Wellness Wisdom for Busy Women is not about the perfect body or the perfect morning routine. It’s about real women who understand that good health underpins every area of their life and shapes who they are and how they show up in the world. Get a glimpse into the lives of women just like you and find out how these women prioritise wellbeing… no matter how chaotic life is!
In this conversation, I chat to Jacinta Eales about what wellness means to her, what it looks like in real life and how she draws on the modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Nutrition to support herself and empower her clients.
A self-confessed hypochondriac, health has always held a strong pull for Jacinta, leading her to study nutrition and Traditional Chinese Medicine. As a qualified Acupuncturist and Nutritionist, Jacinta has a keen interest in women’s health including hormonal disorders, PCOS, endometriosis, painful and heavy periods, skin conditions and fertility. She takes a human-centred approach, seeking to empower women and support them on whatever health journey they are on.
If you’d prefer to watch, head over to Instagram when you’ll find the recorded conversation or click play below to listen while you multitask.
Can you tell us about how you came to be where you are today?
I think I probably started experiencing a lot of health anxiety – I now know that’s what it was – when I was really young. It probably started at about 11 and then, as I got older, I started getting quite a lot of physical anxiety symptoms that the doctors could never pinpoint, no one could tell me why I was nauseous and tired and all of these quite random symptoms. So I did feel like, at the time, Western medicine let me down a little bit and so I started looking for other answers. I had grown up in an environment that was definitely more geared towards complementary medicine so I had lots of exposure as a kid to homoeopathy, naturopathy, all the weird and wonderful things. So I kind of knew where to look you know when I was looking for answers for those things.
And I started getting acupuncture kind of by accident when I was studying something else at uni, even though I am totally petrified of needles and it was doing so many wonderful things for me. And I ended up switching degrees within the first few months of getting acupuncture. I change my degree ’cause I thought I could actually do this, it makes perfect sense, I love it, I could totally stick needles in people for a living and yeah, it’s been awesome!
That [nutrition] was probably more for my own personal knowledge as opposed to treating patients. I mean, I love talking to patients about food but I think that was probably more my own thing ’cause I always felt that food could definitely be used as medicine but also really feeds into disease and we do live in an environment where we have access to obviously terrible foods and we eat them a lot and that causes lots of lots of chronic issues. So, learning more about nutrition was to help educate myself around healthy choices for myself, things I can tell my family about and then when patients would come and ask me, you know, for very basic stuff on nutrition I’d be able to give me a little bit more guidance.
What drew you to women’s health, particularly reproductive health and fertility?
When I first left uni, I thought I never wanted to get into the fertility world. I thought it was too complex.
I think I kind of came to it almost by accident. I started getting a lot of patients with period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, even just PMS and terrible mood swings before periods. I guess my own journey being a woman, talking to friends about periods and I just found that there was not a lot of information or education out there for women around their periods.
I just found I actually started to really genuinely enjoy the conversations I was having with my female patients around fertility and reproduction and just menstrual health in general. And finding it quite empowering having conversations with women and giving them [the] knowledge that they didn’t have so they could help themselves as well.
That’s the one thing I think that does bug me a little bit about that Western medical approach. They have no answers apart from giving you The Pill for any period irregularities. They give you The Pill, they say stay on this for 10 years until you want to have baby and then come back and you’ll go through IVF or something like that. I think I’ve come to discover it’s just because they actually just don’t know that much about women’s health – not as much as we think that they do. They’re still learning about it as well
I mean there is starting to become some really great research for endometriosis especially. There’s been a lot of lobbying behind that by a lot of amazing associations trying to get more information about how to treat this horrific chronic illness.
At Vitalita, we believe wellness is about creating a life brimming with vitality. In your own words, what does wellness means to you and why is it important?
I used to think wellness was just physical and mental. I thought that was it – as long as my body is healthy, my mind is healthy then that is it. But I’m coming to learn that wellness also means wellness in other areas like social, financial, environmental, intellectual, getting fulfilled in all of those areas because even if you have a healthy body, if you’re socially isolated that’s going to have an impact on you as well. So, for me, it’s trying to find balance across all of those areas which can be very tricky but I guess it’s always about just striving for balance in those areas to feel well and whole.
I am probably like everyone, I get caught up in the busyness of life and forget to prioritise myself and I kind of forget until something is going wrong. You know, whether I’m getting headaches or I’m not sleeping or I’m really emotional or something and that’s when I notice that I have to put all those little things that I do back into place to try to maintain that sense of wellness and health.
How do the Traditional Chinese elements and seasons shape your approach to wellness?
So, I do like to get into the dietary side of Chinese Medicine – different foods for different seasons – and I definitely focus on eating local. Chinese Medicine in Summer promotes those kinds of more cooling foods, like salads and smoothies are great. But in Winter trying to maintain soups and stews and that healthy food to support healthy digestion.
The other thing is not necessarily Chinese Medicine-related but just living in time with the daylight, so going to bed a bit earlier in Winter but getting out of bed earlier in Summer and just trying to live a little bit like that.
Live in [sync] with the environment around you as well. You know we don’t tend to do that, we tend to kind of live the same all year long but if we do pay attention to the changes in our environment as well (eg. weather and daylight), you’ll find that your body does want to eat different types of food. You know, most people want to eat warm, cooked foods in Winter but in Summer eating a roast on a Sunday is terrible, it’s so hot and you’re sweating, it’s not fun. That’s when you want a nice salad or something like that.
And what is your one non-negotiable? What impact does it have on your life?
There are definitely not many routines that I stick to all of the time but my biggest one is 8 hours of sleep. I can’t cope with less than 8 hours sleep and I feel like that’s a pretty simple thing I can do for myself. I go to bed early enough so even if I have to get up early I’m still getting 8 hours of pretty decent sleep.
So, that’s my non-negotiable. I don’t care if I’m travelling or I’m busy at work or I have things to do or emails to write, I still go to bed at a decent time and get that proper sleep.
It helps so many different areas. So I think of women’s health, it’s really important for hormone production, it’s incredibly important for brain health you know it gives your brain a chance to reset and clear out that old gunk from the day, emotional resilience. If you think of small children that don’t get enough sleep and they’re just emotional wrecks all day – even as an adult I can relate to that. So it has such a far-reaching effect that I think that’s why I prioritise it because it’s everything, it’s my mood, it’s my energy levels that are all affected by it.
It’s amazing, I have patients that tell me they’re going to bed at midnight or after midnight and it blows my mind ’cause you know, obviously, our best sleep is before midnight so the earlier you can get into bed, the better really.
I’ve been talking about it all week, it’s called revenge bedtime [procrastination]. It’s like revenge at the world for not being able to do everything they want to do during the day. So they’ll stay up late, they’ll scroll, they’ll watch television. They’re not necessarily achieving anything but, you’re right, it’s a way of taking back control of their day, even though they know they’ll suffer for it the next day they still stay up late as a way to get back control and a little bit of revenge at the world.
Find out more about revenge bedtime procrastination here.
What is the wellness trend that grinds your gears?
For me, this is relatively easy to answer because not it’s not one trend that grinds my gears. It’s any trend that is totally dogmatic in its beliefs and is inflexible which is most Wellness trends. You know, I think about intermittent fasting or paleo or keto. Anything that just doesn’t allow for any flexibility because we need to be flexible in our lives otherwise you’re going to cause more stress than anything else. Because, you’ve got to think, if you’re following a very very strict diet but then your friends ask you to go out for dinner one night, you’re either gonna get stressed and go out and worry about what you can eat or you’re going to say no and then you’re going to lose that social connection.
I find most trends tend to be so hardcore in their belief, there is no room for flexibility or adapting to your own body and your own lifestyle.
I think, because I’ve come out the other side, I used to be the person that would follow whatever trend it was to the T for months and while it definitely had some benefits, I stopped doing social things that would put me in situations where I couldn’t eat the foods that were at that restaurant or it didn’t fit in with schedule ’cause I had to finish eating dinner at 6pm and I could never eat later than that and it made me unhappy in those other ways. So, while some of the physical side effects were kind of great, there was no room to change it or have a bit of a night off. Anything that is flexible, I’m learning, is much better than just going hardcore and sacrificing other areas of your life.
It’s all about sustainability. You know, any advice I tend to give these days is all about can you maintain it long term and, if you can’t, then we need to find something else because it’s got to be something you can stick with over a long time.
What is the one thing about wellness that you wish all women knew to be true?
It’s so hard because I feel like it depends on the person that is sitting in front of me. Like, if I have a very stressed out, overworked or busy mum in front of me, I’m going to try to encourage them to find a way to carve out a very small amount of time for themselves each week, whether that’s going to a Pilates class or seeking some counselling or acupuncture or massage or anything that just gives you time for you.
But I think also for most people, it’s just about finding balance in their lives. You know, everyone is so overworked, overstressed. If you can find a way to bring back some balance somehow, no matter what practitioner or whoever that is you want to see that might help you get there, just to help you find some balance in life
What would you say to someone who is interested in trying acupuncture but doesn’t like the idea of needles?
Most people don’t like needles because when you think of a needle you think of one that you get at the doctors – the big ones – they hurt, your arm aches afterwards, you think of something painful.
These needles or pins as I call them are so incredibly fine, the steel is so sharp that for most people don’t feel it going in or, if you feel it, it’s more like a sensation of light rubber band flick; it’s there for a second and then it goes away. So it’s a totally different sensation than your big scary ones that you get at the doctor. Even my most needle-phobic patients (and I get quite a few of them), I find once I get into that initial session and learn to relax and understand what the sensations are, by the end of it they’re like “Oh, that’s it? That’s easy!”
It [acupuncture] has this lovely side effect of calming our Central Nervous System. So, most of us live our lives in this sympathetic ‘Fight or Flight’ response and acupuncture has this lovely effect of bringing balance to that Sympathetic/Parasympathetic Nervous System so we can relax a little bit more. No matter what I’m treating, most people leave relaxed anyway, even if that wasn’t necessarily the main aim of the treatment.
What is the role of herbal remedies in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
So, I know a lot of people have probably had experience with seeing a naturopath and getting herbs [and supplements] that way. Chinese medicine does look at herbs a little bit differently. We are less looking at the individual effects of that herb. We are more looking at its effect with all of the other herbs that we’re using in that combination. They have a synergistic effect and work together to create an outcome, as opposed to giving you this herb for digestion and this herb for stress. We want them all to work together.
John who owns the clinic here [at Ginseng Acupuncture] mixes up all the herbs house behind. He mixes up a lovely little bag of what I call ‘disgusting dirt water’ but it’s actually amazing. Whereas when I prescribe herbs, I do them in little capsules that are already pre-done, TGA approved, and come in lovely little colourful bottles… and I just match that to the patient’s pattern or TCM symptoms.
What else might they experience in a session?
So, when someone comes in, it’s predominantly pins but we can also do cupping which is a lovely way of getting the blood moving through the body. So you picture the person with their face down and these lovely big glass cups on their back – they often look like they’ve been attacked by octopus when they leave, lovely big, dark purple marks on their back and it’s a lovely way of helping blood move through the muscles, great for when you’re feeling really stressed, really tight. We also do it (before COVID days) on people that were at the beginning stages of a cold to help bring that pathogen out so they get better quicker.
People might also have some lovely heat lamp on the tummy or on the feet. It helps on the tummy to warm that middle jiao section, so supports digestion. I love it for period pain. You know, people come in a bit crampy so it’s like a better version of a water bottle. It keeps them warm but it does have a therapeutic effect – the heat lamp penetrates quite deeply, deeper than your hot water bottle would which just kind of sits on the surface. Your skin gets quite hot when you’re using a hot water bottle but the heat lamp feels like it warms up your whole abdomen so great for digestion and helps to move that blood if you’re having a period so you don’t get that kind of sharp, stabbing pain. It’s just lovely and soothing – I just lie under it sometimes in Winter, it’s nice.
It’s not a generic approach. I think that is actually something that drew me to Chinese Medicine, was discovering that you might present with the same Western diagnosis like anxiety or IBS or something like that but, in fact, each person was presenting differently with different underlying symptoms and different causes and that way you could treat them so specific to them. It wasn’t just a one-size-fits-all approach. I can have 5 women come with endometriosis and they might all have a different Chinese Medicine diagnosis and they’ll get treated differently which is super cool!