Empowering Women In Midlife To Live Their Best Life Naturally With Vanessa Nixon
By: Dr. Tomi Mitchell
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In this episode, I, your host, Dr. Tomi Mitchell, had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Vanessa Nixon
About our Guest
Vanessa Nixon is the founder and CEO of Herbs of Grace, Inc., a handcrafted, natural cosmetics company, as well as Herbs of Grace Healing Arts, a natural health consulting business.
She is a certified aromatherapist and is one of the course instructors for the Certified Aromatherapy Course at The Avicenna Institute of Natural Healing. She also provides consulting and tutoring services for students of the Avicenna Institute of Natural Healing.
She helps empower women in mid-life with natural tools and techniques, to thrive naturally, so they can step into this powerful phase of their lives feeling focused, clear, healthy
, and vibrant, and live the lives they’re meant to lead!
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 0:04
Hi everyone, this is your host Dr. Tomi Mitchell from the Mental Health and Wellness show. Today I have the pleasure of introducing Vanessa Nixon. She is a federal believer in natural health and healing and I'll share a little words about her and what she does. So you know, when you lay down to sleep at night before a really big day, and you're looking forward to get a great night's, and then you get a hot flash, then 15 minutes later, you get another and then maybe when you finally get to sleep, but an hour later you wake up nightslips. Then in the morning you are exhausted, foggy headed, and you can't focus and bring out your best self to your day. I'm sure many of you ladies can relate. Well, this is where Vanessa comes in play. She helps empower women in midlife with natural tools and techniques to thrive naturally so that they can step into this powerful phase of their lives feeling focused, clear, healthy and vibrant, and live the life they are meant to be. She has a doctorate in tradition arthropathy she has a master's in herbal medicine, certificate on aromatherapy, certificate in nutrition, certificate in homeopathy, certificate in reflexology. She's a professional ballet dance instructor, and she is a CEO of Natural Look Mineral Makeup. Wow, Vanessa, you have a lot of credentials, you are amazing. So please share with the audience a little bit about yourself. And we'll get this conversation started.
Vanessa Nixon 1:29
Oh, thank you for having me here, Dr. Mitchell. And I'm really excited to speak with you today. And I'm honored to be here. Well, so as you mentioned, I am a traditional naturopath and I tend to specialize in nutrition and herbal medicine and other energy modalities like homeopathy and flower essences and other energy exercises. And I'm focusing my work on women in midlife, who are looking for that support that they need to be able to empower themselves to really take charge of their lives and reduce any menopausal symptoms they might be having. So they can really make this phase of their life the most powerful phase,
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 2:16
I love it, how do you use the most powerful phase because society there's a lot of ages zone, and many individuals, whether men or women feel that their value somehow is diminished as they age, they feel maybe not as competent or sharp, but they must feel like they're gonna be replaced by somebody, quote, unquote, younger. So I like that.
Vanessa Nixon 2:36
Thank you. Yeah, thanks. I think it's the most powerful time of our lives as women because as you said, our society tends to condition us to think that after menopause, everything is downhill, your body's not going to work the same, you're not going to look the same, you're not going to feel the same. And that's framed as a really negative time in your life. And what I really want women to understand is that I believe this time in our lives is meant to be a time when after our kids are grown, and maybe even after our first careers over you know, there are a lot of changes that tend to happen for women in midlife, many women are getting divorced or starting new relationships or starting new projects. And this is a time when all of that creative life force energy that used to be kind of channeled into the possibility of creating new human life if we chose that route that can now be channeled into creating new projects or new businesses or new sense of community. And I think that stepping into this phase of our lives is stepping into your role as a wise woman of the community being able to take all of the wisdom that you gained and all the experience you've gained over your life and being able to bring that out to the world through your gifts and your talent.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 4:02
I love that so ladies who are listening and partners of those ladies your worthy, you know, you've learned a lot you have gifts, your experiences can be your blessing, there a lot to give and the best is honestly yet to come.
Vanessa Nixon 4:16
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 4:16
Okay, Vanessa, so let me just share the readers what really sparked your passion for natural healing?
Vanessa Nixon 4:23
That's a great question. And I think my story is a common one among natural healers. I grew up eating, not a very healthy diet. I ate a lot of junk food, a lot of processed food, a lot of packaged foods, and by the time I was in my teens, I was catching every cold and virus that went around and by the time I was about 15, every cold started turning into bronchitis and it would take me about six to eight weeks to go through this illness and recover and I was coming down with bronchitis maybe four times a year. And so basically that meant I was almost always sick. And my mother was a nurse. And so I was pretty deeply steeped and entrenched in the conventional medical model. And I was put on antibiotics every time I got sick. And by the time I was in my late teens, I was taking antibiotics daily, every day. And so, you know, as a natural health practitioner, you know, we now know that that just totally decimates the immune system. And it just creates this downward spiral where, you know, it destroys that gut bacteria. And then you're more vulnerable to getting sick. And then you take more antibiotics. And it just goes on and on and on and on. And so by the time I was in my early 20s, I had been in that pattern, that destructive pattern for about six years, and a friend just happened to notice that I was taking antibiotics every day and asked me, you know, why was doing it? And I shared my story. And then my friend asked, Well, is it health? And I had never been asked that question before. And I had never asked myself that question before. And I realized it wasn't helping. And that sparked my imagination to start thinking outside the box to think well, maybe there are other options. Maybe there is something else out there. I had, I only thought that there was one way to deal with illness. And that was the conventional medical model. And and so that started me wondering, well, what else could I do to create more health in my body, and my friend said, well, I go to an herbalist when I get sick, I can introduce you one. So the next time I got sick, I went to see the herbalist and she gave me an herbal formula for respiratory health. And I was well within two weeks. And that did it. You know, going from an eight week process of getting sick and recovering down to two weeks was amazing. I was hooked from then on, I just devoured every piece of information I could about leading a natural lifestyle and how to create natural health use healthy natural modalities to create a complete foundation for natural health for my life.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 7:09
I love it. You know, even though I'm a MD, I am still a believer in national health, you mentioned about creating this healthy gut and you know, thought that came to mind is our immunity is often based in our gut, but also our mental health, right?
Vanessa Nixon 7:23
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 7:24
That gut health like it's foundational. And bacteria serves a purpose in our system, right? There's good and bad, and there's a balance that we need. So unfortunately, antibiotics still they may treat the bug that's causing symptoms disease, however, it also treats the good flora, the good bacteria that your body needs. So as much as possible, we really do need to avoid antibiotics. And my practice it was I was like 2012, I remember I was like, Okay, I am just going to pull my ground all these viral infections clients are having and I remember was like January the second I was working in a walking clinic. And the first person was like, I mean, I bought it for my whatever it was, I was like, No, you don't, you know, you can heal this without like, this is what you need to do. And honestly, it was 30 minutes or back and forth. But eventually somebody wants I didn't cave in. I don't know if they came back. But really like with two days of symptoms, this is pre COVID world, you don't need anything. I mean, your parents always say my dad, he was big in citrus fruits, like he would literally eat eight oranges a day like I would see him and you know, the vitamins and just like the fresh fruits and vegetables that really makes a difference. Now, I definitely don't have your qualifications. But I would like to hear more about the herbal side. But from my experience when I did the right things when I'm getting my be rich foods, zinc, vitamin C, rest. And of course, hand washing, I can't stress the importance of that this regular soap and water. You don't need antibacterial soap like Dove soap, whatever, it made a big difference.
Vanessa Nixon 8:57
Absolutely. And I want to mention that I'm not against conventional medical care, either. I think that it has its place.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 9:05
Vanessa Nixon 9:06
And I think it's great to be able to integrate that with a foundation of natural health. And I think that's something that in generations past, we all kind of had that innate wisdom of how to move in the natural world. You know, we were so much more connected to nature. And so we had this information that was passed down, you know, this ancestral wisdom that was passed down through the generations of how to eat healthy and which herbs to use for which conditions and we've lost that in the last couple 100 years. And so I'm really looking forward to the day when we all can be connected back into that innate wisdom and we all can feel empowered to know what foods we're supposed to be eating and what herbs are safe and effective for different ailments?
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 10:01
Yeah, that'd be amazing. As a society, we're more grounded to Mother Earth. And we're aware of the bountiful resources that are in plants that are grown out of the soil like people before CVS and Pharmasave Walgreens like it was your garden you because the elders will collect certain herbs, whether you have menstruation, cramps, or headache or hot flashes, like that's how we survived and we are here today is proof that it definitely works, right?
Vanessa Nixon 10:30
Well, right, absolutely.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 10:32
And everything comes from something. Right? So yeah, I it would be amazing if we were connected more and that oral tradition hadn't in a lot of places disappeared. Though there are countries in the world who don't have access to the medications we have, which are still very much based herbs but.
Vanessa Nixon 10:50
Well interestingly, I know we here in the US, I think are almost kind of sheltered. I know many people who when they meet me have said, you're an herbalist. So what is an herbalist, what is herbal medicine, they've actually never heard of using herbs as medicine. And I came across to statistic a couple of years ago, which I think is really powerful. And that statistic is that even today, 75% of the world's population uses some form of herbal medicine as their primary source of health.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 11:23
Vanessa Nixon 11:23
Yeah and that's amazing to me, because here in the US, you know, we just are so disconnected, as we've mentioned, but other parts of the world they're not. And in other parts of the world, that verbal lineage of natural information hasn't been broken like it has here.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 11:40
Yeah, no, it's unfortunate by increasing awareness to this, hopefully there'll be a revival in those who are willing and able to listen and to make those changes. Though you know, back to the women who are in this colorful stage of life that transition menopause, how have you found natural healing or herbal medicine be of benefit to them? In what situation?
Vanessa Nixon 12:00
That's a great question, because what I find is that herbal medicine and plant medicine, which includes food, food, and herbs sometimes overlap, and sometimes they don't. But using plant medicine, what I have found is really the foundation of how to reduce any symptoms that you might be having in menopause, whether that the weight gain due to hormonal shifts, hot flashes, or brain fog, or insomnia, or vaginal dryness or changes in your skin, there are so many different symptoms that we can experience during this change, because our hormones are fluctuating. And until they balance out again, we can be experiencing a lot of uncomfortable symptoms. And we can use food and we can use herbs to help balance those out and kind of help flatten those fluctuations. And that in turn reduces those symptoms. And one of the really impactful things that we can do kind of goes back to my story, when I was talking about how my gut flora was decimated by antibiotics, we can start with a gut and address our microflora. That is that's going on to all of the colonies of good bacteria. We can do that by incorporating probiotics, and what a really wonderful way to incorporate probiotics into your diet is through fermented foods. And that's one of the things that I teach the women that work with me is how to create their own fermented foods, whether that sauerkraut, or yogurt or miso, how to incorporate these fermented foods into their diets that are going to support a healthy gut. My herbal mentor always used to say whatever the problem a client is coming to you for always start with the gut. Because if your gut is disordered, then you can't really assimilate anything else that you're taking in, whether that's supplements or herbs or nutritious foods, you have to get sorted out first. And so starting with the probiotics is one of the places that I always start when I'm working with feminine menopause. And then we move to liver, because the liver is oftentimes overloaded during menopause, it's having to detox all of these hormones that are coursing through the body and it's can get sluggish and so we incorporate a lot of really good liver herbs to support and nourish the liver so that it can do its job better. And that in turn reduces the symptoms because it reduces the load on the body of these excess hormones that are floating around you.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 14:45
That's awesome, lot of us are used to or expect a quick fix when it comes to treatments. And often that's not the case. You know, people need to understand it took time to get here so it's gonna get tired. It's really time to heal. Is there a specific stage of woman's life that you recommend they actually should start these probiotics?
Vanessa Nixon 15:04
Well, that's a great question. I would love to see people using probiotics throughout their lifetime is you know, I mean, as children just incorporating, there's still cultures in the world that do corporate probiotic foods as a regular part of the diet. And I definitely suggest to my clients to even if they just eat one bite of something like sauerkraut or kimchi, a few sips of kombucha or kefir with each meal, that is a great way to just keep those probiotics coming in and keep supporting those colonies of good bacteria in the body. But definitely, I would love to see women doing that on a regular basis before they go into perimenopause. Because it's just going to make everything flow so much easier. And you're gonna be able to navigate these changes with so much more ease and more joy when you don't have to deal with all of these symptoms.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 16:02
Yes, that's very true. So for a woman listening, who doesn't eat Keifa, or any of those things, what if she said, Okay, I will take my yogurt with probiotics Is that sufficient, if you would take it daily?
Vanessa Nixon 16:14
I think that that's a great start.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 16:17
Vanessa Nixon 16:18
And for people who, like you said, just have no idea, they've never eaten any sort of fermented foods, I think that's a great place to start to find a good source of yogurt that is organic, and that has many different cultures of bacteria in it. And you know, just plan on having maybe half a cup of yogurt every day, that would be a great place to start to start feeding these colonies of good bacteria in your body. And then you can branch out from there. But yeah, yogurt is, I think, pretty commonly accepted in our society as the food that most people can can handle. And it's, it's a good place to start. Although I have to say sauerkraut sounds scary to a lot of people, they're like, I'm not going there. And I used to be like that until a few years ago when I started making my own. And it's a whole other world when you're making your own sauerkraut, because you can personalize them to your tastes. You can use different herbs, you can use different vegetables, you can use different spices, so that it tastes good to you. And it's just a really fun process when you actually are having the experience of making the foods that are going to make you healthy.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 17:31
Yeah, you know, I've never made sauerkraut, but I'm in the yogurt phase. That's my comfort zone right now, you are challenging me to step it up. So I will serve some recipes that I can handle my palate can integrate.
Vanessa Nixon 17:44
Well you know, even like hard cheeses that are fermented, you know, inoculated with different bacterias you know, and that's what creates the aging process and the different flavors of hard cheeses. So you know, that's a simple one. And then miso, miso soup. That's something that is easy and can be made quickly at home, you know, for lunch every day. Miso if it's true, traditionally fermented and you can find traditionally fermented miso, and just about any health food store, any store that has a little bit of health food in it. So that's a really easy one to incorporate.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 18:19
Okay, good. I'm all about the hard cheese, and I'm all about the yogurt with miso not so much. I'm a longtime kind of girl, but. All right, well, thank you. That really is a great reminder for all of us that we can do better. But then also by for those of you listening, if you don't need to take antibiotics, don't do it. If it's something that your immune system can handle with a supportive herbs, like the extra day or two of discomfort you may have to endure is worth it in the long term because gut health is the foundation health it is so important. All right. So over the decades, tons of women in the aisle, they come to me and complain about hot flashes, and there's brain fog. And even in the traditional medical toolbox, there's really only so much we can do to help. So what have you recommended in the past for flying?
Vanessa Nixon 19:10
Well, there are a lot of different things that I recommend. And it really depends on the client, because everybody's different. Everybody's needs are individual. And so it's difficult to make one recommendation that could apply to everybody. And that's part of what I do when I work with women is I'm able to personalize the recommendations to their specific situations. However, there are some things that are helpful in a more general sense. For instance, during hot flashes, do you can employ different breathing techniques that will help you to center yourself that will help your body to lower its stress levels and we know that cortisol is related to stress and that is also related to how our other hormones like estrogen and progesterone function, when we have a bunch of cortisol being released, and so it's really important to have some tools and techniques to address stress, I found that stress is the key indicator to menopausal symptoms and how severe they are. So that's one thing that I focus on is stress relief. And that can be done, like I said, through breathing techniques through mindfulness practices through other forms of meditation. And I want to mention that meditation I think, is another thing that people kind of get scared away from. Like, when we were talking about probiotics and fermented foods, it's kind of like meditation, well, you know, I don't have an hour to meditate every day. But I want to encourage women to think of meditation in kind of like little chunks during your day, you might just have five minutes between seeing one client and the next. And you can take that five minutes and go for a walk outside in nature. And that can be your meditation, you can take that five minutes and water your plants and just connect with that little bit of nature that can be meditation, or you can use breathing techniques. Like I mentioned, one of the things I love to do as a dancer is make sure that every day even if it's only for two minutes, that I just get up and dance. And for me, that's meditation, that takes me to my happy place, you know, I mean, I'm in the zone when I'm dancing. And so whatever that is for you, just make sure to incorporate it into your day. And I work with women to create rituals, you know, whether it's a morning ritual, or evening or any time of the day where they can just really drop in and get in touch with their intuition and use whatever. It helps them to feel balanced and centered and joyful. And just do that throughout the day, a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and that can create huge shifts in the amount and severity of symptoms that you're excusable.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 22:06
So for the women who are listening, if you had to name three habits, or things that we should stop doing in order to help you through this transitional phase, what would you recommend? I know three is there's many things, but what are your big three?
Vanessa Nixon 22:21
Wow, that's that's a big question. To just say, well, so I guess the first would have to be the foods that you're eating the things that you're consuming. And being in your body, I think it's really important to be mindful, because we are what we eat, you know, that sounds cliche. But if we're putting a bunch of junk in our bodies, that's all that we've got to work with this junk. And so really being mindful of eating as many organic foods as we can, so that we can allow our bodies to detox all of those chemicals that might be affecting our hormones, and making sure that we have lots of plant foods every day in our diets. And I don't think that there's one right diet for everybody. I think it's very individual. But I do think that eating organic whole foods as much as possible. And eating as many plant foods as possible is the key to shifting how your body is processing the nutrients that it's getting. And its ability to use those nutritional elements, those nutrients to function optimally and healthily. So that would be the number one key is the food. The second one, I think would have to go back to what we were just speaking about with mindfulness and meditation and finding ways to relieve stress and finding ways no matter what's going on in the world around us. Having those tools, whatever it is, whatever kind of meditation works for you, whatever mindfulness practice, whether it's gratitude, or practicing forgiveness, or whatever it may be, that works for you having those tools that you can pull out of your toolkit whenever you need to whatever's going on in the world around you. So you get back to center. And then I think the third key is movement. Our bodies need to move, and we're so sedentary in our world these days, especially right now. And I think just getting up even if it's just for five minutes, you know, like I was talking about doing a five minute dance break every couple of hours in your day, but not only do our bodies need to physically move but our energies to move. No, we were energetic. Our bodies are made of energetic systems, and that energy can get stagnant and stuck and that can lead to our symptoms and illness. And so we need movement physically, we need movement energetically. We need to be getting out in nature and moving, whether it's hiking or going for a walk or going for a swim, whatever that is, I would say this third, the third keys is moving.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 24:58
Definitely and now that moment and eating well and minimizing stress you the weight goes up reduces typically right and carry that extra weight from my experience, location has been a huge influence or the severity of their causes. That is, no one wants to talk about it. But it is important. So making those good choices and being mindful.
Vanessa Nixon 25:20
Absolutely. That's awesome.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 25:21
So Vanessa, if our listeners wanted to work with you, how would they reach you?
Vanessa Nixon 25:26
Well, I have a website herbs of grace, healingarts.com. And on my website, I have links to the three different areas of my business, the natural health, which is what we've mainly been talking about today. And then the natural movement as a professional ballet dance instructor, I have links to my classes and how to check those out. And then as the CEO of a natural cosmetics company, I also have links on the website to, to read about that and find out more about natural makeup line.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 26:01
Nice. You know what the ballet dance piece got my attention. That's actually been something I've been wanting to do for some time. So I don't put you on the spot, maybe you'll be able to share some of your resource.
Vanessa Nixon 26:17
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 26:47
I would love to.
Vanessa Nixon 26:17
Yes, I love talking about ballet dancing, because most people have a preconceived idea about what it is. And it's not usually a correct, very correct. So ballet dancing is such an empowering form of dance. And that's why I love it so much. I have been a dancer all my life. And I've done various forms. But when I was 20, I was introduced to ballet dance. And I was very shy and very modest. And through the process of studying this particular form of dance, I really was able to feel empowered as a woman and it was part of the process. You know, this whole transformation that I made into a natural lifestyle. Ballet dance culturally was a traditional form of dance that was only for women, women performed it for women audiences only. And the dance itself tells the story of womanhood because the movements were created for a woman's body specifically to help her body navigate through all of the changes she has to go through from first monarch through pregnancy, through menopause, these movements were designed to help your body navigate those changes more easily. And I definitely have seen that through my lifetime, having started ballet dancing at 20. And having three children. You know, as a ballet dancer, I had three natural births, two of them at home, very easy labors. And I attribute that in part two that I had been ballet dancing for so many years and my body had been prepared. Yeah. And it you know, it strengthens your pelvic floor, it gives you flexibility, and it also gives you a lot of confidence. And in addition, one thing I love about ballet dance is that it's really body positive. In the world of dance in many other forms of dance, it's very competitive. And there's a lot of body shaming that goes on. And there's also a lot of injury that happens because many forms of dance are not created to keep your body in its natural alignment.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 28:18
Vanessa Nixon 28:18
Whereas in ballet dance, you know, it's inclusive of all body types, all body sizes, all ages, it's really just all about women and unity and loving yourself as a woman and being supportive of not only yourself but everybody else that is participating in this beautiful form of movement with you as we you know travel down our paths and journey through life together.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 28:46
Ballet yeah, I know as a child, my first introduction that I can remember to ballet dancing part would have been Aladdin and then as a teenager, it was Shakira Hips Don't Lie.
Vanessa Nixon 28:55
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 28:58
Anyway, thank you Vanessa, for those of you who are listening, we're gonna have these resources in the show notes so you can check them out later. Vanessa it was our pleasure talking with you today and to everyone listening till next time. This is Dr. Mitchell, your hosts for the Mental Health and Wellness Show.