Women’s Health: The Bigger Picture

Dr. Jeannie Achuff, ND

When a medical professional says she or he specializes in “women’s health,” we naturally think of a certain set of biological parts. While it is true that those of us with this focus do spend a lot of time supporting the organs of the pelvis, and also healthy breast tissue, I want to bring our awareness to the way women are in the world, and the attitude with which we live, as a major facet of our health. In my practice of working with all manner of female health concerns, I am continually impressed by the impact our minds and our hearts have on our reproductive organs. One of the phrases I wrote several years ago in a blog post continues to haunt me when I think about the way I approach life in this post-feminist age: “Feminism taught me that I, too, can be a man.” Our society is not set up to honor the nature of women’s emotional, physical, physiologic, or reproductive needs in life. And what I find in my practice is that our organs and tissues speak the truth of our lives and lifestyles.

A woman’s body is meant to cycle. We cycle monthly, but we also have distinct life phases in relation to these cycles: The archetypal Maiden, Mother, and Crone. While science claims we have yet to prove that the moon, or any other solar or planetary behaviours actually affect our bodies during our monthly cycles[1], we all have an innate sense that these cycles are important to our health, in some way or another. (N.B. Dr. Cutler’s work: http://www.livescience.com/7899-moon-myths-truth-lunar-effects.html) Furthermore, there are fascinating, measurable metabolic shifts that take place throughout our monthly cycles that can impact how we utilize nutrients, how our body’s respond to stress, and how we are impacted by exercise. [2]

Our cycles will reflect how we are doing. Suffering from PMS? You may be low in B6 or magnesium, among other nutrients. Your cortisol levels may be out of whack because you are maintaining a lifestyle that stresses your particular physiology and/or emotional well-being. Perhaps, in a more qualitative way (which is, by the way more feminine, where the quantitative realm has a masculine quality to it) you are not in sync with your own natural flow or rhythm.

There is plenty of science in the naturopathic, western medical, and bio-scientific arenas to prove nutrient correlation with various physical symptoms, but what I want to achieve here is the point that, as women, the way we are in our lives deeply impacts our health, most notably our reproductive health. The stress in our lives changes our hormonal milieu, which changes our mood and the way and rate at which our bodies use nutrients, which changes our food cravings… the list goes on. Whether or not we honour these cycles and the messages our bodies give us at various times of the month, determines our state of stress and health. Whether or not we run our bodies and our lives as though it were a man’s body, deeply impacts our state of stress and health. My passion in my work right now is about helping women to really feel what living life from a more qualitative gauge feels like. Some women achieve this by asking “Is this choice ‘nourishing’ for me?” or “Is this experience ‘enjoyable’?” “Is this honouring where I am right now in my cycle?” We are beginning to examine just how important ‘productivity’ is in contrast to connection, enjoyment, beauty, and inner peace. We need a balance of both.

The Yin, or the feminine is a quality and a way of being that is much more difficult to grasp for us Westerners. It’s opposite, the Yang, or the masculine is measurable, more concrete, more concentrated and obvious. We can all readily understand what we are doing and we have a strong drive to always be doing something productive. But what if, especially for you women out there, I told you that your being is just as important? What if one of the most “productive” things you can do for yourself today is to find yourself the most beautiful flower you can find, and to go lie on the earth in the softest grass or next to the waters of the Salish Sea, and take 20 minutes to just be, to nourish your Yin, your feminine- honouring this part of yourself to find deeper balance in your day today? When it comes to women’s health, the list of to-do’s (take your vitamins and your herbs and do your workout, don’t forget to take 10 deep breaths, do your mindfulness activities, etc) is certainly part of the way toward healing whatever ails you, but it is with great pleasure that I invite you to find your way into a more nourishing way of being with yourself in your day-to-day life.

 

References:

https://www.athenainstitute.com/lunarmpl.html

http://avivaromm.com/pms

Speaking of rhythms: https://vimeo.com/111767349?ref=fb-share

 

[1] http://www.livescience.com/7899-moon-myths-truth-lunar-effects.html

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014963/

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