Womanhood isn’t always easy. Some consider it a burden to bear monthly cycles, pregnancy, and childbirth, while others employ hormones and surgery to embody the femininity they claim to possess. Regardless of our bodily design and functions, women also fulfill the irreplaceable roles of sisters, daughters, wives and/or mothers. By reflecting on the unique vessel Allah has placed in the female body, we can begin to understand what makes the gift of womanhood so distinct and powerful.
The womb is a powerful organ. It has the capacity to stretch and grow, contract and shrink, thicken and shed. It engages in direct communication with the brain and endocrine system, ensuring that reproductive functions are preserved or prevented depending on the perceived suitability of one’s environment. When hormones are well-balanced in the feminine body, we can witness the phases of our monthly cycle pass as effortlessly as the waxing and waning moon. However, our reproductive organs do more than facilitate menstruation, conception, and libido.
Our ovaries produce hormones that not only govern eggs but also our brain chemistry. In a podcast entitled “The Male is NOT Like the Female”, Dr. Mohammed Ghilan explains how exposure to varied levels of estrogen shapes fetal brain development in the ways that are often associated with a given gender. Hormones influence our pre-birth neurology and continue to impact our communication skills, energy levels, ability to analyze scenarios, and willingness to try new experiences. Many pre-menstrual symptoms like moodiness and irritability that women experience can actually be traced to hormonal imbalances and as such, can be rectified with proper nutrition and lifestyle support.
Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code, states that a healthy period is a bright red flow, lasting four to seven days long, with no cramping, acne, or mood swings. While such a breezy cycle seems rare, Vitti asserts that most women can achieve it month after month by prioritizing the nutritional and lifestyle needs that suit the hormonal shifts experienced over the course of a month. Even before understanding the details of her prescriptions, Vitti articulates how blood sugar instability and adrenal fatigue wreak havoc on our endocrine systems.
Normalized habits of skipped meals, caffeine dependency, and carb overload put our bodies in a state of constant stress. Hormone-mimicking chemicals found in birth control, make-up, household cleaners, cosmetics, and factory-farmed animal products have the ability to upset our embodied ecosystem too. When you add all of these modern challenges to a societal nudge that normalizes high-stress living and neglects the priorities of health, rest, and self-care, it is no wonder that our wombs seem to have abandoned us. Infertility and fibroids are on the rise, while vitality and libido are on the low. Optimistically, by honoring and celebrating the uniqueness of our female anatomy and feminine nature, we can restore harmony with our internal and external reality.
For every instance that you pushed yourself to perform and function like the men around you, consider that you might be suppressing the unique characteristics that allows your womanly strength to shine. Note, for example, that men’s hormonal levels cycle with a great deal of consistency on a 24-hour cycle. Rising early with energy, craving socialization after work in the afternoon, followed by a need to withdraw in the evenings are patterns that correlate with how male hormones peak and drop over the course of the day. Female hormones, however, cycle over the course of the month and so patterns of energy, intuition, or socialization are not likely to be the same day after day. Interestingly, if we zoom out and look out at our instincts and behaviors over the course of the month, we might notice trends and patterns that correlate with the distinct phases of our menstrual cycle accordingly.
By understanding the sequences of events happening in our wombs, we can gracefully appreciate our body’s unique and varied needs and tap into the strengths of a given phase of our cycle. Knowing that there are biological reasons for having more robust energy to burn one week, desiring more nesting time in the next, and craving more socialization in another helps us understand ourselves, instead of guilting ourselves for not performing in exactly the same way every day. Instead, perhaps we can dynamically plan our schedules in a way that appreciates our bursts of creativity, analysis, and introspection and leverages them to our advantage.
The manner in which we feed our female body also needs a great deal of attention. Fad diets offer many metabolism and weight loss promises, but our dietary fundamentals should revolve around the unique building blocks that our feminine body needs. We need amino acids and fats to create hormones. Meals need to be a filling combination of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats without sugar, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates. When blood sugar levels can ride with stability throughout the day, we can prevent the energy fallouts and “hangry” effects of missed or imbalanced meals. Instead of starving our womanhood, we need to nourish and support her, so we can give our body permission to flourish and thrive, not pack and store unwanted toxins, weight, and wastes.
Encountering the work of Alisa Vitti has been life-changing for me. Understanding the science of how my God-given, female body works helps me to better appreciate and care for her. Having struggled with irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and a spat of infertility between the births of my two children, I know how mysterious understanding the body can be. However, I now see that those symptoms were just my body’s way of communicating her need for more attention and less neglect. Truth be told, the more that I tend to her needs, the more she supports me with vibrant energy, engagement, and creativity to live my life with purpose, productivity, and my distinctly feminine nature.
This article was originally published in SISTERS Magazine, Issue 77, March 2018.