Why Your Body Has The Answers To A Better Period - Not Dr. Google.
Fertility awareness is a vital part of hormonal health regardless of one’s pregnancy goals. It becomes the foundation for body literacy — an oft-ignored source of women's empowerment.
This article’s about the power of becoming body literate. It’s a soapbox of mine even though I just learned of the phrase last year while reading Dr. Lara Briden’s book “Period Repair Manual”.
Despite my late arrival to the proverbial table on feminism and menstrual health, I’ve been pretty antagonistic toward the use of Google to solve hormonal and period problems. And, health problems, in general.
Well, supposedly, that’s what Google can do. There’s an ignorant expectation that reading and researching are enough. That all it takes is time, some basic researching skills, and an awareness of one’s health problems to resolve one’s health problems.
Google’s now become Dr. Google - as if information is all you need to become an expert. So, any woman with basic education can search through millions of search results to figure out her health issues. Solve them. And then tell her friends and start a revolution of DIY healthcare.
I think in reality though, women spend a lot of time traversing the road of trial and error. They spend untold amounts of money, energy, and emotion trying to be their own doctor.
I think most are doing a poor job of it too.
Because the basic education of every doctor is the study of the body - first! The primary two years of medical school - including naturopathic medical school, where I attended - focus on how the body works. We add in diseases later on - we don’t start there.
Google doesn’t tell you how to think and approach your health in this way. And that’s because GOOGLE IS NOT A MEDICAL SCHOOL!!! (Yes, I’m yelling.)
The MCAT’s (the entrance exam to medical school) test how an examinee thinks - not just her scientific education. According to US News, “The MCAT is designed to assess whether prospective medical students have the conceptual understanding and analytical skills necessary for success in medical school.” (emphasis added)
Regardless of whether standardized tests discriminate or are poor evaluators of a person’s understanding/intelligence, the point of the MCAT is to ensure you have adequate thinking and conceptualization skills to help someone’s body improve. (Or heal, as is a possibility when working with integrative/naturopathic medicine.)
Isn’t that what most women are trying to do with google?
But do they have the conceptual and analytical skills to resolve their health issues? I contend that most have but are body illiterate. And that's why they suffer so long trying to fix themselves.
Body literacy is a major weakness of what I call DIY-healthcare - the modern approach to balancing hormones or improving health, in general, using online search engines. It is one of the main reasons women eventually require surgeries and other drastic conventional solutions to their reproductive problems. And why it takes them so long to fully resolve their health issues despite Google's wealth of information.
They started at the end of the training instead of the beginning.
So, let’s begin at the beginning and figure out how to create powerful shifts that provoke real healing. And permanently so.
“Body literacy is a deeply intimate and holistic relationship with our bodies and the selves we are that dwell in our flesh.” - Geraldine Matus
Geraldine Matus, the director of Justisse Healthworks for Women, an organization that standardized a system for learning fertility awareness in 1986, coined the phrase “body literacy” with Laura Wershler, a former executive director of Planned Parenthood.
They introduced the phrase to the world in the 2005 edition of “Femme Fertile” a newsletter operated by Matus that taught the principles and practices of body literacy.
Although Matus, Wershler, and the majority of practitioners promoting body literacy focus specifically on understanding a woman's menstrual cycle and reproductive health, I contend that body literacy encompasses much more. Although, the menstrual cycle is a perfect place to start self-learning.
The body comprehends situations and circumstances long before the mind because it is a source of knowing and processing information. Consequently, the physical experience in this world as filtered through the body influences decisions, identity development, and inter/intrapersonal relationships. One researcher wrote it beautifully
“It is the domain of intuition, a kind of gut knowing, and is manifested in decisions, big and small.” - Paul Akpomuje
Consuming information - from the outside in as done when searching google - does the greatest disservice in that women ignore the wealth of detail sitting within them.
Then, from a place of incomplete knowledge, make profound decisions that impact their health for years to come. And, in many cases, delay their recovery.
Here’s information a woman needs when searching google, talking to her friends, engaging with her practitioner, and, finally, making decisions.
How to chart her menstrual cycle and understand deviations.
What caused the deviations i.e. stressful week, too few calories, not enough sleep, relationship nonsense, etc
How to monitor reproductive wellness and health throughout her reproductive life cycle - not just when she has a period.
How her body’s work in a broader sense - beyond reproductive health
How to search for and apply information appropriately to her situation. Including questions to ask her health practitioners that leave her informed and empowered - not confused, unseen, irritated, or scared.
The analytical and conceptual skills women gain by starting here and not in reverse with disease management include:
Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, in her forward for Dr. Briden’s book, wrote such a powerful description of what body literacy looks like in real life:
“This body literacy allows me to appreciate, based on solid personal evidence, that my luteal phase will be short if I hike the Chilkoot trail for seven days, climbing from sea level up in the alpine, carrying a pack with a companion who is not simpatico. It also means knowing that this same combination of emotional, exertional, and nutritional stressors when I was a decade younger would have made my period go away.”
She relayed the outcome of a randomized, one-year study she conducted in which 61 healthy women in their twenties and thirties recovered from hormonal imbalance after learning about themselves, rather than from the supplements and progesterone. A startling and unexpected conclusion considering the expectation that exogenous therapies are the main solutions for health problems, Dr. Prior continues to promote body literacy as an integral part of personal, effective healthcare.
So, do you know the answers to just a few vital questions?
How do your hormones work together and impact each other?
Which organs are involved in your health problem and the nutrients they need to work properly?
What trauma, drama, or stress started your symptoms - or contributed to their manifestation - and how that impacts your well-being, in general?
The type of questions you need to ask your health practitioner(s).
Your mama’s health when she was pregnant with you.
Your daddy’s health.
(No, he didn’t carry you but he impacts your well-being from his sperm quality to how your mama thought or felt about him as she carried you.)
Your grandmother’s health when she was pregnant with your mom.
(She carried your mom and you in her uterus because your growing mother was also growing her eggs which one of them would likely have been you)
How to build an integrative, supportive health team?
Are you dealing with any of the underlying reasons for your hormonal imbalance mentally and spiritually? Did you even know you had to?!
For example, understanding that estrogen levels rise and fall because of your ovaries, weight, blood sugar, gut health, and environmental toxins can help you target lifestyle and nutrition factors contributing to your heavy bleed, painful periods, fibroids, and/or infertility. And, if you’ve been traumatized as a child you’re more prone to abdominal and pelvic floor health conditions. That may be a significant reason for many women’s struggle to balance their hormones.
Yet, you can’t resolve hormonal problems if you don’t address those underlying causes because they fuel your symptoms. (And, if you didn’t know, your symptoms aren’t the real reason for your health crisis. They are the manifestation of imbalance, dysfunction, and damage of your organs, tissues, and physiological processes. So, simply eliminating symptoms doesn’t mean your body’s balanced and healthy anyway.)
Am I telling you to become a doctor? No.
Nor do I recommend attending medical school.
Instead, I’m giving you the mindset of a doctor so you can help yourself. You need a clear picture of what it really takes to get better by using an approach that corresponds with your body’s organic way of working.
If that’s important to you because you want to...
Empower yourself within the conventional health system
Need changes that work b/c what you’ve tried hasn’t
Wean off of medications and supplements
Or want to prevent disease
then accept that creating health and well-being requires certain information and the proper application of that information to your mind, body, and spirit.
Body literacy is the key to fixing your health problems. You’ll have to build self-awareness, through reading targeted material and, likely, working with a practitioner who advocates for body literacy.
To create a foundation from which to springboard into effective you-centered health care, here are a few of my favorite resources. I find them helpful because they use normal, laypeople’s language in explaining health and wellness to my patients - if that isn’t empowering enough!
Lara Briden N.D. - The Period Repair Book
Lara Briden N.D. - Hormone Repair Manual (for 40’s+)
Aviva Romm M.D. - Thyroid Adrenal Revolution
Tori Hudson N.D. - Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
Toni Weschler MPH - Taking Charge of Your Fertility (even if pregnancy isn’t your goal)
Rosemary Gladstar - Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health
Phyllis A Balch CNC - Prescription for Nutritional Health
Michael T Murray + Joseph Pizzorno - The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
Aviva Romm’s latest book “Hormone Intelligence” may be one I likely add to the list, as well.
Many of these authors also write online blogs and articles so you can self-educate before you buy a book. But, I do recommend investing the time, energy, and money to read the books as they offer a full picture of your body and make connections to diseases and symptoms. (Articles are bits and pieces of a larger concept so you never get all you need in its entirety.)
So, what are you going to read first? Your body’s waiting on you.
If you'd like help in reversing many of your period problems with nutrition, take the nutrient-deficient quiz, receive supplement recommendations, and a recipe book.
You can hire me as a freelance writer, too.
Have a good day!