Women Running

Why Your Body Has The Answers To A Better Period - Not Dr. Google.

Fertility awareness is a vital part of hormonal health regardless of a woman’s pregnancy goal. It becomes the foundation for body literacy — the most powerful resource for real, long-term recovery.

Photo by Alexander Sergienko on Unsplash

This article’s about the power of becoming body literate. It’s a soapbox of mine and even more so after reading Dr. Lara Briden’s book “Period Repair Manual”.

I’ve developed a pretty antagonistic view 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 expectation that reading and researching are enough. Plus, with a healthy dose of time and a list of current symptoms google will reveal the solution. Google has now become “Dr. Google”.

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 produce poor outcomes: years of suffering with marginal results that often push them to choose surgery or the conventional solution they originally were trying to avoid.

This happens 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 - as most do.

Google doesn’t teach women how to think and approach their health in this way. And that’s because Google is not a medical school magically transforming users into experts after untold time and use!

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).

The point of the MCAT is to ensure future doctors have adequate thinking and conceptualization skills to improve the body. (Or provoke healing, as is possible when working with integrative approaches.)

Do women have the conceptual understanding and analytical skills to help their body?

Absolutely! (So many of us are doctors, midwives, NP’s and other health practitioners!)

But, women using google as their primary source of information start at the end of the training instead of the beginning because body literacy is the missing component of what I call DIY-healthcare - the modern approach to balancing hormones or improving health by using online search engines first.

So, let’s begin at the beginning and figure out how to create powerful shifts that provoke tangible and sustainable well-being.

Photo by De'Andre Bush on Unsplash

“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 experiences as filtered through the body influence 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:

  • Intuition

  • Visualization

  • Self-awareness

  • Communication

  • Problem-solving

  • Creative thinking

  • Self-advocacy

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 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 women know the answers to just a few key questions that hold secrets to their health and well-being?

  • 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 based on 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, knowing that childhood traumas make women more prone to abdominal and pelvic floor health conditions.

If women don’t address the foundation of who they are, they can’t fix their symptoms.

Am I suggesting every woman become a doctor? No. We need women in all capacities and industries to be a healthy society and world.

Nor do I recommend attending medical school.

Instead, I demand that women develop the mindset of a doctor so they can help themselves - for real, for real!. They need a clear picture of what it really takes to get better by using an approach that corresponds with their body’s organic way of working.

Sis, if that’s important to you because you want to...

  • Empower yourself within the conventional health system

  • Need changes that work because 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, in a certain order, and the proper application of that information to your mind, body, and spirit.

Photo by Christin Humin on Unsplash

And, body literacy is the key and the starting point.

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 - as if that isn’t empowering enough!

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.)

As you build self-awareness through reading targeted material, search for a practitioner who advocates for body literacy too. Listen with your heart as well as your intelligence to “see” with your mind’s eye if they respect the knowledge you’ve gained. The right practitioner for you will welcome what you’ve learned since you can’t create a proper treatment plan in a vacuum of medical knowledge alone. (Uhmmm, Dr. Google.)

So, what are you going to read first? Your body’s waiting.