A Woman's Guide to Vitality Through the Life Stages

 Image: Yoli & Otis

Image: Yoli & Otis

The life of a woman is truly a magical process. The many stages we experience practically mimic that of a metamorphosis, a distinct passage through profound maturation, representing the powerful resilience and wisdom of our nature.

As with the cycles occurring within nature, the stages of a woman’s life represent a beautiful arc of budding growth, maturation, and instinctive winding down as we prepare to pass on our wisdom and return to the earth. Nature functions with effortless ease and grace. We too can follow its intuitive rhythms, aligning ourselves with its cycles and stages as a powerful way to embrace the natural ebb and flow of our lives and to find deeper serenity within.

Looking at the continuum of a woman’s life in stages helps us appreciate our strengths and vulnerabilities as we transform. These gradual shifts take place over long periods of time and their subtle nature guides us gently and intuitively through the passages of life.

There are essential ways to support our bodies through each stage, guiding us on our paths toward wellness with effortless poise, dignity, and assuredness.

The following guide identifies the 4 main stages of a woman’s life - teen, maiden, mother, and elder - and recommends how best to navigate each stage. By being aware of these shifts and the inherent needs of each phase, we can fuel ourselves with the most supportive nutrients, herbs, and activities that will help us thrive at every stage of life.


TEEN

Approximate Time Frame: 12-13 years of age through to the end of high school
 

Main Areas of Focus for Teens
Growth, hydration, nourishment, structure, stress management, and body image

Vulnerabilities of Teens

Teens undergo increased physical and emotional development once they enter puberty. This happens through dramatic periods of growth and changing social experiences. This experience is heightened through body image awareness and the strong influence of their peers.

This is a stage that demands nutrient-rich and blood-building foods that support the body through multiple chemical processes and help regulate radically shifting hormones.

Girls may start to limit or restrict food due to body image concerns, though this approach often backfires as the metabolism thrives when it is properly nourished with a variety of whole foods.

This is also a time when the over-consumption of processed foods and sugar can contribute to hormonal imbalances and mood disorders.

Healing Nutrients for Teens

With increasing activity levels, maturation of the body, and changing social interactions, teens are under a lot of pressure. It’s helpful to focus on a balanced diet to support these life events.

Teens naturally crave sweet, grounding, and anabolic (“build-up”) foods because these food qualities will support the growth and development their bodies are going through.

Healthy options for foods with these qualities include whole grains like rice, oats, quinoa & buckwheat, legumes, greens, root vegetables, and fruits such as berries & bananas.

Unfortunately, sweet and anabolic foods are available in abundance in the modern developed world in the form of processed foods. However, healthy sources of carbs & sugar can be found in whole foods, which have many additional nutrients and benefits, and none of the added artificial ingredients or unhealthy fats.

 

Building Foods: Pastured eggs, lean organic meats, wild-caught fish, fresh fruits & vegetables, legumes, nuts & seeds, whole grains, bitter foods (such as leafy greens, cacao, and herbs), raw honey, and healthy fats like olive oil & avocado.

+ Plenty of Water - Drink ½ your body weight (in lbs) in oz. daily

Healing Herbs: Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, chaste tree berry (aka vitex)

Calming Teas: Chamomile & Lemon balm

 

Lifestyle Recommendations for Teens

The increased availability and use of technology has negatively impacted teenagers’ activity levels. Stagnation has many adverse health impacts on the mind & body. Movement is imperative for strength, growth, and balanced mental health.

Maintaining a strong level of physical activity will support maturation and growth during these important years. Physical activity increases circulation in the blood and lymphatic system raises energy levels, improves absorption and utilization of nutrients, and supports detoxification.

Activities: Walking, running, hiking, school sports, dance, swimming, or working out at the gym

Detoxing from tech or social platforms for days, weeks, or months at a time is a powerful way to create long-standing boundaries with technology. Socializing and connecting with friends while engaging in real life activities deeply nourishes the body and mind, as does spending long spans of time in nature. Camping and hiking are especially beneficial for teens.

Breathwork is a helpful tool for anxiety. Take mini “breath breaks” throughout the day, before tests, or whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. Simply inhale deeply for 7 counts, hold for 2, and then exhale for 7 counts.


MAIDEN

Approximate Time Frame: 20’s until mature or until the conception of the first child.
 

Main Areas of Focus for Maidens
Digestion, absorption, integration, transformation, maturation, forming an identity, developing talents, hormonal balance, and stress management.

Vulnerabilities of Maidens

This life stage is characterized by increased ambition, education, and competitiveness. Overworking, inflammation, and having a strong will can often accompany these areas of focus.

With greater attention being placed on career and monetary gain, physical and emotional needs are generally disregarded.

Adults in this stage are naturally more prone to imbalance, irritability, and hyper-acidity. This can cause acid-indigestion, heartburn, and other digestive disorders, and is often followed by hormonal imbalance and, eventually, infertility.

The habits developed during this time are often carried throughout our lifetime. Make this an essential time of self-care and self-love. The nurturing patterns created will serve as a preventative measure to our hormonal health, fertility, well-being, and long-term vitality.

Healing Nutrients for Maidens

The qualities of foods needed to support these years are cooling, hearty, energizing, and dry. These elements balance internal temperature, prevent inflammation, nourish the body, and have a grounding effect.  

 

Nourishing Foods: Raw foods (during spring and summer), vegetables, greens, nuts & seeds (excluding peanuts), healthy fats (ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados), pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, lean organic meats including organ meats, and grains like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat. Probiotic-rich foods are also highly beneficial (raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, etc.).

+ Plenty of Water - Drink ½ your body weight (in lbs) in oz. daily

Nourishing Herbs: Cumin, fennel, mint, turmeric, nettle, red raspberry

Grounding Teas: Holy basil, burdock, lemon balm

 

Lifestyle Recommendations for Maidens

To balance the fiery nature of this life stage, focusing on activities that promote relaxation is incredibly effective. Engage in activities to balance perfectionist tendencies, and foster a healthy relationship with both the self and nature.

Develop daily self-care practices and routines. Deep breathing, meditation, self-massage, breast massage, dry brushing, long baths, and ample time in nature are great places to start.

Move daily. Yoga, practiced in a studio or at home, with or without video guides, is grounding and has both mental and physical benefits. Also try strength training, pilates, swimming, and dancing. Walk, run, or go for a hike on a daily basis.

Calm the nervous system. Think: Gentle thoughts, gentle approach.

Meditation calms the mind, strengthens awareness, and relaxes the nervous system. Meditation can be practiced independently or guided. Apps such as Headspace and Calm are convenient and accessible, with plenty of free guided meditations available on each.

Journaling is a powerful tool for gaining clarity and accessing intuition. At the beginning or end of each day, practice free form writing, just letting the thoughts flow.

Breathe. Take mini “breath breaks” throughout the day or whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. Simply inhale deeply for 7 counts, hold for 2, and then exhale for 7 counts.


MOTHER

Approximate Time Frame: From the conception of a first child to approx. 55-65 years  

 

Main Areas of Focus for Mothers

Nutrition, energy, conception, mental health, disease prevention, and long-term well-being.

Vulnerabilities of Mothers

Most women at this life stage have the desire to become mothers, but increasing numbers of people are having difficulties conceiving. While we hope and imagine that conception and pregnancy will be an easy and natural process, it often isn’t as effortless as we’d hope - and this can be incredibly disheartening.

Women at this stage in life should focus on preparing the body, mind, and spirit for a healthy pregnancy. Support both before and during pregnancy is essential and will allow both mother and baby to thrive throughout pregnancy and post-birth.

Women who are past the maiden stage but who have consciously chosen not to become mothers may also struggle with vulnerabilities during this life phase. Societal expectations, guilt, and decision-making stress can put extra pressure on women. For those who cannot or choose not to give birth, there are other ways to experience the expression of motherhood during this life stage: nurturing others, caring for animals or family members’ children, volunteering, and being creative.

Healing Nutrients for Mothers

A woman's diet directly affects both her & her baby’s health, including mental health, organ development, brain development, weight, eating habits, and long-term vitality. The diet and lifestyle of a woman in this life stage can often affect the prevention of disease later in life. An appropriate diet and lifestyle to support caring for children and self is essential during this time.

To prepare a healthy home for the baby, we should treat our bodies as if we are already pregnant - as soon as we even start thinking about conceiving. We want to create a vital environment for the baby to thrive during the 9 months that follow conception. Nature has a wonderful way of allowing the right things to happen, so by preparing the body for pregnancy, we tell the universe that we are ready to conceive.

 

Nourishing Foods: Fresh vegetables (especially dark leafy greens) & root vegetables, fruits, pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, organic lean meats, nuts & seeds (excluding peanuts), legumes, lentils, and whole grains like oats, quinoa & buckwheat. Omega-rich foods & healthy fats are also very beneficial to mothers, such as ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados. Probiotic-rich foods should always be a part of the daily diet as well (raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, etc.).

+ Plenty of Water - Drink ½ your body weight (in lbs) in oz. daily

Nourishing Herbs: Red raspberry, stinging nettle, marshmallow root, chamomile, dandelion root

Healing Herbs for Nursing Mothers: Raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, fenugreek, blessed thistle, lemon balm, oat straw

Healing Herbs for Mothers with Children: Ashwagandha, chaga, nettle, lemon balm, kava, elderberry, ginger, turmeric

Avoid substances that deplete nutrients: This includes excess caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and the over-consumption of processed foods.

 

Lifestyle Recommendations for Mothers

Exercise is an important component of overall health and should be done regularly both before and during pregnancy. Develop a routine and put it in place before pregnancy occurs. A little-known fact is that blood volume doubles once pregnancy occurs, and this can cause blood stagnation and poor circulation. Exercising promotes healthy circulation, and should be done regularly pre-conception in order to support blood flow, eliminating the possibility of stagnation once pregnancy occurs and blood levels increase. Regular exercise also helps to combat the fatigue related to pregnancy, increase endurance, and prepare the body for labor.

It’s also imperative to remain active as your children age. This will promote sustainable energy and long-term vitality. Make it enjoyable by participating in activities with your children and partner, or use the time as alone-time to do something you enjoy.

Activities to enjoy: Walking (daily), yoga, pilates, hiking, swimming, earthing & spending time in nature

Self-care practices & routines: Meditation, self-massage, long baths, & ample time in nature


ELDER

Approximate Timeframe: Age 65 to rest of life

Main Areas of Focus for Elders

Maturity, wisdom, teaching, sharing, spiritual development, reflection, mastery.

Vulnerabilities of Elders

A difficulty faced during this life stage is the natural loss of lubrication and fluidity, plus a lowered capacity to rejuvenate the body. The body begins to lose its ability to naturally buffer against harmful toxins and poor conditions. However, this can be supported with healing foods and nourishing herbs, as well as regular self-care rituals and routines.

These years are often accompanied by delicate digestion leading to gas, bloating, constipation, and food sensitivities. Metabolism and absorption of nutrients also slows with age. This can interfere with maintaining adequate nourishment to the body and often leads to insomnia and loss of mental acuity.

Healing Nutrients for Elders

The focus during this stage is placed on absorption and digestion. Your diet should be made up of simple, whole foods that are cooked, soft in texture (i.e. soups and stews), and rich in easily-digestible nutrients + healthy fats. This promotes lubrication of joints and tissues, proper nourishment, grounding of the body, and warming of the system from the inside out.

 

Healing Foods: Grains like brown rice, quinoa, & buckwheat, fruits & vegetables, cooked greens, wild-caught fish, pastured eggs, nuts & seeds, citrus fruits, omega 3-rich foods (mackerel, salmon, walnuts) + healthy fats (ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados). Probiotic-rich foods are also highly beneficial, as they are at any life stage (raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, etc.).

Limit foods that are drying: Raw vegetables, beans, alcohol, caffeine or refined sugars, and processed foods such as popcorn, crackers, and chips.

Healing Herbs: Cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, turmeric, chaste tree berry (aka vitex), ashwagandha, holy basil

 

Lifestyle Recommendations for Elders

Gentle lifestyle practices are incredibly supportive during this life stage. Getting plenty of good sleep is important to help the body repair and stay rejuvenated. Make sure you have a bedtime routine that encourages good sleep, such as winding down before bed with a cup of herbal tea (caffeine-free), using low lighting, and doing some enjoyable reading. Other supportive lifestyle practices to build into your daily routine include meditation, journaling, deep breathing exercises, massages, spending time in nature (especially warmer weather), and practicing brain-supportive activities such as puzzles and reading.

To combat a naturally-slowing metabolism, include daily physical activity like walking & gentle yoga. It’s also important to keep the body warm, as the body becomes naturally cooler during these years.

This is a time to master self-care and to focus on nourishing yourself from all aspects of health.

Activities to enjoy: Walking, gentle yoga, stretching, tai-chi, and resistance training.

Self-care practices & routines: Meditation, gentle breathing, and ample time in nature.

Practice gentle self-massage: Massage warm oil gently onto the skin and scalp. This will help to balance dry, rough, and cold conditions that naturally arise & supports lubrication and circulation throughout the body. Self-massage is a profound act of self-love.

Meditation allows you to quiet the mind and become more in tune with your body and its needs.

Stay social. In our later years, we must focus on keeping the mind active & engaged. Spend time with friends or loved ones on a daily basis, get involved in your local community (by volunteering, attending events, or joining a club), try a new hobby, travel, or visit a museum or art gallery. Staying social and meeting new people will keep you feeling energized and connected.

Get creative. This time of life brings about inspiration. Honor this feeling by engaging in a hobby that brings you joy and serves as an outlet for your creative visions. For example, you might like to consider writing a memoir or a journal of your life experiences to share with later generations.

 

By honoring and supporting the life stages of womanhood and the natural shifts that we all undergo, we can be more attuned with ourselves and the world around us. Just as the cycles of nature occur organically and without protest, so too can we follow the natural rhythms of life with balance, tranquility, and equanimity. We sometimes become anxious at the process of moving through space & time - choices are made but once, time can never go backwards, and loved ones can be lost along the way. But by supporting the stages of our lives and treating ourselves with self-love and self-compassion, we can find the strength to transition through these phases gracefully and to truly enjoy and embrace all that life has to offer, at every stage.