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Endo-Belly Popped

Endo belly {noun}: the painfully distended and embarrassingly large bloated belly that accompanies endometriosis. 

Okay, maybe that's not the official definition (is there one?), but if you have endo you’ll relate. Some women get it more often than others, some get it larger than others, but most endo-sisters will agree that appearing 6 months pregnant is a reality that accompanies them throughout their endo-lives, and no one gives us much help as to WHY?? I mean seriously, why did I look 6 months pregnant on the reg????

Perhaps because endometriosis is so often touted as a “hormonal” problem, many people lump it together with the PMS bloat that happens to many women at some time during their cycle, and just assume ours is bigger and bolder since everything involved with our hormones is bigger and bolder. Rarely will a gynecologist emphasize the crucial role that digestive health has in contributing to this horrible symptom, forcing us women to accept limited treatment options when something is seriously wrong. I know I personally assumed for a long time that it was something related the hormone rollercoaster that has no end....

So, what happens if we start extricating "endo belly" from endometriosis and start treating it as a separate symptom on its own, one that is actually contributing to our chronic sickness, colds, flus, and sinus infections all on its own? One that is creating our allergies and is the reason behind our chronic fatigue? What if, by turning our attention for a moment away from the endo and instead focus diligently on our “endo bellies” we could make large gains towards healing?

Endo Belly and Chronic Inflammation

What most all diseases of inflammation have in common (such as auto-immune, cancer, depression, and other chronic degenerative diseases) is a severely impacted digestive system. Moreover, what nearly all endometriosis patients have in common is digestive distress of some sort, which is another reason endo is often overlooked during diagnosis which instead says something like IBS. Even more, since changing of diets is the most touted way to help relieve endo symptoms, we can understand that, overall, there’s a gut-endo connection.

Plus, one of the most obvious signs of a digestive system in distress is: severe abdominal bloating.

Here’s a question for you: did you actually have “endo-belly” long before your diagnosis? I ask this just to check in with your own story and see if your endo belly was caused by endo, or perhaps helped cause the endo…

For me I was diagnosed very young with my first autoimmune disorder: ITP. This is where your body attacks your platelets (the little guys that coagulate your blood when you’re cut) so I could potentially bleed to death if I was hit too hard. That’s another story on its own, but looking back at pictures I had "endo belly" all the way back then, long before I even had my period. I looked like little miss sunshine, glasses and all!

 ME NEXT TO ALL MY FRIENDS, TOOK THE GLASSES OFF FOR THIS PIC ;)

ME NEXT TO ALL MY FRIENDS, TOOK THE GLASSES OFF FOR THIS PIC ;)

I only was able to put the story together as I started to heal my gut and saw my endo-belly deflating. I wasn’t treating the endo, rather I was treating my entire digestive tract, and as my enormous endo-bloat faded, so too were many of my endo-related symptoms. The digestive distress was, unknowingly to me, directly impacting the severity of the endometriosis. 

Ok ok ok, enough about me, this is about all of us! Which is why I want to introduce REAL reasons you might have endo belly. The below issues are very simplified, FYI (have to keep your attention somehow, right?), but still each one is very important to understand in order to heal.


Endo-belly culprit #1: Hypochlorhydria

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Do you eat a meal and feel wayyyy too full, or even like you have a brick in your stomach? Does your endo-belly begin within an hour of eating (or, like, right away)? Do you have GERD or heartburn, or maybe partially digested food in your stool? This isn’t “random” endo-belly, but all signs of low stomach acid.

Stomach acid (i.e. HCL) has a pretty simple role: to digest protein, absorb minerals, kill pathogens, and communicate to the organs down below (your carb and fat digesting ones) to do their job. So if you don’t have enough HCL, nothing in your digestive chain is going to work very well. At. All.
If you’re HCL deficient for a long time, you will also be very protein and mineral deficient, no matter how much nutritious food you eat. This could also be why your paleo diet, GAPS, or other nutritious diet didn’t make a big impact, and why you still feel malnourished. Or why cutting out meat helped at first.

Luckily hypochlorhydria is relatively simple to treat, and may begin to make a HUGE difference in your endo-belly right away!! {SIMPLE TIPS TO START HEALING ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE}

Endo-belly culprit #2: GERD, Heartburn, Inflamed stomach lining, or Ulcers

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Does your stomach feel like a heavy rock 24/7? Do you burp or feel like your stomach is overly acidic? Is your tummy constantly slightly bloated and maybe even tender to the touch? Maybe no matter what you eat your stomach hurts and bloats, even when you drink water in extreme cases! If any of these ring true, consider your stomach lining as a culprit.

Before I was diagnosed with GERD my entire abdomen hurt terribly and was so bloated I truly thought I had a parasite.... which is why I was surprised to be diagnosed with GERD. So don’t rule this one out if you don’t have “typical” reflux symptoms. 🔥

You must heal this symptom before you can address other gastro-intestinal issues, and antacids may only make things worse as they lower stomach acidity to water-like levels, meaning you’re no longer digesting anything. At all. Cue body to fall apart...

It can take a while to heal, but it’s doable! In my practice I work with clients from 2-4 weeks depending on their symptoms to bring the inflammation down before we do anything else. {SIMPLE TIPS TO START HEALING ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE}

Endo-belly culprit #3: The Pancreas

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Does your endo belly start over an hour after you eat? Are your stools pale in color, maybe greasy or truly foul smelling, and you’re gassy AF? Did you feel better going low carbohydrate? If so, you may want to look towards your pancreas.

This little organ is not well known but incredibly important. You know those pricey digestive enzymes you buy at the store? Yah, this bugger should be making most of those for free! Plus it’s the CEO of digesting your carbohydrates. When it gets overworked (think eating way too many processed foods, overcooked foods, sugars, or grains) it can run out of enzymes. That means you are no longer digesting your food properly, prompting endo-belly to balloon.

Endo-belly food for thought ⭐️ carbohydrates are only broken down in 2 places. A) your mouth through chewing and saliva enzymes, and then b) in your small intestine with pancreatic enzymes. Because most of our carbohydrate rich foods today aren't very chewy - imagine leaves, roots, and shoots of our ancestors- we basically swallow completely whole carbohydrates without breaking them down first (think, did you really chew that oatmeal this morning?). This puts another enormous burden on your pancreas and when you can't digest carbohydrates correctly do you know what they do? Ferment. Literally. Insert endo belly here.

If you want to start really aiding your poor pancreas check out this link about how significant balancing blood sugar is to deflating endo-belly! Like, do even really know what blood sugar is? You should if you want to deflate your endo belly once and for all. {SIMPLE TIPS TO START HEALING ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE}

Endo-belly culprit #4: The Gallbladder

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Does your endo-belly pop when you eat fatty foods? Is nausea one of your biggest endo complaints, and perhaps pork and eggs especially make you feel lousy? Are your stools somewhat greasy or do you have abdomen pain on the upper right side or the upper back? Alternatively, maybe you tried a Paleo, elimination, or high fat diet and simply cannot get full? Here's another, do you simply craaaave greasy or fatty foods? If so, your gallbladder may be suspect.

Although not many people know about the gallbladder, it’s vitally important to digesting fats! If it’s not functioning properly, the fats you eat go rancid in your gut, causing a plethora of digestive issues. Not only that, without fat you’re going to be deficient in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, E, and omega’s. You also will have trouble getting full on a fat-healthy diet, and could be the reason others constantly crave fatty foods, because the fat isn't being absorbed.

Bringing the gallbladder into balance is one of my absolute favorite things to help an endo-warrior accomplish, as it will allow her to begin absorbing nutrients, burning  fat instead of sugar, and properly detoxing from the liver. If you want to learn more about why being a fat burner is so important, click here.

{SIMPLE TIPS TO START HEALING THE GALLBLADDER ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE}

THE BIG GUNS

Everything above is what happens when the digestive system as a whole starts to go haywire. Below are the bigger issues that are the outcomes of many years of a system out of whack, and many of these will apply to a large percentage of endo-girls. There aren't really any "quick tips" like above but have no fear! The more you understand about your endo-belly, the more you can do to heal.

Endo-belly culprit #5: SIBO

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Maybe you’re struggling with severe bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea, and you’ve tried all the advice to no avail: You eat plenty of fiber and drink more water, but that just made the bloating worse. Probiotics didn’t help, and maybe even made it worse. You even tried reducing stress, breathing better, moving more, and cut out processed foods. If you’re still struggling with severe bloating, you might just have SIBO. .

SIBO - Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth - is a 4 letter word for enormous, distended bloating. See, nearly all of your bacteria should be in your LARGE intestine, not your small. So when these critters back up into the wrong place, your food starts fermenting in your gut, quite literally. This creates methane or hydrogen, literal gasses that make you bloat up like a balloon.

SIBO affects an enormous amount of people, and is even estimated to be the root cause of up to 2/3 of IBS cases. How to find out? Get tested, and don’t take no for an answer! Ask your doctor or gastroenterologist for a breath test, as it measures the gasses in your breath :)

Endo-belly culprit #6: Leaky Gut

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Do you have endo belly combined with rampant food allergies? Maybe you have another auto-immune disorder or two, and your friends know you as “the sick girl” because you’re always coming down with something. Maybe you have allergies, asthma, or skin rashes? These are signs pointing to your immune system being out of whack, stemming from intestinal permeability - AKA Leaky Gut.

Leaky gut is somewhat a buzz word, but it’s very real. Especially in the case of immunodeficiency. When your gut lining becomes inflamed the tiny “holes” where nutrients are absorbed become enormous craters, where whole proteins fall into the body where they’re not supposed to be. This causes an immune reaction that, over years, makes the entire immune system go haywire. 

I write a lot on my site about this condition because most of us endo girls probably battle with it. If you want to learn more about this condition and it’s intricate relation to endo click HERE.

Endo-belly culprit #7: Faulty Pelvic Floor

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Endo belly or faulty body mechanics? The New York Times Wellness Blog challenged readers to solve the problem of a 15 year old gymnast who suddenly developed a huge, distended belly and severe constipation. 500 readers responded, many said IBS, but only two got it right: pelvic floor dysfunction AND abdominal phrenic dyssynergia - I.e. pelvic floor and diaphragm issues.

When we breathe, move, poop, and pee, our core should work in synergy without us thinking. Nowadays, most of us breathe shallowly without even USING our diaphragm - locking it up - then we hold our poop, pee, and farts until convenient, suck in our bellies for aesthetics, grip them with stress and pain, and then try to over-kegel them back to health. The result? No more synergy. None.

More than 1/3 of women in the U.S. have pelvic floor dysfunction, scientists are increasingly (and seriously) linking incorrect diaphragm descent during “random” episodes of bloating in folks with gut disorders, and I would argue 99% of endo-warriors are dealing with at least one of these issues.

Fun Test: The cough test

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An at home test to see how your abdomen is functioning (or dysfunctioning)?? Yes please! Ok lie down. Put your hands on your belly. Now cough
Results: Did your belly puff outwards, or did it suck slightly in? If it went in, good job! It should suck slightly in as the air is moved OUT of your body. Did it puff out? Probably, because our abdomens aren’t often working correctly. This means as you displace air out of your body, your diaphragm incorrectly went down, smooshing your organs (including delicate lady parts) downward. This is a sign of current or impending pelvic floor dysfunction. If you're not sure try feeling your belly during a sneeze, this should tell you clearly ;)

My personally approved and favorite way to fix this breathing pattern (that leads to excessive endo pain and more)? Hypopressive breathing. It’s not well known, it looks weird AF, but the results are astoundingly effective. Here's a link!

Endo-belly Culprit #8: Opportunistic Infections

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Candida, most parasites, and other other opportunistic infections aren’t often the root cause of endo belly, but they sure can contribute. Think of them more as they had that “opportunity” to take over because your immune system wasn’t properly able to keep them in check. This makes these buggers more often symptoms of a belly-gone-wild rather than the root cause.

That’s why these aren’t my favorite things to mention, although still important since they probably affect many endo-girls. The problem is that so many women self-diagnose these without investigating further. And, if you’re only addressing these “symptoms”, you may never fix the root cause of your endo-belly (such as hypochlorhydria, leaky gut, SIBO, etc). That’s why you may have felt better on a strict candida diet or parasite protocol, only to get the symptoms back within months of ending it.

Endo-belly Culprit #9: IBS

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), in my mind, is way too over-diagnosed. That’s because a diagnosis of IBS means you have a lot of gastro symptoms and quite frankly they don’t know why. That’s why you should only be told you have IBS after, like, hundreds of tests - at the point they truly don’t know why. Not after one stool test and a CAT scan. Even more annoying is how many women are diagnosed with IBS before their endo is discovered, one of the ways endo is overlooked.

If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS I challenge you to find another practitioner and get a better diagnosis. Like, if you read above you will remember the root cause of of IBS in 2/3 of cases are actually caused by SIBO? Or that pelvic floor dysfunction can mimic IBS symptoms? Like endometriosis needs more awareness, so too do these sometimes life-altering gastro issues like IBS. Can you imagine getting a more specific diagnosis and healing the root of the issue?? Could be a start to a new life for many women.

Endo-belly Culprit #10: Perception of Stress

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I saved the biggest and best for last because, well, no one wants to think about stress but it impacts every single thing in our body!! If you’re on the run, doing a thousand things while eating or just stressed the F out, your body won’t produce digestive juices [Endo-belly culprits 1-4], which is like a sucker punch to the gut. PLUS, when you're stressed your blood flows from your core to your extremities in preparation to run from a tiger ... even if you're just running late to work, stuck in traffic. That means there's no digestive mojo left, even if you made the most nutrient dense meal on the block.

Stress, or should I say perception of stress, is actually a huge contributor to endo in general. It shunts our ability to mend, digest, and heal to the side. That's why  I make it a priority to help women I work with understand how often they're stressed over quite literally nothing... just as I was. Washing the dishes, the "to-do" list, waiting until the last minute and then rushing to get ready for work - all these were stupid stressors in my life. What are your stupid stressors? Read THIS here if you need help picking out the silly little things you're ready to stop worrying about today.

And for those who don't want to figure this out yet just do one thing for me: don't stress while you eat. Take a moment, stop rushing, sit down, take some deep breaths, thank your food, and don't talk about stressful things. Just for a meal. Your body, and your endo, will thank you :)


Simple Tips and Tricks

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