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5 Holistic Ways I Take Care Of My Vaginal Health

I've become empowered to beat fibroids and conquer my fears of infertility.

Wellness

After reading Eureka Calhoun's xoNecole article "How I Healed My Uterine Fibroids the Holistic Way", I began to think more about my vaginal health. Like many women of color, some of us suffer from the harsh realities of having fibroids. I am one of those women. As someone who doesn't have kids, I became paranoid and afraid of the possibility of ever carrying a baby full-term. Every doctor I have visited has given me the same solutions to a never-ending problem.

At the time, I felt like having a fibroid was a death sentence. I was preparing my mind to endure the emotional roller coaster of having infertility issues.

One of the running themes many OB-GYNs will say is, "Let's just see what happens." After paying a copay, the last thing I want is for my medical provider to twiddle her thumbs looking at the clock. That isn't reassuring enough for me. After talking to different women and reading a slew of articles, I found simple ways to take my power back.

Product Overhaul

In 2016, an OB-GYN suggested I get an IUD to help maintain my fibroid size. At the time, it was "5 centimeters". (I put that in quotes because that seems to be the initial size they give all women when it's discovered that they have a fibroid.) We are all different from all walks of life, and we all have the same size fibroid? That was a red flag for me. As I've gotten older, I've given up belief in solutions like synthetic hormones, which are what birth control produces. I'm not here to preach to you about my morals and values. I'm here to present different alternatives so your vagina can be happy and healthy.

No matter what you cut out of your diet, how many crunches you do, and how many thoughts you have about going vegan, many women don't consider how many of our feminine products are harmful to us. We, as women, have introduced our bodies to so many toxins that they're almost hard to count. We have to be cognizant of what we are putting on and in our bodies.

A straightforward product can throw a wrench in your pH balance. My challenge to you is to read the ingredients in all of your products and Google what you find. For example, I've been using a particular brand of panty liners for years, and one day, I decided to pull out the packaging and look for the ingredients. I found it strange that they weren't listed on the package. I called the customer service number on the box and asked the representative about the ingredients. One of them was one that is found in antifreeze.

Image via Giphy

This product had become part of my hygiene regimen for years, and unbeknownst to me, it was something that I should've stopped using a long time ago. As a woman who puts all of her trust in these companies that promote vaginal health, I found it deceiving to mislead the masses.

I didn't go on a rampage and throw everything away because I'm not wasting my hard-earned money. What I did instead was limit my use of these products. I began changing them more than usual and avoided wearing them if it wasn't necessary. After spending days and weeks reading articles and conducting my own research, I have found alternatives that will help promote a healthier vagina.

100% Cotton Alternatives

After I used my last "toxic" liner, I wanted to research the alternatives, and there are thousands of them. I knew there had to be something that catered to feminine care and hygiene. A co-worker of mine mentioned to me that 100% cotton panty liners and pads do exist, and they can be found at your local drug store. After doing a quick Google search, I verified that she was correct.

I wrote all of these products down to make sure I wouldn't forget them later. After spending 30 minutes in the feminine care aisle reading and re-reading ingredients, I came across a product that was better than what popular corporations offer but not significant enough to tell my family and friends about. What stood out most was it stated that it was chlorine-free and fragrance-free. After becoming restless, I grabbed the box and went to check out.

In total, the product has five ingredients, but what turned me off was that two of them started with "poly," which in Latin means "many." So that meant that multiple chemicals created that one ingredient or that one ingredient can be broken down and used several different ways. Again, it had less additives than others on the shelves but not as significant to gloat about. I decided to use this panty liner the same way I would use the other one: in moderation.

Image via Giphy

Leak-Proof Underwear

To skip over the pad, panty liners, and tampons, another option is leak-proof underwear. With proper care, these can be handwashed to be worn over and over again.

Brands offer lingerie that caters to heavy days, light days, and regular days, so one pair of underwear might not fit all during certain days. The sizes provided depend on where you are in your cycle. Also, for some of us, they can be on the expensive side, with one pair retailing at $36.00. It's recommended that you don't use any fabric softener, but you must read respective care instructions by the brand.

Vegan-Friendly Feminine Wash

Like many of you, I visited my local Target and Wal-Mart to purchase the Honey Pot's feminine wash, and after using it for two days, it has changed my life. The packaging, the scents, and even the instructions indicate the love and the passion behind the products. The company makes women feel like they are the priority, and the product feels like it's doing the job. It lathers well and doesn't leave any residue.

I know we love the smells of an ocean breeze, citrus, and rose, but popular washes with those scents only disrupt the pH. Most of the ingredients in the Honey Pot's products are commonly familiar, such as lavender and aloe vera.

Using these as directed can help with pH issues and provide a freshness that we would never have to feel insecure about. I would encourage you all to go on the website and take the quiz. You will then get recommendations on what products to use based on your needs.

And remember, feminine washes should never be inserted directly in the vagina. Science says that the vagina can clean itself. If you must use anything, rinse all products thoroughly.

Image via Giphy

Vaginal Steaming

No matter how many times you refresh the explore page about vaginal health on Instagram, there is always a post on vaginal steaming. Some of the benefits of steaming can include reduced bloating during menstruation, regulation of irregular periods, increase in fertility, and detoxification. Based on your current pH balance, steaming can lead to a yeast infection, and it is not recommended if you currently have an IUD or are pregnant.

This technique is an ancient practice that has roots in Africa, Asia, and Central America. Testimonials across the web highly recommend that all women practice steaming. Not only does it detoxify your vagina, but it detoxifies your spirit, and many women use this time to meditate and practice spiritual affirmations. Before trying vaginal steaming, consult with your doctor and read the instructions.

Since having my IUD removed more than a month ago, I'm allowing my body to heal or go back to normal on its own. I've made it a routine to consume the proper supplements that will contribute to a healthier vagina, hormone regulation, and regular menstrual cycles in hopes of increasing my chances of bearing children one day. In hindsight, when we nurture and care for the most sacred part of our body, the rest of it seems to fall in place. Doing so creates a healthy balance that will only enhance our womanhood.

Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)

Featured image via Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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