Endometriosis, Prism Blog, Surgical Recovery

10 Essentials for Surviving Endometriosis

OK, ya’ll, I’ve put a LOT of time and research into curating this list for you and I’m super proud of it! What is it missing? What future posts would you like to see? Email me to suggest topics!

I’ve suffered from endometriosis for as long as I can remember. Like most of us with endo, I wasn’t diagnosed until YEARS after my symptoms began. It has therefore taken me a long time to figure out how to live with this condition; I’m sure many of you can relate! I wanted to share some of the things that have made my life so much easier. I hope they help you too :)

These tips are also great for those of you recovering from vaginoplasty, hysterectomy, and many laparoscopic abdominal surgeries too!

  1.  Pelvic cushion: seriously the best investment for endo, or anyone with pelvic or tailbone pain. Pudendal neuralgia, coccydynia, and hemorrhoids folks will benefit from this as well. Use it every time you drive, anytime you’re sitting at home or at the office, or in a restaurant, theater, friends’ house, etc. Just use it, it’s so worth it!
    1.  Comfi-Life is the cheapest option, and is super effective. I like the gel-enhanced version over the slightly cheaper foam option. It’s a bit obvious that it’s a butt cushion, so not as great for travel, but great for leaving in your car, wheelchair, or office chair.
    2. If that one doesn’t work for you, try this more expensive option with a larger cut out. They also have a travel version, which is easy to carry, folds up like a weird purse, and doesn’t scream, “I have butt pain.” You can also, in a pinch, use a travel neck pillow, though they don’t work as well because they’re small.
  2. Sugar-free coconut flakes: because I always need a good snack and it’s hard to find travel-friendly options that work with my modified autoimmune protocol diet.
    1. Get these AIP certified coconut chips online; or Trader Joe’s sugar-free coconut flakes, which are just as good and cheaper.
    2. Or make them yourself with this AIP friendly recipe.
    3. More AIP snack ideas here.
  3. Standing desk: because sitting all day is pretty much the worst thing you can do for endo pain.
    1. You can get fancy adjustable ones so you can sit and stand, especially helpful if you tend to get worn out from standing too much. Here are some high end, midrange, and cheaper options.
    2.  Ikea also has an even cheaper option that fits in tiny spaces, but it doesn’t adjust. I have this one and like all the storage space it has underneath; I don’t have to have a separate storage area for work stuff.
    3. More tips on choosing a standing desk here.
  4. Castor oil compress
    1. Heat alone is super helpful for most endo pain. Combining it with castor oil is even more relieving. Castor oil supports lymphatic drainage and boosts your immune system activity to actually help digest endometrial implants, scar tissue and fibroids, resulting in less pain and inflammation over time! Here’s how to do it.
    2. Don’t use castor oil compresses during menstruation or if you might be pregnant. It’s best to use them daily at first, starting after your period ends and ending when it begins again. As you improve, you can start backing off to once a week except the week before your period, when it’s still best to do it 2-3 times. Commit to doing them for at least 6 months to get their full effect. You can reuse the oil-soaked fabric and keep it in the freezer between uses. Just let it defrost before using again! Replace it after about 7 uses. More information on using castor oil packs.
    3. Use a cold-pressed, hexane-free, paraben-free option like this one or this one which is available in most pharmacies. You can get the whole shebang as a premade kit like this, or get a cute set on etsy with this oil and flannel and tie on cover. You can add essential oils to your castor oil, but DO NOT use lavender or sage which are estrogenic. Check out this lovely local Chinese herb and CBD infused option, which we well at Prism (email me to order!).
  5. Foam roller
    1. Endometriosis can cause fibromyalgia-like hypersensitization of the myofascial system, resulting in muscular pain not only around the pelvis, but all over the body’s trigger points (aka acupuncture points, yep, we had those first). There are a bunch of different foam roller options. I recommend starting with a softer roller and progressing to a midrange one. Don’t go for the super firm options as causing pain can actually increase your body’s tension response! You can even get a collapsible travel roller. Here’s how to foam roll, and a video of a foam roller sequence for endometriosis.
    2. More exercises for improving endo pain: stretches and more stretches, fascial release techniques, tennis ball technique, pinky ball, MELT Method, Clear Passage Approach, yoga for endo, pilates for endo.
  6. Microwaveable hot pack
    1. I can’t tell you how many endo patients I’ve seen with belly and low back burns and mottled skin from too hot heating pads. Microwaveable heat pads (like this ginger infused one or this leopard print one) and hot water bottles (like this fleece wrapped rubber one or )are so much better because they start out at their hottest. You know immediately if it’s going to burn you so you can adjust (putting a shirt in between to reduce the heat, etc). Heating pads get hotter over time so you’re like a lobster in a pot of boiling water. You can burn yourself without even realizing it because you’re adjusting slowly to the heat. Stay away from heating pads! Burning yourself does NOT help your endo symptoms. Plus, the EMF emitted by electronic items isn’t great for your reproductive organs (don’t put your laptop on your belly or carry your phone in your front pocket either for this reason!).
    2. Check out these stick-on disposable heat packs too!
  7. Nausea relief
    1. Extra strength ginger, like in Dramamine natural, I find even more effective than regular Dramamine, and without side effects. Ginger chews can also work well, but I recommend staying away from sugar which can cause endo belly flare ups and inflammation (aka more pain)! Sea bands stimulate PC6, an acupuncture point for nausea, and are a totally natural way to prevent nausea. You can wear them all day.
  8. Enzymes
    1. Taking enzymes with meals can reduce nausea, ‘endo belly’, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea, and allow you to digest foods that you otherwise would react to. I carry Enteromend in my office for this purpose.
    2. You can also take enzymes between meals to help digest scar tissue and adhesions. I carry Serramend in my office for this purpose.
  9. Crystal wand
    1. If you have chronic pelvic pain, pain with penetrative sex, pain with urination, pain with bowel movements, and/or referred pain (to your belly button, inner thighs, etc), you likely have pelvic floor tension that can be improved with a crystal wand or pelvic wand, . When we feel pain, we tense up around it to protect the area. This is great if we have an acute injury that needs protecting. Unfortunately, with chronic pain, we just keep tensing up and tensing up over time without ever relaxing our muscles, which actually just creates more pain. A crystal wand helps release pelvic floor ‘knots’ via the vagina and/or anus. It can be painful at first, so I recommend starting slow, working on one spot at a time, rather than overwhelming yourself and creating more pain (and therefore more tension). Here’s how to do it. If you have too much pain to use a crystal wand, you can start with vaginal dilators, which are more gentle. Pelvic relaxation breathing exercises are also excellent for this.
    2. To learn how to do this properly, and get even more tips personalized to your body, visit a Pelvic PT.
  10. Leggings that look like pants, and other endo-friendly clothing
    1. I personally love paperbag pants for this. My other favs: travel stretch pants, dressy sweatpants, eco-friendly stretch pants, wrap dresses, and wrap sweater dresses. My Chronic Style makes clothing specifically for endometriosis and pelvic pain! Tips for choosing endo friendly clothing, and more endo-friendly options. How clothes can help you feel better about your endo body.

Schedule an appointment to learn more about managing your endometriosis and living pain-free! Call 510-394-2743 or schedule online.


This information is for educational purposes only, please consult a healthcare provider before exercising and always follow your surgeon’s advice.

Endometriosis, Prism Blog, Surgical Recovery, Transgender Wellness

How My Endometriosis Has Made Me A Better Provider for Trans Patients

I began my acupuncture studies wanting to focus in queer health, and this continues to be the focus of my practice. Having experienced my share of discrimination from healthcare providers–mainly from gynecologists–due to my sexuality and gender identities of my partners, I wanted to be able to serve my community better. I knew that my trans loved ones had faced even worse discrimination and ineffective care.

Because of my experience with horrible cramps, super irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, and month-long pelvic pain; menstrual health and hormone regulation were immediately interesting to me. I had experienced so much homophobia, and also just straight up dismissiveness, from gynecologists that prevented me from getting a diagnosis or the care I needed. I wanted to create a space for my patients who were dealing with similar problems, both in terms of symptoms and in terms of discrimination from the healthcare system.

I’ve done so much research in this area in order to have answers for my patients: what their options are, what to expect, how I can help, what they can do at home. I wanted to create a space where patients could come and know they would be heard, understood, and cared for. I wanted to be able to support all of my patients with reproductive and sexual health and hormone regulation, regardless of their gender identities or if they were medically transitioning. I sometimes think that the most important thing I do for my patients is simply be there, seeing them, listening to them, and understanding where they’re coming from. Simply creating a safe space is probably the most important thing my practice does.

After I had my surgery, which confirmed my diagnosis of endometriosis, I learned how difficult recovering from surgery can be, and how supportive acupuncture can be of that process. Because of this, and everything I subsequently researched and learned, my practice has evolved towards having a specific focus on supporting patients through gender affirming surgeries. Acupuncture is so helpful for reducing pain and swelling after surgery, easing constipation, promoting healing, reducing scar tissue, and improving function and sensation. Especially as most surgeons don’t do follow up with their patients, providing post-surgical care can have a huge impact on patient recovery times and making sure that you’re on track with your healing.

Through my extensive research on endometriosis, I also learned more about pelvic pain and pelvic health. All that I’ve learned is applicable not only to cisgender women with endometriosis, but to everyone with a pelvis. So many things in our lives can impact our pelvic floors, potentially causing serious pelvic pain, pain with bowel movements, pain with penetrative sex, pain with urination, pain with sitting, and more. Pelvic health after vaginoplasty, metoidioplasty, and phalloplasty is especially important. Working on the pelvic floor before and after these surgeries can do wonders for increasing function and sensation, reducing scar tissue and pain, and speeding healing.

I also learned that it’s not only cisgender women who have endometriosis. Trans men, of course can have endo as well, and it can even persist after they start taking testosterone and stop having periods. It can even persist after hysterectomy, especially if the ovaries are not removed, but even if they are removed endometrial implants may still be present and can respond to low levels of estrogen that are naturally produced by the adrenal glands (connected to the kidneys, present in every sex, and not removed during gender affirming surgery). Plus, we now know that cisgender men can have endometriosis. Studies of cisgender men undergoing estrogen therapy for prostate cancer have shown several cases of endometriosis, likely caused by the estrogen they were taking (read Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain, by Abby Norman, for more on this). This implies that trans women, too, can have endometriosis, especially if they are taking estrogen. This is not just a menstrual disease and it’s not just a women’s disease. It’s a disease that can potentially effect everyone and every provider should know how to diagnose and treat it.

I think it’s natural that my health and my practice should be intertwined. I’m constantly learning and researching about my own health, and constantly learning and researching for my patients. All of this information builds on itself and my empathy for patient’s suffering and experiences in the medical system make me a better practitioner. I’m especially grateful to have such an amazing lineage of medicine backing me up. The best thing about acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is that, even for chronic incurable diseases, there’s always something you can do to make someone’s life better. There’s always something we can do to help our patients live happier, healthier lives.

Acupuncture is a holistic medicine. Even if I’m just supporting patients through surgery, I’m still addressing their overall health. Even if I’m just supporting a patient’s hormones as they start hormone therapy, I’m still keeping them in balance with what healthy means for their bodies at that particular point in time. It is a holistic system, tailored to a patient’s constitution and that’s why it works so well. We don’t just throw the same treatment at every patient with the same condition. Everyone’s healing plan is unique, just like each person is unique.

At Prism, we don’t make assumptions about what ‘healthy’ means for your body. We don’t expect your body to be any certain way based on your identity or how you look or your name or pronoun. We see you for who you are, listen to what you feel your body needs, and do our darndest to come up with solutions that will work for  you, to help you get your life back!


Ready to schedule a free consultation? Call 510-394-2743 or head over to our appointments page.


This information is for educational purposes only, please consult a healthcare provider before exercising and always follow your surgeon’s advice.

Acupuncture, Prism Blog

Why I Love Acupuncture, and You Should Too

Prior to being an acupuncturist, my background was in health education. I had also worked as a personal care assistant and receptionist at a chiropractic clinic. All of these experiences taught me that I wanted to be able to work with patients, and I wanted to have the tools to help them right then and there. I didn’t like western medicine, which tends to see the doctor as all knowing and doesn’t take into account patients experiences of their bodies and needs. Also, though I do a lot of health education in my acupuncture work now, I didn’t like just educating people, without being able to actually do anything for them. I wanted it to be a two-way street. I wanted to be able to provide them with care that would help them right away AND involve them in their own healing process. This led me to explore various alternative medicine fields.

I came to acupuncture specifically through a love of herbal medicine, sparked by my botanist father who taught me a deep appreciation for plants, and the women in my family who taught me the value of caring for others.

I had only had acupuncture once, on a whim, before starting acupuncture school and I didn’t really know if I’d like it. I’m sure some of you can relate!

I decided that if I didn’t like it, I’d just study the herbs and skip the rest of the program. It turns out I LOVE acupuncture and being an acupuncturist and I’m so glad I started this journey.

My favorite part of my job is watching people regain ownership of their healing process, reconnect with their bodies, and make positive changes in their lives.

Acupuncture is a holistic system that brings you back into balance by fixing the root of a problem rather than just the symptoms.

Some acupoints trigger a release of calming hormones, some rewrite pain pathways, some awaken the immune system, have anti-inflammatory effects, or increase circulation. Together, they help our nervous systems switch from ‘fight or flight’ (stress) mode into ‘rest and digest’ (healing) mode. This helps us keep calm, sleep well, build our immune systems, and repair cellular damage.

Most importantly, acupuncture helps people reconnect with their bodies and take true ownership of their healing processes.

Acupuncture makes small adjustments in your body to set you on the right path for healing. It’s your choice to continue to follow that path in between your treatments. Your body wants to heal. It likes getting a little reset so it can get back to doing what it does best. Acupuncture allows you to set your healing intentions and send you in the right direction to actually accomplish them. What a wonderful gift.

The more scientifically identifiable effects of an acupuncture treatment (including changes in nerve and pain pathways, as well as endorphins and other brain chemicals that are released) last about four days after a session. Notice how you feel over the first 3-4 days after your treatment, jotting down any improvements or symptoms that you notice, like increased energy, better sleep, better digestion, and improvement in whatever symptoms you came in for. This allows you to keep in touch with your body and understand what it needs, and also helps us understand how you’re responding to treatment.

When you listen to your body, follow the healing path that acupuncture lays out for you, and come in often, this truly allows the healing momentum to build up. Rather than bouncing back and forth between better after acupuncture and worse again between each session, you begin to improve and improve and improve. Each time you come in, you’re expanding upon what you’ve already accomplished and you can actually start to see dramatic changes in your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Even once you’re feeling great it’s important to come in for your monthly or seasonal ‘tune-up’, just to keep your body on the right track of healing so that you can continue to enjoy good health.

It can be really challenging to create new habits and let go of old patterns that don’t serve us. It is so much easier just to come in and expect your healthcare provider to fix you. And sometimes we can do exactly that. But mostly those kind of fixes are temporary; the lasting changes come with work that you do outside of our sessions as well. Acupuncture can help you get there by resetting your nervous system and helping you reconnect to what your body has been telling you all along.

What do you do to get the most out of your acupuncture sessions? Why do you love acupuncture?


Schedule your first acupuncture session now, at www.prismacupuncture.com/appointments


This information is for educational purposes only, please consult a healthcare provider before exercising and always follow your surgeon’s advice.

a queer family with a gender diverse kid having a great time walking in their backyard
Endometriosis, Fertility and Pregnancy, Menopause and Beyond, PCOS, Prism Blog, Take Charge of Your Hormones E-Course, Transgender Wellness

How to Balance Your Hormones with Exercise

 

How to Balance Hormones with Exercise.

We all know exercise is good for us. We also know that too much of a good thing isn’t good after all. This applies to exercise too!

When we exercise, we put our bodies in a state of stress. Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, increases when we exercise just like it does when we experiences other forms of stress. This can be good, because cortisol helps to repair tissue damage caused by exercise. However, cortisol also breaks down muscle proteins, encourages fat storage, especially around the midline, and causes undue stress to our body systems, including our hormones. Stress from exercise suppresses the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), the hormones that stimulate ovulation and sperm production.

This means that too much exercise can cause infertility, amenorrhea (no periods), irregular cycles, and other hormonal issues. Additionally, research has shown that too much exercise can decrease testosterone in all sexes, and can decrease estrogen and progesterone in women.

Wait, I thought this was about exercise being good for hormones?

It is! In moderation. Light to moderate exercise actually reduces stress, the opposite of intense training sessions. Gentle yoga and walking are probably best known for this. Brief sessions or cardio or high intensity interval training are enough to get your heart rate up and get the health benefits of exercise without causing unecessary stress to your mind, body, or hormones. High intensity interval training (HIIT) actually increases testosterone and balances estrogen and progesterone, the opposite of excessive training sesssions.

When and how to Exercise for Hormone Regulation:

  1. Sit less: Sitting too much has many negative health effects, from cardiovascular health to muscle tension to mental health. It also messes with your hormones, especially insulin, which controls our blood sugar balance and can throw estrogen and progesterone out of whack too. Fidget, stand at your desk, walk and talk, set your phone or computer to ping at you every hour to remind you to get up and stretch, do some squats while you are watching TV.
  2. Walk more: Walking is a wonderful gentle exercise that improves hormone balance without causing extra stress. It’s also beneficial for our mental health, which in turn affects our hormones.
  3. Hight Intensity Interval Training: As well as strengthening your lungs and heart, it boosts testosterone and growth hormone, and improves insulin sensitivity. All you need is 12 to 20 minutes, three times a week. That’s it!
  4. Yoga: Not only does it improve flexibility, it also lowers your level of stress hormones and helps improve your mood. Check out yoga poses for hormone balance here.

Once you start thinking about exercise as part of your lifestyle, rather than another item on your to do list, it will start to feel fun and even like self-care. You don’t have to add any extra time to your day to stand instead of sitting, you don’t have to give up your favorite tv show, watch it during your 20 minute HIIT session! You can take a walk instead of drinking that second cup of coffee in the afternoon. When you piece all of this together, you can make major changes not only to your hormone balance, but to your overall health and mental health.


All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.


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