This Mother’s Day, and always, we are so grateful for all of the incredible mamas in our lives, and for their enduring strength and vulnerability in sharing their stories with our community so that we all can learn and grow, together. Today, we’re feeling especially thankful for actress and mama Tia Mowry, who recently joined Mama Glow founder Latham Thomas for an Instagram Live conversation to educate and spread awareness about what it means to live with Endometriosis, an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Her diagnosis led her to found a supplement company, ANSER.
During the inspiring and deeply informative discussion, Mowry opened up about her experience with Endometriosis, in the hopes of helping others who may be suffering in silence. Here’s what she had to say:
On Identifying Your Symptoms
Mowry revealed that her motivation for sharing her story stemmed from the fact that so many are living with untreated Endometriosis because they don’t know how to identify the symptoms and advocate for a proper examination from their medical providers. She said, “If you don’t know what it is or what it does to your body, how do you even know how to look for it?”
Mowry was symptomatic for 5 years before she was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis at the age of 25. She remembers excruciating cramps and debilitating pain during her periods that would not go away. The pain was so bad that she has to miss college classes and even considered calling an ambulance to take her to the hospital. Pain during sex is another symptom of Endometriosis that she says she faced.
Another symptom of Mowry’s Endometriosis was shedding blood clots during her period, and bleeding through super-absorbent tampons in only an hour’s time. Noting that her period experience was not the experience of her sister or her friends is what helped Tia confirm that something was wrong that needed to be addressed.
On Advocating for Yourself to Get a Diagnosis
Mowry recalls being devastated, depressed, alone, and made to feel crazy for those 5 years it took for her to get diagnosed with Endometriosis. She says she began to wonder if something was wrong with her after so many doctors told her that her symptoms were just regular cramps and a normal part of her cycle to bear as a woman.
Tia asserts that “You know your body more than anyone. You are the one living in your body, day in and day out. So if you are experiencing a doctor who’s not paying attention to you, who’s not taking you seriously, move on and move on quickly.” She adds, “it is so important for you to find a doctor who allows you to have that open communication.” It took Tia years to finally find a doctor – a Black, female OB/GYN – who immediately knew to surgically test her for Endometriosis because, as a Black woman in her 20s, Tia was in a major demographic for women suffering from Endometriosis.
Mowry says that you must find a doctor who works for you, and don’t settle for one who doesn’t make you feel heard. We treat doctors like they are above us, but they are supposed to be working for us. It cannot be an authoritative relationship. Go into the doctor’s office with your questions already prepared and symptoms documented and written down; you can even voice record your appointment on your phone to keep a clear record of your doctors’ appointments and what you’re being told. “Never be afraid to voice your opinions, and never be afraid to know you are of value.”
On Food as Medicine in the Healing Process
While Mowry says that her digestive health was a part of the healing process and not an area that was negatively impacted by her Endometriosis symptoms outright, some people suffering from Endometriosis do face digestive issues because it can travel into the digestive tract. Her relationship with her digestive health was one that sparked her healing journey.
When Mowry was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis by a Black OB/GYN, she says that same life-changing woman “was the first one to tell [her] that food can either be exacerbating this condition or suppressing this condition.” Certain foods can trigger and flare up your body, intensifying the inflammatory symptoms of Endometriosis. Mowry was taught to stay away from dairy and processed foods/sugar and encouraged to learn more about gut flora and how food can be medicine because your immune system is in your gut.
In addition to eliminating foods that would trigger Endometriosis symptoms, Mowry found the foods that would actually help to take her body out of an inflammatory state. These include probiotic supplements and Kefir, organic foods (free of steroids and other harmful additives), Kombucha, and fermented foods and vegetables.
Tia said that one of the swiftest changes she noticed once she made this dietary shift was the disappearance of migraines and eczema. By altering her diet and lifestyle, Tia has been able to keep her Endometriosis at bay and stay in remission for 10 years. Her doctor even credited her diet change with her ability to get pregnant and have both of her children.
On Managing Stress to Promote Healthy Body Function
On her journey, Mowry came to learn that “the body is naturally made to heal.” Affirming this, Latham added that we need to see the body as a sacred site that has the capacity to heal itself, if we care for it correctly. For optimum health, inside and out, this means striving to have all of the elements of your life working in harmony together.
In addition to making necessary changes to her diet, Mowry recognized that lifestyle changes were needed in order to reduce stress. Low impact exercise such as yoga has proven effective for Tia in gently encouraging her body to function as heathily as possible. Breathwork and meditation are also great daily stress-relieving self-care practices. Mowry believes that “you and only you are responsible for your health and for your wellness;” the decisions you make and energy you input into your body will directly impact what it gives back to you.
Part of stress management is also knowing when to go easy on yourself and “loosen the reins” on the high standards you’re holding yourself to in an effort to heal your body. Tia says, “If you’re too hard on yourself, it’s going to be hard for you to move forward.” For her, that includes indulging on the weekends, but not making those indulgences a part of the regular lifestyle (during weekdays, she does her best to keep a clean, strict diet).
Mowry says that prior to her Endometriosis diagnosis and the research she put in to get a handle on it, “I had no idea that within your stomach, there are nerves that go to your brain.” It is no surprise that an improved diet had a positive impact on her mental health and energy, since 90% of serotonin is produced in your gut.
Latham pointed out that yoni steaming can also be a helpful self-care practice, both because it requires you to come to stillness and because the herbs in the steam can have health benefits for the reproductive system. Designed for pulling toxins out of the skin and body, yoni steams can restore hormonal balance and shifts in the body, promote healthy pH balance in the vagina, and even change mucosa in the cervix.
On Putting Mental Health Supports in Place
Although it was a relief to have a diagnosis after years of her health suffering not only physically, but mentally, Tia acknowledges that having to make a huge shift in her lifestyle to combat Endometriosis was a source of depression, too. When she was frustrated by unlearning and relearning she had to do to support a new diet (which included eliminating comfort foods like pizza and chocolate chip cookies), Mowry says her husband got her through it as her main support system, guiding her to “light at the end of the tunnel.”
Today, she said he continues to recognize and respect her needs, allowing her space when she asks for it (which may feel like a luxury for many busy moms but is so needed). She also sees a therapist on a weekly basis to proactively care for her mental health in the safe hands of a trained professional.
We’re living through a trauma-filled and high-stress time, and mental health support is a necessity no matter what you are struggling with. Mowry says “Some people don’t really want to admit that they’re vulnerable,” but being honest with yourself that you are sad and you need some sort of help is the first step in healing.
To conclude, Mowry asserted to our community: “Never feel like something is wrong with you. Never feel like you have to be so strong. Never feel like being vulnerable is a bad thing. We’re human. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and to feel sad and to have anxiety or feel depressed. And don’t be afraid to talk to somebody who you trust and who supports you.”