It might surprise you to learn that what your diet might be having a very significant impact on your pelvic pain. Let me explain this idea by telling you a story.
The other day, I was having lunch with my family in the city when I got a phone call from a former patient of mine. Years ago, I was her physical therapist. I treated her pelvic pain from a physical therapy perspective, and at that time I was just learning more about the importance of nutrition for pain management.
Her main complaint was pelvic pain that was debilitating, especially before her period. She was so limited that she was strongly considering a hysterectomy, and in fact had one scheduled a few months later. In an attempt to help her to avoid the major surgery, I was giving her all of the physical therapy tools that I knew to minimize her pelvic pain. I performed biofeedback to help her to relax her pelvic floor muscles. I performed manual therapy to release spasms in her pelvic floor, throughout her abdomen, back and pelvic, and I gave her relaxation, strengthening, and breathing exercises to minimize the pain in her pelvis on her own so that she could better tolerate sitting, and standing for longer periods of time. The therapies were very helpful, but her pain was not eliminated. She continued to have severe bouts of pain every month before her period. She was ready to have the hysterectomy. As a last ditch effort, I suggested that she clean up her diet to determine if she was reacting with inflammation to any specific foods. This inflammation could be a root cause of her pain. She didn’t believe that it would work. So, she ignored my advice. (I was not yet very convincing because this was new ground for me at the time, too!)
Fortunately, a couple of months later, just before her hysterectomy was scheduled she had a major attack of pain while out and about running errands. She was desperate, so she took my advice. (I had since moved out of state, and couldn’t support her, but had given her a number of useful tools to fall back on.) She started by eliminating dairy products. That was the only step that she needed. Her pain completely resolved almost immediately, and hasn’t returned since. What had been happening to her was that during the week prior to her period, she had been having cravings for Mexican foods. And, it was the one time in her cycle when she would eat a lot of cheese. Her monthly cheese-fest was the root cause of her pelvic pain. Letting go of eating cheese enabled her to avoid a major surgery. She was thrilled! And, now she is motivated to get her hormones fully back in balance, normalizing her moods, and getting her happy, healthy life back!
How can you use the story of my former patient to add to your toolbox of minimizing or eliminating your pelvic pain?
- Consider an elimination diet to see if you are sensitive to or allergic to any of the most common food allergens. Food sensitivities are a commonly overlooked cause of inflammation. While people who are sensitive to foods don’t have immediately life threatening allergic reactions, they do have chronic inflammation that can cause pain, digestive discomforts, and poor nutrient absorption. For the next 14 days, eliminate all dairy, wheat (gluten), corn, shellfish, soy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. I also recommend eliminating all processed foods, especially those with food dyes as they are also common triggers. Then, after day 14, add back each food one at a time and see how you feel. Symptoms of congestion, fatigue, pain, bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea are all signs of food sensitivities. Avoid the foods that you are sensitive to forever.
- Once you figure out if you are sensitive to any foods, then you can eliminate them from your diet and begin to heal your digestive system. Your digestive system is key to your overall health. If you have been eating foods that you are sensitive to for years, your digestive system can’t work efficiently to absorb all of the nutrients that you need to lessen your pain. In particular, magnesium, zinc, and all of the amino acids are key to eliminating pain in various ways. Limiting foods that irritate your digestion and adding individualized supplements, usually including probiotics, can hasten the healing of your digestive system.
- Heal your hormone system. Often pelvic pain occurs in a cyclical nature along with your monthly hormone cycles. When your hormones are out of balance, you can suffer with cramping, bleeding abnormalities, fatigue, insomnia, low sex drive, and other symptoms. You can begin to naturally optimize your hormone cycles by getting to bed by 10pm each night and sleeping for at least 8 hours (give yourself a “curfew” from your laptop and all other screens by 8pm.) Other lifestyle changes that can begin to get your hormones back on track are restorative practices like yoga, or calming breathwork, creating strong support networks, and focusing on just 3-5 priorities in your life at any given time. My PowerfulandSexyWomanProgram provides nutrition counseling, wellness education, and coaching to allow you to achieve hormone balance naturally.
I have seen so many success stories like the one I told you about today in my nutrition and wellness practice. I now know for sure that nutrition and self-care are serious and effective tools for helping women to have healthier, less painful, more energetic, calmer, more focused, and more joyful lives. Are nutrition and wellness the missing keys to resolving your pelvic pain?
Guest blogger, Jessica Drummond MPT, CHC, is passionate about helping women and their daughters optimize their hormone health. She was educated at the University of Virginia, Emory University, The Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Duke Integrative Medicine. She is currently a doctoral student in holistic nutrition at Hawthorn University. Check out her website for more information and tools: http://jessicadrummond.com
* Pelvic Guru supports, but does not profit from, http://www.jessicadrumond.com