Christiane Northrup, M.D., a gynecologist and author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Bantam, 1994), and Susan M. Lark, M.D., author of Fibroid Tumors and Endometriosis (Ten Speed, 1995), recommend cutting fat, caffeine, and alcohol, which can thwart the body's estrogen-releasing mechanism. Bulk up on fiber, they suggest. "Women who eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet excrete two to three times more estrogen and have as much as 50 percent lower blood levels of estrogen," says Dr. Lark. Estrogen-absorbing fiber also counters the constipation or diarrhea that often accompanies pelvic pain.
Along with traditional medicine, nondrug treatments can help you cope with the misery of endometriosis, fibroids, and other pelvic pain. Some things to consider:
Diet. What you eat has a major effect on endometriosis and fibroids, because your diet, like these ailments, can alter estrogen levels.But that doesn't mean you should rush to the grocery store and ignore your doctor when you're in pain, adds Dr. Northrup. "If you need surgery, that's what's going to heal you."
Exercise. Exercise reduces stress, which in turn can alleviate cramps, says Dr. Lark. Yoga also makes you more flexible, which can help relieve lower-back pain that many women with endometriosis and fibroids experience.
Relaxation. Put on comfortable clothes, lie down, and close your eyes. Breathe deeply, and imagine seeing inside your body. Visualize your pain by focusing on where it is in your body and then imagine a large eraser rubbing it out. You should feel a sense of calm running through your body.
Herbs. Try brewing a cup of yarrow tea, suggests Dr. Northrup. Yarrow is an anti-inflammatory herb and can soothe discomfort.
Massage. Massage can help your stomach muscles relax, lessening the abdominal pain. Chrissie Sanders, a licensed massage therapist in Houston, recommends rubbing your stomach with lotion in a smooth, clockwise motion.
Natural progesterone. To block the body's production of endometriosis- and fibroid-exacerbating estrogen, Dr. Northrup recommends asking your doctor about natural progesterone, available in a cream or doctor-prescribed pill.