Diet Help With Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a severe and painful condition affecting around one in ten women in the UK. It is sadly hugely underdiagnosed, with sufferers waiting an average of eight years to receive diagnosis and treatment.

Endometriosis symptoms

One reason for this delay is that some symptoms of endometriosis are similar to many other female health conditions. Painful bloating, pain and bleeding during bowel movements, can be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Other symptoms, like heavy, painful periods and pain during or after sex, are often dismissed as normal and not something to bother a doctor about.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where womb-like tissue begins to grow outside of the womb, usually around the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

This can cause pain and inflammation, and can sometimes damage the reproductive organs, forming scar tissue and cysts.

How can a diet help?

Of course, diet can’t solve the underlying problem. However, some experts now believe that changing what you eat can help control some of the more debilitating symptoms of endometriosis. The bloating and abdominal pain that some women suffer on almost a daily basis, known not-so-affectionately as ‘endo belly’.

Although endometriosis is in essence a reproductive health issue, it has links with digestive problems. Medical professionals believe that the two issues may exacerbate each other, creating a vicious cycle.

Eating a diet that eases the digestive symptoms of endometriosis could in turn help to reduce inflammation in the area. This could lead to also reducing other symptoms, or so the theory goes.

The low-FODMAP diet

So what is this diet that promises so much? It’s known as the low-FODMAP diet, and has been doing the rounds in IBS circles for a few years now.

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo Di- Mono-saccahrides and Polyols. It refers to certain types of carbohydrate found in foods like wheat and pulses. These short-chain carbohydrates are hard to digest. Instead of being absorbed into your bloodstream, they make their way to the end of the intestine. They combine with the gut bacteria to form gas.

In healthy guts, this doesn’t cause a problem. But if you have a sensitive digestive system, this gas can cause pain, inflammation and bloating.

Can this really help to treat endometriosis?

A low FODMAP diet cannot be used as a treatment for endometriosis. The evidence is clear that while changing your diet may relieve some of the symptoms, it won’t solve the underlying problem.

So if the symptoms detailed above sound familiar to you, you should seek medical advice and be sure to mention endometriosis as a possible diagnosis.

Here at Surescan, we specialise in women’s health, so our staff are trained to recognise the signs of symptoms of endometriosis early. For more information or to book a consultation, please contact us.

Your Menstrual Cycle

With Adidas announcing the launch of their new ‘period proof’ sportswear, there is a new, heightened awareness of the impact that menstruation has on women in sport.

Statistics show that one in four girls drop out of their chosen sport in their teenage years, with fear of leaking during their period given as a major reason.

The phases of your menstrual cycle

The sports brand has teamed up with sport scientist Dr Georgie Bruinvels to produce a new PE (riod) lesson plan. The aim of the lesson plan is to help show that there is a way to adapt your sport to your menstrual cycle.

The plan explains about the different phases of the menstrual cycle. It looks at what activities and nutrition are best for each phase. It also offers tips on how to alleviate negative symptoms.

And this advice doesn’t have to apply only to teenage girls. It’s just as relevant whether you are fourteen or forty-one. We’ve read the plan and extracted the most useful information for you:

Phase one: menstruation

This covers the first three to eight days of your cycle and is the phase during which you are actually bleeding. You may well be experiencing some pain and tiredness.

Activities for this phase: There’s nothing to stop you doing whatever exercise you choose, at any stage of your cycle, if you feel up to it. However, for many women, moderate intensity exercise like cycling or walking is great for this phase.

Nutrition: You are losing blood during this time and are likely to be tired. Eating food rich in antioxidants, like dark chocolate, and ensuring you get your five a day will help you to feel your best.

Phase two: follicular phase

This is the time between menstruation and ovulation, when your progesterone levels are low, but oestrogen levels begin to rise. It usually lasts for around five days after you stop bleeding, depending on the length of your cycle – everyone is different.

Activities for this phase: This tends to be the most energetic phase of the cycle, so high intensity activities like running, aerobics and team sports are all good options.

Nutrition: If you’re doing a lot of exercise you need to be fuelling your body, so don’t skimp on portions, particularly when it comes to carbohydrates like rice, pasta and potatoes.

Phase three: luteal phase

This covers the period between ovulation and the premenstrual phase – ovulation itself straddles the follicular and luteal phases. At this point in your cycle there is a lot of both oestrogen and progesterone in your system. You might feel a bit warmer than usual – maybe a bit hungrier too as your body is working hard to thicken the womb lining.

Activities for this phase: Depending on your preference, endurance sports like swimming and hiking or activities that work on flexibility, such as dance or yoga.

Nutrition: You may well be feeling hungrier than usual. Try to make sure you are getting a decent amount of protein in your diet – meat, fish, nuts, seeds and dairy products are all great.

Phase four: the premenstrual phase

We all know how this one feels. Hormones drop off sharply here, which can lead to that feeling of irritability or low mood. Go easy on yourself and do what you feel like, but remember that staying active can actually lift your spirits.

Activities for this phase: If you can face it, high intensity exercise is great for boosting your mood and reducing other symptoms like cramping. If you don’t feel up to a run, something like yoga that focuses on strengthening the body or walking can also be good.

Nutrition: Try to avoid the junk food you may be craving, as that can actually make symptoms worse. Instead go for foods that are rich in antioxidants, to prepare you for the return to phase one: menstruation.

Unusual period symptoms

If you feel like your periods are unusually heavy, painful or irregular, it is always worth getting it checked out by a medical professional. Whilst heavy periods can just be a normal part of life for some women, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Here at Surescan, we specialise in women’s health, so you can be sure that our specialists will be thorough and cover all possibilities, whilst also putting you at ease.

For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.

early menopause

Early menopause is becoming a more familiar term, with more women researching the condition online. Around five per cent of women are expected to be affected by early menopause. So it is understandable that women in their 30s and 40s are becoming increasingly concerned.

If your family is complete, or you have no desire to have children, then premature menopause could be seen as just an inconvenience. But for many women it can present a very real threat to their dreams for the future.

So, what are the warning signs of early menopause, and who is most at risk?

Causes of early menopause

Unfortunately, in 90 per cent of women who experience early menopause, no underlying cause is found. Medical professionals suspect that the condition is inherited. If you are worried, then it might be worth finding out when your mother went through it. If she was in her fifties, chances are you will be too.

There are some things, however that have been found to speed up the onset of menopause:

  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Reproductive surgery, such as hysterectomy
  • Diabetes, thyroid problems or other autoimmune conditions
  • Some infections, such as tuberculosis (TB) or mumps

Symptoms of early menopause

If it is hereditary, there is a chance that you will go through the menopause early. But you might not have experienced any changes to your menstrual cycle yet.

Here are some other warning signs to watch out for:

  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Hot flushes
  • Low libido
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats

What to do if you are concerned

The first thing to do is to keep track of your symptoms. Book an appointment with your GP or gynaecologist, who will perform a blood test to check your hormone levels.

Here at Surescan we offer a menopause health check once a year for all peri- and postmenopausal women. The check includes a thorough consultation with a gynaecologist, to discuss any concerns you may have, as well as a full health check.

If you are concerned about your ability to start a family, we offer a fertility health check. We can check your ovarian stores and discuss the possibility of egg freezing. This will of course depend on how far into the menopause process you are.

As a dedicated women’s health clinic, the team at Surescan is here to offer advice and support on any aspect of female health. From fertility problems to pregnancy to menopause, and everything in between.

If there is anything about your health that is worrying you and you would like to discuss it in confidence with a medical professional, please don’t hesitate to contact us or call 0121 308 7774 to arrange an appointment.

Strength Training And Fertility

Historically, it has always been assumed that if you are trying to conceive, as a woman, you should behave as though you are already pregnant: eating well, avoiding alcohol or smoking, getting lots of rest etc.

So it stands to reason that if you are a woman who does a lot of high impact exercise, particularly something like weight lifting, you might think you need to take it easy, or even stop strength training while you are trying to conceive.

However, more and more evidence is showing that continuing with your exercise routine could actually be beneficial. So can the same be said for training ahead of the conception period?

Well, according to some experts, yes it can. Here’s what you need to know:

Body weight has a big impact on fertility

One of the major influencers on how easily you will conceive is your BMI. If yours falls into the normal category, then your chances of conceiving quickly are much higher than if you are significantly over- or underweight.

Strength training in particular is great for your BMI. People who lift weights tend to eat well, as it aids their success in the sport. Not only that, but strength training has been shown to have a positive influence on insulin sensitivity, which can also impact fertility.

Emotional stability

Another thing that impacts on your fertility is your stress level. Women who are particularly stressed and anxious often find it harder to conceive. Strength training, and any other exercise you enjoy, will release tension and boost endorphins. This can help you to feel happier and more relaxed. And therefore, more likely to conceive.

Stronger bodies labour more easily

Another advantage to strength training is that it can help to ease your labour further down the line.

Any kind of regular exercise will increase your stamina, which is essential for a lengthy labour. Exercises like squats will strengthen the muscles that are used during childbirth.

Should I continue strength training during pregnancy?

As with anything strenuous you do in your daily life, you should only continue as far as you feel able into pregnancy. This may mean reducing the amount of weight you are lifting, or the number of reps you do.

Ultimately, your body will let you know if you are taking things too far. So if you feel comfortable, you should be able to carry on.

An exception to the rule

The only exception is for women undergoing fertility treatment. While all these points still apply in theory, if you have been struggling to conceive for a long time, or have experienced multiple miscarriages, you may be better doing a gentler form of exercise.

At Surescan Women’s Health Clinic, we offer a fertility health check service, and can help you to overcome any difficulties in conception. To find out more, please call us on 0121 308 7774.

cervical cancer screening

This year, Cervical Cancer Screening Awareness Week will take place on 14th to 20th June.

Raising awareness about screening for cervical cancer is now more important than ever, as many thousands of women have missed routine smear tests during the pandemic.

We all know that smear tests are not the most enjoyable experience. It might be tempting, having missed one, just to wait until the next one rolls around. However, it is important to remember that five minutes of discomfort could well save your life.

So, what specifically is being looked for in a cervical cancer screening?

HPV – human papillomavirus

A smear test is essentially looking for signs of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus that is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. This is most often during sexual intercourse.

It is so common that if you are sexually active the chances are you will get it at some point in your life. Even if you don’t have many sexual partners. It can present as genital warts, or it can be symptomless.

HPV itself doesn’t always lead to health problems, but in some instances it can lead to cancers. These are most commonly of the cervix, anus or throat.

So if my smear test finds HPV, does that mean I have cancer?

Not necessarily! If you are having regular smear tests, then an HPV infection picked up during screening should still be in the early stages. Even if it does have the potential to cause cervical cancer, it should have been caught early enough that it doesn’t present a major health threat.

What happens if an HPV infection is found?

If an HPV infection is found, the samples from your smear test will be sent for further testing. This is to check for any changes in the cells of your cervix, which could be an early indicator of cervical cancer.

Who should have a smear test?

Any sexually active, premenopausal woman should have a regular smear test, although screening is no longer available on the NHS for women aged 18-25. Cervical cancer is most prevalent in women aged 30-45.

It is recommended that you avoid having a smear test during your period, or if you are pregnant or have recently given birth.

Where can I go for my smear test?

Smear tests for women aged 25 and over are now being routinely carried out on the NHS again. However, there may be some backlog due to previous lockdown restrictions.

If you prefer to bypass the waiting list, or if you are aged below 25 and are concerned about cervical cancer, we can offer a private screening service here at SureScan Women’s Health Clinic. For more information, please contact us to book an appointment.

vaccine and periods

As the COVID vaccine rollout continues apace, by now we all know someone who’s had a reaction to the jab.

The potential side effects are all well documented, and unlikely to cause any long-term damage. When you attend your vaccination, you will be given a list of possible symptoms you might experience over the next few days. These include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • sore arm
  • aching joints
  • nausea
  • tiredness

One thing you might not expect to experience is a change to your menstrual cycle. In fact, an increasing number of women are reporting unusually heavy or painful periods post vaccination.

Increasing anecdotal evidence

Medical anthropologist Dr Kate Clancy experienced changes to her usual menstruation pattern after having the Moderna jab. She took to Twitter to recount her tale. Within days, dozens of women got in touch to say the same thing had happened to them.

And it’s not just pre-menopausal women who are experiencing bleeding after being vaccinated. Dr Victoria Male, a reproductive immunologist at Imperial College, London, says she has received reports from post-menopausal women. Even people who are taking hormones to prevent bleeding have claimed to have had something akin to a period after receiving their COVID jab.

There has so far not been a study into the effects of the vaccine on periods. But Dr Clancy – together with former colleague Dr Katharine Lee – has launched a survey on the subject. It has the potential to develop into a study at a later date. Again, there have been some surprising responses, including some trans men.

Why would the vaccine affect periods?

While it might seem unlikely at first glance, medical professionals stress that there is a plausible explanation for vaccination to affect your periods, and it’s really nothing to worry about.

Periods are caused when the womb lining, which has built up over the course of your cycle in preparation for harbouring an embryo, breaks down and leaves your system.

This womb lining is actually part of your immune system – designed to protect the foetus from anything that might be happening elsewhere in your body. So immune cells play a part in this process of building up and breaking down.

The whole point of vaccination is to stimulate the immune system, so it is reasonable to suspect that this could cause the usual process to go into overdrive.

Could this lead to miscarriage?

There is no evidence to suggest that this could cause miscarriage in pregnant women. Once the foetus is in situ, a different process is involved in maintaining the womb lining.

In fact, there is now extensive evidence to show that there is no risk of pregnancy loss from having the COVID vaccination. Contracting the virus itself in pregnancy, however, could have some very serious effects, so official advice is now for pregnant women to be vaccinated.

For more information or to discuss any concerns you may have about your own menstrual cycle, please contact us.

Woman Clinic

This past year has been a strange one when it comes to our health. On the one hand we’ve all gone to great lengths to protect ourselves from Covid, but at the same time we’ve let many other issues slide. This might be because of government restrictions or because we’re frightened to enter a healthcare setting for fear of contracting the virus.

Here at Surescan, we have taken every precaution to ensure that our clinic is as safe as possible, and we believe in the importance of regular check-ups to prevent any unnecessary surprises, which is why we set up our Well Woman Clinic.

Who is Well Woman for?

As the name suggests, Well Woman is for women of all age groups, from adolescence to post-menopause. The idea is to provide a full health check, tailored to your age and lifestyle, so that you can rest easy knowing that everything is in good working order.

Why should I visit Well Woman Clinic?

Well Woman isn’t just for women who have concerns about their health. In fact, the idea is that you go to the Well Woman Clinic regularly, so that we can nip any potential problems in the bud and you needn’t have any health concerns at all.

What happens at the clinic?

Firstly you will have a thorough, 30 minute consultation, to discuss your lifestyle, your general health, your menstrual cycle and any health problems you may be experiencing.

We will check your blood pressure and BMI, and carry out a series of blood tests, to check your vitamin D levels, liver and kidney function, thyroid and haemoglobin.

Finally, we will perform a cervical smear test and swabs for any sexually transmitted infections, as well as providing advice on sexual health and contraception.

For a check-up that is even more thorough, our Well Woman Check Advanced also includes a pelvic ultrasound scan, a Ca125 ovarian screening (for women aged 40 plus) and advice on HRT for menopausal women.

How often should I visit the clinic?

Ideally, you should have a check-up once a year. This allows us to catch any abnormalities early, which usually means they can be treated more easily and don’t go on to present a problem.

If an annual check-up seems a lot, it is worth remembering that it is just half an hour out of your day, to give you peace of mind all year.

Our staff are all experts in women’s health and will do all we can to ensure that you feel as comfortable as possible throughout your appointment. If there is anything that needs further attention, we can refer you for specialist treatment.

For further information or to book a Well Woman appointment, please contact us. You can call us to book an appointment on 07835 736627.

Conception

There’s no denying that women have shouldered much of the burden of this pandemic. While of course individual households vary, the overwhelming majority of mothers have felt that they were responsible for homeschooling. This was whilst also keeping up with household tasks, and simultaneously hold down a full-time job.

Research has shown alcohol use among women has risen disproportionately over the course of the past year, as compared to men. The best way to reduce your stress levels and feel more relaxed is to reduce your alcohol consumption.

Alcohol can also affect ovulation, which can make it difficult to conceive, but it is also linked to fertility problems in men too. 

More reasons to drink less

Limiting your alcohol intake will undoubtedly improve your general health. It’s also a great way to consume fewer calories without curbing what you eat.

But if the idea of feeling a bit brighter on a daily basis isn’t enough to tip the balance for you, consider these points:

  • Women metabolise alcohol differently from men, putting them at greater risk from alcohol-related diseases
  • Around one third of breast cancer cases could be prevented by women giving up alcohol and living a healthier lifestyle
  • Alcohol also has a negative impact on mental health. Women are already significantly more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than men.

Make your partner cut back too

Maybe the prospect of sitting on the sofa nursing a herbal tea while your other half tucks into the wine is less than appealing. But perhaps you might want to alert his attention to a recent study which was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The observational study involved 50,000 couples. It found evidence that links how much a man drinks prior to conception and the risk of foetal abnormalities.

There was a 35 per cent increased risk of foetal abnormalities in couples where the father drank alcohol regularly. This was in the six months prior to conception.

It is not known exactly how paternal alcohol consumption affects the foetus. However, it is thought that alcohol may affect the shape, size and motility of the sperm.

So if you’re hoping to conceive in the near future, it might be a good idea for both of you to change your drinking habits.

Consider a Fertility Health Check

Of course, it may not be alcohol that is at the root of your conception difficulties. If you have been trying for over a period of a year, then consider having a fertility check to help you to overcome your difficulties.

At SureScan Women’s Health Clinic we can carry out a Fertility Health Check for any woman or couple wanting to start a family. A consultation with one of our consultant gynaecologists will give you a chance to ask questions. They will help you to overcome difficulties with conception and get the best possible results.

You can call 07835 736627 for a same-day appointment, or any date that suits you.

pain during intercourse

Sexual intercourse is supposed to be a fun, intimate part of a loving relationship, and yet for some of us it can be painful.

If you experience occasional pain during intercourse, the chances are it is nothing to worry about – perhaps you just aren’t quite as aroused as you could be, or you are at the wrong stage in your menstrual cycle.

But if you are regularly in pain during or immediately after sexual intercourse, there may be something more worrying behind it.

It is important not to self diagnose – you should always see a GP, or a gynaecologist, to confirm any suspicions you may have. SureScan Women’s Health Clinic offers a full range of sexual health testing, advice and treatment options. You will be always seen by a consultant gynaecologist.

Here are some common culprits when it comes to painful intercourse for women:

1. Infection

This could be a common, easily treatable infection like thrush, or it could be something more complex – a sexually-transmitted infection such as chlamydia, for example.

It is always a good idea to put your mind at rest when it comes to STIs, so if you have had multiple sexual partners, or you haven’t had an STI screening for a while, do book in with SureScan Women’s Health Clinic to get it checked out.

Best case scenario, the result will come back clear, but if not, the earlier you get a diagnosis then the sooner you can start treatment.

2. Endometriosis

If painful intercourse is only one of a number of symptoms, including:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Unusually painful periods
  • Pain during bladder or bowel movements
  • Difficulty getting pregnant

Then it is worth getting those symptoms checked out by a doctor or by a consultant gynaecologist at SureScan Women’s Health Clinic. Diagnosis of endometriosis can take a long time, so if you have suspicions you should make them clear.

3. Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease can be caused by an STI, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, or it can just occur spontaneously, from the bacteria that normally live in the vagina. Aside from pain during intercourse, symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Heavy, painful periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Unusual vaginal discharge – often yellow or green

Again, if these symptoms sound familiar, it is important to get them checked out by a doctor immediately.

4. Irritable bowel syndrome

As unlikely as it may sound, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another common cause of painful intercourse. Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and/or cramping
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

Treatment for IBS is limited, but you should see a medical professional if you experience any of these symptoms.

If you are concerned about pain during or after intercourse, or think you may be suffering from one of the conditions mentioned above, please contact us to find out how we can help.

pelvic floor

We spoke last month about issues surrounding postpartum health and the workplace. One of the main issues that women struggle with after childbirth is urinary incontinence (UI). Sadly this isn’t usually a temporary problem that resolves itself a few months postpartum.

We all know that we should be doing regular pelvic floor exercises before, during and after pregnancy. But realistically most of us don’t manage it. It’s difficult to appreciate the importance of these exercises until after the damage has been done.

However, you can reverse some of that damage and strengthen your floor by doing those exercises now.

Pelvic floor exercisers

Because the problem is so widespread, there are of course a number of products available to help with toning your pelvic floor.

These devices are usually designed to be inserted into the vagina, where they act as resistance so that your pelvic muscles work harder during the exercises.

Many of these pelvic floor exercisers have a built-in mechanism that provides physical feedback. This lets you know if you are using it correctly. However, one significant reason that women avoid doing these exercises is that it is difficult to identify the correct muscles. And even more so after childbirth.

So while a bit of physical resistance is great, if you’ve never identified the right muscle before, it can be hard to know whether that resistance is coming in the right place.

The new kids on the block

Modern technology can be a wonderful thing, and scientists are really beginning to harness its value in treating some common physical complaints.

We’re already seeing widespread use of smartphone apps to monitor periods, track fertility and even diagnose some minor ailments. Now, some companies are using that technology to help you strengthen your pelvic floor.

One such product is the next generation Leva, by Renovia. Currently only available in the US, this prescription-only device comprises a vaginal probe and a linked smartphone app, which tells you exactly what you need to do to regain control of your pelvic floor.

Dealing with stress incontinence

Whilst these products can undoubtedly be very useful in treating urinary stress incontinence, it is always worth consulting with a gynaecologist before investing in a gadget. Pelvic floor (kegel) exercises are very simple once you know how to do them effectively. And they can be done at any time, in any place.

Just five minutes a day of exercising your pelvic floor can significantly reduce urinary stress incontinence within a few weeks. But it is also important to ensure that there is no other reason behind the leaks.

For more information on urinary incontinence, postnatal health or any other women’s health issue, call us on 0121 308 7774.