The Wonder of Women's Health
3rd October 2014
I read somewhere the other day “A woman’s health is reflected in glowing, clear skin, lustrous hair and a zest for life. When you are truly healthy you shine”. That all sounds lovely, but it isn’t always that easy, is it? We are exposed to the wonders and problems of our 21st Century world that challenge this idyll and make it difficult to know exactly what to do to achieve this ideal state of shiney health. With so many contradictory governmental, medical and media health messages, it's a miracle anyone knows what to eat, drink or do.
And amongst this confusion there are those big and difficult questions that we all have to answer at some stage in our life: how do we balance our exposure to so many chemicals and environmental hormone disruptors, what type of health treatment should we use and when, what sorts of food should I feed myself and my family? Not knowing your specific health questions, what I offer here are some insights from what I have learnt about practising herbalism and Ayurveda for the last 15 years.
Simply put, the answer to all of your questions is to include as much nourishment, cleansing and rejuvenation as you can.
Our nourishment comes in many forms, for example, from food, love and inspiration. As the food debate ping-pongs backwards and forwards between raw/vegan/kale-only/paleolithic/some beach somewhere diets, your best option is to experiment and listen to your body to find out what is best for you. I think one of the wisest recommendations comes from the food writer Michael Pollan who says ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants’. I would add, ensure your diet is rainbow-like in colour. Keeping your diet natural, organic and delicious will go a long way to helping you being more nourished (unfortunately refined sugar is not classified as natural…). A recent study showed that the more vegetables you eat the happier you are. How brilliant is that?
I am also an advocate of the simple fact that human evolution leapt forward when we learnt how to cook our food and so most of our diet should be from freshly cooked food. I feel on pretty solid ground here as the world’s longest continually practised health tradition, Ayurveda, supports this too. But again, as no one diet suits everyone, you should experiment for yourself or even better go and see a herbalist or Ayurvedic practitioner to get some specific advice for you.
One of the main challenges with women’s health (well with everyone’s actually) is our exposure to so many environmental toxins. I am not going to paint too bleak a picture here but in the last 50 years we have had to learn to metabolise something like an extra 2Kg of chemicals a year. That’s some increase in workload for our primary organ of detoxification, our little livers. And what is most disturbing about this is that many of these new-to-nature and manmade chemicals are endocrine disruptors. This means they interfere with the hormone balance that can upset our natural zest and shine. They can even make boys girlish and girls boyish. And not just in the fashion sense.
One way to avoid these hormone disruptor pesticides, herbicides and fungicides is to eat, drink , wash and wear organic. All major studies on the benefits of organic farming show there is a significant reduction in exposure to these damaging chemicals when you go organic. We have a great opportunity when we choose what we buy to make every penny count towards keeping the Earth clean too.
For us, whilst there are all sorts of cleansing practices, the simplest to start with is to ‘go green’, and I mean in the vegetable sense and eat as many green coloured foods as you can. We see the colour green because of the pigment chlorophyll that is at the heart of every leaf’s miracle of transforming light into energy. Apart from the fact that it’s chlorophyll that helps to create all of life on Earth, most green things taste great and contain a host of life-loving and rubbish-ridding compounds. Except for fluorescent green-apple slush puppies. And please remember to wash, that’s also very cleansing.
Rejuvenation really is the icing on the cake. Having cleaned your body’s garden and nourished the soil its time to let those seeds of potential flourish. This means building your deeper reserves of vitality through following the health practices you know serve you best. It could be taking more time to look after yourself to be in a better state to care for those you love. It could be more yoga, more breathing, more dancing or taking more adaptogenic rejuvenating herbs. The benefits of rejuvenation can be described as something that helps make you whole when you are a little broken, like a smile from a stranger or the soft touch of someone you love. Wisdom traditions such as Ayurveda promote all sorts of practices and elixirs that help to enkindle this wholeness. One of the greatest is our Golden Preserve, inspired by the famous Chywanaprash. A cup of Supreme Matcha Green first thing in the morning is another refreshing drop of sunshine.
If you want to read more about these ideas have a look at my book A Pukka Life. I wrote it for my patients and its full of insights about how natural health can play a major part in manifesting wonderful women’s health.
If you want to find an Ayurvedic practitioner who can help you more specifically on this journey look at www.apa.uk.com to find one near you. Godspeed.