September is Sexual Health Awareness Month! To celebrate, wisp is turning up the volume on conversations about sexual health by featuring some of our favorite topics and the sexperts who know them best.
What does “staying healthy” look like to you? For many of us, the idea of health often conjures images of exercise, fruits and veggies, and annual check-ups with your friendly neighborhood physician. All those things are important, but they are just a small part of the overall picture! Likewise, staying on top of your sexual and reproductive health isn’t just about pelvic exams, tests and screenings, and medications — your diet, lifestyle, and mental health all contribute to your vaginal health, libido, menstrual cycle, and more.
What is holistic sexual care?
Holistic care is any type of care that looks at the body as an entire system rather than a series of independent parts. For instance, we know that high levels of stress can impact the menstrual cycle and cause irregular or skipped periods. Holistic care of those symptoms involves addressing the cause of that stress AND providing medication to help regulate menstruation. Using a holistic method helps uncover the root causes of your health issues, and this method can be applied to sexual health as well.
Adrienne Rommel (she/her), also known as The Yoni Nutritionist, is a certified Holistic Nutritionist and women’s health coach who helps women manage common, chronic vaginal infections (like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, candida overgrowth, HPV and herpes) through specific nutrition and lifestyle practices. She’s a pro at finding the root causes of your symptoms, especially if you’re someone who deals with recurrent infections.
“Although sometimes we do need the help of medication to treat an infection temporarily, medication is not a long-term solution. The only way to get to the root cause of these infections, ESPECIALLY if they keep coming back, is understanding it from a holistic perspective – what your diet is like, what your lifestyle is like, how stressed you are, etc. Getting to the root cause of these issues is the only way to relieve the symptoms of these infections in the long-term, and that’s where I come in!”
Mental health is also part of holistic care
Your health isn’t just about your biology — what’s going on mentally and emotionally can have a huge impact on your physical (and sexual) wellbeing. Many of us know that stress and pressure can lower your libido or make it more difficult to get to your big O, but did you also know feelings of shame and embarrassment can be a significant obstacle to getting the care you need? Adrienne Rommel sums up this phenomenon by saying, “The shame and stigma of these common vaginal infections are often worse than the infection itself. Especially with the common STI’s like HPV and HSV – many people experience so much shame with an HPV or HSV diagnosis because they are sexually transmitted which affects not only their physical health but their mental and emotional health as well.” Most vaginal infections are easily treated with an antifungal or a round of antibiotics, but the stigma of the infection can have mental health impacts that live beyond the physical symptoms (that’s why wisp works so hard to get conversations about sexual health out in the open!).
Jenelle Marie Pierce (she/her), the Executive Director of The STI Project and spokesperson for PositiveSingles.com, agrees. As an STI+ Certified Sexuality Educator, she’s been dismantling STI stigma since 2012. “Some of the top questions I field regularly are: How will I know if I have an STI? How can I tell who gave me an STI? How do I disclose my status to a new partner? Will anyone be able to accept this about me? Will this completely change my sex life? How do I reduce the risk of transmitting my infection to a partner?” These topics are tricky to navigate, and particularly anxiety-inducing, especially for those who are dealing with a first-time diagnosis and aren’t sure where to turn. Pierce goes on to say:
“The biggest misconception I encounter is that only certain types of people or certain types of sexual behaviors lead to an STI, and that's completely false. STIs don't discriminate, people do, and although they are not an ideal consequence of partnered sex, they are super common, and an STI is not an indication of a person's character or decisions.”
If mental health is holistic care… is therapy holistic care?
Absolutely! Trauma, especially sexual trauma, can have a huge impact on the way you experience your sexuality, relationships, and the act of sex itself. For people who struggle with sexual pleasure, low libido, or pain during sex, addressing previous trauma along with treatment tools like lube or libido medication can be key for success. Evelyn Sparks (she/they) is a gender-inclusive VITA-certified sex coach who works with people to heal from sexual trauma and step into their most liberated and empowered sexual expression.
“My work blends traditional talk-therapy elements with somatic healing. Meaning that I work together with clients to resolve their sexual trauma, not just in their logical mind, but in their body as well. My aim is to teach clients the skills they need to continue their own healing journey forever…. I currently specialize in healing sexual pain, working with vaginal numbness, feeling desire again after loss of libido, connection to the menstrual cycle and emotional liberation. Whether you want to re-sensitize your vagina, regain libido on SSRI’s, learn to say “no” when you don’t want to have sex with your partner or master your sexual energy for energy orgasms, this work is for you!”
Wisp doesn’t offer therapy (yet!), but we do our best to offer a range of treatment that includes prescription medication when you need it, and natural remedies that help prevent problems before they start. Over-the-counter treatments like Boric Acid, Reproductive Probiotics, and D-Mannose use natural ingredients to help your vagina stay healthy and prevent common infections like UTIs, yeast infections, and BV.
Follow all of the amazing holistic care experts featured here for more sexual care knowledge!
Adrienne Rommel, The Yoni Nutritionist (she/her)
Jenelle Marie Pierce, CSE (she/her)
Evelyn Sparks (she/they)