If there is one thing I’ve learnt through all my gynaecological challenges in life, it’s that I’m no longer shy. My most personal details, stories and experiences are available online & I think next to everyone I meet knows at least one new vagina fact (and knows me as ‘the vagina girl’). However on a serious note, without being so open I wouldn’t know half the information I do, or have met half of the most wonderful strong women that I’ve met, so perhaps the true lesson of this story is to talk about your vagina more? (I’ll leave that with you)
It gets hazy and messy to try and think back to the exact moment issues started, to moments where new symptoms arose, the order of events or the long list of appointments I’ve had...but I’m pretty confident in saying that my heightened bowel issues have coincided with the gynaecological ones. I need to visit more professionals and research into more topics on why there is such a connection between the bowel and the uterus, however I can assure you that there is one.. and one that next to every woman with a gynaecological problem experiences.
I’ve got very close to resolving many gyno problems, apart from the mysterious vulval tearing and splitting near the vaginal opening/perineum. I got to my absolute closest recently on Christmas Eve 2019, where I was prescribed oestrogen vaginal tablets (vagifem) for a course of 8 weeks in the hope that this would thicken my skin. This made sense to me at the time, and maybe still even does.. I am a very small built woman and women of smaller or ‘underweight’ builds are more prone to lower levels or deficiencies in oestrogen. Oestrogen is the goddess hormone, the one that makes you feel sexy as fuck and it’s also known to help thicken skin (and why women experiencing menopause therefore have issues with thinning skin). A combination of vagifem and an emollient cream were prescribed in the hopes that my skin would be in much better health, which I am yet to find out whether or not it has made a positive difference…
A strange discovery has been brought to light
This is where things started to get...mysterious. Something I haven’t really mentioned or discussed much is that I also experience splitting anally. Now I’m not speaking because of anal sex, (something I won’t personally ever want to do) but instead, passing bowel movements. That’s right….going for a poo splits my bum (yikes, that’s now on the internet too). I’m not talking some horrific deep gash, and sometimes I don’t think it does at all, other times maybe just a tiny little bit, but there’s definitely a very common occurrence with this toilet trouble. Before, when mentioned to doctors, they gave me Fybogel sachets and said maybe because of constipation or too ‘hard’ a stool that it’s giving me the discomfort and these would give me higher fibre to soften them, but it can happen even when I’m not struggling to go. On a particular occasion recently, the splits were to a level where I was experiencing them everyday for about two weeks straight and I was getting quite anxious about going to the toilet because of the high levels of pain it was giving me to try and go. I usually use Anusol which after a few days seems to do the trick, but I decided to talk to my friend with Crohn’s disease to see if this was something she could give any advice on.
When you have a chronic illness, you make the most weird and wonderful friendships and connections. My friend told me she had a stronger anal cream (rectogesic) for splitting/tearing and that I could take a tube as she had spares. I don’t advise taking medication from friends when you haven’t been prescribed it yourself, however I knew nothing over the counter would help me and coronavirus was beginning to get more serious so I also knew getting an appointment would be extremely hard. Therefore, I decided to go ahead with testing out the new cream. Whilst we were chatting, I found it fascinating to discover that my friend suffered from vulval tearing as well as the anal tearing. Bearing in mind she has a chronic illness of the bowel/gut, yet experiences issues with gynaecology..and so do I...it made me think to ask my network of how many other women who experience tearing, have it both vulval and anally.
To date, every woman I have asked about tearing has said that they suffer from BOTH vulval and anal tearing, and this is a link that I can’t put down to purely coincidence. There has got to be a deeper rooted issue here as to why there is such a connection, and these are my thoughts:
Candida (Thrush) Diet. I know right, eye roll. I hate people telling me that it’s something to do with the diet but the more I think about it, and the more pieces I try and put together, it does make a bit of sense. Here’s my thinking.. I know I have candida in my oesophagus because I had a camera down my throat and they found it. (I never even knew you could get thrush in the throat!) Yes I was given a course of anti-fungals but how will I know these worked to clear it because I can’t see the inside of my own throat? And how do I know if it ever comes back? If it is in my throat, it is quite clearly in my digestive tract, and if you have thrush in your gut it can provoke leaky gut syndrome = chronic diarrhoea. My doctors have tried to dismiss the idea of this but I can’t see how thrush would just choose to not enter the digestive tract lower down the system when it’s already in it further up the line? I am prone to thrush vaginally (more so when I was on the pill) and after using my steroid inhaler for a couple of times I seemed to get it on my tongue so I feel like my body is generally highly susceptible to it.
Anal Thrush. Keep the above in mind…. Your rectum is also part of your digestive tract, and I had ZERO idea that you could also get thrush of the anus/rectum. Honestly, it’s a devil infection it can literally grow anywhere. See, I PREACH to the high heavens of not using shower gel on the vulva but I still continued to use it anally as I thought it was ok to do so. Since having the bad anal tears fairly recently, I decided to stop using shower gel on the anus and quite honestly, the tears have practically stopped. I shit you not. (pun intended)
Avoiding sugary foods/high refined carbs. The candida diet essentially needs the body to starve itself of sugar. Thrush loves sugar, (more than I do) and it’s the perfect fuel to be feeding it to grow and thrive. Now, to do a proper candida diet it’s EXTREMELY strict, we are talking even avoiding certain fruits and vegetables because of higher natural sugars (even peas!) and for me this is super unachievable. Right now in lockdown, I’m eating what I can get hold of so it’s not the right time to try this however I CAN massively reduce the amount of sugar I eat and make better choices. (Sadly, this very much includes alcohol!) I think a more realistic start for me would be to reduce rather than cut out, however ultimately you do want to starve your body off sugar so that it kills all the candida.
Botox Injections. My friend advised trialling botox injections to relax the sphincter muscle as this is something she had tried and had positive feedback on. This made me think maybe the entire thing is down to nerve damage. I have a vulvodynia diagnosis of which I have also heard that botox injections can be really helpful in alleviating pain and symptoms (but please talk this option through thoroughly with medical professionals)
Something else is going on. I’m really not convinced that the answer is even completely following a candida diet, or that thrush is the culprit. It could well be a huge part to play but there is some serious investigation work yet needed to be done as to why so many women suffer from both the bowel and the uterus together, and why this tearing is simultaneously happening in two places. Is it linked to the fact we have most likely all been on some form of contraception before? Is it related to diet? Is it related to a hormonal imbalance or deficiency? Is it actually a bowel condition of which gynaecology issues are a symptom?
All in all there’s still no clear answer, however the discovery of the fact vulval and anal splits seem to happen simultaneously is not something I can ignore. There has got to be something deeper than just ‘weak skin’, and I’ll continue this weird journey to find the solution. Are you in the same boat?