Meet Sarah*. Sarah is a 33 year old woman with two children with long standing pelvic and back pain. She’s gone to the physician, she’s tried medications, she’s tried birth control, she’s tried steroid creams, she’s considered having a hysterectomy, and she’s currently trying pelvic floor physical therapy for her pelvic pain. She’s noticed that the pain did finally start decreasing some with the pelvic floor physical therapy and the muscle relaxers. However, her pain still has not completely gone away. Perhaps you know somebody like this who is struggling with a chronic pain condition. Did you know that what we eat plays a vital role in the amount of pain we feel? This connection is even closer when it comes to pelvic pain.
Why does what we eat matter so much?
Our internal viseral organs like the stomach and colon have neural crosstalk with the organs of the pelvis. What does this mean? In simple terms, it means that if one of the visceral organs like the intestines are irritated, then your bladder may also be irritated (The nerves that innervate both of these areas originate right next to each other- if one is irritated, the other will be too.) Let me give an example. Suppose Sarah is intolerant to dairy. she hasn’t been tested for this yet, and doesn’t know that she’s intolerant of dairy, but she has frequent bouts of diarrhea and occasional constipation. She rarely has a regular bowel movement. This intolerance to dairy causes irritation within her intestinal tract. The irritation leads to an inflammatory response. Because of the close association between her intestinal tract and the bladder she also begins to be have inflammation around the bladder itself. The frequent bouts of diarrhea lead to clenching her pelvic floor muscles on a regular basis, which ultimately leads to pain. She’s had IBS symptoms for some time, but attributed this to the additional stress in her life and did not take the time to further examine what was causing this issue. Coming to pelvic floor physical therapy, and the muscle relaxer that the physician prescribed her, has helped her to relax her muscles and does give her a temporary relief from pain, but because she continues to eat dairy (the source of her problem), she continues to cause ongoing inflammation in her system and her pain does not go away on a long-term basis.
In this example, for Sarah’s pain to truly be managed well or to go away completely, she would need to eliminate dairy from her diet. However, this is just one example. Not everyone is intolerant of dairy, so not everyone would have good results by eliminating dairy from their diet. If you are experiencing these symptoms how can you know what your true problem is?
Seeing a professional that is skilled in functional nutrition is ideal. In many cases, the first step would be to test for food intolerances**, either via an elimination diet (for a sample elimination diet please see https://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu) or blood tests. Once any food intolerances are found, those foods would be eliminated from the diet.
A full scope of testing would also look for nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies in any of the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, magnesium or zinc can also increase the level of pain in the pelvis. In some cases, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can also help to decrease the inflammation within the entire body, thereby decreasing the pain in the pelvis.
If you are not able to see a functional nutrition specialist at this time, you can start by eliminating foods that are known to cause inflammation in everyone. Sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods are known culprits. Keep a daily diary of what you eat, and look for patterns. Do you hurt more when you eat certain foods and feel better when you eat different foods? Keep track of that.
More questions about nutrition and pelvic pain? Feel free to contact me at The Perfect Pelvis where we provide specialized physical therapy for pelvic pain in the Lee’s Summit and the greater Kansas City area.
Call or text me at (816) 607-3747
Download my free ebook for home exercises for pelvic pain at https://krush.clickfunnels.com/pain-down-there
*Sarah is a fictional character
**Many allergy doctors will complete all appropriate testing for food allergies
This is for informational purposes only. I make every effort to provide factual information, but every situation is different. Please discuss all health concerns with your physician.