Moms: Put your oxygen masks on first

In life it is a fine balance. Particularly, when you are a “CEO” whether it is of your home or of your office. Perhaps even more so when you are a mother. Being a mother can take an emotional and physical toll.

My goal through these posts is to empower and inspire you to be the CEO of your own health and not to become the stereotypical Functional Medicine patient with 30 symptoms and 5 diagnoses! This stereotypical patient took years to get to this point. But before the symptoms appeared, there were early warning signs and symptoms that if addressed in a functional medicine consult could have been remedied quickly.

Because of this passion of educating and empowering, I submitted this talk to the Functional Forum for their Ted style talk: "Functional Medicine in 5" discussing the future of Functional Medicine. I was selected to speak and presented this talk at September’s Functional Forum in Chicago which was broadcast live.

So take a moment to listen or read, the transcript follows. Take a moment to invest in yourself, put your oxygen mask on first!



I would venture to guess that nearly everyone in this audience has flown on an airplane before. It’s likely that you may have taken one to get here to this forum!

Prior to takeoff as you know, the flight attendant runs through the safety briefing. Seasoned travelers can recite it practically word for word.

There comes a point in the briefing about oxygen masks in the event of a loss in cabin pressure. You’re instructed to “always put your oxygen mask on first before assisting your children.”

I’ve flown many flights with my young children when our family lived abroad. And as a mother, these instructions were so counterintuitive to me. How could I ever put myself before my children?

In life, mothers almost ALWAYS put their mask on last.

But just like on an airplane that has lost cabin pressure, a mother neglecting herself incurs a cost – one which can add up to a vast amount over time.

In a recent Institute of Functional Medicine survey, we learned that functional medicine practitioners attract patients who have an average of 30 symptoms, and 5 diagnoses. Sounds complex, right?

Of these patients, 75% are female.

What was not noted in the survey was the percentage of these women who were mothers. Mothers, as I just mentioned put everyone else first, while tending to themselves last, if at all.

If you aren’t a mother, I’m sure you know or have known one who fits this selfless description. A mother begins her journey of motherhood with the intense, positive feelings of joy that accompany the birth of her first child. She often can’t comprehend how many hours of sleep deprivation or exhaustion lie ahead, no matter how much she prepares.

With each subsequent child this cycle of exhaustion repeats itself. After years of neglect, the debt that she has placed on her body starts to be collected, and she becomes an example of the complex patient noted in the survey.

Let’s highlight one mother’s story.
In her 20s, years before becoming a mother, she finds herself abnormally fatigued, sleeping 10 hours a day and falling asleep standing up, on dates, and even at rock concerts. Can you imagine this woman’s love life?

So she sees her doctor, who tells her nothing is wrong and dismisses her symptoms. Sound familiar? How many of you know of someone who has seen their doctor and been told: “Nothing is wrong?”

Against all odds, she manages to stay awake for a few dates with the same man, whom she goes on to marry (even managing to stay awake on the altar!).

They try to conceive, but she can’t. Finally, she finds a conventional doctor who thinks outside of the box, and diagnoses her with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and starts her on medication. She then goes on to be diagnosed with endometriosis.

Somehow, she manages to conceive two children after failed IVF’s (This is only after a more natural approach is taken). She begins to develop migraines that take away her speech and vision. Even so, she continues to put her children first, to the exclusion of herself and her health issues.

Eventually, she gets very sick. It is thought that perhaps she has a 2nd autoimmune condition. But then a functional medicine approach is taken. All of her symptoms eventually disappear and NO second autoimmune disease is “diagnosed.”

That mother… was me.

I imagine what could have been avoided if I had not neglected myself, and found functional medicine years earlier.

Simon Sinek teaches us that to be great and inspire as leaders we have to know our why. This is my why.

A paradigm shift is in order. It is time all of us as functional medicine practitioners start educating people, especially mothers, when they feel healthy.

Women make 80% of healthcare decisions and buy 85% of consumer products. If we educate mothers. then their decisions and actions will trickle down through the entire family: in the food they buy, the sleep routines they instill, and the way they manage stress. These are precisely some of the things we teach in Functional Medicine.

It is time we empower moms “to put on their oxygen masks first” and to once and for all end this chronic disease era.

Your Turn:

What will you do to put yourself first? To become the "CEO" of your own health

Photo Credit

Dr Rajka

Dr Rajka

I’m the founder of the Simply Health Institute and the originator of the 3D Protocol.

In 1997, when I started in private practice , fatigue was the primary reason patients came to see me. Little did I know, I too would battle an autoimmune disease that caused constant fatigue