If you have endometriosis, you know how miserable it can be. On a rough day, you may find yourself searching for a quick at-home solution, like a heating pad — or a sedative (we get it).
Endometriosis symptoms aren’t one-size-fits-all. It might take some tinkering to figure out which remedies will do the trick.
Unsure exactly what you’re dealing with here? Endometriosis is a condition that affects 3 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age.
It happens when tissue similar to the uterine lining starts growing outside the uterus — typically somewhere else in your abdomen, like your ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Endometriosis is thought to start when the cells that form uterine tissue travel elsewhere in your body, via either period blood or your blood vessels and lymphatic system. It could also be linked to genetics.
Some women with endometriosis don’t notice any symptoms. They may not even know they have the condition until it’s discovered through a pelvic surgery or exam.
Others with the condition feel intense abdominal pain throughout their menstrual cycle, especially leading up to and during their period.
This is due to the inflammation that happens when the uterine-like tissue grows in odd locations. (Are you too good for your home?!)
If you have endometriosis, you may notice the following symptoms:
- abdominal pain, especially during your period
- pain during sex
- pain when going to the bathroom
- excessive period bleeding or bleeding between periods
If you think you might have endometriosis, talk to your doctor ASAP. It can only be officially diagnosed with a pelvic exam. Your doctor will look for cysts and scarring in your abdominal area.
Your doctor may also do a minor surgical procedure called a laparoscopy to figure out exactly what’s going on.
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for endometriosis. But you can manage it with medication and at-home treatments.
Many doctors prescribe hormonal birth control to reduce symptoms and cut down on bleeding (the birth control pill typically stops ovulation, which can provide relief).
In severe cases or when dealing with infertility, you may need surgery to remove growths outside your uterus and help your body conceive more easily.
The only way to get rid of endometriosis symptoms for good is to have a hysterectomy, in which your uterus is removed. This procedure is irreversible and should be done only if you know you don’t want to have children.
If you’re hoping to manage your endometriosis symptoms without hormonal medication, there are several solutions you can try.
Anti-inflammatory diet: Do’s
What you eat has a major effect on how you feel. Research has shown that anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce endometriosis symptoms.
Eat a diet rich in leafy greens and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids (from foods like fish, nuts, and seeds), and green tea. Try to limit high-FODMAP foods, gluten, and dairy.
Anti-inflammatory diet: Don’ts
Trans fats cause inflammation, even for people without endometriosis, so anyone dealing with the condition should really try to really limit them. Refined carbohydrates could also inflame your gut and cause pain.
Research has shown that eating refined foods can also affect your fertility, so it’s especially important to watch your diet if you want to get pregnant.
When your pain is at its worst, applying heat to your abdominal area can help. This relaxes your pelvic muscles and keeps the blood flowing, which can reduce cramping.
Similar to a heating pad, a warm bath surrounds your body with heat, which can help you chill out and provide relief for your pain.
Throw in a bath bomb with lavender, sage, marjoram, and rose essential oils, which studies have found could reduce menstrual pain.
Some people swear by castor oil as a natural remedy for intense period pain. This natural vegetable oil is known for its anti-inflammatory and medicinal uses and for being a great moisturizer.
You can apply it externally to your abdominal area and combine it with a heating pad to maximize the benefits. To avoid disrupting your body’s natural pH levels, you should never apply castor oil directly to your vaginal area.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found mostly in fish like salmon and sardines but also in some plant sources, help strengthen your cells to fight inflammation and pain.
You can eat these foods, obv, but you can also take a daily fish oil supplement to ensure you’re getting a steady dose. Talk to your doctor to help find a reputable brand and decide whether supplements are right for you.
OTC pain meds
While they’re not a long-term solution, pain medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin can relieve your symptoms when they get especially bad.
Just be careful not to use them all the time, because they can cause nausea and mess with your gut microbiome if overused — which will only increase inflammation down the road.
Have you ever been so overwhelmed by cramping that you literally felt nauseated? It’s super fun (JK — it sucks).
When you can’t deal, reach for a steaming cup of ginger tea to warm up your body and soothe your stomach. Research has shown that ginger can curb nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, and it might also help with any endo-related nausea.
This bright yellow spice that stars in so many ’grammable lattes contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to limit the growth of endometrial cells.
It’s also anti-inflammatory, so it can be helpful for pain management.
One side effect of endometriosis in many cases is weight gain. This can happen because of a hormonal imbalance or medication use.
To help prevent your body from becoming more inflamed, combine a healthy diet with regular exercise (the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity).
A daily multivitamin can help ensure you’re getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that supplementing antioxidants such as vitamin E and C can lessen endometriosis pain.
Taking a multivitamin may also help increase your chances of getting pregnant. Talk to your doctor to find a combination of vitamins and minerals that works best for you.
As a friendly reminder, here are the typical triggers to avoid when you have endometriosis:
- trans fats
- processed foods
- overuse of OTC pain meds
- excessive caffeine and alcohol
Though endometriosis can be frustrating, it doesn’t have to take over your life. Try different strategies to manage your symptoms, and talk to your healthcare provider if you need more intensive relief.
Remember that you’re not alone: Millions of women live happily and healthfully while dealing with this condition. With the right combination of treatment options, you can too.