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Menstrual Health

Boobs like boulders?!

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I’m thrilled to say that my wonderful and talented homeopath, Claire Zarb, agreed to write a guest blog post for me, and you. So here it is, thanks Claire!

Painful and tender breasts may not be the most challenging of PMS symptoms, but sore and swollen breasts can make you feel uncomfortable all the same. Breasts feel so heavy and sensitive that something brushing up against you makes you wince and you feel grouchy and vulnerable.

Breast tenderness is also known as cyclical mastalgia (breast pain that’s related to your monthly cycle, rather than something more worrying, like breast cancer). It’s a very common condition in women of a child-bearing age and the pain can vary from a dull ache to a burning or stabbing sensation. In most cases it starts one to three days before your period begins, and improves at the end of your period.

It is thought that the changes in hormone levels before periods begin are linked to cyclical breast pain. The menstrual cycle is controlled by your body releasing hormones, such as oestrogen and hormones are powerful chemicals that have a wide range of effects on the body.

What can you I do about it?

Well, unfortunately there is no magic bullet (*cough, cough* acupuncture! -Maisie), but I do recommend my clients the following supplements and protocols to help manage the pain. I will also prescribe the appropriate homeopathic remedies too.

Things to have more of:

It’s important to balance your hormones throughout your cycle. There are number of ways you can do this but mainly it’s important to eat a balanced and varied diet filled with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably organic).

You should take regular exercise; aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Do a group exercise class, walk instead of taking the bus, take the stairs instead of the lift and stand on public transport instead of sitting. There are lots of ways to be more active that don’t involve long and boring solitary sessions at the gym!

Essential fatty acids like Borage and Evening primrose oil are great for balancing the hormonal system. It’s important you also get a good intake of fibre from sources such as flaxseed and complex carbohydrates (oats, brown rice, beans, vegetables).

A good supportive bra can do wonders for breast pain. Many of us are wearing the wrong bra size, make sure you get yourself properly measured and ensure you have a supportive bra for sports too.

Things to avoid:

Saturated fat and dairy products

A high consumption of saturated animal fats has been shown to increase oestrogen levels which in turn exacerbates PMS symptoms like breast tenderness.  This is probably due to the hormones used in livestock farming and milk production (basically, farmers give cows oestrogen to make them grow and get fat).

Caffeine

Chemicals called methylxanthines are found in coffee, tea, chocolate and cola-type drinks, and they cause a dilation of blood vessels and cause fluid to accumulate.  This makes the breasts tender and painful, particularly just before your period.

Cut down your table salt intake

Salt (sodium) can aggravate fluid retention and breast pain. Think about the hidden table salt in foods that you eat, such as butter, bread, ready meals, crackers, crisps, canned foods. If you must add some salt to your food, use sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt instead which has a higher mineral content.

Contraceptive pill

One of the side-effects of the contraceptive pill is it makes you more oestrogen-dominant leading to possible breast pain and tenderness.

Homeopathy for breast tenderness:

There are over 50 homeopathic medicines for painful breasts depending on the causation and symptoms. They work best when they fit your individual symptoms so ideally make an appointment to see a qualified homeopath to get the right prescription. Here are just 4 that you might find helpful in the meantime.

Calcarea carbonica – large breasts swollen and tender before periods; the person who needs this remedy has a tendency to be overweight and has heavy periods and uterine fibroids.

Calcarea fluorica – small and hard breast lumps; uterine fibroids; haemorrhoids, varicose veins.

BusinessPicFolliculinum – swollen and painful breasts before periods due to too much oestrogen.

Phytolacca – heavy, hard, swollen and tender breasts; with painful periods and heavy blood flow.

Claire Zarb, LCPH is a qualified homeopathic practitioner based in London and all over the world via Skype. Claire’s company, Happy Homeopathy is aimed at women who wish to gain control of their hormonal health with natural solutions like homeopathy and flower essences. Claire is a regular blogger with a passion for women’s health. Please visit http://www.happyhomeopathy.co.uk for more information and to subscribe.

Ever feel like your body is failing you?

Are you happy with your body? 

Maybe there’s a part you’re not so keen on, a part which causes you grief of some kind, from time to time, or all the time. Do you ever hear yourself thinking, “I wish my ovaries / digestive tract / dodgy knee would work properly, then I’d be able to have a family /  lose weight / not be in pain / get on with my life in the way I want to” ? I’m betting that most of us have something going on which interrupts life in a way which is significant.

I love my body … now.photo

It took me a while to love some parts; I spent my late teens and early twenties wishing for some miracle grow for my breasts, and am now very thankful that they have remained as nature intended. And yeah, I do regret stretching my ears, but I can celebrate my willingness to experiment (cough, cough) and at least I didn’t do this –>

There’s one part which I’ve struggled with more than the rest; my womb.

You may have read my recent post about the pain I’ve experienced and I kept it fairly physical, but as you probably know, there are many other levels to being in pain. I don’t know about you but my mind takes me to some interesting places when I’m in pain.

The mental chatter is *so* much fun:

Why does it hurt so much?
What have I done to deserve this? Is it because of that time when I was nine years old and had new scissors to try out so I cut a hole in Katie Seagraves’ dress? Surely having them confiscated was enough!
Does it have to hurt this much?
Why me?
Surely labour can’t be any worse than this?
Do they give epidurals for period pain? How about morphine?
What have I done to deserve this?
Why aren’t the painkillers working?
I wish I was a man.
What is my body trying to tell me?
My womb is useless.
There must be something wrong with me … there’s no way I could ever get pregnant.
WHY DOES IT HURT?

It’s hard to believe in your body when you’re in pain.

Feeling pain occasionally, let alone all the time, can make you to believe that your body is broken and that certain things won’t be possible. My personal belief, is that this creates more pain. My good friend Hilary explains it like this: When you work with a colleague who isn’t pulling their weight, you don’t get the best out of them by saying, “you’re shit, you show up late, do half-arsed work which someone else has to sort out, you create loads of tension and effect everyone around you”. You’re more likely to get the most out of them by working with their positives.

If you’re hating on part of your body, try showing it some love instead.

Someone once said to me, “it’s as if your uterus is a big fist, saying “f@*k you” to the world”. Rather ironically, my womb is actually slightly heart-shaped. I’ve taken this as a sign from my womb that she needs more love, so that’s what I’m giving her. She gets a massage every day, and no, I don’t mean an internal one (though she’s really into orgasms too); I massage myself every day using Arvigo techniques. I listen to her desires and complaints, and make changes where I can.

Listen to your body, ask it what it needs.

Pain doesn’t just show up for no good reason, it’s a sign that something needs to change. Tune in and listen. It’s not always easy, but it is important. There are times when I’m a big fan of painkillers, but they can silence the message your body is trying to whisper / scream at you, so you may want to consider ways in which you can lessen your need to take them (and by the way, acupuncture is pretty nifty when it comes to relieving pain).

Maisie Hill AcupunctureIf you’re struggling with pain and are trapped in a negative conversation with your body, try this one simple technique: Talk to it as if it was a child. In other words, with patience, respect and tenderness. Once you enter a positive dialogue with yourself, the rest will get clearer.

Shameless plug:

If you want some help with the pain in your life (I don’t mean your significant other), I have an offer running till the end of March; a full consultation and six acupuncture sessions, plus one Arvigo massage so that you can get some belly love, and learn how to treat yourself on a daily basis in addition to the work we’re doing together. That’s seven appointments in total and I’m offering this package throughout March at the reduced rate of £520 (£65 off my usual price). Holla!

Is being a superwoman screwing with your health?

Hello, lovers. You’re in for a treat this week; a guest blogger! Meet Dr. Rachel Sterry, who very kindly agreed to write this super helpful post. Enjoy …

headshot3I recently picked up a copy of, Crime and Punishment, written in Dostoyevsky’s native tongue and didn’t understand one damn word. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably tell you that I’ve never studied Russian.

Sounds a little ridiculous, I know. But how is it any different from understanding a diagnosis, it’s implications and recommended treatments with the guidance of a doctor who has 5-10 minutes to devote to your entire healthcare experience?

Having been on both sides of this coin I’m going to take a moment and offer an apology on behalf of all of the healthcare professionals out there who have made you feel ignorant and unheard.  Secondly, I would like to offer guidance so that the next time you’re confronted with health challenge you don’t suddenly feel like your body has started speaking a completely foreign language.

Specifically, I’d like to share what I can about the thyroid.

Not only because it’s one of the most under-diagnosed and underestimated parts of the body, but also because it’s an area that I’ve had to come face to face with myself.

In the interest of time and space I have chosen to touch upon the key points in understanding the thyroid gland. Have another area that you are burning to better understand? No worries, I’m only an email away.

Ok, back to the thyroid. This is an area that effects many women and is often skimmed over by the mainstream medical community, being treated with a pill, a recommendation for repeat lab work in 6 months, and a pat on the back. I’m not saying that this isn’t a valid means of dealing with negative symptoms, but I would argue that this is far from treating the root cause of the imbalance.

Here’s the translated version.

Your thyroid gland is a key player in the regulation of mood, temperature, digestion, metabolism…The most common condition effecting the thyroid is due to an autoimmune disorder (Hoshimoto’s hypothyroidism) that causes all of the above system to slow down, leading to symptoms such as depression, constipation, fatigue, and weight gain.

Not only is the incidence of this condition on the rise, but its’ occurrence is 10 times more likely in women than men. Let’s break that down a step further. The gland that ensures you are able to maintain homeostasis is 10 times more likely to be attacked by your own immune cells if you are a woman.

Why?

Well, if you’re like most women who walk through my office door, myself included, you can relate to how much easier it feels to put your head down and push through instead of asking for help. And, if you dig a little deeper you might also be able to admit that this tactic leaves you feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

As women we often pride ourselves on being superhuman…laughing in the face of balance, swallowing any frustrations or requests we might have to maintain the illusion of perfection. So, is it really any surprise that the thyroid, a gland sitting right in the middle of our throat, is so susceptible to self-induced destruction?

Just consider how it would feel to put the full force of your abilities behind yourself.

Think how it might change your daily experience if you made sure to take care of you in the same way you care for everyone else. There is no need to continue to stoically suffer in silence. Using your voice is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of incredible self-assuredness and strength.

For those of you shaking your head in disbelief I would ask you, how many times have you chosen not to say something because you didn’t want to upset another person, or thought it would be easier to allow things to continue rather than make a fuss in advocating for any changes?

If you found yourself nodding your head in agreement at anytime then I’m willing to guess that you need to start a practice in self-advocacy. A practice that will start right now, with your commitment to using the word ‘no’ at least once daily. This is actually harder than it may sound. It requires that you turn off autopilot and sit with the requests of others before contorting yourself to please each and every person that knocks on your door.

Take it from me, if you are unwilling to make yourself a priority no one else will either.

We all deserve to feel supported, loved and healthy and that starts by recognising the connection between each of our actions and the reactions they cause in all of the thousands of cells in our bodies.

My invitation to you, and millions of other women around the world, is to find the strength to stop doing it all alone. Ask for some help to allow for the support needed to do more than mask symptoms, the support needed to begin true healing.

Dr. Rachel Sterry is board certified Naturopath and Primary Care Physician in the State of Oregon. She has worked with hundreds of women who want to feel like themselves again without more medication. For more information visit: http://DrRachelSterry.com

When you’re lost in a world of pain

Pain is a motherfucker. Apologies if that offends you, I know it’s not a polite way to start a blog post, but pain isn’t polite. It can come from nowhere and knock you sideways. It can mess with your head, and make you question your sanity and beliefs. It can drive you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. It can affect your ability to work, damage loving relationships and prevent you from enjoying activities which you usually enjoy.

I’m about to break the rules.

When you train as a therapist, you’re told to keep your own shit to yourself; “make it all about your client, not you”, and I agree with that, most of the time. When you visit me for a session, it is your time, not mine. In this space though, I’m saying “bollocks to it”. So many people ask me about how I came to this work so I’ve decided to be upfront: Here’s my story.

I have spent the best part of twenty years dealing with period pain.

Crazy. I didn’t realise till I started writing this post that it’s been that long. The pain was there right from the start, lessened when I was on the pill (but feeling depressed and having no libido didn’t exactly work out for me) and increased severely in my twenties to the point of being debilitating.

  • burnsOnce, I passed out from the pain … and fell straight into a bathtub full of hot water. Ouch.
  • I have had to lie down in public places because I couldn’t stand up or face getting home. People looked at me like I was a drug addict.
  • I have been unable to lie down, stand or sit. As a consequence I have looked like a woman in labour; on all fours gently rocking my hips from side to side, moaning and groaning.
  • I have regularly woken up in pain and run baths at 2 /3 / 4 am whilst impatiently waiting for painkillers to kick in.
  • I have felt like my coccyx and hips were about to snap open with pressure.
  • I have burned my skin to the point of causing blisters, THREE MONTHS IN A ROW, because the extreme heat of a hot water bottle was all that was helping to mitigate the pain, and the pain was so bad I had no awareness that I was also in pain from the hot water bottle.
  • There have been times when I have been close to calling 999 (911 for you yanks) and begging for morphine. Seriously, it was that severe.

I have spent ten years healing that pain.

Massage, reflexology, homeopathy, CBT, acupuncture, menstrual cycle awareness, osteopathy, yoga, Chinese herbs, Western herbs, flower remedies, psychotherapy, “hands on” healing … I have tried them all. I have begged for drugs, in my head and out loud. I have prayed to any and all of the gods available. I have taken copious amounts of painkillers and smoked small amounts of weed, and let me tell you, all hail the power of painkillers, be they natural or pharmaceutical. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

I’ve got it sussed now.

Amazingly, I’m now down to taking one painkiller per period, yup, you heard me, one, and that’s probably more a psychological crutch than actual physical need. Combining acupuncture, menstrual cycle awareness, Arvigo therapy and Homeopathy has worked wonders for me.

What this means for you.

This is why I’m so passionate about the work I do to help women with menstrual issues. I get what pain can do to you: I know the places it can take you, I know how it can interfere with every aspect of your life. There’s no judgement from me about how you manage, or attempt to manage it. I can handle the gory details, should you want to share them with me, in fact, details are helpful when it comes to treating you.

More than anything, I know that pain can be healed. I have faith, even if you’ve lost yours.

Do you know someone struggling with painful periods or menstrual issues? Send them my way. It’s time for us to stop suffering in silence. From my own experience I know how menstrual stuff can suck the living day lights out of you and it doesn’t have to. Contact me over here and we can get cracking.

What’s the worst pain you’ve experienced? How did it affect your life and what helped you to deal with it? feel free to share your tips and resources below in the comments section.

Shameless plug: I’ve just started treating out of The Shala, a brand spanking new yoga studio in West Norwood. To celebrate, I’ve put together an offer which is ideal for those of you looking for help with menstrual issues. Oh and because I’m lovely, it’s also on offer at Sadhaka in Camden.

A full consultation and six acupuncture sessions, plus one Arvigo massage so that you can get some belly love, and learn how to treat yourself on a daily basis in addition to the work we’re doing together. That’s seven appointments in total and I’m offering this package throughout February and March at the reduced rate of £520 (£65 off my usual price). I’m at The Shala every Tues and Thurs eve from 5pm – 9pm and look forward to seeing you all there, be it in the treatment room or on the mat. Holla!

When it’s ok to not be ok

photoI know it’s happened to you. You’re having a rough patch in life, like grieving for the baby you can’t conceive / the end of a relationship / miscarriage / death of a loved one / life just isn’t measuring up to your high expectations.

You see a friend, share a bit, and they say, “you’ve got plenty of time to have kids / it wasn’t meant to be / at least you know you can get pregnant / it’s going to be okay.”

And right about then is when you want to punch them. Grief sucks and we are taught in this society not to do it. Lost relationship? Chin up, pull through it….

But how do you get to self-care when you are smack in the middle of grief? When your heart is hurting it can be really fucking hard to take care of yourself, in fact you’re probably not even thinking about it. You’re consumed by what’s going on in your heart, and you’re falling to pieces.

When my world changed.

Several years ago, I realised that I could no longer be with the man I was with. No matter how much love I felt for him, my love wasn’t enough to fix him … and yeah, I know, how arrogant to think that my love could do that. He had issues (hey, I did do too), and when I found out the extent of them, the behaviours associated with them, I had to put my big girl pants on and get the hell out of there. So after five years of living together and a couple of years of fighting hard to make it work, I left. And it fucking sucked.

Then came the rapid weight loss.

When I’m stressed my stomach goes into lockdown; it feels like there’s a vice in my solar plexus. You know what I mean, when it feels like there’s a hand twisting your insides so you can’t breathe properly let alone eat. Unless of course you’re someone who binges to push through the tension, bugger all wrong with that, I just tend towards the no eating side of things.

How did I handle it?

I discovered Japanese rice crackers; delicious air, perfect for someone with a non-existent appetite. I coaxed my way back into eating by letting them dissolve in my mouth, a packet at a time. I also started training for the Caledonian Challenge. Twice a month I would do a 16-24 mile walk, and when it comes to stimulating the appetite, I’m not sure there’s anything better than exercise (other than smoking weed). In pretty much every picture of me walking, you’ll see a peanut butter sandwich in my hand (crunchy, never smooth), and bit by bit I regained the weight I’d lost.

A couple of years later, I realised that there were a few places deep inside where I was still holding onto this hurt, and it was seeing an Arvigo therapist which helped me to unlock and begin the process of letting go. Now I massage my belly every day as part of my daily self-care routine, it’s how I stop my stomach going into lockdown mode.

When you’re hurting, practice self-love above all else.

Give yourself some space to not be ok.

  1. Phone a friend. Let someone else in, tell one person what’s going on, let them hold your space. Text five friends and say, “hey, I’m having a shit time at the moment, I’d love it if you could check in with me once in a while or if we could hang out soon”. Be proactive in asking for help; I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve kept quiet till everything has been resolved, only to be reprimanded by friends months down the line for not allowing them to help.
  2. Get raw. Stick on the music which makes you feel all the hurt and loss. Don’t block it, feel it. Get lost in the emotion. I know it feels like it’s never going to end, but it will change, at least.
  3. Get your arse outside. Trees, rocks, soil; they’ve all been around a hell of a lot longer than we have, they can hold the energy we can’t (yes, I’m a hippy at heart). Let it go. Let your face be battered by wind and drizzle. Sob till your nose runs and then sob some more.
  4. Express yourself. Grab a notepad and write, if that feels uncomfortable, just write over your own words again and again so that nothing is readable, that way you get it out of you but there’s no way to revisit what’s come out, unless you want to of course. Buy some crayons and draw. Why crayons? We associate them with childhood, not grown up “proper” art, which helps to keep things playful and about expression, as oppose to producing something.
  5. Move. I have this theory that moving forwards physically moves you forwards mentally. So get walking, running or cycling. It needn’t be as extreme as a 54 mile hike, but if you get stuck on the sofa (been there), you’ll stay stuck in your head. Dance; surrender to the music, free that shit up and get it out of your system.

Need a kickstart?

Then come and get some love in the form of a treatment. It’s the first thing I do when shit hits the fan. Letting friends in etc is all well and good, but going for a treatment works on a different level. For a start, I don’t think any of my friends would be up for massaging me for longer than two minutes, if that. Mainly though, there’s something incredibly nurturing about doing something which is all about you.

Right now I have an offer on which will run till the end of January, and there are 20 13 8 spots left. It’s for a 90 minute Arvigo session, during which you’ll receive a nurturing belly and back massage, then I’ll teach you how to perform it on yourself, so that you can treat yourself every day. You can read about it in full over here, but here are the basics:

One treatment: £90 (£35 off)

Three treatment bonus offer: £250 (£125 off)

This offer is short-term, the price will increase to £125 per session as of Feb 1st 2014, and I’m only offering twenty spots at this amount. You must book and receive your first treatment by the end of January.

Next step?

If you’re ready to jump in, holla at me and let me know a few options with regards to times you can do in the coming weeks. Once we figure out a time, I’ll email you a pre-treatment form for you to fill in and return to me by email.

Belize, gin, & 90 minutes that could change your life

FertilityWomen’s health is my thing.

I’m big on helping women with menstrual cycle issues, women on fertility journeys, as well as supporting women through menopause. Some women come to me for acupuncture on a weekly basis for a few months to resolve their problems, but not all of them are able to commit to that kind of treatment schedule. If I’m honest, this *really* pisses me off.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why they can’t come; time, money, distance etc. They’re all important things to consider before embarking on a course of treatment. I’ve been in your shoes and I know how this feels. However, I want them to come and see me, because most of the time, I’m pretty damn sure I can help them, if I only I could get my hands on them (that may have sounded creepier than I intended). So I kept thinking about how I could find a way to help the women who aren’t able to see me on a regular basis, I started looking out for a form of healing which clients could take away from one session with me, so that they could treat themselves.

Maybe you don’t know me so I’ll let you in on something: I’m a problem solver. Now, not all of my problem solving techniques work, taping a lightbulb to a light fixture, for example, didn’t. My former boss (and lovely friend) just yelled at me for setting off the fire alarms and being an idiot. But I truly feel that this time, my finely tuned problem solving skills have come up with something pretty sweet and helpful.

How did I solve the “I want to make some changes to my health but I can’t come that often” dilemma? Like this:

GinEvery day for a week, at 6pm on the dot, I drank a G&T: Lots of ice, three four generous fingers of Bombay Sapphire, lots of lime, and fresh tonic. None of that slimline nonsense either, give it to me proper or don’t bother. I can’t tell you how bloody good that first sip was. Ok, I will. It was flipping delicious, good enough to go for a second … Then I went swimming, gleefully naked.

I went away to Ridge Farm and spent the week with fourteen wonderful women, and Spanner and Badger, the Farm’s dogs. I drank gin, ate lots of cake, and took advantage of having sole use of the pool, jacuzzi and sauna. It was bliss.

Failing to see how this helps you? Alright, alright, the reason I went there was to spend six full days training in the Arvigo techniques of Mayan abdominal therapy. I admit it’s a bit of a mouthful, especially with sticky toffee pudding in your gob (just kidding, I don’t talk with my mouth full, my mum did a good job of raising me). Not heard of it before? It’s an external abdominal and back massage which originated in Belize, and was taught to Rosita Arvigo by one of the last traditional Maya shaman, Don Elijio Panti.

I’m now offering this massage and it could be the bees knees for you, if:

  • You struggle with your menstrual cycle
  • You have stopped using the birth control pill or have had your coil removed, and want help getting your cycle in check.
  • You’re preparing to conceive or you have already started trying
  • Your digestive system is prone to hissy fits of some kind
  • You’re transitioning into a new phase of your life and looking for ways to support yourself (motherhood and menopause, for example)

You’ll receive a nurturing and effective abdominal and back massage, and learn how to carry out the self-care so that you can go away and massage your own belly. Ultimately, this is 90 minutes of belly and back love, which can lead to a life-long practice of taking care of yourself. In fact, that’s probably what you’ll love the most; the fact that you can come for one treatment, learn the techniques, then go away and do it all yourself, should you want to. Yes, that means you don’t have to come back week after week to see me, unless of course we both feel that a period of treatment would be best for you, but even then, it would be unlikely to occur on a weekly basis.

You’ll probably end up being surprised at how effective that one treatment can be, and at the changes you can make to your health by carrying out the self-care.

Ridge FarmI’ve just completed the ATMAT training. That means I haven’t had a chance to form any bad habits and that I’m raring to go. You’ll benefit from my eight years experience of massaging people and specialising in women’s health.

If you’re still reading, surely you must be thinking, “holy crap, this sounds bloody amazing, gimme the details”, so here they are:

I treat out of Sadhaka Yoga Centre in Camden, London. Daytime and evening appointments are available.

One treatment: £90 (£35 off)

Three treatment bonus offer: £250 (£125 off)

This offer is short-term, the price will increase to £125 per session as of Feb 1st 2014, and I’m only offering twenty spots at this amount. You must book and receive your treatment by the end of January. For the smart cookies wanting to book a course of three treatments, your first session must be before Feb 1st 2014, the other two treatments can roll over.

20 17 15 14 10 8 spots left.

Next step?

If you’re ready to jump in, holla at me and let me know a few options with regards to times you can do in the coming weeks. Once we figure out a time, I’ll email you a pre-treatment form for you to fill in and return to me by email. For now, do your belly a favour and take three slow deep breaths all the way down into your belly. Feel everything relax and flow …

Then have a G&T.