Are You At Risk of Starting Menopause Early?

Are you in your 30’s and experiencing changes in temperature? Do you wake up in the night between 3-4am? Has the rhythm of your period changed? Is your bladder less reliable than it used to be?

 That got your attention, didn’t it?

All of these symptoms in a woman below 45 most often indicate that you are running yourself too hard! They are likely signs of what Chinese Medicine calls “yin deficiency”.  It can also be understood as “stress,” but it is more nuanced than that.

When we are young women we need to be careful not to burn out all of our yin essence, even though we may feel like we are capable of anything and everything. Women are excellent at stepping into the fast pace of life, competing in the job market, creating a career path and setting sights on motherhood. But we need to be attentive to our bodies, our hormones, and our yin through every phase of life so that we set ourselves up for a smooth next chapter.

Many women in my practice have spent their 20’s burning the candle at both ends, waiting until they are in their late 30’s to try for pregnancy, and then having a hard time. For those who do get pregnant in their 30’s, and then embark on the busy path of working and raising children, they end up in my office with insomnia, night sweats, and anxiety. When this stage of life is not well tended to, they reach menopause and the night sweats are worse! The anxiety is worse! The incontinence gets really bad. And forget any desires for intimacy or restorative connection with their partners: they are fried.

This can all be prevented.

It is music to my ears when a woman in her 20’s comes in and tells me “I am not ready for kids, but I want them one day and I want to make sure it happens easily when I am ready. How can we be sure my body is healthy and balanced now so that in 5-10 years I can slip right into an easy conception, pregnancy, and motherhood?”

Or, when a woman comes in and tells me she’s about to have her first child and she wants to know how to help her pelvis and vulva heal after the birth, to make sure her bladder and uterus return to where they should be.  She wants to insure that her pelvic bowl regains it’s strength and balance as well as to prevent any future imbalances in hormones or tissue integrity. She is thinking ahead, recognizing that care needs to be taken for the health of her future.

When we do start the peri-menopausal process, usually in our early to mid-40’s,  some of us start to notice little signs that perhaps we didn’t tend to our bodies as closely as we should have. When the hormones begin to shift, our connective tissue and smooth muscles can behave differently. This can show itself in reduced flexibility and reduced elasticity, and can also show up as bladder incontinence. The ways in which we did not take care of ourselves will begin to reveal themselves as we begin to undergo this change.

One of the key pieces of advice I have for women is to anticipate what is down the road and do not take for granted just how thin you can spread yourself in your youth. We are not built to lead the pace of life that we do. We all must rebel against it with fierce self-care. Take the time and devote the energy to nourishing your yin.

How do I nourish my yin, you ask? Oh, you will like these suggestions:

 ·      Slow down! Cut one or two errands out of your schedule everyday. Allow yourself to stop running around.

·      Your device – I need not say more!

·      Turn down the lights around 7pm and keep the house quieter and darker.

·      Hang out next to the water, amongst the trees, and in the garden.

·      Sit and stare at the sky.

·      Lie on the earth.

·      Practice BE-ing instead of DO-ing.

·      Eat good quality protein and minimize raw foods, especially as the weather cools down.

·      Rest your mind: no planning, no list making, no device, no reading. Just notice where you are, what you hear, the feeling of the air on your skin.

·      Take a bath (and add soothing smells and bath salts).

·      Play an instrument (even if you are no good!).

·      Weave, paint, craft.

·      Get acupuncture, cranio-sacral work, or an abdominal massage.

·      What else can you think of?

 The gist of this article is to say that as women, we go through 3 major phases of life: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. If we do not care well enough for ourselves in one stage, the next stage will likely be more difficult. Listen to your body. Think ahead. Do not assume the gifts of youth will be there for you to ease the transition into the next phase. Nurture yourself now as an investment in your life to come.

On Facing Pain

I am going on year 2 of intense episodic back and leg pain. Well, to be fair, I am going on year 24 but there were many years in there where my life was not characterized by managing my back pain. Although, to be fair again, many of those years were characterized by surviving brutal monthly cycles with endometriosis. I had not realized just how much serious pain I have dealt with since I was a teenager until I was leaving my friend's acupuncture clinic 2 weeks ago and she said "Wow, you really have had some significant health challenges in your life, haven't you?" I don't characterize my life as such, but yes, I have had a lot to work through when it comes to inhabiting this remarkable earthly body. And the journey continues.

This article (linked below) came up in my feed this morning and I had that "so much YES!" response. There are many aspects to life in North America that just do not resonate with me and I often wonder "Why was I born on this continent?" I still have no idea because Europe has had a tug on my for the last 25 years for reasons ranging from ecological practices to healthcare to the simple practice of being more present to meal times, and more. As I read this article I realized another one. The doctor says to the author “Pain is a part of life. We cannot eliminate it nor do we want to. The pain will guide you. You will know when to rest more; you will know when you are healing. If I give you Vicodin, you will no longer feel the pain, yes, but you will no longer know what your body is telling you. You might overexert yourself because you are no longer feeling the pain signals. All you need is rest." 

I have always been hesitant to medicate my pain away, and have instead chosen to rest, to turn inward. When I was 16 and back pain left me splayed out on the field hockey pitch, never to play again, I was evaluated by a few doctors who were unable to give me any diagnosis for my pain other than "leg length discrepancy" (which was not helpful, but those docs did not have the understanding of fascia and soft tissue that we have today). As I lay in our sun room day after day, missing classes, camping trips, and field hockey practice, I kept my pain "under control" with almond sized pills, mostly Ibuprofen. After about 6 weeks of this I said "enough!" I was 16 years old and I should not be on that much medication nor should I be restricted from living a full life. Somehow (and it is literally still a mystery to me) there I was, a teenager in suburban Baltimore, Maryland with zero access to alternative health concepts, and I found myself an acupuncturist. Not only was she an acupuncturist but she was a Tibetan Buddhist nun. And she Rocked. My. World. 

I do wonder if those several months of pain killers are not what kick started my leaky gut, which triggered my celiac disease, which got the ball rolling on the endometriosis. Maybe? I will never know. But I do know that NSAIDS and opiates are not the answer for most of the ailments that most of us deal with. And I do know that we have a real problem in North America with facing our pain, facing what is uncomfortable. Why is this? Is it the deep generational pain that many of us carry from the origins of these countries? Is it the spiritual and human pain that we know in our cells from the way we treated the First Nations people? Slaves in the south? The way we STILL treat communities of non-white people? We have not dealt with our ancestral pain. Perhaps that has to do with our intolerance of so many varieties of pain we encounter in our current lives? I don't claim to have the answer, nor do I wish pain and suffering upon anyone. But we do need to stop medicating away our pain, of all kinds. My family is often marvelling at why I don't "just take something to manage the pain". Fair enough- they don't want me to suffer, just like I don't want them, or my own son to suffer in life. But they all will and I will and it is part of this wild, wonderful, brutal human experience. 

My heart hurts everyday for what I witness in the world and in the stories of pain and abuse and suffering that my patients share with me. I can't make it go away. My back hurts everyday and I am doing my best to let it lead me and teach me. I watch my young son express hurt and sadness over what he is experiencing in the world. This is a hard life and I fully realize that mine could be far more painful than it is. But I still have to push myself and those around me to face the question everyday: how can I be brave and not run away from or mask this pain? How can I let this pain teach me? 

I hope the deeper message of this simple NYT article permeates the psyche of hundreds of thousands of North Americans. We are indeed in crisis, hopefully a healing crisis, the other side of which will bring much balance. I hope. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/27/opinion/sunday/surgery-germany-vicodin.html?smid=fb-share

 

RosalieStroesser.jpg

A Delicious Autumn Recipe: Ghormeh Sabzi

For the last handful of years I have been slowly getting to know bits and pieces of Persian culture. The particular person who connects me with Persian culture has a strong affinity for healthy relationship with food, eating in a balance of flavours, textures, and qualities of food, that I think goes beyond a general cultural attention to these things. He is quick to let me know when a food I am eating seems "too hot" or "too cold" for my system. I appreciate the reminders, and certainly notice that as my body evolves with every passing year, it does become more particular to how nourishing the foods are that I consume. I crave warm and hearty foods at this time of the year, and I crave lighter, fresher foods in the spring, for example. But beyond that, I struggle with my cravings for sweet. I am constantly trying to be diligent with my intake of sweet flavours, noticing when I am lacking "sweetness" in the rest of my life, for instance, and how that triggers me to want to reach for a sweet taste to get that little hit of dopamine or opioid satisfaction that I am not getting in other parts of my life. So when I am looking at the meals I cook for myself I seek to prepare food that is nourishing and will help me stay balanced and not seeking extra sweetness afterward. I find that a hint of sour in my meals, such as this dish, really staves off that sugar craving I so often notice after I eat.

Anyway, back to the Persians. In my experience the folks I have met know how to party, they know how to mourn, they know how to do community, and boy do they know how to eat! It is difficult for me to remember the names of everything in Farsi, but this one has stuck with me because I find this dish so perfect for the fall season, and so freaking healthy! Why don't more people know about Ghormeh Sabzi!? It is rich in protein, chock full of healthy greens, loaded with fibre and tastes amazing. 

So, without further ado, and with gratitude to the amazing man who inspires me to take better care of myself, here is my slightly tweaked version of Ghormeh Sabzi. ENJOY!! 

Ghormeh Sabzi.jpg

 

  • 1 lb grass fed lamb stew meat cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1.5 tbs dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, rinsed
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed
  • 2 bunches spinach, rinsed
  • 1 medium sized leek
  • 4tbs lime juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Cooking oil: grapeseed or olive oil

Finely chop all of your greens: parsley, cilantro, and spinach. In a large skillet add 3 tbs oil and all of the greens for about 15 minutes, stirring gently. After 5 minutes add in the dried fenugreek leaves. While this cooks, finely chop your onion and leek. 

In a stockpot heat 2-3 tbs oil and add in chopped onions and sautee until translucent. Next, add in the garlic, turmeric, lamb, leek, salt and pepper to taste. Continue to sautee for about 10 minutes. 

Next add the greens, rinsed and drained kidney beans, and lime juice. Add just enough water to barely cover all of the food. Place a lid on the pot and turn heat on low/ med low. Allow this to simmer for 90 minutes- 2 hours. 

Serve over brown rice or Persian style white rice, as described here: http://www.mypersiankitchen.com/persian-rice-cooking-method/

Pleasure In The Patriarchy

I have something juicy I want to share with all of you, but I have been struggling with actually affiliating this information with myself, especially in a professional context. In examining why this has been bumpy for me, I came to realize a few things that I want to discuss here (very briefly, mind you!), before we get to the juicy bits. The subject: patriarchy.

The word "patriarchy" is one I wrestle with because I always feel like it makes men out as "bad"- bad humans, bad members of society, bad people in our history; the oppressive MAN. I have had to do my own personal assessment and dissection of this word over the last 20 years so that I can feel more comfortable using it. This is not a complete discussion of the system of patriarchy by any means, rather here is what I have come to understand so that I can use this word in a productive way. To be sure, there is more to add to this conversation, and I would welcome anyone to do so in the comments section. 

The patriarchy is a way to describe the trend in our world of the last 2,000 (or so) years toward favouring traits that are masculine such as success, competition, goal-oriented productivity, growth (namely economic), etc. Furthermore, a patriarchal value system prioritizes the males in a community for their physical strength and intellectual contributions, and in the realms of decision-making, governing, reproductive rights, education, and economics, to name a few. In short: the men hold the power. It was a long and complicated road to get here, which, while interesting, is not what I want to discuss here. And there are so many millions of men in the world who would rather we didn't allocate all of this value to men over women, and who genuinely seek balance between the masculine and feminine. We cannot confuse the controlling, ego-maniacal, out of balance men in the world who fully subscribe to and can't even comprehend the existence of a patriarchal structure because they are so steeped in the benefits of this system, with the men who want equal voices and equal rights for men and women across the globe, and who see the disparity. And we cannot confuse individual men with "the patriarchy". 

 Now, with the concept of patriarchy on the table, what would be the opposite? I think it would be a global culture that also values feminine ways of living such as slowing down to cultivate connections and community; one that places less of an emphasis on doing and more of an emphasis on being. We would appreciate beauty and good design over a structure built for function alone. We would spend more time with our emotions and would value the information we can gain from paying attention to how we feel, rather than just living from an analytical mind-set. We would enjoy our human existence more and take the focus off of success, productivity, being the fastest and coming out on top. We would place a value on how others are doing just as much as we place value on how we ourselves are doing as individuals. Lastly, but not least: we would listen to our bodies and value pleasure, an experience that we as humans know in a very unique way. 

Now I am finally getting to the point: I watched the video linked below just a few weeks ago for the first time. I wanted to share it far and wide, but I caught myself feeling shy and wondering if it was inappropriate to share. I have been sitting with this question of "why do I, a woman who spends everyday working to help women connect more deeply to their own emotions and their own pleasure, feel like it would be 'inappropriate' to share a video about female anatomy and pleasure?!"

My answer is simple: internalized patriarchy. In spite of my own ongoing cultivation of pleasure in my life (ranging from finding a beautiful flower bouquet for my table to feeding myself and my son delicious food, to delighting in sexual pleasure with my beloved) I also struggle with feeling like it is inappropriate to discuss female pleasure. And I must note, that as I write that sentence it makes my blood boil! Why does a man get to openly and freely discuss his sexual pleasure with the world and it is not okay for a woman to do so? And why, as this video notes, did we not fully understand the anatomy of the female clitoris until the last quarter of a century? And why are young people not taught about how to engage both a man and a woman in sexual pleasure? A man can sexually penetrate a woman and have robust physical pleasure, but if the woman's body is not attended to equally she will very likely get close to 0% of the pleasure he is getting. And frankly, when that happens, it just feels like these female bodies of ours are perceived to be here just for the man's use. Certainly, that is how many men view us, and sadly, what many women have also come to believe. And I have to say, that when sexual intercourse is happening and only one party is getting pleasure, it is hard not to feel used, not cared for, not valued, disrespected, and in more extreme circumstances possibly even like you have been raped. Women, I know many of you can relate. 

When we only value the masculine, we fail to see the more finely tuned, the more delicate, the more sensitive feminine aspects of life. This is very literally true, and quite symbolic I might add, in the realm of sex and sexual anatomy. When a man cannot slow down long enough to connect with his sexual partner and help her access her own pleasure, both parties are missing out. You will likely be amazed when you watch the Ted Talk below and see the extent of the female clitoris and begin to ponder for yourself the concept of female pleasure. It is time we slowed down, paid more attention to the intricacies of all that is feminine in our world, and actually allow ourselves to feel the nuance of life that is evident when the energies of masculine and feminine (and yes, males and females too) actually spend time dancing together, feeling one another, and attuning to the beauty that comes from balance. 

So what happens to our world when we start to openly discuss female pleasure? What happens to us internally when we push ourselves to see and vocalize that women have been overwhelmingly neglected (and outright abused) in our sexuality for centuries? How might both men and women be transformed by our engagement with female pleasure? 

Finally, here is a little educational short for you. Enjoy! 

The Voice of Intuition and Your Pelvis

Recently a friend linked to a fantastic blog post by another local woman in the healing arts: Rachel Warrington. She articulates with such rawness and beauty the connection between our intuition and our pelvis.  "Intuition comes from the same place in your energetic system where feelings and desire sit, which in the way I have learned to see it is the sacral chakra."

When I work with women during a Mayan Abdominal Therapy session or Holistic Pelvic Care, I know that part of what is happening is that the woman is finding more connection with her intuition. Often we come to a clinic in search of physical healing (organ prolapse, fertility struggles, painful sex) but when it comes to addressing physical complaints of the female pelvis, we return to the magnificent depths of our very own intuition, passion, and wisdom. So many of my patients come in after having seen a physio or another mechanically-oriented pelvic floor therapist, but they still feel out of balance. That is because there is a piece missing: the energetic and emotional patterns that affect the muscles and fascia.

After studying the human energy system in a 2 year intensive (and ongoing studies thereafter), and then learning these physico-energetic techniques to take care of our pelvises, I fully agree with Rachel's words and could not have articulated it better. Please enjoy her blog post here: 

https://www.yarrowhealingarts.com/single-post/2017/07/20/A-Ramble-on-Intuition

 

Artwork by Andrew Trimmer

Artwork by Andrew Trimmer

Women, Boundaries, and Autoimmune Disease

In the last few years my practice has taken a turn toward women's pelvic health. Specifically, I practice something called Holistic Pelvic Care (a la Tami Kent, who wrote "Wild Feminine", among other fantastic books), which is a form of pelvic floor physiotherapy that takes into account the energetic and emotional components of pelvic floor dysfunction, menstrual complaints, infertility, and more. In doing this work, I spend an awful lot of time hanging out with women's second chakras. Guess what happens at the level of the second chakra? BOUNDARIES! 

From a physiologic standpoint the area of the second chakra, which is essentially the pelvic region, our body is dealing on a very functional level with boundaries. We have the intestines running through the pelvis, where our body is determining whether the substances in the intestines are worthy of being absorbed, or need to be kept out of the bloodstream. Are there microorganisms that need to be kept out of the bloodstream? What needs to be made "mine" and what needs to remain "not mine?" Here we have the epicenter of "Me/ Not Me." 

One concept I bring to women's attention during our pelvic sessions is that we also have, here in the pelvis, a tremendous capacity for receiving (the uterus receives sperm and potentially an embryo, the bladder receives urine, the descending colon and rectum receive waste). We have a capacity for holding all of these things, and then we have an inherent wisdom to know the right timing for letting go. In all of these processes is, once again, the discernment of "Me/ Not Me." Beyond the very physical, this also happens on an energetic level, which is quite significant in the female system. Because we are built to grow and birth babies, our immune system must have the flexibility to accept a "foreign" body and support that little being until it is ready for the outside world. We are built to allow the presence of "not me". But we are also, sadly, trained by our culture to allow for the energetic presence/ burdens of "not me" and we carry a lot of "stuff" for other people. 

This morning a very old, dear friend sent this blog post to me: https://drfloriewild.com/2017/06/15/your-beautiful-sexy-boundaries/ , which thrilled me because this conversation needs to be spread like wildfire through our communities of women. I could fully relate to this author's experience of my complete and total inability to honour my own boundaries in my first marriage. My ex-husband would push and push and push and, for someone who had very weak boundaries to begin with, it didn't take long before I relented. Granted, I learned to fight being married to (and divorcing!) him, which helped me to gain a sense of what it felt like to really establish, hold, and honour my own boundaries. But at the end of it all, I think I could have learned to set my own boundaries in a far less dramatic way had I been exposed to this conversation 10 years ago. And what would our marriage have been like if I were able to stand up for myself in a more clear manner? 

In any case, our marriage hit the skids and things were nuts. I had completely lost myself and I remember standing in our kitchen, talking with my brilliant ND, Dr Dick Thom, and saying "if I stay I am going to become very sick with an autoimmune disease." I just knew that there was trouble brewing in my system. While I had no lab analysis to confirm this, I knew the voice of my intuition booming through, and she was not to be ignored. 

In the following months I continued to struggle to find my voice, to stand up for myself, to honour that wisdom within that was telling me to hold steady, to persist in the separation that we had both agreed to, and slowly, slowly I felt my system stabilize. However, it was not until almost a year later that I entered into my 2 year training in human energy systems when I was actually able to cement this understanding of just how hugely significant boundaries truly are for a woman's health physiology. My teacher, Lynda Caesara, helped our class through various exercises in "me/ not me" so many times that I finally gained a felt sense of where I end and other people's energies begin, and I started to actively heal. 

In these very difficult years of marriage, childbearing, divorce, and running a women's health natural medicine practice, I have gained tremendous appreciation for all that women take on, all that they endure, and the profound ways in which our bodies say "Enough!". For the lucky ones, something clicks early enough that they seek help before they develop full blown disease or dysfunction. But most of us are not that keen, not that lucky, or just don't know that we have healing to do. My guess, based on the experiences of my friends, colleagues, and most of all hundreds of patients, is that nearly every woman has some work to do around "me/ not me". 

In my practice I have found various homeopathic and herbal remedies, along with nutrient therapies, to help the physiologic process of re-establishing boundaries. And from a more energetic standpoint I find Holistic Pelvic Care to be tremendously helpful in helping women to gain a stronger connection to their pelvis and innate sense of connection to themselves and their own capacity to determine "me/not me". If you don't have access to these resources, my assignment for you is to practice the exercise that Dr. Florie Wild wrote about in her blog (linked above), check in with yourself, find your own voice, and spend some time clearing out the "stuff" you are carrying around (very likely in your pelvis) so that you can come back to a more distilled essence of who you came here to be. 

 

The Birth Control Pill: The Dark Side of "Easy" Contraception

The birth control pill is being misused by modern medicine. Did you know this? As women in our sexual partnerships, we are typically saddled with the conundrum of how to prevent pregnancy. In our modern world there is still not a viable contraception option that will take some of the responsibility (and physiologic burden) off of the woman… yet. When women come into my office and are on the birth control pill (or “OCP”, the oral contraceptive pill) I simultaneously sigh in exasperation and also feel my heart going out to this woman: I know your struggle. We have no easy options!

With that said, I still feel very strongly about women not choosing OCP’s as their form of contraception, but even more so that women do not start the Pill as a tool for managing other symptoms. Here is where we start to see it being applied ignorantly and inappropriately. When an MD puts a woman on the Pill to address symptoms of heavy bleeding, acne, mood swings, etc. it really gets my goat! I feel strongly that if women knew all of the reasons I land on this side of the debate, they, too, would shift their thinking. So, I am here to share with you my passionate case for why NOT to take OCP’s.

First, let’s just get an understanding of what a menstrual cycle is about. As my colleague, Dr. Julia Christensen, ND said “the menstrual cycle, also known as the moon cycle, exists as the result of an orchestrated symphony involving many hormone pathways from the brain to the ovaries.” Beautifully stated. Women’s bodies are quite complex. The pituitary gland (in the brain) communicates with the ovaries constantly, but the waves of hormones vary, depending on where you are in your cycle. From the day you bleed (day 1) until the day you ovulate (roughly day 14), your body is in an estrogen dominant state. This estrogen dominant state stimulates a lovely thickening of the uterine wall to provide a nice home for a fertilized egg to implant should fertilization occur.

When you ovulate, your ovaries are stimulated to release an egg by the hormone luteinizing hormone (LH), which is released from the pituitary gland and triggers the shift in the ovary to send that egg on down the fallopian tube. As that egg makes it’s way, your ovaries shift gears and release progesterone. Now, from day 14 to day 28 (or so) your body will be in a progesterone dominant state. This is the hormone that will be supportive of early pregnancy, so the first few weeks after an egg has been fertilized. If no fertilization occurs, the egg will not implant (which causes a whole new cascade of hormones) and the body will peak at a high level of progesterone on day 21 of your cycle, and then it will begin to fall. The reason you bleed around day 28 is because that rich thickening of tissue that developed during the estrogenic portion of your cycle, and was nourished by the presence of progesterone during the second half, is suddenly deprived of hormonal stimulation when the progesterone levels fall. The bleed is due to progesterone withdrawal.

Got all of that? Good. Now, for The Pill:

To start, if you are on OCP’s to “regulate” your cycle, be not fooled! They are not actually regulating your cycle. The Pill does not regulate your menstrual cycle.

The Pill is inducing a state much like pregnancy, which means that you are not ovulating. This means that this whole “symphony” of hormonal conversation between your brain and your glands is not happening. This means, therefore, that you are not actually cycling. Your body is not in its normal, natural state.

So what about if you are on the OCP to help with acne, mood swings, PMS, endometriosis, PCOS, or any other symptom? The Pill is not addressing the cause of any of these issues. In fact, the Pill is masking the underlying cause of these issues, and disturbingly, might be making all of these worse.  Each of these symptoms indicates that some other aspect of your physiology is off. The possibilities range from adrenal dysregulation, liver congestion, gastro-intestinal imbalances, nutrient malabsorption, stress responses, and more.

Here are more interesting facts about OCP’s:

·      They disrupt the healthy balance of gut bacteria and can contribute to intestinal permeability and inflammation. We need healthy gut bacteria to have a healthy immune system, to break down food and properly absorb nutrients, to metabolize hormones (Estrogen & testosterone, as well as thyroid hormones), and to maintain a healthy metabolism. [1]

·      The combination of the Pill inducing an estrogen dominant state and the disruption of the gut bacteria (which leads to an ineffective clearance of excess estrogens) leads to an overall estrogen dominant state of being for a prolonged period of time, which can lead to symptoms such as ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, heavy bleeding (especially once the Pill is discontinued), mood swings, and weight gain.

·      Thyroid hormone binding globulin is increased on the Pill, which means that your body experiences a hypothyroid state. This can lead to weight gain, moodiness, lack of energy, hair loss, dry skin, and several other symptoms. [2],[3]

·      Sex hormone binding globulin is also increased, which binds up sex hormones and makes the body unable to use them. This includes testosterone, which is essential for your sense of drive in the world, for mood and interest in life, healthy muscle mass, and for libido.

·      From a nutrient standpoint, OCP’s interfere with many of the essential ingredients for a healthy body. Levels of B6 (required for healthy neurotransmitters and a balanced mood), magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, and selenium. [4] It can also increase iron and copper, which can cause agitation and anxiety-like symptoms.

So, at the end of the day, now you can see the mess that I see when a patient sits down and tells me she has been on the Pill. As I noted, I understand how difficult it can be to choose a method of contraception. However, when the Pill is used to treat any other symptom the body is presenting, it is just sloppy medicine, in my opinion. Not only does it fail to address what is really being communicated by the body, it is very likely exacerbating the root of the issue and many, many more physiologic functions beyond that.

For help in getting off the Pill and repairing your gut, hormone balance, metabolism, thyroid function, fertility, and anything else that may have gotten out of whack, find a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, licensed acupuncturist/ Chinese herbalist, or functional medicine doctor. And remember to ask any prescribing doctor whether the medication they are giving you is helping your body to heal, or if it is just a band-aid to cover up symptoms. Ultimately, it is your choice as to whether or not symptom management is your end-goal, but I encourage people to really understand what they are putting into their bodies and why. As a doctor my job is to educate you about what your symptom picture means and help you to understand what your options are for returning to a balanced state. If I have not done that, then I have not done my job.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26658991

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1219185

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12521654

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22224344

On "Yinning"

The solstice is drawing near. The season of yin is fully surrounding us. I was joking with a friend this evening, as I lay in the warm bath, that I was “yinning”. It has become my favorite activity of late, this “yinning.” Yinning, for me, includes long baths, cooking in a relaxed and inspired manner, following the flow of my 5 year old at play and in his curiosity, knitting, sitting by the fire, and listening to the rain on the roof, among other things. It is pretty awesome!

I am a Naturopathic Doctor and, not only does this job mean managing a lot of patients and their health concerns, but it also means being self-employed, which, for those of you who don't know, is a tiring, never-ending job. Because of several moves in the 8 years I have been in private practice, I have effectively become an expert in starting and developing small alternative healthcare practices/ businesses. To do this, each and every time, required me to be in what I will call a very “yang” mode of living. I had to go out, make connections, network, explain my work, promote my practice, advertise, market, and be “presentable” at all times. In Lissa Rankin and Christiane Northrup’s words, I was being “spermy.” Effectively, for a woman, this type of lifestyle can deplete the yin in our systems if we are not careful. I was not careful.

When I read Lissa Rankin’s book (The Anatomy of A Calling) this fall I was highly amused by her analogy of choosing whether or not we want to be “spermy” or “eggy” in the world. In recent years I have been grappling with my own masculine and feminine natures. Becoming a mother in the midst of trying to start and run a medical practice essentially meant that I had this constant tug urging me to stop being the way I had been all of my life: “spermy.” I pursued academics and my career, I went for my dreams, I pursued the people I wanted to date, I made shit happen and it was awesome! But there came a time when “making shit happen” no longer worked. It just has not worked for me in the last few years. Honestly, some days it has me quite baffled.  The message that comes through loud and clear continues to be: stop striving; be “eggy”.

So, here I sit on December 3, listening to the rain splat on the skylight, interrupting the space of silence that is my house, looking outside into the blackness, feeling soft and fresh from my long bath and allowing myself to sink into some active “yinning.” I am contemplating my practice of medicine and my business, wondering how I can continue to grow it if I am being “eggy” in my life. I have to trust that there is a greater context to this life and that the myopic focus I have taken all of these years is but a fraction of what there actually is to experience in this life. It is time for me to embrace the yin, to let my foot off the gas pedal and stop making so many plans. In the words of David Whyte, “What you can plan is too small for you to live. What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep.”

This deep urge to engage in “yinning” feels like my soul’s wisdom coming through. In the context of the upheaval in our world today, I can’t help but wonder if this compulsion to stop pushing is yet another facet of the return of the Yin, of the feminine; a divine call that is bringing us back into balance. I hear it coming from the mouths of my friends and patients, I feel it surging in women’s emotions and struggles as they present in my office, knowing that something “more” needs to happen- something very different from how they have ever lived life before. I am deeply confident that we all (men too) would benefit from some “yinning”, especially right now as we move deeper into the season of Yin.

So, find some time and some space to stop doing and allow all of your senses to open up. Allow yourself moments of silence and stillness. If you have busy children, take this time to just watch them- the stillness is within you. Take a moment to step outside and feel what the plants and trees are doing at this time of year. Notice the cool air and the darkness compelling you to slow down. Now is the time, both seasonally and in the history of our earth and our society. It is time to slow down, to take note, to break down that which is not working and to allow ourselves to see and experience what emerges, without pushing, without being too “spermy.”

Stay tuned for another post to come on what "yinning" has to do with fertility....

 

 

 

 

The Dark Goddess

There is a sound that a woman produces when she is birthing a child. The sound is not often heard outside of a birthing room. The word “deep” does not touch the profound richness and strength of this sound. The sound goes beyond the depths of the woman’s pelvis, beyond the expectant stillness in the air around her, beyond her lifetime and the lifetime of her mother and grandmothers. The sound, when it emerges, leaks a potency of feminine strength and wisdom that transcends time, space, and humanity, and reminds us of the power of life itself.

After I birthed my son- a birth that, in spite of training as a midwife and feeling deeply passionate about and connected to the birthing process, did not go as anticipated- I began to hear the roar of the feminine far off in the distance of my soul. My daily worries about earning a living and becoming a famous naturopathic doctor simply fell away. A call deeper than any economic or social structure I knew of began to tug at me, begging me to be different in the world. The word “feminism” came to mind, but it wasn’t feminism at all. I quickly realized that for me, the feminist political movement seemed to convey that I, too, can be a man. And that is not at all what this deep, dark call I was hearing was urging of me.

My son is now 5 ½. The years have been tumultuous as I found myself a single mother, efforting to make ends meet and cultivate the feminine energy within me while parenting a young boy. Eventually, my work pulled me back to the part of the human body I have so long felt fascinated with: the female pelvis. I finally answered the call to explicitly work with the female reproductive system, the pelvic bowl, and all that the organs and structures bring to light. And what has happened since then has been a watershed of information about, fascination with, and reformation from the Divine (or “dark”) Feminine.

This spring, when the news of the Brock Turner case broke in California, women all over North America became enraged. Our anger lashed out, our feminist publications screeched in dismay and disbelief and frustration. We yelled in the ways we knew how, with rage, with force, and with, what I experienced to be a very masculine energy. We screamed, quietly and not so quietly, at men, dying to be heard, dying to be seen.

This fall, I am feeling a change; the screech has become a low, potent roar. Here on the coast of British Columbia, on day 2 of severe winter storms, the skies are dark at 10am, the winds are ominously stirring the leaves outside my window promising to pummel us as we head into the weekend; the rains have been drenching us off and on for 36 hours: Mother Nature. The forces of nature are the forces of the feminine, of Mother Earth. They intimidate us, bringing about fear and questions of ‘just how much upheaval will she bring this time?’ The movement is happening, out there and within us.

This fall, Donald Trump’s true nature is being seen by all. With the revelations of this last week regarding his attitude towards women, I have felt that roar growing louder. The feminine is pissed, rightfully so. It is there, in all of us, especially women. But the power is deepening and it is calling on a timeless wisdom to help do the work. Sink into your chair for a moment, feel the weight of your own body held in your pelvis. If you have ever grown a baby or defended a child from a threat, you know how much power is in there. You know how deep that power is. Even if you have never let loose the guttural, eternal roar of moving a child from the womb, with enough patience, I am confident you will feel this energy moving.

The Dark Feminine is stirring, and the well of wisdom is cracking open. She will not move in haste., but will move slowly, deliberately, and with grace. The Dark Feminine is the Black Madonna. Is Tara. Is Kali, Lilith, Maria Lionza. As Chandra Alexandre wrote, “Darkness, indeed, is a metaphor for a deeper truth. Life, we know, is filled with beauty and pain, ecstasy and horror.” The Dark Feminine is the energy of transformation, of composting, of breaking down so that balance can return.

As we witness Donald Trump and all that he represents, it is tempting to fight against all that he is and the half-truths he espouses. In response to his rhetoric, lately I have felt that energy stirring deep within me once again, realizing that he is simply inviting, from all of us, a more powerful rising of the Dark Feminine. But, to transform one of us requires transformation within all of us. Trump's total disconnection from the feminine within himself is part of his pathology of womanizing. And I think that similar patterns might be true for many of us: disconnections from various parts of ourselves result in our own disregard or lack of vision for certain people/ situations in life. The energy of transformation calls to us from deep within and it can be scary, and it can be tempting to run the other way. 

As I sit with women and help them to release trauma, pain, and mystery from the tissues in their pelvises, I feel the stirring of the Dark Feminine. Space opens up inside of our bodies for the potency of this transformative energy, which goes far beyond the flailing, screaming behaviours of an angry person on a picket line. Another choice people make is to fully turn the other way and make the perpetrator bad/wrong/evil. While it is tempting to cast aside all the energies Trump so painfully and obnoxiously displays, I urge you to allow it to work on you and within you, allow yourself to transform that energy. Open yourself to the wisdom of The Dark Goddess and invite that roar to move through you. It is deeper and more powerful than anything we, in our modern world, can possibly conceive of. We all need to allow this energy to work in and through us. And our earth needs it now.

Countering Violence in Our World, In Ourselves

I can't take credit for either of these posts, but they are both awesome, and they both came down the pike this week. One is more for men and one is more for women, but please, no matter who you are, do read them both.

It is all brilliant! This is how I work in my practice. This is the work I encourage my female patients to do. This is the shift our world needs right now.

The world is changing; we are changing the world.

http://www.mamagenas.com/violence/

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/07/dear-men-this-is-how-we-start-a-revolution/

Every Profession Has Its Shortcomings

This weekend a former ND named Britt Hermes attempted to dismantle some of Naturopathic Medicine's credibility on a CBC interview. Unfortunately, this woman has taken upon herself this mission of discrediting a profession that has been around for over 100 years (longer than our current system of conventional medicine), and is rooted in traditional medicine that is several hundreds of years old. The ND community understands that she has a personal vendetta that not even her former friends and classmates can make sense of. While we know she witnessed someone practicing "bad medicine" along her way, we also know that there are bad doctors in every stripe of healthcare. This is an issue of poor choices made by humans, rather than an issue of an entire profession. I am sorry there is someone in the world who is carrying around so much vitriol for anything, let alone a profession about which I am passionate about. She is doing more harm to herself than to anyone else, sadly for her.

In any case, I found this article a while back and I find it inspiring, as it highlights a few of the significant contributions Naturopathic Medicine has made to the healthcare field at large. Beyond that, all I have to do is look at my patients (and my own personal history) to know that the medicine I practice is good, effective, and even profoundly healing, medicine. It works and I am proud of it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-weeks/chronicles-of-health-crea_7_b_8877798.html