LEARNING TO LOVE OVULATION: HOW TO DEAL WITH OVULATION PAIN
I love ovulation, it is the time in my cycle when my confidence is high, I feel good, I have so much energy and confidence, I feel on top of the world. Oh, and libido is at its peak too. This should be a great time in our cycle but imagine this: you are in your ovulation groove and life is going well, then you get hit by an excruciating pain that came out of nowhere.
It may be in the front of your abdomen or even in your back. You are struggling to breathe through it and get round to popping the pain killers and then before you know it, it's gone.
Ovulation pain is very real (like period pain is), but it often dismissed, or even worse, doctors just suggest their standard go to: putting you on the pill. It probably doesn't help that no one really knows the real reason for it but one thing I do know, if you get it: it sucks. You can't plan for and take high dosage pain killers for a few days without wrecking your liver and yet, that is pretty much it if you don't want to go on the pill, on offer from standard medicine.
But I have had some clients who have managed to get rid of theirs using some of the suggestions below, so I know there is more we can do.
Ovulation pain is thought to be caused when the follicle in the ovary ruptures to release the egg, and this rupturing or the fluid it releases causes some kind of irritation. So let's look at all the possibilities that could cause this.
1. Pelvic Congestion
Our pelvises are often congestion for so many reasons; bad posture, sitting down all day, not enough movement in the pelvis, carrying a child on your hip for extended periods of time and high usage of high heels are just some of the common causes.
Often when this is the case the womb, rather than being in its anatomical position can be leaning off to the side, the front, the back or a combination of two. The result, all your organs and ligaments on that side are squished up with not much space. And if you ovulate on that side? It may well cause irritation.
Other causes of pelvic congestion are adhesions, endometriosis and scar tissue. Adhesions can be caused by scar tissue or conditions such as endometriosis and unfortunately cause everything to stick together (or adhere) as well as take up more space in the pelvis. Scar tissue can often do the same, so your poor uterus cannot move around and gets stuck in one position and, this can end up with the ovary either being stuck to another organ or congestion in the area it is in.
Decongesting the pelvis: There are a number of options available here. The most effective I find is abdominal massage which can help break down adhesions and get more movement into your pelvis so your womb and fallopian tubes have more space to move around. You can either see a practitioner such as myself or get a practitioner to show you a routine you can do at home (I teach this via Skype if you are interested).
Movement can also be incredibly helpful. Walking, yoga, pilates and swimming are great for this. Getting up to walk for a few minutes for every hour you are static can be super beneficial, especially if you spend all day sitting down. Make it your mission to get some movement in daily, even if only in short bursts.
Contrary to popular opinion, inflammation isn't actually a bad thing, we need it to heal and fight infections. However, too much inflammation leaves us in a state of pain, chronic health conditions and auto-immunity starts to flare up. Too much inflammation can also mean that smaller pain triggers that we can normally brush off without much though, can instead feel far more intense and painful.
The cause of inflammation is also multifaceted so it may take you a while to figure out which is causing your inflammatory issues. Here are the main causes I see: stress, over-exercise, lack of sleep, unstable blood sugar, low omega 3:6 ratio, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, diary, soy and corn. There are other inflammatory sources as well such as toxins that you are sensitive to in your environment, and other food groups, but let's try and keep it simple for now.
Inflammation is also one of the suspected route causes of endometriosis, so it is worth trying to get this under control if you suspect you have it, or if you been diagnosed.
Reducing Inflammation: hopefully stress, over-exercising and lack of sleep are self explanatory. Unstable blood sugar affects huge amount of the population with figures quoting 1 in 5 to 1 in 3 people are affected. Signs of unstable blood sugar include: feeling hungry within a few hours after eating, sugar or carbohydrate cravings, and feeling tired very soon after eating sugar or carbohydrates and requiring another top up. You can reduce this by cutting down on your morning caffeine fix, eating more protein and fats in your meals, especially for breakfast and sticking to low Glycemic Index fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Potentially inflammatory foods such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, soy, gluten and corn can create an inflammatory response in some people. The only way you can really tell if you are sensitive to these foods is doing an elimination diet, cutting out these foods for 30 days and then adding one in for a few days and then taking it back out again for another 4 days and seeing how you feel. It is long winded but this is truly the best way to work out which ones you want to avoid.
Finally let's talk omega fatty acids. Our omega 3 fatty acids are considered to be anti-inflammatory and omega 6 fatty acids are considered inflammatory (with a few exceptions). Ideally we should have a low omega 3:6 ratio, e.g. 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 or even 1:4. However, many people have a ratio far higher e.g. 1:20, thanks to the standard western diet of overly processed foods. You can start re-addressing the balance by consuming more omega 3 rich foods such as oily fish, some nuts and seeds. Good sources include: Salmon, herring, white fish, sardines, mackerel, tuna, anchovies, caviar, oysters, cod liver oil, egg yolk, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hempseed and natto.
You can watch my videos that talk this through in depth here.
3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is one of my pet conditions I work with as I have this myself. One of the symptoms is that follicles in the ovary never fully mature and there are many partially developed but un-ruptured follicles, showing as the "string of pearls" presentation in an ovarian ultrasound. The ovary in this case is often much larger than a standard ovary, which means less space in the pelvic cavity.
There is also the double whammy of insulin resistance/blood sugar instability which is thought to be the root cause of PCOS which can increase inflammation.
Luckily, you have read points one and two before this so you should know what you can do ;-)
4. Abdominal or Sexual Infections
Many of these infections are present but have no obvious symptoms. Even bladder infections and STIs can remain "dormant" for a long time and only flair up when there is movement pressing against the pelvic cavity, typically around menstruation and ovulation.
There is also the possibility of a bacterial infection following abdominal surgery which can cause pain around ovulation.
Fighting Infections: if you suspect an infection, always go to the doctor to get tested. Some of these infections, particularly sexual ones, can cause long term damage if left untreated. In some cases such as UTIs and bladder infections there are a few nutritional things you can do to help (although you will need to consult a practitioner once you get your results).
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