Julianne Hough Shares Her Struggle with Endometriosis on Social Media

She aims to help other women living with the disease.

Julianne Houghphoto credit: instagram/juleshough

The disease, which affects women exclusively, has found an advocate in Julianne Hough

The Dancing With The Stars champ first revealed she suffered from the endometriosis in 2008 and has been on a mission to raise awareness ever since. And Julianne Hough isn’t the only celeb to open up about it: Lena Dunham controversially revealed she had a hysterectomy at 31 because of her endometriosis, and Susan Sarandon and Halsey have it too. And the awareness is much needed: the condition affects about 1 in 10 women of reproductive age and can easily go undiagnosed.

So what exactly is it?

Endometriosis is a disorder where the endometrium (the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus) grows outside the uterus, commonly onto the ovaries, fallopian tubes and tissue lining your pelvis. The endometrial tissue acts as it normally would (thickening, breaking down and bleeding with each menstrual cycle) but it has no way to exit the body. It becomes trapped, leading to irritation of the surrounding tissue, scar tissue and adhesions.

Symptoms include painful or heavy periods, bleeding between periods and pain during or after intercourse.

If you’re like Julianne Hough, it could easily go unnoticed. She thought the intense pain she experienced with her periods was the usual (to be fair, everyone complains about cramps) and toughed it out. “I thought it was normal — what it is to be a woman,” Hough told Well+Good.

However, when it became so severe that even a dancer with a high tolerance for physical discomfort couldn’t take it, causing her to go home from the Dancing With The Stars set in 2008, she finally sought answers.

“Fortunately, my mother got me to go to the doctor to figure out what was going on,” Hough told Well+Good. “I got the diagnosis [of endometriosis], and at first I was like, ‘I don’t want to have a disease.’ But the most empowering thing was being able to put a name to the pain and…be able to talk about what it is without feeling uncomfortable or like I’m complaining.”

Hough’s now partnering with the SpeakENDO campaign in order to encourage women to ask their doctors about the condition. “Don’t be afraid of having endometriosis. I don’t let it define me, but I own it because it’s a part of me,” says Hough.

Here are her ways of dealing with the disorder:

1. Eat well

For Hough, fuelling her body properly helps her cope. “I definitely watch what I eat a little bit more and try to pick more nutritious foods, like healthy fats and not a lot of sugar. I don’t always succeed, but I try,” says Hough.

2. Moving your body

Keeping active is part of Hough’s job, but it also helps her manage her disease. “I’m a very active person, so I find working out and having blood flowing makes me feel better,” she says.

3. Be prepared

Off days come with the diagnosis, and Hough always comes prepared. “I always carry around a hot water bottle like a baby,” she says.

A roundup of some of the celebs that currently live with endometriosis