Overcoming endo belly can seem like an impossible task. Mostly because you have a cluster of symptoms to contend with. And, if that isn’t bad enough, you’re stuck with a prominent and awkward reminder of your body’s struggle to function. But, while I haven’t found a way to successfully prevent endo belly. I have learned how to overcome it with nutrition, essential wellness, symptom management, and lifestyle modifications.
Understanding the Cause of Endo Belly
When it comes to defeating any opposing force in your life, it’s crucial to understand what you’re fighting against. And the same goes for learning how to overcome endo belly.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably suffered from painful stomach bloating and swelling. Which impacts digestion and causes complications with nausea, stomach upset (diarrhea or constipation), and a sizeable distended abdomen that makes you look pregnant. This abdominal distention causes an unpleasant feeling of tightness with sharp knife-like cramping. I know it always felt as if my stomach was expanding so much that it would explode from the pressure. Additionally, you may also have issues with lower back pain and radiating leg pain. These symptoms can last for a few hours, days, or weeks. Yikes!
While it’s unclear what exactly causes endo belly, there’s one general truth: it’s caused by an inflammatory response. Now, what triggers this reaction will vary for each individual diagnosed with endometriosis. It can be triggered by food intolerances such as consuming alcohol, dairy, or gluten for some patients. Other hormonal events such as ovulation, menstruation, or increasing cortisol levels due to overactivity cause an endo belly flare-up.
Additionally, underlying conditions can also contribute to these flare-ups. And they may even increase abdominal distension and pelvic fullness. Complications such as chocolate cysts, ovarian cysts, fibroids, or gut imbalances like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can trigger endo belly. These conditions are comorbidities, and endo patients are at an increased risk of developing one or more of these conditions.
Accessible Treatment Options
The gold standard treatment for endometriosis will always be having excision surgery performed by a surgeon specializing in it. And that also understands endometriosis and the complexity of the disease. But, let’s be real, excision surgery is expensive and not easily attainable for all endo patients. Furthermore, you can still undergo surgery and may occasionally deal with endo belly or other endometriosis symptoms. Endometriosis impacts everyone differently. So, there isn’t always a cut and dry solution.
Yet, endo belly is treatable, and implementing a few helpful home remedies can help overcome endo belly and increase life quality.
Since it’s caused by an inflammatory response, the first step should be to decrease as much inflammation within the body as possible. For instance, cutting back on inflammatory foods such as dairy, hard to digest meat, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine is an excellent place to start. You may even find following a low fodmap diet during flare-ups to be beneficial.
I know for myself, avoiding meat and cruciferous veggies during flare-ups is helpful. I focus on bland easy to digest foods such as plain white rice, crackers, chicken broth, and vegetable broth.
Ease Tummy Troubles
Flare-ups also do a number on your stomach and bowels. Nausea, diarrhea, gassiness, and constipation are symptoms associated with endo belly. However, you can ease this discomfort with homeopathic treatments, supplementation, and over the counter medications.
If you’re dealing with an upset stomach, herbal teas such as peppermint tea or ginger tea can help with easing nausea. Whereas senna tea can help with making bowel movements easier to pass. Additionally, over the counter options such as anti-diarrheal (Kaopectate, Imodium AD) can ease diarrhea. While stool softeners and osmotic laxatives (Miralax, Philips milk of magnesia) can alleviate constipation.
I’ve had personal success with taking Philips milk of magnesia for constipation. And, for nausea, ginger lozenges and Dramamine worked the best for me.
Be Mindful About Fiber
If you’re struggling with digestive distress and IBS-like symptoms, you may get a lot of advice to increase fiber. Do so with caution. You may find that increasing your fiber intake makes your symptoms worse. Furthermore, digesting fibrous foods can increase gassiness, bloating, and stomach upset.
Instead, you might want to supplement your fiber so that it’s easier to digest and benefits your specific concern. For example, if you have diarrhea, eating foods with a high amount of soluble fiber will only increase your loose bowels. However, consuming an insoluble fiber supplement such as Citrucel will add bulk to your stool and decrease diarrhea.
On the other hand, if you’re constipated, you will want to avoid insoluble fiber as it will only increase your stool’s bulkiness. Instead, choose a soluble fiber supplement that will increase regularity by encouraging water to the large intestine, which helps soften your stool. And make bowel movements easier to pass.
Pain Management Tools
Pelvic cramping, lower back pain, and radiating leg pain are common painful symptoms that co-exist with endo belly. And, while having access to prescribed pain medication can decrease the discomfort. It may not always be an option. I know for me personally, no one believed my pain, to begin with, so I have never prescribed pain medication. And, I never went to the emergency room because I knew my pain wouldn’t be believed. This experience led me to get creative with home pain management remedies.
For lower back pain, Thermacare heat wraps were the best. Usually, when I decreased my back pain, it also reduced the radiating leg pain. For pelvic cramping and discomfort, nothing beats a nice hot water bottle. Even better is getting a heating pad that you can rest comfortably on. My only options were Aleve and the non-caffeinated versions of Pamprin and Midol as for pain medication. They never wholly took the pain away, but I found it easier to function when combined with other methods.
Helpful Lifestyle Modifications
In addition to nutrition and over the counter remedies, you can make lifestyle changes to ease discomfort.
Movements to Avoid
Gentle movements and exercise during endo belly flare-ups can help decrease discomfort and promote bowel movements if you’re constipated. However, high impact workouts and twisting core movements can aggravate symptoms. Whereas exercise such as restorative yoga and stretching are more beneficial.
Dealing with endo belly is not only uncomfortable but embarrassing. Looking as though you’re in your second trimester of pregnancy takes a toll on one’s self-esteem. Not to mention, it makes clothes fit differently and become generally uncomfortable.
Finding comfortable clothes that accommodate you during your flare-up is essential. Opt for loose, stretchy pants that don’t put additional pressure on the abdomen. Bonus points if they help to minimize the stomach. You may find that leggings or maternity bottoms are the most comfortable for endo belly flare-ups. Additionally, wearing tunic tops or flowy dresses can help disguise the endo belly while providing comfort.
Having your body become inflamed and flared can cause you to feel stressed and out of sorts. This is especially true if you still have to work or take care of your household in addition to managing your health. But, I can’t stress the importance of setting aside time to take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It’s incredible how the simple little things go a long way at making you feel so much better.
For instance, my favorite self-care flare-up rituals include taking hot Epsom salt baths, warm towels fresh from the dryer, cozy blankets and socks, and snuggling with an electric blanket. I also enjoyed watching my favorite shows or taking the time to catch up on reading that I haven’t done in a while. And while these things don’t “cure” my flare-up, they do help me feel a lot better and decrease stress.
What’s Most Important
The most important takeaway that I hope I’m getting across is that you must take care of yourself. Endo belly flare-ups are nasty, and they don’t fight fair. Luckily, there are so many home remedies that can help overcome the variety of symptoms associated with endo belly flare-ups.
It’s also vital to speak with your doctor if you experience ongoing abdominal distention. While longer flare-ups are common underlying conditions such as fibroids and chocolate cysts can contribute to abdominal bloating and distention.
Furthermore, they may contribute to many of the same symptoms as endo belly flare-ups due to their inflammatory nature. Not to mention that having endometriosis increases your risk of developing these conditions. However, visiting with a medical professional and inquiring if you could have an ultrasound can help determine the cause of your ongoing distress.
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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