I have been taking a bit of a hiatus from writing lately to focus on a health issue that has recently come to light. It’s something that I’ve been putting off sharing publicly because it’s an incredibly personal story that I am only just coming to terms with myself. I’ve decided to write about it today in hopes to help others battling with Hashimoto’s, endometriosis and other autoimmune diseases. I think that the more we share and educate one another, the sooner we will be able to solve the puzzle of autoimmunity.
I spent the better half of 2016 on a mission to find the root cause of my autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In addition to monthly trips to the doctor’s office, I spent countless hours and money on diet protocols, lifestyle interventions, supplements, medications, acupuncture, naturopaths and integrative specialists. I submitted myself to uncomfortable procedures, laboratory testing and eliminated so many foods from my diet that at times there was almost nothing left.
Unfortunately this is the case for many of us with autoimmune disease, as we work to identify our triggers and discover our root cause. There is no one-sized-fits all approach and it can take months or even years of trial and error to get to the bottom of it and begin to recover your health. I wish I could say that I was cured or that my disease was in remission (which is possible!), but I still have a long way to go. While I have made great progress in the last year, my journey has only just begun.
When you have an autoimmune disease, it is not uncommon to develop a second or a third — often leading to Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome (MAS). It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that I began to experience painful periods, irregular bleeding, bladder and bowel problems, skin issues and mood swings. I would be laughing hysterically one minute and balling my eyes out the next. I thought that my body was just adjusting to my natural thyroid hormone medication and figured things would eventually work themselves out.
A few months later I found myself in the hospital with acute pain in my lower abdomen. It radiated through my back and felt like what I now know is comparable to the pain of a heart-attack. I was hooked up to an IV, pumped up with morphine and sent home with a prescription for pain killers. Little did I know, that exactly one month later this would happen All. Over. Again. I was finally sent for a pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound, where they discovered a large complex cyst on my left ovary. I was referred to a gynecologist and told to come back in a month for a follow-up appointment.
Given my health history and recent ultrasound results, my doctor’s were in agreement that it was highly likely I was suffering from endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows on other areas, usually within the pelvis, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It can only be diagnosed through laparoscopy surgery, which involves inserting a camera through a small incision in the belly to analyze the pelvic organs. During this procedure, the surgeon looks for signs of endometriosis, such as cysts, adhesions, scar tissue and diseased tissues. If endometriosis is diagnosed, it may be treated or removed accordingly.
Aside from pain medication and synthetic hormones like the birth control pill, this is as far as conventional treatment options go. Many patients will have relief of pain and symptoms following laparoscopy surgery, however this is often only temporary until the tissue begins to grow back again. Endometriosis is a progressive disease without a definitive cure. Most women will require further medical treatment, endure multiple surgical procedures and spend many years trying to manage their pain and symptoms.
Women with endometriosis can experience severe pelvic pain, inflammation, abnormal menstruation, painful sex, painful bowel movements, abdominal bloating, bladder problems, fatigue and infertility, to name a few. While it’s usually found within the pelvic cavity, endometriosis has also been known to affect the liver, diaphragm, lungs, lymph nodes, heart, eyes and brain. It often affects women during their reproductive years and can impact all areas of their lives, including school, careers, finances, social lives, relationships and emotional well-being. It is estimated that 176 million women worldwide are affected by endometriosis, however many more are still undiagnosed.
Next week I’m putting my brave face on to undergo my first (and hopefully my last!) laparoscopy procedure. The reason for the operation is to officially diagnose the endometriosis, assess my fertility, remove the cysts and as much of the endometrial tissue, adhesions and scar tissue as possible. Through my own nutritional practice and with the assistance of a naturopath, I will also be adopting an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet to help with surgery recovery and minimize the autoimmune response. I will talk more about this in a future post and look forward to giving you an update after my surgery!
With love & encouragement,
If you or someone you love suffers from endometriosis, here are some great resources and ways to get involved: