When I was in medical residency I got my first ever urinary tract infection. Busy working 80+ hours per week, I was cutting back on how much water I was drinking to avoid having to make time to go pee during grueling hospital rotations, surgeries, and long hours in the clinic. Add coffee to the mix to help me stay awake for the over 30+ hour shifts that were required in residency back then. At first I ignored the sensations – the irritation in my bladder and bit of burning when I finally did urinate. But then the pain because so bad I couldn't ignore any longer. I felt like I was peeing out knives. My back was aching. I had a low-grade fever. And there was blood on my toilet tissue when I wiped. I had ignored a urinary tract infection all the way to a kidney infection. I had created an infection so serious that the doctor who saw me wanted to put me in the hospital for IV antibiotic therapy!
That week I took antibiotics for the first time in over 30 years. I had let things go too far to try to rescue the situation with my usual go-to natural medicines.
Prior to medical training, I was genius at listening to and respecting the wisdom of my body – knowing how to calibrate my diet and lifestyle at the first symptom of a cold or other discomfort, adding in an herb here or a nutritional supplement there. But doctors are some of the worst at listening to our own bodies. The training itself is known to teach physicians to ignore their bodies, including ignoring when they are sick. It also teaches us we are not our own best experts — but that is not true.
After getting sick, you can bet your bootie that I got to paying full attention to my own BodySpeak™! I started to teach women to do the same using BodySpeak™ – listening to our bodies so we can stay in the health sweet zone, rather than get sick from ignoring our own inner guidance systems. Because your Body is Your Best Health Expert!
Women come to me from all over the world looking for solutions for their health problems – from weight that’s been difficult to lose to complex autoimmune conditions. It’s natural, of course, to seek the advice of experts when we have problems we're having trouble solving.
But one expert that most of us forget to turn to is our own body. Our bodies are actually genius and, in fact, may be our best source of information if we can start to learn the language – millions of bits of information every second that our wonderful gut, brain, and immune systems do the work of processing and integrating to keep us well informed.
Yet at some point most of us stop listening to our bodies. We override our hunger signals with the latest diet, we get too busy to eat when we’re hungry, and we start to ignore small symptoms – the little signals that tell us when something is not right in our world – until they become too big too ignore, then sometimes forcing us to get medical attention. One of the things I do as a physician is remind women to tune back into the expert within — our inner wise woman who often does actually have a pretty good clue about what's knocking us off balance — and how to regain it. It takes practice and some amount of diligence to remember to hit the pause button long enough to reflect — but when we do, it's amazing what we can learn about ourselves.
Why We Ignore Ourselves
The reasons we stop listening to our bodies are complex and include:
- Not recognizing that our body is telling us something important
- Not trusting what our body is telling us
- Being too busy to listen or respond to the messages
- Not wanting to hear the truth about what our body is telling us
The roots of mistrust in women’s bodies actually began centuries ago during a time in history when women’s intuition was considered irrelevant and unscientific, and our bodies, and the earth itself were all considered unsacred feminine. According to the 17th century scientist, Francis Bacon, women’s bodies, and the earth, were to be used as men saw fit. These philosophies formed the early roots of the scientific method and modern medicine, and continue to pervade how we are taught to think about and experience our bodies from the time we are born.
From our earliest years and our first visits to the doctor’s office, we are taught that we are not the experts on our own bodies and to hand our care over at every stage to the medical profession. When we go to the doctor, we are not asked what we think might be causing our chronic headaches, our recurrent urinary tract infections, or our difficulty losing weight. We are simply given a diagnosis and a prescription.
Can you imagine how different our experience of our bodies – and health care – would be if our doctors asked us, “So, what do you think this symptom is telling you right now?”
When I ask my patients this type of question I hear answers like,
- I’m just not making any time to take care of myself.
- I am in a really toxic work environment so I’m eating a lot more sugar than I know I should.
- I’ve been really depressed since that break up and just keep sabotaging my weight and mood with ice cream.
- My marriage is the biggest source of inflammation in my life.
Some of my patients just say they aren’t sure because they either haven’t taken the time to actually check in on how they are really feeling, and many just didn’t realize that the body can tell us truths about our lives. I believe that the body doesn’t lie – when things are going on in our lives that we can’t face head on, they often manifest as symptoms – sometimes small, sometimes glaringly loud and large!
Listening is the first and most important step to understanding your body's important messages. But most of us are so busy going about our lives that we ignore our body-speak – the language our body uses to get information to us. Some of it is quite basic and easy to learn!
Are You Ignoring Your BodySpeak?
So how do you know whether you are listening to – or ignoring – your body? You probably already have a clue. But here are 7 common things we women do to ignore our bodies. If you answer yes to any of these, then yup, m’dear, you too, are ignoring your body’s wisdom and clearest, strongest messages. If you answer yes to any of these, it’s time to take better loving care of YOU!
- You get headaches from not drinking enough water or not eating when you need to.
- You ignore your need to urinate at the first urge, instead waiting until you “really need to go.”
- You ignore your need to have a BM because you don’t have time in the morning, don’t want to use the public restroom at work, or for some other reason.
- You have blood sugar crashes. (They are telling you that you are ignoring your hunger signals and are either skipping meals or not eating enough good quality protein).
- You knowingly overeat past your satisfied and full signals. (Yes, why are you doing this?)
- You have food cravings. (They are telling you your body needs something nutritionally, or that you need something emotionally or spiritually that you’re not getting or letting yourself go for!).
- You wake up tired and drink coffee for energy or you ever crash at 4 pm and grab for more caffeine and some sugar, too! (You need more rest and relaxation, and more balance in your life).
If you are doing any – or all! – of the above – I promise, you’re not alone. So are most of the women who contact me for health advice and medical care. But you’ve made a major shift toward realizing that your body is actually talking to you!
If you can simply start to pay attention and respond in a healthy way when you experience any of these BodySpeak clues, you will be on your way with the first steps to understand and respond to your Body Speak™.
Learning to listen to your body will take you to new levels of self-awareness and health. You’ll get sick less often, your weight will optimize, you’ll have energy you thought you’d never have again – and all of those little annoying symptoms will get the attention they need so they can stop bothering you!
To your good health,