might carelessly throw in such statements as “Endo is not my portion.” Mmmhhhh…….leaving you wondering how come it is your portion. Other times, due to lack of understanding, people will blame you for not believing in healing while what you need them to understand is that faith must be accompanied by works/action – a strict diet, regular medication, disciplined lifestyle changes, etc.

But all in all, we must trust that God has a reason and season for everything under the sun. And we also must appreciate that other people might not have endo but they too have their heavy burdens that they question the almighty about.

Endo is a journey. It is a strenuous and painful journey. But it can be made lighter and more bearable by Prayer and faith, a good support system and a strict lifestyle routine. It can be overcome in the few known success cases, but in most it must be managed, and it can be managed to levels that will allow you live a near-normal if not normal life with fewer to no pain days.

To ending endo…..

Cheers.

As always, I really look forward to hearing from you.

Nkatha Ogutu

What endometriosis is not – The difference between dysmenorrhea and endometriosis

I had a conversation with a friend the other day and she noted that I had lost a bit of weight. I mentioned that I had been unwell for a while and told her I had endometriosis. She added that she has also suffered from it and really, it wasn’t that bad. I asked her to explain her journey and she mentioned heavy and painful periods of which run for days on end. She sought treatment in India and after surgery she has since been okay. So I dug further after she gave me the look of, please, get over it also. I asked her when the pains would show up and if the doctor had said she had growths outside of her uterus? “What?” She almost strangled me. “Hai, what are those? I took my time to explain and I could see she did not want any association with the disease, leave alone the thought that she might have it. It is one of those ‘Stigmatized’ diseases that no one really wants to be associated with or imagine they could have.
That is when I came to the realization that it is very easy to confuse abdominal pain caused by other reasons with that caused by endometriosis. A common mistake I see young girls, women and even doctors do is to diagnose dysmenorrhea as endometriosis. Whereas one may be a symptom of the other, the two may not be caused be either.
Is this to say that people with dysmenorrhea suffer less than those with endometriosis? Not necessarily. Does that mean that dysmenorrhea is any smaller or less significant than endometriosis? Not at all.

endometriosis-and-fertility
But my biggest worry is that endometriosis might sound like such a “death sentence” especially to a young girl in her teens, a young couple trying to conceive or just to any woman in whatever age bracket or social standing. Although in some instances endometriosis has been seen to recede completely or to manageable levels, the majority of women just learn to live with this torturous condition.
Let us have a closer look at these differences
Dysmenorrhea
 This is a symptom characterizes by painful periods and cramps. Sometimes with nausea, vomiting and lower back pains. Most of the times the periods are heavy and may go for longer than the 3-5 days.
 Pain is usually just before the periods and during the periods. In rare occasions, the pain is experienced during ovulation.
 The pain subsides as the menses come to an end.
 The pain is usually associated with excessive or an imbalanced high levels of prostaglandins which is the hormone that makes the uterus contract during menses and childbirth
 Dysmenorrhea is known to get better with age in most reported cases
 It is also reported to improve after birth – postpartum
 Internal examinations reveal normal results of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes – no underlying pathology
 Dysmenorrhea can be controlled with analgesics and hormonal therapy
 It can be caused by a number of conditions such as endometriosis, fibroid tumors, adenomyosis or retroverted uterus
 Women who experience dysmenorrhea rarely report having pain during sex. In fact, orgasm is recommended to bring the pain down.
Other causes of secondary dysmenorrhea may include:
1. PID – pelvic inflammatory disease infecting the fallopian tubes
2. Adenomyosis – endometrium lining growing within the uterine muscular walls
3. Untreated STI – sexually transmitted disease
4. Ovarian cysts
5. IUD – Itra –uterine device

Endo hurts 2

Endometriosis
 This is a disease characterized either by:
1. Painful periods (heavy or light), lower back pains, headache, nausea, and cramping. OR
2. Irregular and painless periods, spotting, chronic lower back pains, pelvic pains and lower abdomen pain
3. Painless regular periods which could be light or normal
4. Normal or slightly crampy regular periods – light or heavy
 The pain associated with endometriosis is unpredictable. Some people experience pain throughout the year while others have no clue they suffer from endometriosis until they experience difficulty in conceiving. Some have painful periods whereas others have blissful menses. Endometriosis is very different with each woman.
 For most women, the pain is chronic. For others it is unpredictable when it will flare up, while for others, their periods are just another excruciating episode in their lives.
 Endometriosis is caused by the growth of endometrial stroma outside of the uterine wall and in the uterus, pelvic area, bladder, bowel and other organs. Endometriosis is an estrogen dependent inflammatory disease.
 In most cases, women have reported the condition to get worse with time and age
 There is temporary relief during and after pregnancy but childbirth does not necessarily take away the problem. Unlike the belief among many, hysterectomy also does not cure endometriosis and in a few cases, it has been reported to worsen the condition and painful spells.
 Internal examinations reveal endo-cysts and growths.
 Endometriosis requires surgery, hormonal therapy, diet, exercise, lifestyle changes or a combination of all these just to bring the pain to manageable levels
 Endometriosis is caused by the growth of painful implants of the endometrial tissues around the uterus and other areas in the body. These could include organs such as the bladder, liver, the pelvic floor area, the rectum and in rare cases the lungs and brain.
 Women affected by the disease often report having pain during intercourse and especially deep penetration.
 Statistics show that women suffering from endometriosis are more prone to cancer and especially endometrial cancer.

endometrail cancer

I might not have exhausted all the differences in this one article. As always I advise you to refer to your consultant for more medical advice and information and diagnosis as well as read from a reputable medical website.

I hope that I have shed some light on the differences. However, even when all is said and done, none of the conditions should be tolerated by anyone. We all deserve a happy and painless life. To any of the warriors out there, learn your body and identify your pain triggers for better management and a happier life.

Cheers.

Don’t forget to drop me a comment or discuss your thoughts on the subject.

Nkatha Ogutu

What is endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that affects 1 in 10 women of child bearing age. It is characterized by many symptoms some of which may include but are not limited to painful periods, lower abdominal and pelvic pains with or without the menstrual bleeding, among others.

Endometriosis is caused by the growth of painful implants of the endometrial tissues around the uterus and other areas in the body. It is believed that these tissues follow the same menstrual cycle as the ones in the uterine wall. When bleeding occurs from the lining as periods, the implants also bleed within the body causing inflammation and pain.

Endo picture

Although many women experience cramping during their menstrual period, women who suffer from endometriosis describe menstrual pain that’s far more excruciating than usual. Unlike in dysmenorrhea, women with endometriosis report increased levels of pain over time.

Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis may include:
• Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before and extend several days into your period and may include lower back and abdominal pain.
• Pain with intercourse. Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
• Pain with bowel movements or urination. You’re most likely to experience these symptoms during your period.
• Excessive bleeding. You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
• Infertility. Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
• Other symptoms. You may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.

Endometriosis is easily misdiagnosed as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Another challenge to endometriosis diagnosis is that it can only be confirmed by laparoscopic surgery which is expensive and requires a very experienced doctor to carry out.

The intensity and severity of your pain might not be a reliable indicator of the extent of the condition. Some women with mild endometriosis have extensive pain, whereas some with very advanced endometriosis may have little pain or even no pain at all and my only discover it after unsuccessful conception.

endometriosis_definition

For more information on endometriosis please check www.healthline.com/endometriosis or any other reliable medical site.

Please feel free to get in touch or drop us an email/comment.

Always looking forward to hearing from you.

Nkatha Ogutu

The life and times of an Endometriosis warrior

Your-sparkleThe stories and articles on this page are inspired by my own journey with endometriosis (spanning over 20 years) as well as the experiences of other girls and women going through endometriosis. They might not follow any chronological sequence as they are written to reflect different stages in the journey and each piece is triggered by one or other experience or memory. I hope it will be informative and educative.

The material here is not in any way meant to steer one into self – diagnosis or medication. Please be sure to seek proper medical guidance and care in case you suspect that you could suffer from the condition. Otherwise, welcome aboard the army camp of the endo-warriors and join me and other endo-sisters out there as we fight on to manage the disease and live a pain-free life.

Feel free to also get in touch if you require further information or would like to join a support group near you.

As always, looking forward to hearing from you.

Nkatha Ogutu

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