As I’ve shared my journey of reversing PCOS, chronic IBS, and managing my suspected endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts, unexplained pelvic pain, and anxiety (I know, what a horrible, extensive list) I get the privilege of meeting many women who are suffering as well; who are also fed up with not feeling well, and want simple solutions for lifestyle interventions that heal.
While adenomyosis was never one of my diagnoses, I came across it while studying to become a nutrition coach. I was fascinated… and mortified that such a disease existed! So of course, I dug more.
Around the same time, I met a lovely woman who shared her adenomyosis diagnosis with me, and shared that some of the tips and recipes I share have been helpful on her own journey to wellness. I recently sat down with this lovely woman to hear more of her story which is filled with hope and lessons for all!
But first, let’s get some definitions out of the way:
- Adenomyosis is a medical condition where the tissue lining the uterus starts growing into the muscular wall of the uterus, causing pain and heavy bleeding during menstruation.
- It is a little known, but common gynaecological condition affecting approximately 1 in 10 women, especially those in their 30s and 40s. It can sometimes lead to infertility or difficulty conceiving.
- Symptoms of adenomyosis include severe menstrual cramps, prolonged menstrual bleeding, pain during sex, and a feeling of pressure or fullness in the lower abdomen.
- Diagnosis of adenomyosis is often done through a combination of medical history, pelvic exams, ultrasound imaging, and sometimes MRI scans. When done via ultrasound, it can sometimes be mistaken for fibroids.
- If you’ve had children before, are in your forties or a history of uterine surgery (like a c-section or myomectomy), you may be at a greater risk of the disease.
- Traditional/ conventional treatment options for adenomyosis include medications to manage pain and regulate menstruation, hormonal therapies, and in severe cases, surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).
Samantha’s Story of Healing Adenomyosis
Samantha’s Debilitating Symptoms and eventual Diagnosis
Our heroine, let’s call her Samantha*, was diagnosed 10 years after her symptoms started as she searched for answers to her painful periods.
“Honestly I’ve never heard of adenomyosis until 2020/2021. Since my 20s, All I knew was that I had heavy periods on every cycle, like my mom and aunt did, and sometimes heavy periods 2 times in a month.
In my twenties doctors recommended going on the pill which I gladly welcomed because they said I’d be without periods for months. Talk about heavy and not soaking through super/maxi pads in 1 hour or less and good bye to worry if there would be a stain left on an office chair or car seat or just a messy bed.
I would have to say my main symptoms were flooding, clots the size of golf balls or bigger and anemia fatigue-dizzy, shortness of breath, black outs, debilitating fatigue and really low moods. I dreaded my cycles and only turned to naturopathic interventions to deal with my menstrual issues because I was putting on weight whilst on the provera shot from 2014 onwards and realized it was causing other side effects to my menstrual health, mood and overall well-being. So a diagnosis took about roughly 10 years”.
I asked her “What were the treatment options available to you from your doctor?“
“The pill or the shot, both birth control. Nothing else really …I did float the idea of removing my uterus but all the doctors said I was too young and that my future husband may want kids, to which I said we can adopt 😑” Samantha also mentioned that she took Micronized Progesterone.
Like so many of us, Samantha was medicated and left to figure it out, on her own, by our conventional medical system. I too remember being given the BCP, pain killers, antacids and the occasional morphine shot to “help” my many ailments. But they were all Band-Aids, not real solutions.
Like me, Samantha started to see a turn around in symptoms when she modified her lifestyle. She shares the top 5 interventions that have what worked for her. Its important to note that these are not recommendations for YOU, and it is best you work with your healthcare team for you.
“From my many trials and errors with guidance from my naturopath and health coach it would be:
- No cows milk in any form
- No inflammation causing substances like sugar and alcohol – eliminate toxins as much as possible.
- Remove beef. Beef for me made my periods worse even (I usually stop tracking how much I lose once I hit the 250ml mark … normal periods for women are estimated to be 80ml max) I thought I was boosting my iron because I’ve been perpetually borderline anemic… but it really made it horrendous.
- Take quality supplements and the “period drink” my health coach taught me. Turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Based on TCM [Traditional Chinese Medicine] these help with reducing inflammation and help lighten flow and since drinking this potion it has lightened my periods when combined with the many other things I do for my physical health and well-being – there are others but those are the main ones.
General Recommendations from a Nutrition Coach specializing in Women’s Hormone Health
Adenomyosis, like Endometriosis seems to be more an immune dysfunction, than it is a gynaecological one. Naturopathic and functional practitioners have found that there is a strong link between gut-health and adenomyosis. Women with adenomyosis who focus on lowering their inflammation, while improving gut health (like eliminating SIBO or other gut dysbiosis) seem to have the best outcomes in symptom management.
My 5 general tips (also from my own experience with managing my suspected Endometriosis, which is similar) are below:
Work on your gut health – remove gut irritants and support healthy digestion through a multi-pronged eat-move-rest approach. This should include pre and probiotics based on the current state of your gut. Working with a nutrition coach to identify offending foods and work on gut health is a good option if you’re feeling overwhelmed by doing it on your own.
Support healthy estrogen balance – This is a 2 pronged approach: 1) remove estrogen promoting factors like alcohol, endocrine disrupting chemicals from plastics etc. and 2) increase anti-estrogen factors like phytoestrogen foods (soy, tempeh, miso etc.)
Reduce histamines – Histamines aren’t bad. They are natural chemicals released by the immune system in response to allergens or other triggers, and can cause allergic reactions or inflammation in the body. We want to however limit this immune response in adenomyosis. A low-histamine diet may be pursued alongside your gut-healing strategies, until your gut health is restored. Avoiding or limiting aged or fermented foods, alcohol, cured meats, shellfish, and certain fruits and vegetables can lower histamine levels.
Consider immune supporting supplements and herbs – guided by your PCP team. For example, as Samantha listed, her “period drink” with turmeric is a great start. Curcumin, which is found in turmeric has been studied widely for its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
Consider alternative pain management modalities – like acupuncture, red light therapy, chiropractic interventions and massage therapy can be helpful for some.
Samantha’s Parting words
Its not ok to accept the endless bleeding or heavy bleeding as normal. Samantha cautions that “there are no quick fixes. [Addressing adenomyosis is] … a process and like conventional medicine takes trial-and-error.”
There’s nothing like having a knowledgeable healthcare team – conventional and functional doctors, naturopaths, nutritionists, health coaches etc who can journey with you on a personalized plan for your health and wellness. Samantha mentions “after the interventions and the plan developed with my naturopath and health coach (roughly a year after the fact) I am no longer having 250-289ml++ periods which is a relief.”
“Getting attuned to your body” and understanding the interventions that work (and don’t work for you) and the lifestyle factors like food and stress that bring distress (or relief) is also critical. “It may sound weird but the things I ingest which are not compatible with my body shows up in my period. Like after the yummy rum cake of Dec 2022, Jan 2023’s [menstrual] period [came] twice for the month.”