How to be happy and healthy without them!
My life recently took a surprising turn when one of my ovaries made an unexpected twist. This condition felt like a never-ending contraction! I was the patient moaning and crying in the emergency room while my poor husband tried in vain to comfort me. At first, we'd both assumed it was a kidney stone (something he could relate to). So, it was a shock when we found out the cause of my pain was ovarian torsion, requiring emergency surgery.
What makes an ovary twist — and who's at risk?
A cyst is the most common cause of ovarian torsion. Under the weight of the cyst, the ovary loses its balance and flops over. A twisted ovary causes nausea, vomiting, and pain similar to childbirth. (But you don't get nine months to prepare or a cute baby to cuddle when it's all over!) Ovarian torsion is rare and often misdiagnosed. It can happen to females of any age (even infants and small children), and surgery is usually needed to untwist or remove the ovary.
Love and regret
Despite the Covid pandemic, my husband was able to stay with me until the anesthetic countdown. I was able to talk with both my children to let them know I loved them. And I wanted to cry when I overheard my daughter say to my husband, "I just love her so much." My son and his family cut short their vacation and drove through the night to get home (even though I hadn't expected them to do this). But I have to admit; I was feeling very loved when I went under the knife!
My surgeon recommended removing both ovaries. And to be fair, she didn't push this option, stating that the decision was mine. Oh, how I wish I'd asked more questions (or even done a quick internet search). As someone who can't even buy face cream without doing extensive research, I wondered why I didn't do more before agreeing to have an extra organ whipped out!
After being in agony, it was a relief to wake up from the operation completely pain-free. I was grateful the surgery was done laparoscopically. This method meant a shorter recovery time (than open abdominal surgery) and three tiny scars that would fade into oblivion.
The following day I went home and started googling! I learned that having one or both of your ovaries removed is called an oophorectomy. This procedure is often performed along with a hysterectomy. And it's the removal of both ovaries that throws younger women into early menopause. As I googled, I became more distressed. Why had I chosen to have both ovaries taken out when one of them was perfectly healthy? Losing just one makes very little difference to your well-being and hormone production. But removing both ovaries can lead to depression and other health complications.
In tears, I announced to my husband that I'd made a terrible mistake and was going to start aging rapidly! (The possible side-effect I'd read about that had upset me the most.) Jim isn't a demonstrative person, but he gave me a long hug and told me that whatever happened, he'd take care of me. His sweetness (and time to calm down) helped me return to my laptop with new criteria: What could I do to overcome an oophorectomy and stay youthful?
I've always believed that whole food (not supplements) can heal what ails us. And as I dug deeper into the research, I became more optimistic — especially as I read about phytoestrogens. Could something as simple as flaxseeds be the answer?
What are Phytoestrogens?
Estrogen-like substances can be found in plants and plant products. How they function is incredibly complicated! But by some miracle of nature, phytoestrogens can balance hormones by acting as either estrogen-boosters or estrogen-blockers. Foods with significant amounts of dietary estrogens include:
Edamame and soy products (in the form of tofu and tempeh)
Dried fruits (especially apricots)
The Importance of a Healthy Gut
Maintaining a balanced microbiota (all the bacteria living in your intestines) is crucial in the fight to prevent or delay age-related diseases. And it's essential to have a healthy gut for phytoestrogens to perform well. To boost the good bacteria in your digestive tract, eat the following probiotic foods:
Yogurt (with live cultures.)
Certain soft cheeses (especially gouda)
Pickles (fermented without vinegar)
Those friendly, beneficial bacteria in your gut love to snack on fiber. So it's important to keep them full and happy by including prebiotics in your diet too. You can find these in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Other gut-friendly foods include maple syrup, honey, green tea, and even chocolate. Not everything I eat has to be organic, but I choose it whenever I can. (Especially with whole grains and dairy.) Buying organic is the best way to avoid pesticides and added hormones.
A shout out to apricots and Yummie Tummie!
After the operation, the tiredness and tenderness were very manageable. But, oh my goodness, the awful post-surgery constipation was a challenge! After spending a miserable night sitting in the bathroom, I knew the prescription stool-softener wasn't working. (Thank goodness for my audible book that kept me sane during those long hours!) The next day, I ditched the prescription in favor of some fiber-rich dried apricots. These tasty little gems bought almost instant relief, and I wanted to shout for Joy!
Walking was encouraged, but I felt fragile taking even gentle steps. That was until I put on a pair of Yummie Tummie cotton underwear. (A brand very similar to Spanx.) The "control" area landed right over my incisions and felt like a comforting, supportive bandage. Even though I'm now completely healed, I'm still in love with Yummie Tummie, and these underwear are keepers!
Life Sans Ovaries
Despite my initial panic, I'm feeling as happy and healthy as I did before the surgery. I'll keep following the Mediterranean diet/lifestyle as I believe it's the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. Drugs come with unwanted side effects. And why take unregulated supplements when we have delicious, healthy food that's stood the test of time?
Thankfully, I won't have to take hormone replacement therapy. Research shows that as we age, the risks of HRT may outweigh the benefits. I'm also glad to report that I have a lot more empathy after going through this medical scare. And learning this trait is more valuable than those ovaries that were past their best-before date!
Please don't take anything you read here as medical information. I'm just sharing my experience and hoping to bring awareness to an often misdiagnosed condition
Probiotic Bacteria for Healthier Aging: Immunomodulation and Metabolism of Phytoestrogens
The Use of Flaxseed in Gynecology: A Review Article
Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits
Polyphenols-gut microbiota interplay and brain neuromodulation
Mediterranean diet and life expectancy; beyond olive oil, fruits, and vegetables
Healthy eating is my passion, and I love to share what's worked for me.