This article first published in Natural Awakenings written by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer.
May is recognized as National Women’s Health Month, and in this current landscape, it’s more crucial than ever for women of all ages to make both their physical and mental well-being a priority. This includes nutrition, hormone balance, detoxification, stress management, sexual or reproductive health, and other lifestyle factors that contribute to optimal functioning.
For an insider’s take on how women can be their own wellness advocates—both during Women’s Health Month and even all year round—I sought the expertise of Dr. Christina Captain. As a nationally board-certified Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, as well as the founder of Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition, Dr. Captain offers a breadth of knowledge and experience on the topic, as outlined in our conversation below.
Natural Awakenings: What are some key facets of a comprehensive healthcare plan for women’s bodies, and how does your practice address them?
Dr. Christina Captain: It’s all relative, depending on each person’s needs, as well as the phase of life. For adolescent girls, it’s all about making sure their menarche experience (the first occurrence of menstruation) is manageable, and their subsequent cycles are regular and painless. Nutrition and acupuncture are both major components of this.
As women move into their childbearing years, I focus on both fertility and pregnancy health. Targeted nutrition and acupuncture play a significant role here as well, then labor induction and postpartum care are next. Later in life, I emphasize healthy aging and hormonal balance. Sometimes this means dealing with the effects of medications, life challenges such as cancer, or treatments such as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).
In the later years, I also address menopausal symptoms, sexual health maintenance, and the deterioration of joints, organs, and other body parts (e.g. incontinence or vision issues), so that women feel assisted and supported in the limitations of an aging body.
My treatment protocol during all of these life phases is uniquely tailored to the patient, but frequently includes nutritional planning, acupuncture, detoxification (mental and physical), target supplementation based on laboratory analysis. The main focus is on whole health—looking at all aspects of wellness and making specialist referrals where necessary. This team approach is the best for the patient, and one I also utilize for myself.
NA: As a woman in the healthcare profession, what do you want other women to know about being empowered to advocate for and take control of their own well-being?
Dr. Captain: Women are the bedrock of their families, so it often falls on them to seek out positive and effective healthcare solutions for each member of the family. During my 21 years in practice, I have been honored to treat generations of families, and with each patient, I utilize education to facilitate empowerment.
We all need to ask questions and challenge the “why” behind a treatment or procedure. I encourage my patients to inquire about alternatives and know all the options available before they make a healthcare decision. A number of physicians do this now, but there are still those who remain in practice by keeping medicine a secret.
These physicians might tell a patient, “The ‘why’ is for me to know—you can trust my expertise. There is a reason it’s called doctor’s orders, right?” However, the state of Florida requires by law that patients receive, to the best of their understanding, all the transparent facts about a medical treatment including the pros, cons, and alternatives.
I consistently strive to empower my own patients to take ownership of their bodies and be proactive in asking questions about their course of treatment. I encourage them to view their healthcare team as an advisory board, not as a command center. When patients are active in the process and have a full understanding, they can make informed decisions.
NA: How has your practice changed or pivoted this last year in response to the pandemic, and what measures have you taken to ensure both staff and patient safety?
As an essential business, my practice never closed, but so much has changed about our daily operations. We now pre-screen the temperatures of all staff members and are actively seeking vaccinations for them. At this time, we are 50 percent vaccinated as a team, and we have also changed from street clothes and labcoats to scrubs full-time.
In addition, we are masked 100 percent from the start to finish of each day, and we no longer use linens in our treatment rooms—only paper and disposable everything. Before patients enter our office, we also pre-screen their temperatures and ask about their overall health or current symptoms. Masks are required for entry as well, and if a patient feels sick or has been exposed to someone who might have COVID-19, we ask them not to come in.
Due to the limited space in our practice, we allow one person in the lobby at a time, and we sanitize every room after each patient. I am not a fan of chemicals, so I use soap and water to clean all surfaces. I was grateful when the CDC recently came out with new information that COVID-19 is not spread through surface contact, but Lysol, masks, and handwashing are imperative. The last year has been an undeniable challenge, but my practice has weathered both the crisis of 9–11 and the recession of 2008—I know we’ll survive this too.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger, and social media marketer. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features tips for embracing an active, nutritious, balanced, and empowered lifestyle.