Case History: Emily's story

I hope that my story will encourage others to look beyond conventional medicine and discover that there are alternatives that work.

I have been suffering with painful periods since I was 17, and must have seen at least 15 doctors who all prescribed various, increasingly strong pain killers over 8 years. I was told that it was quite normal to have painful periods - it was part of being a woman.

By the age of 25 I was living in London and had joined another group practice of doctors and was working my way through the insensitive ones. My periods were becoming more and more painful, and the pain killers less and less effective.

I then met my friend Debs, who told me about the condition she suffered from "Endometriosis" I had never heard of it- none of the countless doctors I had seen over the years had ever mentioned that having painful periods could be a symptom of a medical condition.

I made another appointment to see one of the doctors and suggested that I might have endometriosis. She agreed that it could be a possibility and referred me to a consultant. Within a month I had had a laparoscopy and had been diagnosed as suffering from moderate endometriosis and polycystic ovaries.

My consultant talked the options through with me, and suggested that the best course of treatment would be Zoladex. Whilst at the time I was very happy with the way he dealt with me, and his suggested approach, I wish that he had mentioned that there were non medical avenues that I could explore.

My experience with Zoladex was not one that I would wish to repeat - I had dreadful mood swings and was regularly depressed and inconsolable; I gained 2 stone in weight and suffered from hourly hot flushes. And at the end of it, my periods were just as painful as they had been before the treatment.

The subsequent treatment prescribed was to take Dianette (oral contraceptive) on a continuous basis - two or three packets then a break. The periods were still very painful but at least I could control when I had them. And the Dianette helped with the acne which I had because of polycystic ovaries.

By the age of 30 I was still taking Dianette and various combinations of pain killers but the pain was getting worse - to the point where I was seriously considering laser surgery (something I considered a last resort). I had also started to develop other health problems - eczema, IBS and fatigue.

I then received details of the National Endo Society's 1999 AGM where the speakers were to give talks on various Complementary Therapies and decided to attend. The speakers were extremely informative and I came away determined to find a complementary approach which would help me. Soon after the AGM my mother read an article in the Daily Telegraph which focussed on a nutritional approach to relieving the symptoms of Endometriosis. The interview was with Dian Mills and gave details of her book "Endometriosis: A Guide to Healing through Nutrition". My mother ordered the book and gave it to me for Christmas. I read the book from cover to cover, delighted that many of the other problems I was suffering from seemed to be related to the Endometriosis and that it wasn't that I was becoming a hypochondriac - as my doctor was making me feel.

I made an appointment to see Dian in February 2000. Before the appointment I had to fill in a lengthy questionnaire about all aspects of my health, and I was embarrassed at how sickly I appeared. The first appointment was amazing, for once I could talk at length about how I felt without feeling that I was wasting anyone's time. And Dian understood what I was talking about! Her suggested approach was to tackle my health goals one by one, dealing with my digestive problems initially (I was suffering from very sudden, violent and unpredictable attacks of diarrhoea); then focussing on the period pain; and finally focussing in on my concerns about whether or not I was fertile. She suggested that I cut out dairy and reduce wheat from my diet and prescribed what seemed like a long list of vitamins, minerals and supplements.

At first it was a struggle to find alternatives to dairy and wheat, but it soon becomes second nature. It very soon emerged (via making mistakes when ordering from menus) that I was intolerant of dairy products. Knowing this made such a difference to my life - I had become scared of eating out, or leaving the house too soon after a meal, just in case I had an attack of diarrhoea.

The first period I had after seeing Dian (I was still taking Diannette continously) was 50% less painful than the last. By the August of that year I had a pain free period and it was incredible - after 14 years of pain. My energy levels had returned; my skin was better than I can ever remember it being and I had lost some weight.

Being concerned about fertility, my partner and I decided that we would start trying for a baby in the September. I was expecting to be infertile - with a combination of endo and polycystic ovaries, and we decided that we couldn't afford to wait much longer as it could take a minimum of 2 years. To my shock and delight I conceived in the October and I am expecting a baby in 4 weeks time!

So many people I have spoken to, especially those in the medical profession, have dismissed the benefit of a nutritional approach to dealing with Endometriosis, but I would urge anyone who feels that conventional medicine has failed them to pursue it. In fact I would encourage anyone who has just been diagnosed to try a nutritional approach before embarking on lots of medical treatment. It can be difficult to change your diet after years of eating whatever you wanted, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices you might think you are making.