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by Moira Fitzpatrick, PhD, ND, FICPP, CHT
Art by Alphonse Mucha PD-1923
May named for the goddess Maia is the Goddess of Spring, growth, love, sexuality, life, rebirth and the beauty of the plants all around. It is no wonder we honor women as we watch the flowers burst forth and marvel at the signs of new life.
Women are cyclical beings in tune with the moon, the seasons and the tides. The journey of a young woman begins with menarche, the first period. What if we honored and celebrated this day with our daughters, nieces, granddaughters? Menstrual empowerment is the beginning of young women learning to embrace their cycles, honor their bodies, sexuality and intuition. Our menstrual period comes gently and sometimes in a storm to remind us to take time, to go within and listen to what we need. There are plants to support us as we weather the storms of menses, yet, if we listen we learn to become attuned to our bodies, ourselves. An empowered woman learns to set boundaries and engages in sexual relations of her choosing as well as learning how to ask for what she needs. Obligation rather than sexual desire as is sometimes reflected in our western society sets the stage for inflammation and vaginal irritation. As a doctor, I often look for the deeper imbalance as I treat vaginitis, urinary tract infections and menstrual irregularities.
I think of our ovaries as symbolic of our creativity. This includes the receptivity of the egg to sperm and a resulting baby and, also works of art, businesses, projects, etc. We are inherently born to allow our creativity and its power to come through us. Attunement to the menstrual cycle is a constant reminder to look within and listen. It is a time to support young women in learning to love themselves.
Preparing for pregnancy is an opportunity for both mom and dad to focus on their own nutrition, balance in their lives and a time to release unwanted habits and stress. Pregnancy itself is a time for quality care, education and bonding with the developing fetus. A low glycemic diet, supplemented with a prenatal multiple vitamin, plus vitamin D, omega-3-fatty acids, especially DHA to support the brain development of your baby is foundational. Giving birth can be supported through visualization, meditation and hypno-birthing to support mom in partnering with her baby for an easier transition to this world.
Peri-menopause is a transition typically occurring between age 45 and 55. It is a time of menstrual irregularity when estrogen becomes dominant due to decreased ovulation. It is not uncommon for women who have struggled with PMS or postpartum depression to struggle during this transition. The most important hormone during this transition is cortisol, which is a stress hormone produced by the adrenals. Since peri-menopause is a transition, an imbalance in the body, it is stressful. When a woman enters this phase of life already stressed, then the transition becomes more challenging. The typical scenario for a woman, who is stressed and entering peri-menopause is low DHEA and fluctuating cortisol. When stressed cortisol rises, so does your appetite resulting in increased weight in the mid-section. DHEA helps us recover from stress. The first step is to balance the brain-adrenal connection. We often use adaptogens, herbs that grow in stressful climates, who have learned to cope with stress. We get the benefit of the plants experience to help us. Peri-menopause is an opportunity to resolve long-standing problems opening the door to making ourselves our number one priority.
Many women go through the peri-menopausal transition with ease. Others experience hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, hormonal migraines, breast tenderness and heavy menses. Others struggle with fibroids, painful intercourse, loss of libido, frequent urination, dry skin, bone loss, insomnia and forgetfulness. It is essential to seek support from a healthcare practitioner who listens and is willing to support you. You can support yourself through this time of imbalance through nutrition, focusing on fish, vegetables, fruit, legumes, organic soy if you are able to digest it, flaxseed and the cruciferous vegetables kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts. If these vegetables cause gas or bloating, then stop. Supplements and herbs during this time depend on where you are in the transition. Foundational supplements include vitamin D, omega-3-fatty acids and bioflavonoids, which typically come from berries and citrus. Bio-identical hormones are a safe option for most women. It is essential to have a complete evaluation and physical by your healthcare practitioner before starting hormones.
This journey through menopause is an opportunity to reclaim our bodies, love ourselves and choose to become our number 1 priority. Typically, the children have moved on and there we are asking ourselves, what is meaningful to me? How do I want to create this next chapter in my life? As a wise woman, we learn to have compassion for ourselves, forgive and align with our souls, the essence of who we are. We become empowered to teach as our light shines and touches those who we meet on this journey of life.