In Honor of Women’s Health Week – May 8 -14, We Talk Bodies, Pregnancy, Diets, Breast Caner, Hormones, Medicine & More.
Women today are living radically different lives than their female ancestors. Modern diets and lifestyles are dramatically changed and so are our modern bodily functions. There is probably no part of our bodies more impacted than our hormones. Evolutionarily, our hormonal system is designed to facilitate pregnancy and lactation. It is not designed to be menopausal, to deal with stressful lifestyles, to withstand environmental toxins (many of which affect hormonal function), or to cope with unhealthy diets that tend to increase estrogen levels and activity leading to many estrogen-related conditions, including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease and all the gynecologic cancers – cervical, ovarian, uterine, and breast.
The science of “women’s health” is amazingly new. Until the 1980’s, there were almost no studies looking at the difference between men and women – in health or in disease. We know the anatomical differences, of course, but not the functional ones. Specific hormonal issues were just not studied, in part, because it was considered unethical to do research on women for fear they would become pregnant and be adversely affected by the research parameters. Even drugs such as hormones and oral contraceptives were initially tested on men and on animals so as not to cross this artificial barrier related to research on women.
We are just now beginning to see studies that examine how drugs work in women as opposed to men. Consequently, we are still in the earliest stages of learning the “why’s” – not only of specific female functions, but of the many diseases that have different courses in women compared to men.
For example, Rheumatoid arthritis. This disease is four to six times more likely to occur in a woman than a man. Lupus (SLE) occurs nine times more frequently in a woman. In fact, essentially all auto-immune disorders occur more frequently in women than they do in men. Lots of theories exist, but there are no solid scientifically-verified reasons as to why this is so.
With that said, here is my philosophy as it applies to women’s health.
In general, women know their bodies very well, Women are far more in tune with their bodies than men are. That is why women are also far more likely to seek out a medical opinion about changes, about something that is perceived to be abnormal, and about figuring out if what is happening is truly normal. Our modern medical paradigm tends to lead us to believe that normal functions of menstruation, pregnancy and menopause are somehow abnormal and in need of treatment. A multitude of over- the-counter products are on the shelves of pharmacies and grocery stores for dealing with menstruation. The normal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle, or even menstruation itself, are to be manipulated, treated and prevented. A few years back, the FDA declared that menopause was a disease and as such, natural products could not be labeled as being beneficial for menopause as that would be paramount to a disease treatment claim. How ridiculous it is to declare a perfectly normal transition of life as disease!
Our mindset must shift to focus on the dietary and lifestyle changes needed to promote optimum functioning of all body parts and systems. Do not just put your life in the hands of a doctor to “fix” – via drugs, surgery, or other treatments. Be willing to take control of your own life. Look at the body as a precious resource, to be treasured and pampered.
There are a lot to choices out there, and few of them are truly definitive. Medicine is a work in progress, and always will be. The state of knowledge is constantly evolving, and each new discovery either supports our current beliefs or threatens to overturn them.
The best advice? Remember YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH. Research, study, and investigate options that feel right for you. Don’t take someone else’s opinion as the final word. Keep looking and keep asking questions, until you find what is best for you.