FORIA: When did you figure out you had endometriosis?
GRETCHEN: It was two days after Christmas, 2015. So almost two years ago…
...and that’s just the official diagnosis, when a doctor went in laproscopically and found it. I'd been struggling with the symptoms for almost 13 years prior to finding this doctor. It's typically about a 10 year period before a woman is diagnosed properly with endometriosis.
I dealt with a slew of severe symptoms that just got perpetually worse: really bad cramps, nausea, body aches, anxiety, depression, back pain. You name it, I really had it.
I knew something was wrong when it got progressively worse and nothing was helping. Not even pain pills. I think that's when I knew I had a larger problem that really couldn't be fixed by any medication — chemical or natural.
Of course, the doctor recommends all these crazy crazy drugs — I'm talking, like, a drug that was made for prostate cancer back in the 60s that they are prescribing for women now. That was one of the other reasons why I said, "Screw this, I'm going to find a natural way.”
GRETCHEN: I discovered marijuana probably about 8 years ago in college. Instantly I felt a difference in my body when I smoked — the nausea and anxiety especially. I used that as an outlet and a resource for my pain. It did help a lot with the cramps at the time, and all the other symptoms that went along with it.
FORIA: Were you concerned to use cannabis?
GRETCHEN: I smoked initially for fun, but I soon realized my body actually took it pretty well and I felt really relaxed. I felt an immediate relief.
I lived in Colorado at the time so it's a pretty liberal place to be experimenting, and a safe place at the same time. I will say that, compared to 8 years ago, now it's a completely different world than I would have expected 8 years ago.
There are dosed products, and experts to help you and walk you through things. And I'm actually in a better situation now. Although I have this diagnosis, I also have a medical marijuana card, and living in California I have access to all these great products that have really helped me live.
FORIA: It's really an amazing blessing. So many people have been shut off from this plant that humanity’s been using for 5,000 years. It's beautiful rebirth, to see it coming back to public awareness.
GRETCHEN: Yeah it's definitely a rebirth. I like that way of looking at it.
Taking Charge of Health
GRETCHEN: One thing I would stress about my story is the empowerment of taking charge of your own health.
If you’re past the point where you think something's wrong and nothing's helping, then find another doctor, or start talking to other people — find something that does work for you and get answers for yourself. You deserve it. You deserve to know.
Once I was diagnosed through surgery - and surgery can help - I felt a lot better.
It wasn’t until this year that I had to have two more surgeries that I really "woke up" to the bigger lifestyle, the bigger picture that I wasn't really aware of in my own life.
Not only was the condition stressful, but I had a lot of self-induced stress with what I was doing at work, how much I was traveling, all these other things...I didn't realize how much responsibility I had to take for how I was contributing to it.
And so as of this year I completely embraced the endometriosis diet. I’ve been enjoying meditating the last couple of years, but I really put it into practice when I had these setbacks — because I realized I had a lot more control over my experience than I previously thought.
FORIA: How did you discover Foria?
GRETCHEN: Strangely enough, through my psychotherapist!
I was telling her about how bad my pelvic pain was, and how I was trying to control it, but I’d run out of options. I just felt kind of at my wits end, and I didn't want to take these crazy medications.
So she explained that her daughter has really bad menstrual pain, and Foria Relief had brought her level of pain from a seven to a three.
She was speaking my language! She didn’t have to say anything more for me to be like, “That's what I need!” So went to the dispensary that day and I got a two pack and tried it.
I didn't believe what she had said about the pain scale until I tried it myself.
As soon as it kicked in, I thought, “This is miraculous!” Being at a 7 and going to a 3 really is a miracle if you're not taking a pain pill. It was kind of emotional, actually, because I really didn't think I could ever find such relief from a natural product.
Having that immediate relief was so comforting — mentally as well. To know I have something to go to that can have such an immediate relief in such a natural way — it took away a lot of my anxiety.
I think it's a big thing that women with endometriosis struggle with — the anxiety of not having control of your body sometimes, or worrying about "what if this or that happens..." To have some security is really important.
FORIA: How often do you use Relief?
GRETCHEN: Whenever I have a flare up, which is definitely once a month around that time, and then occasionally another one to two times throughout the month.
I definitely use them as sort of a special treat, or a last resort, when I don't want to take the pain pill. That's how I look at it. When I'm at that 7, but I just don't want to take a Percocet, I can take a Foria instead.
I do it mainly because it's not cheap. If it was like a dollar a suppository, my gosh I'd probably be using it every day! So that's kind of one of the reasons too, I see it as a special treat because they are worth every penny. It's more of a luxury in my budget right now.
I will say that Foria still can make me feel...not high, but light. That's really cool.
FORIA: What’s your process with Relief?
GRETCHEN: I usually get in bed. I'll prop my head with a pillow and then prop my hips with a pillow, if not two. I'll get my heating pad as well. Maybe light some candles, put on my oil diffuser, put on relaxing music... So I really make it a ritual to relax and get myself in that mindset.
I noticed that the first thing that came to mind, for me, was my stomach muscles not only relaxed but I can actually feel my digestion start to move. One of the things that women with endometriosis have issues with is also bowel movements and urination. The scar tissue can sometimes attach to some of those organs, so digestion can be painful. So I noticed my stomach start to kind of gurgle around and move around, and I feel everything start to flow a little bit better, almost like it was stagnant before. It's kind of the same feeling in acupuncture or massage where you can feel the relief going on internally. I can feel it all kind of working and flowing. It's so cool.
I notice even my hips will start to quiet down. It's the best way I can describe it. I tend to have a lot of tension in my feet and and up to my legs and hips — they tense up sometimes just from the pelvic muscles contracting all the time. And I noticed a big difference in that as well. Before, it’s kind of in my face, and I can just feel my hips quiet, my feet sort of loosen. It's really a full-body effect for me. Head to toe I can feel everything sort of loosen and quiet down.
I love that it's targeted specifically for the genital area because it directly impacts that area the most. I can feel like the immediate relief there and then it sort of spreads out everywhere else, which is really cool because no other product that I've found targets that area.
FORIA: You’ve also used Foria Awaken?
GRETCHEN: I've been so focused on the pain part of things that I kind of forgot about the pleasure!
When I tried Awaken I realized like "Oh my gosh it's been such a long time since I've really enjoyed sex!” (though I wouldn't necessarily tell my boyfriend that).
With endometriosis, sex can be painful, so it was a beautiful experience for me to try the Awaken because it not only lifted me up but it kind of got me going.
FORIA: How was it different from Relief?
GRETCHEN: I loved all the different oils — just the smell of it alone woke up my senses.
It has this warming effect, but not in a way that's too much — not like a burning or spicy — just a warming from the inside.
The pain went away, and it didn't feel so...inflamed. (I don't know how else to describe it). I felt this rejuvenation, like a whole different experience.
FORIA: Was it slow? Subtle?
GRETCHEN: I’m a sensitive person, so it was already pretty instant for me. I remember the instructions said to wait 10 - 15 minutes, and I was like, "Wow if I can feel this now, I can't even imagine what 15 minutes is going to look like!"
To me it was more of a long journey than just a little explosion. I felt a progressive sensation that became more and more heightened as the sex went on, and then by the time the orgasm came I was, like, already in heaven, like I was already at that level and I was up floating around — my boyfriend he really got a show.
Seriously, I'm grinning ear to ear just talking about it. I can't tell you the appreciation I have for everyone at Foria. Honestly these are very special products.
FORIA: When did you start using CBD tinctures and other products?
GRETCHEN: I started learning about CBD through a girlfriend of mine, just last year — pretty recently. She was explaining to me that it’s cannabis but without the THC, and it still has the same relaxing effects without getting you high, and I thought "That's exactly what I need!" because there are times when...I can't toke up at work, say.
So I was immediately intrigued. She was talking about a tincture that she had gotten on Amazon, and I thought that was amazing that it was so widespread. I kind of had missed the whole CBD thing until she had mentioned it to me and then I started seeing it everywhere and doing more research on my own.
CBD Sources & Varieties
FORIA: Have you tried other CBD products?
GRETCHEN: I have tried tinctures and salves. Right now I am using a hemp-based CBD tincture that seems to be working pretty well for me once a day, at work, just to get through the day, and at night I'll use the salve.
I've tried the Charlotte's Web CBD tincture that my friend had, which works pretty well, but I haven't really explored beyond Foria and the hemp CBD, because they work really well for me.
I've also smoked CBD. I can't remember the strain. It was like 90 percent CBD, no THC. That's one of the reasons I didn't get much of an effect from it. I feel like when they are combined I definitely sense a difference. I enjoy smoking sativas. I really like Jack Herer. It's one of my favorites. I've never really jived with indicas, despite needing that pain relief. I'd rather feel up than tired and drowsy. There’s a hybrid I like, though: Blue Dream.
Diet & Lifestyle
FORIA: What sort of lifestyle changes have worked for you?
GRETCHEN: Well I think the diet has been the first thing that I focused on and the most lasting. I'm still on the endo-diet: gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, coffee-free, no processed sugar — all things that I love. It took me a while to wean off of them.
I had a lot of support. My boyfriend actually did the diet with me which helped a ton. Nine months later I don't even look at a baked good and wanna cry anymore. So I'm past that now which is really awesome.
I don't plan on really ever going back because I'm seeing what a difference it makes on my body, how I feel, how I look — mostly how I feel. That was the whole point. Doing the endo diet was strictly for my health. Vanity was the furthest thing from my mind.
FORIA: So “true beauty starts on the inside?”
GRETCHEN: It really does. And it can sound cliche until you really take a look for yourself. So I am a firm believer in the diet to reduce inflammation. It's something to try.
FORIA: So you don’t miss those indulgences?
GRETCHEN: I will say as part of the diet I've really cut back on drinking, and I think that's easier because I can smoke cannabis, or use CBD tinctures, or the FORIA. That's been a really amazing alternative too.
FORIA: Any supplements that you’ve found effective?
GRETCHEN: I just try to get as much as I can just through foods. I've tried a wide array of different supplements. I've been able to get most everything in a multivitamin. I just haven't found one that really made a difference for me.
I had my Vitamin D levels tested a while ago and they were pretty low, so I incorporated Vitamin D. That helps a lot with my anxiety and depression. I didn't realize how much those were related. And most people are pretty deficient in D. We think we get enough from the sun but you need a lot more than you think.
Magnesium is a big one that I take — a magnesium calcium combo. That’s helped a lot with cramps and digestion and anxiety. I take that at night and I notice a major difference when I wake up in the morning.
FORIA: Like literally if you skip it or forget it at night, you notice the difference?
GRETCHEN: Totally. Yes. And that's when I really take a supplement: when I notice a difference. Otherwise I'm probably just peeing it out or something.
FORIA: What about Omega 3s?
FORIA: I do a lot of salmon, and I have a fish oil in my fridge that I'll take from time to time. I did it regularly at one point when I was seeing a naturopath, along with some other really good supplements she gave me. I have read that Omega 3s are very important for women with endometriosis, so I wonder I should be taking that fish oil a little more often.
Vitamin B has been really vital in my life with energy and also with mood. The naturopath gave me a complex with B6, B12, a couple other things. I'll take that on occasion when I need the energy — like if I'm feeling that fatigue. I notice the Bs do make a difference with energy.
FORIA: What about yoga?
GRETCHEN: I really love being active specifically with yoga. That's been my outlet this year. I've kind of had to walk away from some other more extreme exercises because of endometriosis and find what works for me, and what I enjoy. Yoga has been that for me. I'm just so glad. It helps me meditate, it also helps move and stretch.
I know that's been a saving grace for a lot of women with endometriosis too. Most women find it once they go down this new path of wellness. It's opened my eyes to a lot.
Dreams & Passions
FORIA: So what has all this healing freed you up to do?
GRETCHEN: I took out some time off recently, for healing, and I came across a health coaching program. It’s at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I'm about halfway through a year-long program, just learning about all these different dietary theories and listening to different lecturers and doctors.
I think my whole life path was changed from this wake up call. I'm grateful for that. I ultimately really want to walk away from the 9-5 and help women specifically with endometriosis and other residual issues get back on track. It's a very common disease. One in ten women have it, most with 10 years of being diagnosed. I just think there could be a lot more done, and a lot more education to help solve pain before it really starts even or gets worse.
FORIA: Will you be doing consultations with people pretty soon?
GRETCHEN: I would love to consult as soon as possible. I'm hungry to do it. I’m almost done putting together my website. It’s a side gig, but ultimately if I could be health coaching full time? That would be a dream come true — a double whammy! Making a living and also helping people — I couldn't think of anything better.
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