It’s not every day I meet another female doctor who loves talking about hormones as much as I do.
But when I chatted recently with Dr. Claudia Welch, author of “Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western Science,” I knew I had met a soul sister, indeed.
Blending Oriental and Ayurvedic medicine, Dr. Welch stresses the importance of balancing both mind and body to achieve hormonal harmony. She says that the root cause of most health problems comes from an “overstriving” mentality: We’re doing too much, too quickly, too often.
Can you relate?
Her solution is simple but powerful: Learn self-care, make “soul” nourishment a priority, eat clean and eliminate stress.
Here are some of her philosophies that stood out to me in our chat – which she further discusses in her book:
1. Pleasure is not the opposite of discipline.
Whether it’s to hit the gym, have another cup of coffee or take a nap, making choices on an everyday basis can feel like a tug of war, Dr. Welch says:
“We’re afraid that if we don’t keep running, we’ll get fat, we’ll get lazy, somebody will see us not being productive, all the hidden cameras on us will start screaming like, ‘You are not being productive, you are not on task.’ And it’s embarrassing, and it’s humiliating, and we feel like we should be strong, so we ought to do it.”
Yet the power lies in this simple fact: Choosing pleasure, or what inherently feels right, isn’t the opposite of discipline, or doing what we think we should do. Let’s not make them polar opposites, Dr. Welch says, as this means we equate pleasure with being un-disciplined and lazy.
Listening to your body and following what feels right always leads you to the best choices for your health, Dr. Welch says, even if that means skipping the gym and getting a massage instead.
2. Stress is the root of many health problems.
Cortisol is what we call the “stress” hormone, because it helps our bodies gear up for battle and puts us in that fight-or-flight mode – even when there’s no real threat.
Dr. Welch says that cortisol acts as an allocator of where our energetic resources are going. In Ayurveda, that energy is called “prana,” or life force, and prana is intended to live in the vital organs. When stress levels rise, Dr. Welch explains, cortisol levels rise, robbing the organs of this vital energy by giving it to the muscles that need fuel in a fight-or-flight situation.
“Maybe 90 percent of the people I see – maybe more – have excess drive in their life; they’re driving too hard,” she said. “It’s not epidemic. It’s pandemic proportions. People are driving too hard.”
Health or hormonal problems can often be traced back to the underlying stressors that cause cortisol to allocate your energy, or prana, in a way that depletes you, Dr. Welch says.
3. Balanced hormones require a nourished spirit.
Have you ever thought about the difference between nervous energy and “real” energy?
The first, Dr. Welch explains, is that Energizer Bunny-like stamina that’s usually the result of high cortisol, caffeine and a “performance under pressure” mentality. The second, she offers, is the kind of deep power that comes from taking care of yourself and operating from a place of being grounded.
In Chinese medicine, she explains, bodily tissues respond to the state of your blood, which responds to the “chi” or prana, and that in turn responds to your habits of self-care – especially when it comes to how you expend energy through exercise and daily tasks.
“If we’re listening to ourselves and that internal something says, ‘No, it’s not the day to run,’ and we do it anyway, we are betraying ourselves in a way.”
Real energy and hormonal balance, then, start with learning how to nourish yourself and listen to the internal cues from mind, body and spirit.
4. Food is important, but it’s not everything.
I talk a lot about the importance of eating clean, but I love what Dr. Welch has to say about food, which is basically this: It’s possible to focus too much on food, and not enough on the bigger picture.
This obsession with diet can turn into yet another way we try to micromanage our lives and keep all of our balls in the air.
If you’re eating mostly unprocessed, whole foods and have a balanced diet, Dr. Welch says, trying to be more perfect in how you eat is less important than exploring other areas that might be compromising your health.
“If you come to me, no matter what your age and symptom, if your food is in that [healthy] ballpark, I’ll move onto other things and see what else is going on,” she says.
So if you’ve ever been curious about Ayurveda or just want to explore more holistic theories of hormonal balance, Dr. Welch’s book is a great place to start. Click here to order it on Amazon.
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