Padma Lakshmi shares her struggle with the "isolating disease" to bring attention to March's Endometriosis Awareness Month

Padma Lakshmi’s struggle with endometriosis started a young age.

“Once a week, every month, I was bedridden,” the Top Chef host, 47, tells PEOPLE Now. “I got my period when I was 13 and didn’t get diagnosed until I was 36. That’s 23 years, 12 months a year, 12 weeks from, you know, that I was missing at volleyball practice, the school dance, midterm exams, helping my mom cook the family meal. All these things that’s part and parcel of being a teenage kid.”

Since March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, Lakshmi is hoping to bring attention to what she calls “a very isolating disease.”

“No one wants to talk about their period. It’s not my nature to go on TV and talk about my vagina, but it was such a good cause and I saw how much better my life was after I had surgery and got the proper treatment. I was like, ‘Oh! This is what normal people feel like,'” she says.

Lakshmi, who co-founded of the Endometriosis Foundation of America in 2009, also shared her experience and the common warning signs.

She explains that if, during your period, you have heavy bleeding, “such bad cramps that over the counter medication is not taking care of it, if your bra size goes up a cup during that time” they could be signs of endometriosis.

“I had headaches, I had numbness in one leg, I had lower back pain, I had all kinds of digestive problems, and a lot of time they just tell you that you have to grin and bare it,” she says. “This is our lot in life because we’re girls and we have babies. Pain is your bodies way of telling you something is wrong.”

Lakshmi also urges women to “listen to [their] body.”

“If you are down for more than two days, if you can’t go about your business for more than two days, to work, to the gym, be with your family, cook, see your friends, you should seek professional help,” she says. “And don’t just go to your gynecologist – look up a specialist. Someone who specializes in PCOS, fibroids and endometriosis because those are all ailments that have to do with the female reproductive system.”