Nat is a doctor of Chinese Medicine practising for over 15 years. She’s also an acupuncturist, a mum, an author, speaker and a self-confessed guru of all things hormones! Nat helps women from all over the country understand their hormones better and to no longer fear them!
It’s funny because when Nat was first starting out in medicine, she vowed she would never solely focus on women’s health, as her experience with hormonal women wasn’t exactly fabulous. However, over the last 15 years, a lot has changed and advanced, and we understand so much more about alternative and complementary medicine to support hormonal health.
What makes Chinese Medicine so unique?
The spleen and stomach are the pivot points, which is what you commonly hear of as gut health. Everything that Nat has learnt about in this particular area of the body, and just how important it is for overall health, has stuck with her for over 20 years.
It’s only been the last five years that the Western World has added merit to gut health concepts, and has accepted what Chinese Medicine has known for decades, if not centuries. This has opened up an entire landscape when it comes to treating the body and hormonal issues.
Complementary medicine allows us to spot the clues, which in turn allows us to speak the facts about a condition, even if they’re not yet scientifically proven. If you look at anything that is an emerging field within Western Medicine, such as the importance of gut health, Chinese Medicine has had their finger on the pulse for a very long time already! This is why Nat loves to look to Chinese Medicine for wisdom, to see what’s coming next.
Flaws with modern-day medicine
Jo reflects on how she has prescribed the pill to control her acne. Nat believes we now have 20 years of information behind us, and we can see that some things are simply not working for women.
While there are many factors that make up women’s health and hormones, like genetics, diet, lifestyle, how we behave and act, they all play into our unique situations, as it’s not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis.
Any synthetic form of contraception, like any form of medication, has its side effects. While they do prevent pregnancies, Nat sees many flaws in the misinformation fed to us in the doctor’s clinics, which doesn’t help us to make an informed decision about what’s right for us. Especially when we’re not told the ways in which we can support our body, as much as possible like any medication.
The thing is, GP’s are doing the best that they can, with the information that they have at the time. Even though there are thousands of women experiencing the same side-effects or complaints, it’s not validated until science proves it.
Why is the overall population’s health is suffering so badly?
Nat strongly believes it comes down to stress, diet and lifestyle. We’ve now got twenty, or even forty years of women being able to report back on how they’ve responded to various forms of contraception and medication.
Teenage girls and contraception
Tracey’s almost 18-year-old daughter gets really bad acne around her period time (she will kill me if she ever knows I’m telling you this!) So she asked Tracey the other day if she could go on the pill to get rid of her acne.
Obviously, this question was borne out of some of her friends already being prescribed this remedy, as it’s a topic that’s never before been mentioned by Tracey. Straight away the answer was no, as Tracey is aware there’s a whole range of avenues to explore, before even considering to put her on the pill. From food to going gluten-free and trying magnesium, her daughter simply didn’t want a bar of it, because it’s just not the easy fix that she’s after.
The discussions that need to take place
Nat asks the question, what if she is one of those unlucky women, where the pill stops her ovaries from working effectively, and one day she finds out she can’t have children? Or the person that starts to take it then in five years’ time, she has really heavy bleeding or a heap of other symptoms? The pill does have its way with the gut, so symptoms can be really unpleasant.
From Nat’s personal experience with her clients, they cruise along on the pill for a period of time before it starts to show problems. While society doesn’t always associate those problems with the pill, we rather associate or blame those very problems in life.
She’s talking about mood swings, low libido, anxiety and depression, increasing risks of blood clots and migraines, we blame these all on life circumstances rather than the pill.
Nat believes the biggest gift we can give to women, is in helping them to understand their bodies better. Once we’ve done that, and have looked into all the reasons why there might be acne (which is likely just one of many symptoms going on), we need to look into how to set the body up properly, to thrive in the long term and to help women look and feel their absolute best.
It’s OK to take a rather cheeky tactical approach
By making the contraceptive conversation a little more superficial, and ask the questions like “what if you took the pill and got acne, or gained weight, or your breasts grew two sizes when you already have problems with large breasts?” Whatever the questions, these conversations need to take place first, before leading straight into a ‘NO you’re absolutely not going on the pill’.
This is how we lead by example as parents, which is a combined art of letting go a little bit. Most women simply don’t feel great on the pill and don’t feel like themselves because of the brain fog, and many other side-effects. By amplifying the many side effects, your teenage daughter can then weigh up in her own mind, if it’s all worth it for simply clearing her acne up.
“The fact your teenage daughter is actually asking in the first place, I think is great!”
Why a barrier method should always be in place regardless
Nat has been challenged numerous times on the topic of warning against the side-effects of the pill. She’s even been called irresponsible especially for girls that are already sexually active. Her answer is always that an 18-year-old really should be using a barrier method, whether they’re on the pill or not, given how much of a massive issue STDs are. We’re not educated enough on the life-long problems that STDs can cause for women.
Puberty for boys or young men is kind of fun, but an absolute drag for women where the responsibility for contraception relies on a young girl. This is a huge burden and a heavy weight to carry. That’s why these healthy conversations with both sexes are so pivotal, so it’s no longer a taboo subject where we fear the worst. That way we understand our bodies much better and can look at all of these issues in a more light-hearted way.
The many side effects of the pill
Jo recalls how sick she got when she was on the pill and recalls being dizzy, and walking into work and having her colleagues comment on how pale she was, along with terrible headaches, stomach aches and heavy clotting. Her husband ended up grabbing the pack of pills and throwing them in the bin, telling her she’s not to take them anymore!
Nat knows that this isn’t an uncommon story, and sees women all the time who stated that when they stop taking the pill, they forgot what it was like to feel like themselves again. It comes back to the need to hear this information when we’ve first prescribed the pill at the GP’s clinic. We trust our doctor, who also trusts our pharmaceutical companies. Understanding our bodies as women far outweigh that relationship.
So what if you want to come off the pill?
Now that you understand a bit more about why your body has been reacting the way that it has, what if you want to make the decision to come off the pill? First of all, you need to ask yourself why you’re taking it. If it’s to treat a problem, is that problem fixable (Nat believes 99% of the time it is), or if it is for contraception then you need to look at your other options.
Health needs to be a priority and looking at the long term is so important, that’s why looking at tackling the problem first should be the priority here. Nat looks into addressing her client’s various problems before choosing to come off the pill. There is so much you can do to support your body so that when you do come off the pill, it doesn’t have to be a complete train wreck of an experience!
From 35 years old, our hormones start to change as we enter peri-menopause, and while some women are fertile well into their 40’s, their hormones definitely do start to change. Nat has clients that are 55 and are still on the pill, which makes no sense to her!
Improving gut health
One of the major aspects that any contraception or medication will upset, is your gut health. So how can you improve this? Support healthy gut flora and back up the body from a nutritional standpoint. By getting this corrected firstly, then you’re leaps and bounds ahead of someone that comes off the pill immediately.
Understanding what’s going on in your body
Once you know and understand what your body is telling you each and every month, you can’t reverse that knowledge. To think that we might use a contraceptive method that blocks body function 365 days of the year when if you add up the number of days you could actually fall pregnant in a year (around 30 days at best) if doesn’t make much sense.
At least not to Nat! She really wants women to understand their menstrual cycles, to know when they’re fertile or not, and what your body is telling you each and every day.
If there’s a reason you’re having trouble falling pregnant, then it’s about exploring the underlying issues, and looking for the signs of what the body is trying to tell you. We’re simply not taught any of this information in school, which creates a real disconnection between women and their bodies.
“If my period is really heavy and painful, it’s a reminder that I haven’t been kind to myself (diet/stress etc)”.
Nat’s wildly popular masterclass
Debunking ovulation is one of Nat’s top masterclasses, that teaches women to understand their ovulation cycles, and teaching them what to look for when they’re ovulating. Out of all of her masterclasses, this one always has full attendance. Women come to her and they’re actually embarrassed that they don’t understand what ovulation is. Again, she reminds them that we’re just not taught about this and that they’re certainly not the only ones!