“The major challenge for women is that we have knotted ourselves so firmly into the awkward, rhythmless, dissonant, societal system that we can barely breathe — much less think of breaking free from it.” ~ Maya Tiwari in “Women’s Power to Heal”
Women. We feel something is missing. Some of us are shut-down around what has been lost. Frozen. Numbed. Some of us lash out in anger. Some of us implode under the pressure. Some of us feel deep grief. Some of us feel afraid.
And then … some of us are beginning to wake up and and fiercely reclaim what has been lost.
Some of us are becoming what we have always longed for … ourselves. I truly feel that the dark feelings and emotions are actually paving the way for our growth and determination … and revealing to us the answers to our own health issues.
No matter where we are in our process of becoming a whole woman, a whole human being, we share the same story. That is the story of self-discovery. It’s the story of waking up in our skin and discovering that this is all we’ve got and it’s enough. Onward.
One of the core aspects of initiating womanhood is beginning to menstruate. Traditional and indigenous cultures across the planet reflect back to us rites of passage that we have lost touch with. In their essence, it was a time when a young woman becomes powerful.
Unfortunately, because of the nature of the “power” rising up into the womb of a woman…cultures have responded in two ways. Mostly, communities regard this as a positive time for women and they are supported, nurtured, and encouraged to embrace the experience. While other cultures punish, banish, or stigmatize women.
Either way, it’s clear that it is a pivotal moment for young women. Something has shifted and the shift is powerful enough to evoke a marked response in one’s community.
Deep inside we know it is a powerful time. We know. And, it’s ours. It’s our right and responsibility to acknowledge this moment and prepare a young woman for her journey into womanhood. It’s time to reclaim this moment for our daughters and our daughter’s daughters.
When a young woman begins to bleed, the energy from the earth moves up into her womb. It resides there so that she can create. She can create life. She can create art, food, projects, dreams, and visions. She learns to access her intuition.
I have been taught that when women go through menopause, energy begins to move up from the womb, along the central energy channel, to her third eye and crown. There is almost a “scrubber” effect of the energy as it moves upward. It hits obstacles and debris in the energy body (see chakra energy system for more details) on its way up (thus hot flashes, irritability, various emotional states, fatigue, etc). Some women have very few symptoms of the menopausal shift, though. I sense this is because there was very little “debris” in their energy body.
When women emerge from menopause, they enter into periods of heightened spiritual contemplation, community involvement, and even activism. These are the women we call “firebrands” and they are essential for the health and vitality of the human community. In many cultures, women who no longer bleed become shamans, community leaders and elders, and spiritual guides.
Why am I writing all of this?
I wanted to offer my perspective of the important role of ovulation and menstruation in women’s healthy development. I wanted to write about the need for a rite of passage for the three important states of womanhood: menarche, creatress, and elder or crone.
Considering that we have about 1 hysterectomy a minute in the US (590,000 a year), I have to pause. Pause and wonder. How have we come to this?
Because of the hormone-sensitive tissues of our reproductive organs, they have become a hot-bed of concern when it comes to cancer. Many women simply feel that it is in their best interest to get a hysterectomy than keep her own woman bits intact. Considering the size of certain uterine fibroids and the pain of polycystic ovarian conditions, I don’t blame them.
But, what is the cause? And, can we … at least … prepare our daughters for something better? Will hysterectomies become a new rite of passage or can we help them stay intact? Can we give them the choice?
I think we can. I think we are indebted to our daughters. While no one has the answers, we have enough to go on to start SOMEWHERE. And, that’s enough to begin the conversation. Many have been educating and speaking on this topic for a long time.
We know that our environment is now full of xeno-estrogens (or manmade estrogens) that exacerbate symptoms in a probably estrogen-dominant culture of women. Our livers can be taxed with the burden of processing toxins, which disables its ability to properly eliminate used estrogen from the body (thus estrogen builds up in the blood. Unlike our hunter-gatherer ancestors, women are starting to bleed earlier and go through menopause later … along with not breast-feeding for the normal 3-4 years … we basically are bleeding more than we ever have in a life-span.
Further, 0ur systems are flooded with stress, causing our HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis to become off-balance, raising adrenaline levels and then cortisol levels in the blood if left unchecked. This can cause a host of problems from increased antibody production to dysregulated inflammation and immune response (see Nakazawa’s book “Childhood Disrupted” for more information, starting on p 89).
This combination of factors can cause great discord in a woman’s body. I want to provide some of my favorite books, resources, and tools to aid you in your journey to finding balance in your body.
Let me begin by quoting this informative article by the Society for Menstrual Research:
“Ovulation is not just about making a baby. It’s also the main hormonal event in a menstrual cycle, and the only way to make estrogen and progesterone. When we shut down ovulation with hormonal birth control, we rob girls of the hormones they need for metabolism, bone health, cardiovascular health, mood, and more.
Girls who take synthetic pseudo-hormones via the Pill lose the ability to produce their own hormones. Pseudo-hormones have some similarities to real human hormones, but they also have many differences. For example, the progestin levonorgestrel causes hair loss, but the body’s own progesterone stimulates hair growth. The progestin drospirenone increases the risk of blood clots, but progesterone improves cardiovascular health. Ethinylestradiol, the synthetic estrogen in the Pill, impairs insulin sensitivity , but estradiol improves it. These synthetic hormones do not have the health benefits of the human hormones they replace.”
Womancode by Alissa Vitti (who cured herself of PCOS) – she teaches you how to restore your body’s natural intelligence by a) stabilizing your blood sugar, b) nurturing your adrenals, c) supporting your organs of elimination, d) cross-training your menstrual cycle, and e) engaging your feminine energy
Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler is a classic (hence the release of the 10th edition) – many women, including me, have used this to tune into how their bodies function as well as work on contraception OR conception by tapping into their body’s intelligence
Down There by Susun Weed is on its way to becoming a classic – if you want to understand how plant medicine and traditional food ways can deepen your relationship with your body, then I highly recommend this book
Some of my favorite tips, herbs, advice for women’s reproductive health:
DIM supplementation has been very useful for many women who are estrogen dominant.
Burdock root is an excellent tonic (nourishing) and alterative herb for almost any reproductive irregularity. With its slightly bitter and sweet taste, it works on the liver to cool it down while supporting liver function. It also is nourishing and building to the blood. A food stuff in most Asian countries, this naturalized weed is a plant you want to get to know! You can decoct (simmer) the roots for 20 minutes and sip on its earthy, nourishing properties. You can cook with (saute) or pickle/ferment the roots. You can also buy it in tincture form or make your own.
Exercise 4-5 times a week for 20-30 minutes at least. Alternate walking with sprinting and incorporate some stretching.
For stress reduction, explore guided meditations or simply sit and meditate on your own. 5-10 minutes a day can greatly reduce the impact of stress on your system.
Tap into creative expression when you can!
Listen to your body when it comes to food. Cut out processed foods. Eat foods in their whole form whenever possible. Vegetables, pastured meats, wholesome fats, fresh fruits, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains can make a world of difference on how your body functions.
That’s all for now…go with the flow (smile).