Female reproductive health


Wild yam

Wild yam

At last!  Winter has softened into Spring!  Persephone, the Goddess who spends half the year in darkness with Hades, God of the underworld, has returned to us. Spring Beauties, Violets, Bluets and and Toothwort are blossoming on the forest floor, Welcome dear friends, our plant allies! You have been missed! What I have learned this Winter, and what I will share in this newsletter, affects the reproductive system, energy levels, weight concerns, menopause, aging, and more.

The winter months have been a time of deep realizations and processing, rather than outward expression. I became aware of being hypothyroid, and the knowledge of this has helped me tailor the ways I care for myself.  I’d been witnessing thyroid challenges my sister has been facing these past months, and through our conversations became aware that I have been managing symptoms of being hypothyroid for quite some time, using herbs, diet and supplements. 

Because diabetes runs in both sides of my lineage, I thought I was staving off that disease. I have been successful in that. However I had been frustrated with lingering symptoms such as weight gain, dry skin, fluctuating energy levels and brittle hair. In my research I have found that hypothyroidism is epidemic, particularly among women. Symptoms include fertility issues, menstrual challenges, overweight or weight gain, menopause challenges, fatigue, brittle hair, dry skin and moodiness, exhaustion, brain fog, and so many more.My Earth Day

Many of the symptoms I have mentioned above often show up in my clients, as they are mostly women coming to me for therapeutic massage, herbal consultations, Maya Abdominal Therapy, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and/or Pre and Perinatal Trauma Resolution. While hypothyroidism is a challenge for me, I am happy to now, through this experience, to have a much deeper understanding of the issues facing my clients, and many more tools to support them, not only in achieving relief from these challenging symptoms, but in gaining optimal health at any age!

You may see yourself, or someone you love, in the abbreviated symptom picture I have described. My intention in this newsletter, is to empower you to regain vibrant health by helping you discover likely, greatly variable causes for the disease; share information essential to your getting an accurate diagnosis; and offer resources for resolving symptoms.

CAUSES

The causes of hypothyroidism, and other thyroid diseases, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are many, and often genetic predisposition is present, but can
also be caused by other factors. Genetic expression may be turned on through prolonged periods of intense stress, pregnancy, menopause, aging, and head and neck injuries. Other contributing factors include over-treatment for Graves disease, or Hashimoto’s; bromide (in seafood and some baked goods) and/or fluoride (an added chemical to our drinking water) toxicity; iodine insufficiency, selenium and/or iron deficiency; B12 utilization; thyroidectomy; pituitary gland failure and more. 

For a more complete list and explanation you might be interested in purchasing the book Stop the Thyroid Madness, by Janie Bowthorpe, M.Ed. It is a compilation of the experiences of thousand of thyroid patients. Though I find that writing and editing are not top notch, the10755 information is incredibly useful. And to be fair, I’m sure expediency of delivery was the objective, in order to help as many as possible.

SYMPTOMS

As mentioned above, the symptoms of hypothyroidism are many and varied, including fertility and/or menstrual challenges, overweight or weight gain, menopause challenges, fatigue, brittle hair, dry skin and moodiness, heart palpitations, exhaustion, brain fog, psychiatric diagnoses, and so many more. Symptoms can begin slowly. A person may go from being hyperthyroid when younger to hypothyroid over time, with fluctuations along the way. And for some, hypothyroidism may turn into an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

I have been focusing on supporting my thyroid, based on the research I, and so many others have done, again, through herbs, supplements and diet. And I am very happy with the results so far. My feeling, is that this autoimmune disease, like type II diabetes, may be cured and at the very least managed. Success is possible through developing a supportive community for managing stress that includes family, friends and professionals, through dietary choices, and by using supportive supplements.

UNDERLYING ADRENAL FACTORS

It is essential not to ignore the adrenal glands when determining the causes of  symptoms. The adrenal glands are walnut sized glands that sit above and adjacent to the kidneys. Like the thyroid, they are cued by the pituitary, the master gland of the body. The adrenal glands play a powerful role in managing stress, whether physical, emotional or mental. They are the glands that produce aldosterone and cortisol. 

Cortisol stimulates blood sugar levels. You can see that if under chronic stress, blood sugar levels remain high, causing chronic inflammation, which in turn causes weight gain and oxidative stress on all systems of the body.  The adrenals also produce aldosterone which regulates internal fluid balance and blood pressure, as well as sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, among others. When seeking treatment for thyroid issues, it is essential to test for adrenal function, as adrenal fatigue may be the underlying cause a cascade of symptoms, resulting in thyroid dysfunction.

BLOOD and SA16636-1LIVA TESTING

The place to begin is to have relevant blood tests and a saliva test done to determine where your body needs support. Thyroid issues do not respond to a one-size-fits-all approach. Relevant blood tests are Iron and TIBC panel (Total Iron Binding Capacity), Thyroid antibody panel, anemia panel (including B12 levels), and a Weight Loss Panel which includes TSH, free T3 + Free T4, hormone levels, cholesterol and more. Adrenal testing is done through a saliva test, resources for this can be found on http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/ site. The book, by the same name, provides detailed information on why these tests are needed for proper diagnosis and treatment.

HERBS, SUPPLEMENTS AND DIET

There are many plant allies that support adrenal and thyroid health. In the case of thyroid issues, it is helpful to consult a practitioner to find which herbs are right for your situation. Herbs supportive of adrenal health are schizandra, ashwagandha, licorice and ginseng (panax). Herbs that are supportive of the thyroid include bladderwrack, hops, passionflower and sage. 

It is also useful to know that thyroid imbalances have been found to be aggravated by gluten. So, step one might be just to remove gluten (wheat, rye, barley) from your diet. It’s much easier to do than you think. I did, and my I soon had no discomfort in my abdomen, and I dropped about seven pounds!

Supplements that are supportive of thyroid health specifically include iodine and l-tyrosine. Patients have found that raw dessicated porcine thyroid works much better than Synthroid, and even the newly reformulated Armour. I offer this information as a beginning point, and recommend seeking supportive health care providers to assist you on your journey.

FINDING SUPPORTIVE HEALTH CARE PROVIDERSfoot work

It is important to work with a doctor, or other health care provider who understands and supports thyroid and adrenal health. Again, the website http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/ is a valuable resource in helping you find a suitable doctor. Another resource is http://www.brodabarnes.org/, though you may need to pay to receive a listing of doctor’s in your area.  I am an advocate for health professionals that will support your return to optimal health. 

Remember, our genetics are a factor: Experiences that have been passed down to us through our lineage, such as famine, war, surviving holocaust and more, influence genetic expression. There are countless people who would benefit from this knowledge, yet they are unable to use it, as they have no support from family, friends, nor the society around them.  I welcome the opportunity to support you in finding your way on your journey, through the challenges discussed here, or another.

It is through educating ourselves, and making empowered choices, that we will change our own lives to reflect our true values. By living these values we shape our communities, influencing the directions of institutions designed to support us. If established institutions will not support our values, our empowerment will be the catalyst in creating structures that do. 

May we all flourish in the gentle sunlight and warmth she brings!

Yours in health, 

Angela,
Body and Soul Healing Arts

Prolapses of the uterus, and attending other lower abdominal organs, i.e. the bladder and rectum sometimes occurs after childbirth with some women. For other women, most of whom have had children, these challenges often appear in our 50’s or later. And for women who have never had children, as well as for those who have, posture plays a huge role! This was a recent epiphany for me.
The following resources support prevention and rehabilitation of these challenges:
  • Maya Abdominal Therapy is very supportive in rehabilitating prolapse/cystocele/rectocele. The self-care massage, which is taught during the session, is done with a pillow under the glutes, tilting the lower abdominal organs back into the body and allowing for greater access to them manually.
  • Postural corrections are essential for rehabilitating the condition and to prevent these challenges from happening at all. It is important to realize that we, as women, are supposed to have a curve in our lower back. Our behinds are not supposed to be tucked under us. Enculturalization, whereby anything remotely provocative of sexuality is suppressed is the basis for requiring denial of healthful posture, and by extension, healthful expression of sexuality. By healing your posture you can heal your sexuality.To remedy the physical aspect of these challenges, strengthening the gluteal muscles and the lateral (outside) aspect of the hips is suggested. Great resources in supporting you to heal your self  (imagine that!), are found at the following websitesWhole Woman, Inc.Aligned and Well, and Hab-it Pelvic Floor Exercises.
  • My experiences have taught me that most dis-ease begins at the psycho/spiritual/soul/emotional level: To support your self in preventing or healing prolapses, I highly recommend reading and following the suggestions in my colleague, Tami Lynn Kent’s book, Wild Feminine. It will empower you in ways that you hadn’t imagined.
  • And finally, the latest yummy oil I have been exposed to is Ashwaganda/Bala Oil, made with a sesame oil base. Soaking a tampon in the oil and inserting in brings it’s tissue tonifying properties to where they are needed. It can also be used as a topical over the abdomen, or anywhere  muscle or fascia may be damaged, debilitated, or in need of restoration. You can purchase this oil at Banyan Botanicals.

Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who might benefit from this information. Share the love and help create a wider and wider circle of empowered women!

Your local actions create the future;

Locally, though receiving little press, Maryland midwives are fighting for their right to exist. Over the last few years there has been a nation-wide effort by the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG) to take away the rights of CPM’s to attend births resulting in more than a few local seasoned midwives to have charges brought against them for practicing medicine without a license. These wise women are being terrorized for practicing their livelihood, and are in fact threatened with loosing their ability to practice and provide this sacred work to mother’s to be.

Regardless of whether or not you would consider the services of a midwife to support you in your own life, increasing numbers of women, as they become educated about the effects of medicalized childbirth on their own health and that of their newborn, are seeking out the support of these women. The World Health Organization supports midwifery as the most sensible choice to insure best outcomes for mother’s and babies. In fact, 26 states already license CPM’s to attend home births. Our state government, spurred on by ACOG, is seeking to limit the choices women have to give birth.

As a woman who supports women in rebuilding their health and along with it, their sense of being empowered persons, I urge you to sign the petition on the site; Maryland Families for Safe Birth Petition. And if so inspired, please write your legislators as well, at  Maryland Families for Safe Birth. This is an opportunity to shape the future by supporting empowered births, empowered women, and consequently their families. YOU!

With love, Angela

The following is something that is not well edited, nor complete in it’s aim. I just had to get this out, as my heart and brain were screaming. I will begin with the caveat that I do appreciate western medicine in times of crises, so I am not bashing allopathic medicine….but critiquing inappropriate and corrupt application. Comments are welcome.

My mind these days keeps wandering back to the book “Woman as Healer”, by Jeanne Achterberg. As well-researched, well-funded interests spin the mass-media they own to be champions of the very few, while less well financially resourced communities are forced to their knees, circumspect reflection raises questions. The fundamental question is what is driving this distortion of what is Real? Fear of being annihilated, of course. Annihilation of wealth and lifestyle, and of their very existence. Ironically, this very fear that is motivating the most unscrupulous, heartless behavior on massive scale, is the unhealed wound that will ultimately topple them. History has shown again and again and again, that actions by a privileged class motivated by fear of the populations their wealth is generated from ultimately destroys the privileged class. It is tragic, to say the least, that the vast amounts of soul healing resources and good will available to heal this fear, is, itself demonized.

This fear of lack, ironically, seeks to ensure a lavish lifestyle for the very few, devoid of a sense of collective responsibility, at ultimate cost to countless others and the very earth that supports humanities, and indeed, many other creatures’ ability to exist. Well-researched and well-funded interests have created what is known in our times as Spin Doctors. Spin Doctors are paid to pit one segment of society against the other to benefit the interests of their Multinational Corporate Financiers.  These individuals and corporate “personhoods“, otherwise, and in other circles, known as hoodlums , without conscience, construct scenarios, manipulate language to create mistrust, fear of other, and foster strife for profit.

I’ve just returned from a meeting in Baltimore of Maryland for Midwives. Now, some of you might think at this point: oh, this doesn’t concern me. Think again. Suppose you had an emergency at home and an EMT were called. They came, tended to you, and advised you that in their estimation, you should allow them to take you to the hospital. You feel the situation has been resolved, and refuse to go. If at this point they were to cart you off to the hospital anyway, against your wishes, that would be kidnapping.

Now, suppose you are a woman about to give birth. You chose to give birth at home.  All the medical/insurance personnel insist you give birth at hospital or you won’t be covered by your insurance, or they will refuse to treat you, against your free will.  After all, women since the beginning of time, have always given birth at home, or in the field, or wherever. What’s the difference?

Some of you may know of the home birth midwife who was charged with and convicted of a felony earlier this year? She was put in jail for a week, without being tried. She was brought into the courtroom in an orange jumpsuit and shackles on her wrists and ankles. Doctors have had many babies and mothers die. Does this ever happen to them? The numbers show that hospital mortality rates for infants and mothers are way above those for home birth midwives.

Last week I heard through a doula client of mine that another beloved veteran, home birth midwife has had her license revoked. Today I have heard of a third. All in practice for many, many years. All the student home birth midwives I know are terrified to practice now, as things stand. Make no  mistake, there is a “witch hunt” going on, designed to take this option off the table for families who want it. It is the single most empowering right of passage a woman goes through. Back to my first sentence, where I mention the book “Woman as Healer”. History shows that in desperate economic times women are persecuted, excluded and prosecuted for sharing what they know, for supporting those who value their knowledge and wisdom. We are in those times again. It is time to look at your choices people. Who and what are you supporting by where you choose to spend your dollars? Are you aware that you pay for “health insurance”. It comes out of your pay. Where does it go? Does it support the people with whom you trust your health, your child’s health?

You are cordially invited to

attend an Open House

at Body & Soul Healing Arts

15127 Comus Road, Clarksburg, Maryland

at your convenience, on either

Thursday evening, September 29th, from 6pm until 8:30pm,

or on Saturday afternoon, October 1st from 1pm until 4pm.

Light refreshments will be served.

Children, significant others and friends are welcome!

I will be available to answer any questions you may have about my practice,
and my new offerings;Workshops for Women’s Health,
Wild Feminine Study Groups
and Sustainable Wellness Day Retreats.

Please click on the links in red, for more detailed information.
I look forward to seeing you soon!
~Angela

by Angela Ferri, MA, LMT, Integrative Wellness Practitioner
 
As a practitioner and former instructor of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy (MAT), I see many women for fertility issues. The populations I see most are in their 30’s and early 40’s. Two common stress factors affecting a woman’s ability to conceive and carry to term are Vataimbalance and boggy uterine tissue. The term “Vata” comes from the East Indian practice of medicine called Ayurveda. Vata refers to the air element, which is quick, of the mind, and changeable. My approach in working with these factors is summarized below, as is sharing herbs used to support fertility generally.
Population Overview
With younger populations in their 30’s preconception care includes self-care massage, which I teach during our first session together, as well as herbal support and nutritional awareness. In the area surrounding Washington, DC  women seek me out when nothing that is covered by health insurance works. Consequently I see many women who are terrified of surgeries/pharmaceuticals and who are desperate: fear overlays the symptom picture.
Many of the women I see are in their early to mid 40’s. I find this population most often conceives and carries pregnancy to term when they are committed to a spiritual practice and self exploration; are receiving MAT and acupuncture, using herbal support, have awareness around nutrition and practices yoga in some form. They have financial resources and are committed to a holistic approach.
My 3-4 hr. sessions include an intake; usually lasting about an hour, though for some this can go up to two hours, depending on a woman’s history. During this time I am making notes about relevant herbs, supplements and nutritional factors that will build health for the client. I am aware of the diagnosis my client has been given before they arrive for their session. What I listen for during the intake is for unresolved trauma – physical or emotional; for nutritional habits that may be problematic; for the level of support they have in their lives; and for heredity factors, both physical and emotional. I am also paying attention to the physical/energetic constitution of the person in front of me: Are they lean and nervous? Do their tissues feel boggy? Is there a lot of fire or anger?
A client will receive the manual work of Maya Abdominal Therapy following the intake interview. This usually runs about an hour and a half. While they are on the table I teach them how to do the abdominal work for themselves. I give them a handout describing how to do the massage, which helps them remember the details when they get home.
Often the first formula contains blue vervain (verbena officinalis) and/or borage (borago officinalis)/hawthorn berries (crataegus oxycantha) to provide healing on an energetic level for shock and/or heartache in addition to the plants I use to support fertility. What follows is a summary of how I work with each constitution I have just mentioned, and then sharing of herbs I may use to enhance fertility.
Vata Imbalance
If a woman is lean and nervous I first look at her diet to determine whether she is consuming foods and drinks that are contributing to Vata imbalance. I recommend eliminating the irritating factors and suggest substitutions, such as weaning off of coffee and instead drinking Yerba Mate, for example. I often suggest alternative sweeteners, and recommend decreasing sugar intake overall. If the client does not partake of caffeine or excess sugar, I may suggest chamomile (matricaria recutita) tea, and will include nervines in her custom formula such as passionflower (passiflora incarnata), motherwort (leonaris cardiaca) and skullcap (scutellaria laterifolia). If she avoids caffeine and sugar, and still presents as nervous and high achieving particularly, I recommend they test for progesterone levels.
With nervous and high-achieving women I like to rule out the possibility that they may have a genetic marker that prohibits them from synthesizing folic acid/vitamin B9, and consequently are not able to produce enough progesterone to carry a pregnancy to term. Apparently, this challenge is becoming more common. There is an expensive genetic test for this condition called MTHFR. A woman instead, for less expense, may have their progesterone levels checked a week after ovulation to determine whether this might be a factor. If progesterone levels are low at this stage of the cycle, supplementing with Folic Acid and B9 may help with this condition. Testing and supplementation for these women is very important because it reduces the risk of potential heart-breaking outcomes such as stillbirth and spina bifida.
Boggy Uterine Tissue
Some women who are trying to conceive present with boggy uterine tissue. The woman may have irregular and/or heavy menses, and/or excessive or abnormal vaginal discharges. It is important to understand factors that may be contributing to the symptom-picture. A common factor I find in this instance is that the client has had previous trauma to her pelvis, usually through an accident, from abdominal surgery, or from sexual trauma. This woman’s hips torque in some way.  She may present with lordosis or kyphosis. This displacement of the skeletal structure often irritates nerves exiting the spine. The irritated nerves enervate end organs: bladder, uterus, bowel, and consequently the organ(s) become inflamed. Inflammation produces edema; excess fluids.
A physical trauma that has happened at any time of life, and has not been corrected through manual therapies is likely present in the posture of the client. If she has had abdominal surgery, the adhesions (scar tissue) that form often harden over time and begin creating strain patterns within the body. Not only is this the cause of structural misalignment, but it may also cause organs to adhere to one another, to the pubis; or the adhesions may entrap nerves, organs and other tissues. This is the source of much otherwise unexplained abdominal pain and pathology.
Mis-alignments are sometimes held so long in the body without resolution, that the mind becomes numb to the signals of pain. Once a physical misalignment is resolved, often the client is able to make better nutritional and exercise choices. Her mind is not distracted by her physical discomfort.  Maya Abdominal Therapy addresses the structural misalignment and adhesions directly, enabling the body to begin healing itself. The nerves are no longer chronically irritated, and the tissues of the end organs are no longer receiving inflammatory signals from the nerves. The body reabsorbs the excess lymphatic fluid (edema) and pathology resolves. Herbal allies I use to support this process include astringents such as shepherds purse (capsella bursa-pastoris) or yarrow (achillea millefolium) in the initial fertility support formula. I also consider dietary components that may be aggravating boggy tissues, such as excess sugar consumption and possible food allergies.
Eclectic Herbs for Fertility
Raspberry (rubus spp.) leaf tea is a staple uterine tonic for all stages of life and particularly throughout pregnancy. It is useful after birth also, as it has extraordinary toning affects upon the uterus and the entire pelvic area. Both wild and cultivated varieties are beneficial. If you are able to pick the leaves of the wild variety (be sure they have not been sprayed), dry them or use them fresh. As Rosemary Gladstar has said “The wild variety is considered more potent and carries with it the indescribable, yet discernable, strength and vitality of things that belong to the wilderness”.
The following are herbs I most often use in my formulas for fertility. These suggestions are also applicable to the man in the family.
  • 2 capsule of dong quai three times a day, except during menstruation. (Men should take 2 capsules of ginseng every day.)
  • Take Liquid Floridix with Herbs regularly, following dosage recommendations on the bottle.
  • Take the following fertility tonic daily; ¼ teaspoon 3 times a day:
4 parts rehmania (rehmania glutinosa)
1 part dong quai root (angelica sinensis)
2 parts false unicorn root (chamealirium luteum)
3 parts wild yam root (dioscorea villosa)
1 part vitex berries (vitex agnus castus)
2 parts partridge berry (mitchella ripens)
1 part ho-shu-wu (polygonum multiflorum)
  • Drink ginseng tea daily or take ginseng capsules. Ginseng is most helpful for fertility issues relating to weak or cool sexual organs. Ginseng increases heat in the pelvic region and helps remove blockages.
  • Take sitz baths several times a week for several months. This increases circulation in the pelvis.
  • Use acupuncture in conjunction with these recommendations
  • Try homeopathic remedies. Consult a homeopathic physician for an appropriate remedy.
  • Belly dance!
When you begin to use herbs, awareness develops around our undeniable interrelationship with Gaia, our earth. In this formula I am aware that false unicorn root is extinct in the wild. A new level of awareness and learning is developing around using sustainable, effective substitutions. In this way using herbs is healing on many levels. As they give us their gifts they make us more mindful of our place in the web of life.

The following links offer more information on using herbs to support fertility:

The indomitable Henriette Kress’s article Trying to Get Pregnant?looks at stress, tight jeans, model-thin proportions and discusses going off of carrot seed or taking lily and peony.Kristena Haslam at Dreamseeds Organics has written a tribute to Exotic, Erotic Damianaand even has a picture of the (in)famous Mexican Liqueur bottle shaped like  a sitting pregnant woman.Gail Faith Edwards of Blessed Maine Herbs has  had 25 years of women bringing their red clover babies to her and writes Red Clover Is Not Just for Healthy Women Who Want to Conceive, It Is for ALL Women Who Want to Conceive.She recommends that men with low sperm count smell roses too.  Note you must have Facebook access to read the piece.Karen Vaughan has written Staging Herbal Formulas to Enhance Fertility, taking the stance that the yin and yang parts of the cycle deserve different formulas, since women have cyclical tides of hormones and discusses how menstrual charting can be used for more than finding fertile days.Rosalie de la Foret’s very comprehensive Holistic Herbal Perspectives for Challenges With Fertilitydiscusses preparing yourself for conception, nutrition, dosing and herbs.Angela Ferri’s piece on Herbal Fertility Support Within A Mayan Abdominal Practicediscusses herbs for vata imbalance and boggy uterine tissue.  She brings the experience of a body worker who looks at physical connections with the internal chemistry.Darcey Blue of Gaia’s Gifts wrote Nutrition for Pregnancy which looks at nutrient dense foods and micronutrient requirements from a combined Paleo-diet and modern nutrition perspective.