You are what you eat. I know you have heard people say this, but it couldn’t be more true. When it comes to the efficacy of how your body functions, what you are putting into it has the power to set it up for success or failure. Now, when I say this, people think junk food, but that isn’t always the only “evil” we are working with. Some of the success of your body’s functionality is determined by the kind of healthy foods you choose. Think about two women who decide to be accountability partners for weight loss and go to the gym and are eating salads for lunch. One woman will lose the weight and the other woman will feel stuck because she’s doing all the same things without the same results as her friend. Why is that? Well some bodies need cool foods (think raw foods like salad) and some need warm (think soup, warming spices or steamed veggies) to function with equal efficiency. Knowing what kinds of foods YOUR individual body needs helps not only your health and weight but also your reproductive health.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrienne Irizarry. Adrienne is the owner of Moon Essence, LLC. She is a certified steam therapist and fertility awareness coach. She works with girls and women to understand what their cycle is telling them and create harmony in the body using an ancient steam practice, herbs and food therapy.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thank you for taking an interest in my practice! My backstory begins the same as the narrative of thousands of women around the world — I had period problems.
I have a masters in Communication and had worked in nonprofits as well as Corporate America in marketing and public relations for over a decade. These jobs are busy, exciting and intense and the demand of the schedule was taking a toll on my body. My periods had always been painful, irregular and heavy but working in this environment these issues escalated and were the worst they had ever been. It was impacting my ability to contribute to my job in the way I knew I was capable of.
After seeing several OB/GYNs the answer was always the same:
· “Let’s try birth control to regulate your cycle” — the result? Weight gain, cramping and eventually a “cardiac episode” which mirrored a heart attack at the age of 25.
· “Let’s try pain management” — the result? Less pain but still heavy flow and utter exhaustion because the “faucet” wouldn’t turn off in less than 10 days.
· “You have had a child. Maybe you should consider a hysterectomy” — the result? NO WAY. Why cut part of my body out because they couldn’t solve the problem?
After years of trying to get answers, I had a friend who told me about vaginal steaming.
My first impression was — “vaginal what?” but heard her out. She explained it was like a sauna experience sitting over steam. It was very relaxing but the best part was the improvement in her period so she thought it might help me too.
I honestly had nothing to lose so I thought “what the heck — I’ll give it a try.” I couldn’t have ever imagined the results I experienced.
My first session was so relaxing. It was warm and like sitting in a hot bath. I walked away thinking I would do it again even if it was just for 15 relaxing minutes (a precious commodity as a mother of three.)
After steaming the first month, I couldn’t believe my next period. I barely had any cramping. I wasn’t bloated and groaning about getting into my pants. My period was even and HALF what it had ever been for flow. I wasn’t physically exhausted at the end of my period and it only lasted 6 days instead of 10! Woah.
Excited about my results, I steamed the second month and had another revelation. For the first time in my adult life my period was pain free, lasted only 4 days and was even and moderate in flow.
Going from 8–10 day periods that were heavy for the first 5 days, painful and bloated to 4 days, pain free and mild/moderate flow — it was like stepping into a new body. I had more energy for life and my family and the dread I once experienced for my impending period each month turned to excitement to see how much better I would feel as each month passed with my new steaming regimen.
It was this success that drew me to getting certified as a steam therapist. Every woman should have a hassle-free period like this! If we all have to have a period, why do they have to be miserable? The answer is they don’t. I am on a mission to help others feel as good as I do now.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
1) Learn how to read the signs your body is telling you. Our world is busier than ever before. We get our news at top speed and we are expected to produce and process equally as quickly. These kinds of stressors affect normal healthy processes in the body. When our organic computer gets overloaded — it tells us! For women, this shows up as irregularities in our period. Knowing how to read what your period is telling you can drastically help you to improve your health and well-being.
2) The standard healthy period lasts 4 days, medium flow and arrives every 28–30 days. No cramping, no arrival before/later than that and no heavy bleeding. Anything outside of this tells a story. For the vast majority of women, the period I just described is a unicorn and many who read it probably laughed out loud. It is possible to achieve even after years of dysfunction by using steaming as a therapeutic tool.
3) You are what you eat. I know you have heard people say this, but it couldn’t be more true. When it comes to the efficacy of how your body functions, what you are putting into it has the power to set it up for success or failure. Now, when I say this, people think junk food, but that isn’t always the only “evil” we are working with. Some of the success of your body’s functionality is determined by the kind of healthy foods you choose. Think about two women who decide to be accountability partners for weight loss and go to the gym and are eating salads for lunch. One woman will lose the weight and the other woman will feel stuck because she’s doing all the same things without the same results as her friend. Why is that? Well some bodies need cool foods (think raw foods like salad) and some need warm (think soup, warming spices or steamed veggies) to function with equal efficiency. Knowing what kinds of foods YOUR individual body needs helps not only your health and weight but also your reproductive health.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
This is a hard one. There are so many. I have seen women who have struggled to get pregnant for years and/or experienced miscarriages carry healthy pregnancies when they thought all hope was lost. I have seen women who lived with chronic infections like BV or yeast break the cycle that kept them what seemed like constantly on antibiotics live infection free lives empowered with the tools they needed to keep infections away. I have heard the shrill squeal on the other end of the phone from women who had finally experienced the first pain free menstrual cycle of their lives. It’s so hard to choose just one amazing story when each one of these women have experienced a life altering change as a result of steam, herbs and food therapy. Their successes are my story.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t think we make mistakes — we are presented with learning opportunities. I think my biggest learning opportunity was about the power of male allies.
I believed that women were the only ones who needed to hear my story, but it was in fact the men who love and support these women who have become some of the biggest advocates. They support their partner’s decision to start steaming, they help keep kids entertained so they can get the steaming in and take on more of the heavy lifting during the 4 bleeding days each month so their partner can care for her body in the way she’s supposed to.
Sure, I still get a fair number of men who lead with “does it cure PMS?” as an icebreaker. These men, however, once they understand what this practice can do for their spouse (and yes PMS and PMDD are alleviated, if you were wondering) they are often the ones to bring information to their partners, come to appointments and do what it takes to see their partner succeed in better health.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Education is paramount. If women know they have options that don’t involve surgery or hormones to regulate their cycles and deal with undesirable experiences during their cycles, they will be better empowered to make decisions that work for them.
I provide steam, sauna and steam gown services to my clients, but the biggest piece of my work is education. I am teaching women about their bodies, how they work and the tools they have available to them through the ancient practice of steaming to regulate their cycles in a health non-chemically driven way. This reality is a game changer for any woman who has fibroids, endometriosis and cysts who think surgery may be their only solution. The issue with Western methods is they address symptoms but don’t get to the root of the cause. When a woman has a procedure to remove a fibroid, for example, the doctor has to give her the disclaimer that there is a possibility of the fibroid returning. Steaming and food therapy addresses the root of why the fibroid developed in the first place. I have successfully ended my relationship with endometriosis with this practice and helped countless others.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people who have helped me to be where I am today. I would have to say it is a really solid tie between my prior supervisor and mentor Todd Saucier and my mentor Alicia Nichols.
Todd took a chance on an enthusiastic young professional and invested in me. He helped nurture my talents, supported me as a manager and provided me with numerous professional development opportunities that helped me grow not only in the profession I was in at the time but also as the professional I wanted to be in the world. He is the epitome of a leader — always willing to roll up his own sleeves and work alongside his employees if there was a project that needed many hands and I always admired that. It is a quality I have always emulated because he fostered a team that was loyal and cared for one another and the work that they did. It was an honor to work on such a team and learn from such a shining example of authenticity and leadership.
Alicia came into my life when I was a young professional fresh out of grad school and she taught me everything a young female professional needs to know to thrive. She shaped me as a professional in the field I was working in but also as a person that was ready for everything life would deliver. She is a force of nature and I always admired her for how she could command a room with gentle presence and accomplish everything she had committed to. She has always been just a phone call away when I’ve needed her at different junctures in my life and I am so thankful for her continued support. She is one of the most articulate, poised, intelligent and capable women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and I wouldn’t be half of the woman and professional I am today without her energy and talents in my life.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a movement to educate our young women. They are our next generation. If we can teach them body literacy from the beginning of puberty and show them the tools for self-care that will keep them healthy — it will change the future.
My work with adult women is significant, but to start girls at an age when they don’t know the current societal narratives that “cramps are normal” and “you are fertile all month so you need birth control” and actually show them how their cycles work and prevent cramps before they even happen we will have a generation of women who will be healthier than any generation before. The first place the body steals resources for other parts of the body is the reproductive system. If that is functioning optimally — the rest of the body follows suit.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1) Start with good software! I started with booking software and managing client records on the cheap and later had to transfer all of my clients from the old way of doing things into a new system. Pay the nominal subscription for the right tool for the job right from the start. It will save you time and aggravation.
2) Ask for help. You are only good…until you burn out. As your resources increase, find ways you can delegate the tasks that take you away from the important things. If I am preaching “balance” to people, I have to walk my talk. Asking for help with bookkeeping, for example, was one of the smartest decisions I have ever made.
3) Automate what you can. There are so many programs that will talk to each other. When I discovered my bookkeeping software could also talk to my credit card processor AND my ecommerce site it was a MAJOR time savings. When you can get systems to automate tasks for you in reduces error and frees your time up for more important things (do you see a theme here?)
4) Being a pioneer requires strength of character. You have to be willing to have tough conversations if you will be the change you want to be in the world. People are skeptical of what they don’t understand, it’s just our nature. Have faith in yourself and everything will work out exactly as the universe intends because you are living your truth.
5) Be authentic. People trust people. If you are willing to share the real with people, they will have faith in the process. When it comes to talking about women’s anatomy, everyone comes to the conversation with different levels of comfort. Being willing to hold space, be authentic and vulnerable with people creates a safe space for growth to take place.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is the cause dearest to me right now because our mental health has an inextricable connection to our physical health. Western medicine often pulls the body apart into pieces that see different specialists where in Eastern medicine your emotional state is just as woven into the fabric of your health as the physical body.
We are living in a time where in the United States we don’t care enough for ourselves. Our time off is the smallest allowance of any industrialized nation because we are slow to figure out that if we step away from work we return more fruitful. Our maternal care system is an abomination. Our new mothers should be focused on their physical recovery as well as bonding with and caring for their baby and yet most are mentally and emotionally strained because they are panicked to find care so they can return to work before their physical body is ready to really do so. As we all know, the bills don’t stop just because you do. The strain that comes from the physical is a strain of the mental as well. It’s all part of the same cookie.
The success of our mental health system will also come out of changing the stigma our society has around needing help. There is no weakness in asking for help needs to become the narrative if more people are to be honest about what they need and reach a hand out for assistance. Resources and infrastructure to better support families will result in healthier people.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @moonessenceme
Thank you for these fantastic insights!