Why should you be mindful of your cycle?
Women turn to complementary medicine more frequently than men, maybe because conventional medicine can’t always provide a solution for their illnesses. While in different traditional methods, the treatment is often tailored to the patient’s personal needs.
In 2007 I started to search for information about Vulvodynia, an unexplained chronic pain of the vulva (the female’s external genitals). I couldn't find much but back then access to medical data was limited.
Only a few years later I found out that the problem was not the access to the data but lack of research. I could not understand how come that the medical world was not eager to understand such common chronic pain that was already defined a few decades earlier. For years, the annual research budget for vulvodynia, from which 15% of people with a vulva suffer, is one of the lowest and ranges between $1-2 million. To put things in proportion: in 2023 the annual research budget for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain that less than 1% of the population suffers from, is $95 million₁.
This didn't make sense, then I started digging in order to find a reasonable explanation. I was surprised to learn that Vulvodynia is one of many syndromes and diseases in the area of women’s health which have not been given the importance they should get.
That made me angry but mostly worried, then I continued digging deeper and what I found was even more disturbing: since the late 1990’s the medical world has been aware of the biological differences between sexes within all body systems: every cell in the body has a sex₂ and it reacts according to the sex that the body belongs to, not necessarily related to the hormonal environment. This means that biological sex influences the functioning of the body in sickness and in health, yet the practice of conventional medicine is guided by the mistaken “bikini medicine” theory, meaning that the only difference they acknowledge between men and women is the reproductive organs covered by a bikini.
Sadly, this was not the end of the disturbing news as I also learned that in 1977, following unfortunate results in 2 studies where hundreds of babies were born with deformities, the FDA forbade the participation of women in research studies about diseases occurring in both sexes₃.
Today, despite the understanding that medicine should be specific to sex (and gender too), 75% of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases occurring in both sexes had been performed on men only, and will not necessarily fit women.
The consequences of such discrimination in study groups are critical as women are frequently misdiagnosed which can result in emotional stress, bad quality of life and even death, as it is among women experiencing a heart attack compared with men (for more info check @goredforwomen).
Awareness of sex and gender-specific medicine is growing but it’s still not enough for half of the population to count on. Even if the medical world would have made an immediate change, research takes years before it can be implemented on patients and women can’t rely on them to treat many of their possible future diseases.
There’s a half-full glass in this story, as this discrimination could be a good excuse for women to be nicer to themselves, knowing that many illnesses can be avoided just by changing their lifestyle.
Each day in a woman’s cycle may feel different. Some can experience a wonderful high feeling and the following day a down feeling, pain somewhere in their body or “just” discomfort. Some would feel it more than others, and for some the changes may occur in one day or one hour.
Having a healthy menstrual cycle is having constant hormonal changes. These hormonal changes influence all body aspects, physically and mentally, and it’s completely normal! but sometimes it can feel too much to handle. In an ideal world, women could take a break when it becomes too much, but for most of us, it’s impossible and the discomfort or pain negatively affects our daily function.
From my experience, being mindful of the discomfort, stretching our pelvis, pressing on acupuncture points, and having a suitable lifestyle can help women handle their daily functioning during their cycle. In addition, a better lifestyle can prevent the discomforts from growing and evolving into a chronic condition.
If we eat, sleep, move and breathe better we’d feel better mentally and physically and our bodies could heal and prevent illnesses or their aggravation.
And this is why Merel (Yin Yoga) and I created a special workshop to provide women with the understanding and the tools for self-management of their difficulties along their cycle.
I’m so excited about this collab with Merel because it combines my 2 favourite methods: Chinese medicine (diet, acupressure, acupuncture, herbal medicine) and Yoga for women.
Mindful In Your Cycle
Saturday 10-6-23 14:30-17:00
Studio Balance, Amsterdam
Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC), NIH report March 2023
Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?, Wizemann TM,Pardue ML, editors
Women's involvement in clinical trials: historical perspective and future implications, Katherine A. Liu, Natalie A. Dipietro Mager