Written by Emma McLaughlin, Integrative Naturopath
The 3rd to 7th September is Women’s Health Week and raising awareness with women that health is an important priority in life and moving it from the bottom of your to-do-list to the top is definitely a wise move to make.
80% of people who seek naturopathic support for their health are women and over 50% of my clients are looking for support directly relating to hormones, stress, energy and vitality.
Complementary medicine with focus on nutrition, lifestyle support and the use of herbal and nutritional supplementation can help people to reach their health goals in a holistic and fulfilling way.
The Modern Superwoman
I think most of us can relate to this one on some level. We work hard, raise kids, run households and kick goals. Female equality has opened so many doors for us to pursue our ideal life, however the end result for many of us is that we develop “rushing woman's syndrome” resulting in exhaustion, burnout or just keeping our heads above water.
Removing the ‘stressors’ from that situation would mean packing up our kids and quitting our jobs, not a reality (occasionally a fantasy), however understanding how to effectively and efficiently support your body can mean the difference between sink or swim.
Adaptogenic and nervine herbs, good quality B vitamins; a balanced diet with plenty of good quality protein, high in vegetables, good quality fats and appropriate carbohydrates; small periods of ‘resetting’ your parasympathetic nervous system with breath and yoga and regular exercise are great starting points.
Periods can tell you a lot about your hormonal health and balanced hormones equate to a balanced woman. A naturopath will ask you lots of questions about your menstrual cycle and for good reason - How long is your cycle? How many days do you menstruate? Are your periods light or heavy? PMS? Pain? Breast tenderness? Mid-cycle spotting? Skipped periods? Libido?
It is fascinating that we have been led to believe that period pain and heavy bleeding are ‘normal’ and something that we should put up with, despite the fact that it impacts daily life and can leave many women anaemic and exhausted.
A ‘normal’ period in fact should:
Not cause extreme pain (a little pelvic heaviness is normal, and a one off painful period is not a drama)
Be 28 days in length, give or take a couple of days
Include a bleed of 3-5 days - usually heavier the 1st couple of days and tapering off
Only include a couple of days of minor mood change in the lead up (depression, anxiety, uncontrollable teariness or anger, a week or more of PMS is not normal. A little household shake up to let people know what you think and what you are not putting up with is likely healthy and productive - let your husband know)
Not be something you dread each month
Diet, exercise and stress relief are vitally important here too, however I feel this is where our medicinal herbs truly come into their own. The careful balancing act of reducing oestrogen, promoting progesterone and getting testosterone just right can be skillfully guided by your naturopath leaving you with a hop, skip and a jump all the way through the month. We also have some pretty amazing tests available to determine exactly what those hormones are doing and how to tame them.
This is a group of women I truly love to work with. Despite the suspicious looks I might at first receive being a 30-something female with no true understanding of what it is like to experience ‘the change’, the results women get from small lifestyle suggestions and skillful herbal support is so highly rewarding.
Menopause is not a disease or disorder. It is a transformational chapter in one’s life where hormones shift dramatically and for some women the symptoms associated with this can be highly disruptive on a daily basis. Uncomfortable temperature changes, restless nights, low energy, anxiety and physical body changes can all be ameliorated with Naturopathic HRT (herbal rescue therapy), a great alternative to medical HRT and without the side effects.
As naturopaths, we aim to ease women through this transition with tools that have been used so successfully for centuries and are even more relevant now in modern times.
I couldn’t finish this post without a mention of the mums we support on the other side of giving birth. Not confined to the early days either. Postnatal depletion can occur for mothers with children up to the age of 10. While a percentage of mums spring back without a worry, there are more of us who struggle with fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, hormonal and mood disturbances that we didn’t experience pre-children. Several members of our team here have a special interest in supporting mums through this journey so that it is a time enjoyed, rather than endured.
Have a Naturopathic Practitioner on Your Team
Seeing a naturopath on a regular basis (we recommended once a month for most women) can help you to outline your health goals, understand what may be impacting on your health and to come up with a practical plan. Monthly follow up consults ensure you stay on track (think of us as your coach and cheer squad in one) and ensure you are a part of your own health education in a way that is both supportive and empowering.