Why A Holistic View Of The Menstrual Cycle Matters

HormonesWWSlogo-noiseWe all know that having a healthy menstrual cycle is important. And we know that the products you use can have a huge impact on your cycle. So when you’re at the grocery store keep your cycle in mind when you pick out your vegetables, facial scrub, and laundry detergent.

Wait…what?!?

Yep, all those things (and SO much more) have an impact on your cycle. You may already know that the kinds of menstrual products you use can affect your health, but it’s not just specifically “period products” that can have health consequences for your cycle (and really your whole body).

But wait-does the cycle involve the WHOLE body? Isn’t it just the uterus and maybe the ovaries and the vagina and there’s hormones in there somewhere doing something…actually maybe the list of body parts involved is pretty long.

We are taught to view the menstrual cycle as part of the reproductive system, which to be fair it is. But no system in the body acts alone or remains unaffected by the health of the other systems. The menstrual cycle is part of a complex dance of bodily systems and an integral part of a woman’s overall health-hence calling it the fifth vital sign!

A few weeks ago I had the chance to watch many of the interviews of Hormones: A Women’s Wellness Summit, hosted by Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, of Women’s Wellness Collaborative. I love free online summits so when I found out about this one I knew I HAD to tune in for as much of it as I could! In the past six months or so I’ve begun to address my health more holistically, and in the process I’ve become really interested in how the amazing female body works. This summit was right up my alley!

There were some speakers whose talks were specifically related to the menstrual cycle (PMS, endometriosis, etc) but every talk I heard had some relevance to menstrual health. This is because of the “complex dance of bodily systems” that I mentioned before-the thyroid, the adrenals, the liver, the gut (oh, especially the gut!), have such a huge impact on your overall health and well being. Since the menstrual cycle is such an essential part of your overall health, it makes sense to look at it in a holistic context. Knowing this I happily tuned in to a variety of talks knowing that I would learn something applicable in each one.

Let’s talk about food first. The foods you eat affect your cycle and your overall health, and these effects can be positive or negative depending upon your dietary choices. One reason for this is due to the nutrients we get (or don’t get) from the foods we eat. Ritamarie Loscalzo talked about how the essential macronutrients for women to get at breakfast are protein and fat. Certain foods can also have adverse affects on the whole body which of course includes the menstrual cycle. Dr. Lara Briden discussed how dairy causes inflammation (promoting heavy periods), while endometriosis expert Melissa Turner touched upon the adverse affects that sugar has on the immune system. Another way your food choices affect your cycle is through the toxins found in conventionally grown food. This is why minimizing your exposure to pesticides in your food is so important-check out the Environment Working Group’s list of the most important foods to buy organic.

If you’re next question is what do I mean by “toxins,” then read on! This question leads right in to why the personal care and cleaning products you use also affect your menstrual cycle.

We live in a chemical-filled environment. They’re everywhere from the food we eat to the air we breathe, but the fact that they are a normal part of life doesn’t mean that they’re harmless. As summit speaker Sayer Ji explained, we now have hundreds of thousands of new chemicals that mimic hormones. These chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors because they disrupt the endocrine system’s normal functioning, and in so doing wreak havoc upon the entire body. Many of these endocrine disruptors are xenoestrogens, meaning that their effects on the body are similar to the effects of estrogen. As summit speaker Rachael Pontillo notes in an article on her website, xenoestrogens “interfere with hormonal signaling.” When you look at this in terms of the menstrual cycle (which is all about various hormones getting the signals they need to carry out important functions), you begin to understand why the chemicals in your toilet cleaner could have adverse affects on your menstrual cycle.

This is all a pretty big deal-I mean 35 speakers were interviewed for this summit and there are so many additional experts who could talk for hours about how our health is affected by the foods we eat and the products we use. Why then are so many people unaware of these issues? Part of the reason is that when it comes to their health, most people put all of their faith in the conventional medical system, a system which is often both ignorant and dismissive of these problems. In her interview, Lara Adler commented that the average physician only gets about seven hours of training in environmental health (the field which studies the toxins in our food and environment).

This is why resources like Hormones: A Women’s Wellness Summit are so important. Women need to have access to this important health information that their conventional doctors likely can’t provide. Understanding our own health and environment enables us to make informed health care decisions, and feel confident and empowered in these decisions.

The free viewing period for the summit is over, but if you are interested in viewing the interviews you can purchase them through the website. There are different packages to choose from and loads of bonus gifts as well!

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