Since that visit to the OBGYN’s dietician I’ve learned a lot about anti-inflammatory diets, and the Mediterranean diet (a type of anti-inflammatory diet), and the impact they can have for those with a variety of diseases and conditions, including endometriosis.
Eating more leafy greens, healthy fats, and whole grains have been widely recommended to reduce the inflammation associated with chronic conditions that cause increased pain, low-energy, and even irritability. Sugar, on the other hand, has the opposite effect of leafy greens for inflammation.
In January of 2019 I committed to 21 days of no sugar, no alcohol, little meat, and a veggie-heavy diet alongside several other women I connected with through social media.
During the 21 days, I ate a lot of fish and drank a lot of kombucha. I had no sugar (but I did have a little caffeine). It was a tough 21 days, especially when attending a wedding on the second day, but it was worth it. I truly felt better. My pain was less frequent and more manageable, and I was finally convinced that diet could affect my endometriosis symptoms.
I’m not quite as strict since the end of January. I am always on the hunt for new leafy greens, and mushrooms are always in my cart. I limit my pasta at home and mostly eat brown rice pasta when I do. But pasta is my favorite food, so sometimes I splurge. Every time I choose ingredients for a dish, every time I enter a restaurant and pick up the menu, I search for the least offensive foods—the ones that will heal, not hurt.
Other women I know with endometriosis swear by quitting dairy or gluten, and though I limit my dairy, sugar is still my worst enemy. Reducing it has had the greatest impact. A square of 80-percent dark chocolate after lunch won’t hurt me, but a few churros con chocolate in a small cafe in Malaga, Spain definitely did, and one sleepless night of grinding pain was not worth it.
Will my diet completely stop ovarian cysts and endometrial tissue from growing? Will it eventually stop the pain? I don’t know. I’ve heard endometriosis called a “disease of theories.” Right now, there’s simply not enough research or resources to really, factually know what provides relief, much less a cure.
It’s very hard to tell how endometriosis and fibroids will affect fertility until it actually matters. Ovaries—the small, five-centimeter organs that release the egg to the uterus—are integral to the process.
Big ovarian cysts, like my seven-centimeter one, are notably heavier than the average one to five-centimeter ovary, putting it at risk for ovarian torsion—the twisting that is possibly lethal to the ovary. Ovary torsion requires emergency surgery to preserve the ovary, and if necessary, remove it.
My mom lost one ovary, not to a monster cyst, but to endo itself. When she was 36, she underwent her first surgery for endometriosis, after years of extremely painful periods during which she would stay in bed for hours, throw up, and become delirious.
During surgery, the doctor removed her right ovary. It was simply too tangled up in the endometrial tissue, ravaged from years of undiagnosed and untreated endometriosis.
It takes an average of six to ten years to be diagnosed with endometriosis, though often longer for younger patients and more severe cases. I was one of the lucky ones. I was diagnosed early. And though my first surgery was not thorough, I still have most of my original parts.
A woman can still get pregnant with just one ovary, but there aren’t any sure statistics out there on the likelihood. I won’t truly know until I try.
And my mom didn’t know either. Marrying at age 39, with one ovary, doctors told her it would take months to conceive, but she got pregnant with me on their honeymoon.
Sometimes when near-strangers ask if I want babies and I feel awkward, I remember that I’m a one-ovary, honeymoon, endo baby.
So I keep reading the latest studies, I continue to schedule and drive to physical therapy twice a month. I keep hoping, keep talking to the doctors that listen, keep filling up my pillbox, keep plugging in the heating pad, keep eating avocados, keep trying to grow my own avocado tree. I keep calling my mom, my grandma; keep wondering what I can grow with a seed from the ovaries I may not be able to keep.