Time and time again, I endeavor to begin a health journey with a client (most of my clients are women). They are smart, accomplished women that want to get better. Often, there is some inner hesitation. They may ask themselves “how is my family going to accept me going gluten free? How am I going to find the time to prepare new recipes? Does this mean I have to make a separate meal for myself each time we eat? Can I afford this new food and supplements?” Yes, yes and hopefully more yes! Know not only that you are amazing, but also please know you are worth it.
When I was giving birth to my first daughter, the pain went on for so long that somehow I became numb to it. It was over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and onto the 26th until finally at 4:00 am on the 26th, my sweet girl joined the world. I hadn’t slept in over 48 hours, lost more than a moderate amount of blood from hemorrhaging and was utterly spent.
Viewed from a distance at a one -dimensional perspective, this experience would be a veritable prophylactic for all newlyweds. What was so seemingly harrowing however was one of the most nurturing, supportive and comforting experiences in my life. What made the difference? Women. My caregivers. Not all over me like white on rice checking the physicality of my birth, but doling out empathy, nourishment and genuine compassion when I needed it the most.
My husband accompanied me at my first appointment and I was so glad he did. Glad because they made a point of telling him that I would need to take it easy, that I would need plenty of nurturing, support and recuperation time after the birth. Oh how lovely that someone else told him that – because gee how much would it mean coming from me?? Every appointment was a gift to myself that I was somehow bestowed. They took such amazing care of me and at my birth- they cooked for me, made me smoothies and comforted me. Being treated so wonderfully felt amazing. Then it ended. I went home to an empty house (during the day) with a new baby, needing badly to heal from a wild and tedious birth. No nurturing women anymore. The nuclear family had somehow become a weapon of mass destruction for my health.
What’s the point of re-hashing my birth story? It has to do with compassion. Compassion that we must get from other people to heal and we also have to give ourselves in life. Cooking a fresh wholesome meal, meeting with friends for a potluck, going for a walk on a beautiful day? Getting a massage or pedicure with a buddy? All of these things require time, time that no one seems to possess anymore. More so, women have this sense of perfectionism and the need to be responsible for everyone else. When is the last time you saw a mom with young kids play a video game alone – just for giggles?
I think in the realm of a nuclear family, women have tried their hardest to pull off being superwomen and continually putting off their needs however something has snapped. That thing is their health and it’s epidemic.
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), researchers have identified 80-100 autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases may have an autoimmune basis. Autoimmune disease is of the top ten leading causes of disease in female children and in all women up to 64 years of age. Autoimmune disease affects 8% of the total population but 78% of those are female. NIH research funding for AD in 2003 came to $591 million. In comparison, cancer funding came to $6.1 billion; and heart and stroke, to $2.4 billion (source: NIH).
From a functional medicine standpoint, autoimmunity begins in the gut – purportedly from intestinal permeability (aka – leaky gut). With intestinal permeability, you get proteins leaking from the intestine into the blood stream from which the immune system will tag it as an invader. Over time, the immune system gets suspicious of organ tissue being that same invader and will mark it for destruction. I could go on for pages on this topic – but let’s get to the meat of the matter: the health of women is failing in droves (yes, men too and that’s a whole other article J), women are busy taking care of everyone else and although they are usually great patients – they must be given the right tools to get better. Women must be given the most precious, earthly, fabulous gifts possible and that is compassion, empathy, support, space and encouragement to take time for themselves. A woman needs to know she is worthy of taking time for herself. That the world won’t come to an end, people will get through the day without her special touches.
A massage can be physically indicated and may not necessarily be a luxury. Acupuncture can be a vital part to your healing equation. You sitting alone in bed at night to journal may be indelibly linked to re-connecting with that young girl who once had awesome life dreams and adventures planned for herself. A woman who suspends her perceived self worth based on how well she responds to the needs of others, is showing compassion for herself. I can’t dispute that we have an innate desire to care for others, but how well can we do that if our own health is failing? We may not be able to find the Oz of female comfort in our modern day lifestyles, but having the support we need is priceless for our own feelings of self worth. It can very well give us the strength we need to make those insanely irritating but much needed changes to our lifestyles.