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Dancer Julianne Hough's painful battle with endometriosis

Dancer Julianne Hough's painful battle with endometriosis
"Dancing With the Stars" favorite, Julianne Hough. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

While shooting a live episode of "Dancing With the Stars," Julianne Hough felt sharp, stabbing pains in her pelvic area. She'd felt similar pains before, but this time was different.

"I was trying to be OK," recalls the 29-year old dancer, choreographer and actress. "But the minute we cut to a commercial break, I made the decision to find out what was going on."

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Hough was subsequently diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful condition caused by tissue growth outside the uterus. One in 10 women in America has it. Hough says she suffered for years without knowing why.

A decade on from her diagnosis, Hough feels like she has a handle on the condition. Certain inflammation-causing foods — sugar is a major culprit — might trigger an episode.

Back rubs, eating avocados and exercise help ease the symptoms. And now that Hough understands what endometriosis is all about, she wants other women to do the same; she recently became aligned with SpeakEndo, a platform that provides a forum for women to exchange their stories about living with the condition, answer questions and help prepare for doctor visits.

"A lot of women feel uncomfortable talking about it," said Hough, nibbling on almonds and fruit at a Universal City hotel recently. "We don't know the questions to ask. We think it's a normal part of being a woman."

Here is what's helped her.

Know your body

I'm into biohacking and figuring out what works. I've taken allergy tests and stay away from things that don't serve me. If I'm feeling good about what I'm putting into my body, there's less to manage. Endometriosis comes up, but I can push through it. Working out creates blood flow and makes it better. Or sometimes I need to rest. It's about being in tune instead of being afraid and hating it.

Everyone should dance

Dance cardio is one of my favorite types of workout. You're using every part of your body, muscles you didn't even realize you had. There's a sense of freedom and joy. When you dance, you're not in your head. You're totally in your body. I go to dance cardio classes, because I like being around people and feeding off their energy.

Don't worry about two left feet

You don't need a choreographed routine. Just move. Anyone can do it. If I'm angry, I dance, and I make sounds and get it out instead of tucking it in. I'm not sensing that people love life when they're looking into the mirror lifting weights. But when you're whipping your hair back and forth — that feels great.

Pastries, pasta and pretzels

Generally, my eating habits are good. But I love bakeries. There's something about a croissant or muffin in the morning with a cup of tea. Or sometimes I want pizza, pasta and wine. I think it's OK. I don't have to do it every day for every meal. If I feel like it, I eat it, and then will try and be healthier the next day. Late night snacking is hard to avoid, especially when you're watching "Game of Thrones." There are some healthful popcorn options that aren't so bad. But we sometimes get dark chocolate pretzels, which are so dangerous.

Green juice and clean eating

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My husband [professional hockey player Brooks Laich] is adamant about making his own juices, so we have that every morning — ginger, lemon, celery, cucumber, kale, spinach, beets. I love soups and salads, Greek food, rice and chicken and hummus.

Don't obsess about the scale

When I was younger, I used to weigh myself everyday. But now, the more I do that, the harder I am on myself. It's more about how the clothes fit, and how you feel when you look in the mirror.

READ ON!

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