I am a Gynaecologist Obstetrician ( MD, DNB OBGYN) with an emphasis on INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE.
A topic that has fascinated me for quite some time: Why do women often see different results from medicine and healthcare trends? Did this thought ever cross your mind - how the unique physiological and hormonal changes that women experience throughout their menstrual cycle can influence the effectiveness of conventional and alternative medical treatments and why embracing this natural rhythm can lead to better outcomes?
Hello there! I'm Dr. Disha. As an experienced gynaecologist, I have had the privilege of working with countless women over the years, helping them navigate various aspects of their reproductive health. Let’s just get into this topic now.
Before we delve into the intricacies of why women may respond differently to traditional medicine and healthcare trends, it's crucial to have a basic understanding of the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is a beautifully complex process that involves a series of hormonal fluctuations and physical changes in a woman's body, typically lasting about 28 days. This cycle can be broadly divided into four phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.
Menstruation (Days 1-5): This is the bleeding phase, during which the uterine lining sheds if pregnancy does not occur. Hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, are at their lowest.
Follicular Phase (Days 6-14): The body prepares for potential pregnancy during this phase. Follicles in the ovaries mature, and estrogen levels begin to rise, leading to the thickening of the uterine lining.
Ovulation (Day 14): Ovulation occurs when a mature follicle releases an egg. This phase is characterized by a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) and a brief spike in estrogen levels.
Luteal Phase (Days 15-28): If fertilization does not occur, the empty follicle transforms into the corpus luteum, producing progesterone. Progesterone dominates this phase, maintaining the uterine lining in anticipation of pregnancy.
Now that we have a grasp of the menstrual cycle's basic mechanics, let's explore why these cyclical hormonal changes can lead to varying responses to traditional medicine.
Traditional medicine often follows a one-size-fits-all approach. However, women's hormonal fluctuations mean that their bodies may metabolize medications differently throughout their menstrual cycle. For instance, the absorption and effectiveness of certain drugs can vary based on hormonal levels. During the luteal phase, when progesterone levels are high, the liver's ability to metabolize drugs may change. This can impact the efficacy and safety of medications, leading to different outcomes than expected. As a result, women may experience side effects or find that their symptoms are not adequately managed by traditional treatments during specific phases of their cycle.
Pain management is a common concern for many women, especially during menstruation. Traditional pain relievers may be less effective during the menstrual phase when estrogen and progesterone are low. This is why some women report varying levels of pain relief when using over-the-counter pain medications. Understanding this hormonal influence on pain perception can empower women to explore alternative pain management strategies, such as heat therapy, acupuncture, or mindfulness techniques, which may offer better results at different times of their cycle.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the menstrual cycle's impact on women's productivity. The traditional 9-to-5 work model does not always align with the natural ebb and flow of a woman's energy and focus throughout her cycle. During the follicular phase, when estrogen is on the rise, women may experience heightened creativity, motivation, and energy levels. This can be an excellent time to tackle challenging tasks or embark on creative projects. In contrast, the luteal phase, dominated by progesterone, may be better suited for more routine or administrative tasks. By acknowledging these cyclical changes, women can optimize their productivity, making the most of their natural rhythm to achieve their goals and reduce stress.
The menstrual cycle's impact extends beyond medication and productivity. It also influences various aspects of a woman's life, including exercise, nutrition, and self-care. Exercise preferences may change throughout the cycle, with some women feeling more inclined to engage in intense workouts during the follicular phase and opting for gentler activities like yoga or walking during the luteal phase and menstruation. Nutritional needs may also vary, with some women experiencing stronger cravings for certain foods at specific times. Moreover, self-care practices, such as meditation, journaling, and relaxation techniques, can be particularly beneficial during the luteal phase to manage stress and emotional fluctuations.
Historically, medical research has often been biased towards male subjects. Clinical trials and studies have predominantly focused on male populations, leading to a lack of understanding of how medications interact with female physiology.
This gender bias has real-world consequences. Women may be prescribed medications or treatments that have not been adequately studied in female populations, leading to unpredictable results and potential side effects.
Another issue in traditional medicine is the tendency to ignore the menstrual cycle when diagnosing and treating female patients. Often, symptoms are assessed in isolation, without considering the cyclical nature of women's health.
Empowering women to track their menstrual cycles and communicate these changes to healthcare providers can lead to more tailored and effective treatments.
A holistic approach to women's health involves considering lifestyle factors and nutrition. Women's nutritional needs can vary throughout their menstrual cycle, and tailoring diets accordingly can have a significant impact on overall well-being.
Stress management is also a crucial aspect of women's health. The menstrual cycle is sensitive to stress, and chronic stress can disrupt hormonal balance, affecting treatment outcomes.
Health issues can take an emotional toll on women, especially when they experience inconsistent results from treatments. Empathetic healthcare providers who acknowledge these challenges can make a world of difference in a woman's journey to wellness.
Empowering women with knowledge about their bodies and menstrual cycles is key. When women understand how their hormones affect their health, they can actively participate in treatment decisions and advocate for their unique needs.
In conclusion, women's health is a complex and multifaceted domain influenced by the cyclical nature of the female body. Traditional medicine, which often adopts a one-size-fits-all approach, may yield different results in women due to hormonal variability and gender bias in research. To bridge this gap, a holistic approach that considers the menstrual cycle integrates lifestyle factors, and prioritizes empathy and education is essential. By understanding and embracing the uniqueness of women's health, we can pave the way for more effective and personalized treatments.
Yes, hormonal birth control can influence how certain medications are metabolized in the body. It's important to discuss potential interactions with your healthcare provider.
While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, women may benefit from adjusting their diets to align with their menstrual cycle. You can read about SHE-TO METHOD which is a diet and lifestyle method aligned to your menstrual cycle. Consulting a hormone expert can provide personalized guidance.
There are various apps and tools available for menstrual cycle tracking. These can help you monitor your cycle, identify patterns, and communicate changes with your healthcare provider.
Chronic stress can disrupt hormonal balance and impact various aspects of women's health. Managing stress through techniques like meditation and exercise is crucial.
The menstrual cycle can significantly affect how a woman's body responds to medications and treatments. Tailoring healthcare to the menstrual cycle can lead to more effective and personalized care.
Originally published May 2, 2019