It’s been awhile since a guest blog has come out, but I am so happy to announce our next guest! Natalie is a kind, loving, wonderful friend whom I met through North Coast Growers Association Farmers Markets! We were both vending our veggies and totally hit it off. Recently, she has been finding new ways to care for herself and her body. This post is for any woman wanting to deepen their awareness, friend of a woman wanting to learn more about endometriosis or women’s health, or any curious human! There are delicious recipes shared and information on nourishing herbs as well. I learned a lot, and am grateful for her vulnerability and openness.
Grab a cup of tea, and enjoy…
Relief Rituals for Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition that affects 1 in 10 women, but often goes undiagnosed, with little and hard-to-find support from western healthcare that doesn’t involve birth control band-aids or recurring surgeries. For me personally, it was 11 years until I received a diagnosis – and only because the pain turned from terrible periods once a month to chronic, debilitating, daily pain. I was lucky. It’s a terrible realization that it takes chronic pain to be heard by a doctor, but I was lucky.
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory, estrogen-dependent disease that involves the growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus. The bleeding of lesions during the menstrual cycle causes pain all month long, and healing and relief is multi-faceted and complex. To keep it simple, I focus on this: symptomatic pain relief, and long-term healing of the root cause - detoxification and inhibition of estrogen dominance.
Proper diagnosis requires laparoscopic surgery, and as there is no “cure” it can feel like a powerless path to finding relief. But I’m here to share what has worked for me. It might not cure you, it might not stop a flare up from ever happening again – heck, I got a flare up from sitting for too long last week – but I truly believe there’s a place for self healing and deep relief on the endo path.
I’d like to share some simple & nourishing practices that have eased me along my own healing path. If you suffer from bad cramps on your moon cycle, think you might have hormone imbalance, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic congestion, or want to maintain a healthy, nourished reproductive system – these are for you!
*Disclaimer: I will be sharing about herbal support and integrative self-healing practices, but by no means do I disregard the effectiveness and relief that the health care system can provide. These daily practices are foundational healing, but benefit greatly as a supplement to some important care from skilled doctors as well. Do what you need to do – no judgment here!
Food Is Medicine
Food can be the most foundational medicine there is. This topic could be it’s own blog post, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. I’ve come to discover what food deeply nourishes and heals me, and which foods immediately cause inflammation and flare-ups. For me, dairy, red meat, caffeine (coffee in particular), and sugar have been major sources of inflammation. If you’re having break-outs, flare ups, or pain throughout your cycle, I highly recommend figuring out how your food might be playing a role.
As women, our bodies have different needs for nourishment at different times of the month. Check out the work of Alisa Vitti and Aviva Romm to read more about nutrition and your cycle and find inspiration to support your body in all of its seasons. The simplest meals can be vessels for power-packed nutrition. Here are a few of my favorite creations:
Black and Blue-Green Oatmeal
This oatmeal is a great morning meal during your luteal phase, after ovulation and before menstruation. It’s blood building, and packed with iron, vitamins, and minerals to deeply fortify your body.
Spirulina – extremely nutritive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, rich in iron, protein, and micronutrients
Blackstrap molasses – rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium
Maca – restores hormonal balance and suppresses estrogen dominance
½ cup organic oats (rolled or steel-cut, whichever you prefer)
1 cup water
2 tbsp sunflower butter
1 tbsp spirulina
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 tbsp maca powder
splash of non-dairy milk of choice
maple syrup or honey, to taste
Cook oats with water as you would normally make your oatmeal and stir in the rest of the ingredients when finished cooking. Garnish with fresh blueberries, and enjoy!
Another variation that’s great for summer is a black and blue-green smoothie:
Sub oats for 1 frozen banana, frozen blueberries, and nix the syrup or honey. Blend and enjoy as is, or my favorite way – in a bowl topped with granola.
Mushy Massaged Kale Salad
This kale salad literally gives me life. It is SO DELICIOUS, and I feel lifted, nourished, and refreshed whenever I make it. It’s safe to say this recipe is my favorite food on earth. Original recipe courtesy of my friend, Jonathan Brody. I like to add some additions for extra bitter liver-cleansing goodness, but make however you wish. The mushier the better, I promise!
Dandelion leaf – Rich in Vitamins K, A, B, and C, calcium, iron, manganese. It is a potent liver cleanser, anti-inflammatory, and aids in detoxification and digestion
Plantain leaf – Rich in Vitamins A, C, calcium, and iron. Astringent, anti-spasmotic, and demulcent, it helps to soothe irritation, inflammation, and spasms
Cilantro – Cleanses the body of toxic metals, and rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It has anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmotic properties as well as stimulating proper secretions from the endocrine glands - properties that assist in reducing menstrual pain and endo flare ups
1 bunch lacinato (dino) kale; it’s the juiciest, but use whatever you have on hand
handful of dandelion greens
handful of Italian parsley, chopped
handful of cilantro, chopped
3-5 plantain leaves, chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 sticks celery, diced
1 avocado, diced
2-3 tbsp spirulina
1-2 lemons, juiced
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp honey
Strip kale leaves from stem and tear into a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and massage until kale is juicy and tender. Add the rest of the ingredients, dressing, and spirulina and mix well.
Turmeric Tahini Glow Smoothie
This smoothie is full of anti-inflammatory turmeric, warming spices, power-packed tahini, and balancing ashwagandha.
Turmeric- anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and reduces the production of hormone estradiol, therefore reducing and inhibiting endometrial cell growth outside of the uterus.
Tahini – sesame seed butter: contain essential fatty acids, lignins (help to block excess estrogen), and selenium (helps detox excess hormones from the liver)
Ashwagandha- an adaptogen that helps our bodies cope with stress by bringing them back to homeostasis. It balances energy, regulates hormones, strengthens the adrenal glands, increases blood production, and so much more!
2 frozen bananas
2 tbsp tahini
2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ashwagandha powder
pinch of black pepper
nut milk of choice
Add ingredients to a blender and fill with nut milk until just covered. Blend, and add more milk if needed. Pour, share with a friend, and enjoy!
Herbal Oils and Castor Packs
To prevent flare ups and for the week or two leading up to my moon cycle, I apply herbal oil to my abdomen daily. My absolute favorite and long-time plant ally is Yarrow. Yarrow is cooling and warming, astringent yet gentle, anti-inflammatory and helps sooth menstrual cramps, heavy bleeding, gastrointestinal discomfort, and congestion of all sorts. For these reasons and more, it makes an amazing oil to help reduce pelvic congestion and pain associated with endometriosis.
The benefits of herbal body oiling are deeply healing and endless. It’s a wonderful way to attune to what’s happening in your body, slow down, and take time for your daily ritual of self care. Listen to the Mythic Medicine podcast’s episode about body oiling, find online workshops and videos by Kami McBride, and support your local herbalists or enjoy the process of gathering and making your own.
Castor Oil Packs
Castor oil packs are another powerful tool to enhance lymphatic circulation, reduce inflammation, and promote healing of tissue beneath the skin. They can be applied wherever you most need the relief. If you’re suffering from an ovarian cyst, place it over the side that needs it. Place it on the right side of your abdomen for liver detoxification, or over your pelvis to tonify and support your uterus.
To prepare a castor oil pack you will need:
High quality Castor oil
Dye-free wool flannel cloth (I’ve used HomeHealth and Heritage Store brands)
Plastic bag – castor oil stains! Cut a plastic bag to cover your abdomen over the oil-soaked cloth
Hot water bottle or heating pad
Apply a generous amount of castor oil onto flannel cloth, saturate but not to the point of dripping. Place on abdomen, cover with plastic, and apply heating pad.
Castor oil packs take time – at least 30 minutes to an hour to be exact. Set up a comfy place to post up for a while, and lay a towel down to prevent any oil stains. This time can be a great opportunity to light some candles, meditate, read a book, take a nap, or watch some Netflix.
Herbs for Endo
Herbal medicine offers multidimensional healing and relief for the full scope of endo root causes and symptoms. I try to incorporate herbs into my daily routine that are:
deeply nourishing and blood building
liver cleansing (to help move excess estrogen out of the body)
tonifying for the reproductive system
Daria beautifully and thoroughly covered nourishing herbal infusions in the last blog post, so refer to her recipes that are safe for pregnancy and great for supporting the reproductive system through all of its stages.
Root & Reishi decoction for liver support:
Bitter roots support the detoxification process in the body by supporting the liver, enhancing lymphatic circulation, and ensuring healthy kidney and bowel function. This decoction (a tea that is simmered on the stove top rather than just steeping) pairs bitter roots, demulcent marshmallow root, anti-inflammatory ginger, and adaptogenic reishi for whole body wellness.
1 part burdock root
1 part dandelion root
1 part yellow dock root
1 part marshmallow root, or powder
1 part fresh ginger root, chopped
reishi mushroom, whole piece or powdered
Add 1 tbsp herb for each cup of water. I usually wing it and add a heaping handful of roots to about ½ gallon of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer until the liquid reduces by half – 30 mins to an hour. Strain and enjoy!
-Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry): balances estrogen dominance by supporting the production of progesterone and lutenizing hormone, regulating the menstrual cycle and ovulation
-Angelica (Dong Quai): anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmotic, balances hormones, regulates the menstrual cycle, and nourishes the blood. *don’t use while on period or if you get very heavy periods
-Wild Yam: aids in estrogen balance, tonifies the ovaries, soothes cramping, and reduces nerve pain
These relief rituals can be deeply effective if practiced consistently, long-term. However, they are not a cure. Follow your intuition and listen deeply to your body. Don’t hesitate to supplement your self care with a lot of care from others as well. Go to reiki, receive abdominal massage and acupuncture, practice restorative yoga. Give western medicine a chance to help you, but ask questions, maintain boundaries, and stand up for yourself.
I hope that these practices, potions, and recipes bring you accessible, simple, easy-to-implement relief. May you feel inspired and empowered to incorporate one or all of these into your own life. Happy healing!