Have you read your owner's manual?

By: Alison Dunn Oct 19, 2010
  Editorial
Have you read your owner's manual?

How well do you know your body?

I know, that sounds like a bit of an odd question. After all, you live in your body every day; you probably think you know it pretty well. For instance, I’m pretty familiar with the pattern of freckles on my arms. I’ve had those freckles as long as I remember, and I look at my arms every day.

Most women are the same. Ask any one of us about our hair and we can tell you every last detail about it. Fine, thick, limp, curly, straight, wavy, we can tell you everything there is to know about our hair, including what works best to take care of it.

But when it comes to the inner workings of our body, we’re often painfully ignorant of what’s going on inside us. When I was researching this week’s feature article, “Yeast infection 101,” naturopathic doctor Juliet Ghodsian told me that many women don’t know exactly how their body works – and it can affect their health.

Take yeast infections, for example. Lots of women get yeast infections – I mean, there’s a whole section of the drugstore devoted to various over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections! There are those annoying advertisements you see on television with women dressed in tennis gear saying, “I’m not going to let a yeast infection stand in my way!” (Which always strikes me as slightly hysterical – is having a yeast infection going to stop you from playing tennis? Granted, they’re not the most fun, but it’s not like having a broken leg.)

But in talking to Dr. Ghodsian, she said that while plenty of women do get yeast infections, a lot more simply THINK they have them because they don’t know their bodies well enough to be able to tell the difference between normal, healthy vaginal discharge (which changes over the course of a menstrual cycle) and a yeast infection. Basically, we see something just a little out of the ordinary and we automatically assume there’s something wrong with us.

And it’s not just yeast infections either. There are plenty of other times we jump to conclusions about our health (for me, it’s always the old, “oh no, I can’t have a sinus infection – it’s just a cold!” only to find out it’s a raging sinus infection). And in doing so, we can sometimes be putting our own health at risk.

Dr. Ghodsian says the best way to combat this type of thing is with education. By educating yourself about the inner workings of your body, you can actually realize when something is out of the ordinary (like I should know when I get a blinding headache behind my eyes when I have a cold, it’s NOT a cold!). And when something is out of the ordinary, you can seek the right advice to make sure you return to your ordinary state.

After all, we women do a lot. We have jobs, partners, families, children and so many others who rely on us. Often, the only person a woman has to take care of her is herself. And we can’t afford to take our health for granted.

I encourage you to take the next step and learn more about your body. I know we don’t come with owner’s manuals, but just a bit of extra research and talking to health professionals could help us avoid health snafus before they start.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.