Chronic fatigue is a widespread symptom of women suffering from endometriosis; this makes a lot of sense because our bodies are constantly fighting chronic pain and inflammation. During our menstrual cycles, a lot of blood is lost containing high levels of iron which leads to a high risk of developing anemia. Chronic pain, inflammation, and anemia are some of the probable causes for us to feel tired all the time. More research still needs to get done as to why chronic inflammation causes chronic fatigue, but it is believed that the inflammation affects the immune system, brain, and nervous system which results in fatigue. To manage fatigue, I made a few adjustments to my lifestyle which include changing the diet, reducing the consumption of process food, taking supplements, exercising when I can, creating a schedule for sleeping and having an amazing support system that understands what you are going through.
Everyone experiences endometriosis differently and therefore our fatigue is different as well. With my stage IV endometriosis, I get disrupted sleep at night and when I wake up I am still very tired. I am constantly bloated, inflamed, and very low energy. I never had any problems with anemia before but a year ago my iron levels showed I was anemic and that’s why I was able to get referred to a gynecologist for an endo diagnosis. I was losing a lot of blood because of the blood clots during my menstrual periods and the blood coming out of my rectum. Other symptoms include muscle or joint pain, brain fog, dizziness, nausea, and overall exhaustion. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint where my body hurts but it feels like it hurts everywhere. Taking naps during the day when I can is a common occurrence and this is all due to the fatigue. Oh, and let’s not forget about the horrible heartburn that does not seem to go away even after eating healthy and drinking lots of water.
Changing my diet is something that I struggled with daily. I was born in a Hispanic family culture where milk and bread were part of daily breakfast and giving them up was very hard. There are many diets out there for inflammation and low FODMAP but to tell you the truth they were not feasible for me if I was going to have a social life which I believe is a big part of my support system. During my health journey, I went to a homeopathy doctor and I asked for guidance on my struggle with these diets and he suggested to reduce the consumption of some types of food but not to remove them completely, as it might cause my body to create allergies to certain types of food later on when I do eat it even if it is by mistake. This made sense to me and since then I have been eating a lot better and at least I don’t feel the pressure to cut food out of my life completely. The types of food that I reduced my intake on are the gluten, dairy milk, red meats, and processed food. I also make sure to include the right amount of nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats in my diet. Vegetables have slowly become my ally just because the more I eat them, the better I feel. To prepare for the days that I don’t feel good I freeze leftovers so that I can use them when I am not feeling well rather than going out or ordering something that might not be as healthy for me.
Supplements are a must now in my life, I did not like to take vitamins and supplements before but now I have a strict routine to make sure that I don’t miss them. I bought one of those containers for the entire week and I add all of my vitamins on Sunday so that I don’t miss them when the week gets hectic. I am not only taking vitamins and supplements but also homeopathic remedies so my purse is full of pills and pumps that I have to take during the day. Some of the supplements that I take daily are vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C, Vitamin B6 & B12, Magnesium, Omega, and Iron supplement. Creating a schedule to take my supplements has helped me immensely, I created alarms that show on my Fitbit and I am reminded during the say when I need to take them.
Another lifestyle change that I did was to start exercising at the gym. I am committed to going even when my body is not feeling its best, there are exceptions to this of course. The sauna is another reason why I go to the gym and it has become my salvation and reward because it is hot and I believe it helps when I am inflamed. When my body is not feeling its best I go to the gym, even if it is to walk 20 min on the treadmill, yes it gets frustrating because you know you can do a lot more but you have to celebrate the smallest victories and just being there is one of them. If you want to have the benefit of both of them I recommend hot yoga. Believe me when I tell you that the sauna, treadmill or yoga has saved me from a lot of body aches and pain. On the other hand, if I am feeling well I give it my best and even more (doing weights, running, yoga, etc) just because I want to make up for the days that I am not feeling good and it makes me feel even better.
Sleeping for me is the best thing in the world! I am not sure if this is because I used to feel tired all the time but I truly look forward to sleeping every day. Before taking supplements especially Iron, I used to take naps during the day because my energy was so low that sometimes I thought that without naps I was not going to make it through the day. I remember eating at my desk a little earlier than lunch-time so I could spend my “lunch break” inside my car sleeping just to be refreshed and be able to function for the rest of the afternoon. Now that I think about it, it was crazy and hard to believe that I thought it was normal. Being mindful that your body needs sleep to feel better even if you don’t sleep uninterrupted the entire night means that you need to be committed to create a routine and a schedule of when you are going to bed and waking up. Set an alarm 20 minutes before you need to go to bed so you can make sure to go to bed at the same time as much as possible. When your body gets into a sleeping routine which includes your eight hours a day, it is a lot easier for it not to feel exhausted during the day.
Endometriosis can cause a person to feel emotionally and physically drained. Talking with friends, family or meeting people with endometriosis through social media or online forums can prevent the feelings of isolation and provide additional valuable tips and advice. Forums and social media have become a huge outlet for me starting from Facebook groups, Instagram pages, blogs and creating this blog. I am also fortunate to have an amazing husband as a support system to help me with being accountable for my new lifestyle choices as well as to give me support when I need it. Just like the journey of losing weight you need someone by your side to push you even when you are not feeling well and to comfort you at the end of the day.