We’ve talked about pelvic muscles, menstruation, pelvic pain and endometriosis…here’s a post tying those together with nutrition and stress…just in time for breakfast…;)
What Did You Have For Breakfast This Morning? How Your Diet Could Be Worsening Your Pelvic Pain
By Jessica Drummond, MPT, CCN, CHC
This morning a woman woke up and walked into her kitchen. Let’s call her Kristen. She decided that this is the morning she is going to start getting healthy. Her 40th birthday is coming up in a month, and she wants to lose 10 pounds before she crosses that milestone. So, she pours herself a bowl of cereal and tops it with some berries and skim milk. (The cereal is instead of skipping breakfast, or stopping by Starbucks for a muffin and a latte like she does most mornings.) She’s exhausted, as usual. It feels like she hasn’t slept well in ages. She starts up the coffee machine. “I think I remember reading in The New York Times last week that coffee is good for you now, “ she says to herself. “Anyway, no matter what those experts say, they will have to pry my morning coffee out of my cold, dead hands,” she thinks.
It’s the week before her increasingly irregular and painful period. She had a surgery for her endometriosis a few years back, but the pain is getting worse and worse again. She’s hoping that she can control her emotions today at work today – she felt crazy in her monthly staff meeting last month! She’s praying that her pain medication will work well enough to get her through the day. The cramps and stabbing pain that seem to be getting worse each month just before her period nearly had her heading home early yesterday costing her yet another sick day.
What if her breakfast is making her monthly endometriosis pain and period cramps worse? Could her breakfast be making her anxiety worse too?
Is it possible that somehow what Kristen is eating is directly impacting her hormone balance, her periods, and even her pain?
Another woman, Janine, woke up this morning with energy. She feels calm and focused. Best of all, the irregular, painful periods, and bouts of endometriosis pain are now regular and pain free. In fact, her periods haven’t bothered her in months now.
What did Janine have for breakfast?
Janine learned six months ago that her adrenal glands were burned out. After years of stress at work, having 3 kids in 6 years, and then going through a traumatic divorce, she was fried! She was drinking coffee and eating energy bars in the afternoon just to survive so that she could get home, get dinner and homework done with her kids, and get everyone to bed. By the time her work shift and her home shift were over, you would think that she would fall right into bed and sleep soundly all night because she was so exhausted. Unfortunately not. In fact, at night was when she got a second wind. She could rarely fall asleep before 1am.
What did she do?
Janine learned that her cortisol (stress hormone) levels were way off, a sign of adrenal dysregulation, otherwise know as adrenal fatigue, or adrenal burnout.
Not only are abnormal cortisol levels a cause of insomnia, anxiety, and infertility, but they also correlate with having pelvic pain1, 2 (especially the pelvic pain that is related to endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.)
What do Kristen’s and Janine’s hormone levels and pelvic pain have to do with what they ate for breakfast?
One of the main jobs of the adrenal glands is to secrete cortisol in order to maintain necessary blood sugar levels for survival. Kristen’s breakfast is mostly carbohydrates that will turn quickly into sugar in her blood. This will cause her body’s secretion of insulin to overreact. A few hours later, say around 10am, she’ll experience a blood sugar crash, causing her adrenal glands to go into overdrive to secrete enough cortisol to literally save her life by keeping her blood sugar levels high enough for the survival of her heart and brain. Over time this is very tough work for the fragile adrenal glands. Eventually, the cortisol levels are pushed too high, then really low in the morning and too high at night (reversed, causing Kristen’s second wind), and eventually the adrenals give up trying to keep up and cortisol levels drop too low.
When the cortisol levels are off, pelvic pain can result.
Luckily, naturally balancing our cortisol levels with good nutrition, rest, and support is very effective. After 6 months of focusing on eating a healthy, nutrient dense, high protein, high fiber, and healthy fat-full breakfast each morning, getting lots of quality restorative rest, and feeling the supportive sisterhood of her online healing community, Janine was able to heal her adrenal dysregulation and relieve her pelvic pain.
What does Janine eat for breakfast? There are lots of options, but here’s one of my favorite adrenal and pelvic pain healing recipes. Enjoy!
Place 1-1.5 cups of cooked whole grain in a bowl. (Some whole grains to try: millet, kasha, quinoa, brown rice, or amaranth. Millet is my favorite.)
Cover with unsweetened almond or hemp milk. Top with soaked and sprouted or raw almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds and/or coconut flakes. Add a handful of fresh berries and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve with 2-3 Applegate Farms frozen turkey breakfast sausages (heated.)
- Wingenfeld K, Heim C, Schmidt I, et al. “HPA axis reactivity and lymphocyte glucocorticoid sensitivity in fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic pelvic pain.” Psychosomatic Medicine. Jan;70(1) (2008): 65-72. Epub 2007 Dec 24. (many limitations to this study, not so clear results)
- Petrelluzzi KF, Garcia MC, Petta CA, et al. “Salivary cortisol concentrations, stress and quality of life in women with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain.” Stress. Sep;11(5) (2008): 390-7. doi: 10.1080/10253890701840610. (clearer results for cortisol and endometriosis)
Jessica Drummond, MPT, CCN, CHC, is the creator of The Pelvic Pain Natural Relief Method™, and founder and CEO of The Integrative Pelvic Health Institute. She is passionate about caring for and empowering women with pelvic pain conditions such as endometriosis, period pain, painful sex, and post-surgical, orthopedic, or pregnancy related pelvic pain conditions. She is equally passionate about educating and supporting clinicians in confidently and safely using integrative tools to treat chronic pelvic pain. Having over a decade of experience as a pelvic physical therapist plus owning a private women’s health clinical nutrition and coaching practice gives her a unique perspective on the integrative, conservative options for pelvic pain management. Get a free pain relieving smoothie recipe and get our weekly pelvic pain relief tips, by signing up at IntegrativePelvicHealthInstitute.com.