Nicole Kruck is a licensed massage therapist and practices Oriental medicine. She works with women to improve health, especially in the uterus and vagina. This interview details how women can make lifestyle changes and pursue alternative treatments to improve uterine health.
Georgie Kovacs 01:45
Yes. Today it is all things uterus. Start with your background and why it is you know so much about the woman's uterus.
Nicole Kruck 01:57
I started this journey professionally about 23 years ago, I'm a licensed massage therapist and Oriental medicine practitioner. I started getting involved in this work due to my own issues. I had a tipped uterus that I found out about when I was 20. And when I asked my doctor what that meant, what I could do about it, she said, "Well, basically you could have issues with your periods. You could have painful periods.. You could have issues with fertility down the road, painful intercourse." And when I heard her, I was floored because I had no idea and I said, "What could I do about it?" She said I could either have a hysterectomy or ride it out through menopause. That started my journey into women's health. I knew that there had to be something that could help me and probably many other women. When I was a kid, I had a big fall off of a slide on my back. I had been in many car accidents, just a lot of injuries to my lower body. I found out later on that that's what led to my uterus probably being tipped.
Nicole Kruck 03:23
It's usually something that happens to us when we're really young. We're very active, we do sports, we have falls, we're into skiing, skating, that type of thing. And so because it's not addressed when we're younger in the United States, because we don't have uterine care, like other third world countries, it gets relatively worse and so our symptoms get worse and that's what happened to me.
Nicole Kruck 03:47
When I heard this diagnosis, I just knew that there was something out there for me.
Nicole Kruck 03:52
In massage school, one of my friends said that she had gone to Belize, she had stayed in a resort run by Dr. Rosita Arvigo. And that she just saw me while working with this woman and these traditional Maya healers and walking on the earth path and I was like, sure. She brought me back a book called Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer. It was a bunch of case studies of Dr. Arvigo's work with a traditional Maya healer named Don Elijio Panti, whom she started working with in his 80s. He had been a traditional shaman or healer for his village since he was 17. He learned it in the chicle working in the chicle fields with a shaman there. In areas like that, they don't have a lot of medical care. They are working with traditional healers, midwives and Auntie's for their medicine. So fast forward. I started reading Sastun. In the book, one of the case studies was about a woman who had all the same symptoms that I had. She had had painful periods. She was trying to get pregnant. She had a tipped uterus. As soon as I read that, I knew that there was something there for me.
Nicole Kruck 04:35
I knew at that point I had to teach other women how to do that, that this. This information had to get out in the world because it was so important, and it had been so lost. People that had come to the United States did not bring a lot of this information with them. They knew someone in the village back in the Caribbean or Iranian Africa that did this work, but they personally didn't know how to use it and they weren't using it. That's been my mission for the last 23 years - is to really help women understand their bodies better, definitely understand their uteruses, and to feel better to get some kind of help.
Nicole Kruck 05:03
I tracked down Dr. Arvigo. She was living in Belize, but she was doing herbal conferences in the States. So myself and several other women just migrated to this conference and found her and said, "You have to teach us this work. You have to teach us this uterine massage." Now it's Arvigo techniques of Maya abdominal therapy. I learned the massage, and I started doing a self care massage that I teach all of my patients. That's part of our protocol. This little five minute massage transformed my life within three months. Wow, it was the first time in my life, that I didn't have painful periods, that I didn't have painful intercourse, that I wasn't having painful back pain. I was floored.
Georgie Kovacs 06:59
I have my own Belize story. I had booked a trip to Belize and then learned about her work. I found this place where they taught it to me and what I loved about it is that it wasn't, "Here come spend all this money and now you have to come back every week." The whole philosophy is teaching other women, which used to be how the world worked, and we've just gotten away from that. I have found the Maya abdominal massage to be extremely beneficial for me. Anytime I feel bloated. constipated, I just do that. I now do it on my son. His gastroenterologist has a different format for him.
Nicole Kruck 08:29
In traditional medicine, it's all about, keeping you well. Your body is supposed to run like a machine or a clock. Everything's supposed to work very efficiently. When it doesn't, something has gone very wrong. That's when you start to feel things like constipated or you're getting painful periods, or acid reflux. All these things that go on in the abdomen. Many times, what I'll do is focus with women who are having issues with reproduction, but it's a whole abdominal massage. The blood flow that goes through the abdomen to get down to the pelvis comes from above the diaphragm, where your heart is. Things get very tight in the upper abdomen. Now we're spending hours on computers hunched over, or we're not exercising. The holes were the major artery and vein and the soft esophagus come through get very tight. Those vessels that are coming through also get restricted. It's like somebody stepped on a hose and not all the water's coming through. That's what happens and then the symptoms come up such as constipation or acid reflux, gas and uterine problems.
Georgie Kovacs 10:10
I know there's videos on YouTube that talk about it. Please provide guidance on how someone can figure out how to do this, but then also when to do it. I know within the cycle, there are certain times that you should absolutely not be doing the massage.
Nicole Kruck 10:30
We ask that you actually see a certified practitioner or someone who really has an understanding of anatomy in the body and what's going on. One of the most important things about the massage is the breathing, because that's what's happening. Most of us are not breathing into the abdominal area. We're all like breathing up in our chest, just barely, you know, catching breath.
Nicole Kruck 10:53
Taking really deep breaths into the abdomen, maybe one hand in the upper abdomen, one in the pelvis, and just take slow breaths, almost feeling like as you breathe in, your hands are expanding off of your belly like you're blowing like air is going into a balloon. As you're deflating, that air is coming out and that's going to move stuff all through the abdomen. We think sometimes with massage that we're working very deeply into the muscles. It's not so much about deep, although it can be in certain instances, but it's really more about getting that circulation going to all those organs.
Nicole Kruck 11:32
Our abdomen is our most vulnerable area. It has all our major organs in it - your spleen, liver, stomach, pelvic organs. So we're not used to being exposed to that area. We tend to really close that area down by being forward so much on our computers or whatever we're doing. The massage is really getting that breath into the area to move things through the body. I would just start with that one hand in your upper abdomen, one in your pelvis, just even see what the temperature feels like a lot of us are really cold.
Nicole Kruck 12:13
One of the phrases that an acupuncturist might use is, "Oh, your uterus is very cold." It's just that the circulation isn't getting all the way down. Sometimes even putting your hand there that brings warmth to the area and breathing into that area is also going to get the circulation going. That's going to move on the nutrition and hormones into the area and help move stuff through the lymphatic system. It seems really simple, but it's a huge benefit to the body.
Nicole Kruck 13:13
Imagine that you're on your couch. You're so cozy there. You've got your blanket and nobody's gonna move you for the next couple of hours. Breathe and let your hands, as you exhale, drop down into those tissues. Then you can sweep in towards the navel a little bit. That's also stretching the holes in the diaphragm. That's going to open up for those vessels to get that optimal flow down to the pelvis.
Nicole Kruck 13:50
You can do the whole massage in the upper abdomen and around the navel in the pelvis. However, if you're trying to conceive that month, then you're going to not do any kind of massage in the pelvis. You're just going to do warm hands and breathing into that area because you really want the uterus to tuck in there. You don't want to be moving the uterus around.
Nicole Kruck 14:19
Many times I was talking about the uterus shifting. That's because the ligaments have become over-stretched in the pelvis and the uterus just falls wherever that happens to fall. The massage is actually bringing blood flow to the area as you're lifting the uterus up. It's also like doing little bicep curls for those ligaments to help strengthen them to bring the uterus back into place so that it's getting really good circulation. It's the same thing of you stepping on a hose, and not all the water's coming out. When your uterus is shifted, and it's sitting either on your bladder or your intestines or your ovaries, your fallopian tubes, it's also sitting on all these vessels that are trying to bring it nutrition and keep everything healthy.
Georgie Kovacs 15:01
So even during bleed as long as you're not trying to conceive, you can do the massage.
Nicole Kruck 15:05
You can do the whole thing. Usually when you're bleeding unless you're cramping, which is very helpful. During your heaviest flow probably just lay off to warm hands in that area because things are already moving. But if you're getting cramps, it's a wonderful thing to do. It's amazing how quickly just getting some blood flow to that area will help calm down the discomfort.
Georgie Kovacs 15:31
Let's talk about the tilted uterus. I've heard differing opinions about whether or not the tilted uterus impacts fertility, and I'd love to get your thoughts on this because I've heard, "No." I know that we don't have a clinical trial on it, and I know that your thoughts won't have the specific data behind it. Based on your own experience, it'd be great to get your perspective on what a tilted uterus would do and how it might impact one's fertility.
Nicole Kruck 16:04
As far as fertility, it depends on what's going on. I can't say also that that's not why you're getting pregnant. However, when the uterus is in place, and it's getting that proper nutrition, things are moving. It's not sitting on your fallopian tubes or your ovaries. You have a much higher chance I would believe to get pregnant than then if it was out of place and seriously obstructing some of the structures in the area. I find that a lot of times when women do the massage and get their uterus back into place, or even just get the blood moving to that area, it gets a little bit more circulation. Over time, the uterus will get into place, but I think that it just really, in my experience has upped their fertility ability.
Georgie Kovacs 16:56
I wouldn't want to limit it to fertility so maybe a better question would have been, "Are there any negative impacts to a tilted uterus outside of what you were saying around "the uterus should be in a good position" and you want to optimize it by doing this massage. Are there any other potential impacts that women should be aware of?
Nicole Kruck 17:15
When the uterus is out of place, it's sitting on the other organs, so it's harder to get pregnant. It's definitely harder for the uterus to empty out because that's why women will have painful periods - a lot of times the uterus is out of position.
Nicole Kruck 17:34
When the uterus is in place, the cervix should point down towards the ground. Most women should get some slight cramping or maybe a little bit of spotting, just to let them know what's coming. Then you should get a full flow. It should be cherry, pinky red for a couple of days. No clotting. Maybe a light day of spotting at the end. If that's not happening, that's not a normal cycle, even though we're led to believe that that's how it's supposed to be and we can get through life like that.
Nicole Kruck 18:15
However, that's going to set up a lot of problems. When the uterus tips in any way, like if you're getting brown blood at the beginning, it can be like the last period or so not cleaning out. But if you get it at the end, it can be from a long time of that period not getting cleaned out. The inside of the uterus starts to get a little indurated, it almost starts to get a little crusty, because it's just not getting enough oxygen and circulation. Your uterus' job is to get you pregnant every month. So if that doesn't happen, then she really wants to get that out, and that's why you're cramping. The uterus is a muscle so it's just trying to get that lining out so it's ready for that night next cycle to get you pregnant. That's the difference between when your uterus is in place and it's not. Sometimes, you can have a retroverted uterus. It can be sitting back on your intestines. You may or may not be having some intestinal problems, a little constipation. It could be sitting forward anteverted on your uterus. You could feel like, "Oh, I have to pee a lot more than other people," or "I have the sensation that I have to pee more, but nothing's coming out." When the uterus is put back into place, those seem to go away.
Georgie Kovacs 19:35
I like that you're giving such concrete examples. One guest had said that if you have go to your OB GYN and your pap smear's painful, that's not normal. We posted the podcast and people on our private Facebook group said they had no idea that it's not supposed to hurt. The more we talk about examples of what women shouldn't be feeling, it allows us to start monitoring what's happening.
Georgie Kovacs 20:09
Next, let's discuss vaginal steaming. Before I tried it, I had never had a lot of issues with yeast infections. And then I started getting a lot of them, and I had no idea what was going on. After I tried vaginal steaming, I have not had one since. Let's cover what it is and how it helps women. I recognize vaginal steaming may be controversial. Douching apparently is a big, big no-no, even though it sits on the shelves at your local supermarket or drugstore. Why is vaginal steaming OK?
Nicole Kruck 21:33
If you go to the island of Cozumel, in the center of the island, there is a temple called San Gervasio. It is the island of for us it's the Ixchel, the goddess of healing and fertility and moon cycles. Women in the area would come in pilgrimages to this temple every year to find out about their moon cycles and learn how to take care of themselves, especially if someone was trying to get pregnant. They would learn what they needed to do from the other women. The men were not allowed on this island, but they would take the women from the mainland. They knew the patterns of how to get out there, but they were not allowed there. If you go now, you see the stones where they actually did the vaginal steam. This has been around for a very long time - in Central America and Asia. The Koreans may have gone to a Korean spire and had one done.
Nicole Kruck 22:58
If you go to a drugstore and you get Massengill douches or one of those chemically mixed products, yes, that will definitely throw off your pH, especially if you're using it on a regular basis.
Nicole Kruck 23:14
Vaginal steams use herbs and they can be used for healing and have been for many years. So with the steams, I usually do a blend for someone depending on what's going on. If they're having more yeast infections or clotty periods with pain, or a lot of scent or irritation in that area, I'll make up a mix of things to use, but one of the most common is mugwort. That's what they'll use in a Korean spa. It's really good for the uterus as it's a real uterine herb. It's really warming, it's soothing.
Nicole Kruck 24:03
I just make a big pot of tea and let it steep, just like you'd make a cup. You can even drink some if you want. That steam goes up into the vaginal canal and into the cervix. That's how it really delivers the essential oils from those plants, but you never want to use essential oils. They're way too strong. But you can use dried or fresh herbs. Basil is really good as are any of your Italian herbs. One of the best companies ever is Mountain Rose Herbs. They're in Oregon, and they have quality herbs. Many of them are wildcrafted organic and very inexpensive. You can get a large bag and share them with your girlfriends.
Nicole Kruck 25:18
Most people are afraid to get burned. You want to be really careful. I run my hand over the pot just to make sure it's not too hot or cold. I do it in my toilet, I clean my toilet out really well. I'll find a like a mixing bowl that goes just over the waterline so that the water doesn't go in. And I'll pour my tea water into that. Because I'm putting the toilet seat down, it might heat up a little bit. Then you just tent yourself up like in the old days when you did a pot for a facial. We're used to having that very hot, continuous steam. This is so beautiful. It's very nice and rolling and warming. You want to have something on your feet.
Nicole Kruck 26:10
If you want to do another one you can but I feel like that's just enough. A lot of women feel more lubricated.
Nicole Kruck 26:10
I wanted to talk about those old wives tales of "don't go out in t