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How Estrogen Dominance Affects PMS

How does a typical menstruating day look for you? Is it full of cramps, moodiness, cravings, and tears? Or is it introspective, relaxed, and intuitive?

Premenstrual syndrome is just as the name implies; a syndrome. It’s a disorder, meaning something is out of order – out of the ordinary. Sadly, many people face physical and emotional pain during their period and accept it as normal. But I am here to tell you that PMS is not normal!

Our bodies weren’t designed to hurt us, they are incredibly intelligent and work hard for us every single day. Every ache and pain is a signal to us that something is out of balance. It’s important to keep in mind that these signals can be suppressed when we take Advil or Midol. So if we can remember to observe and thank these symptoms, we can see that they relay a message that it is time to make a change.

UNDERSTANDING SYMPTOMS

What do we think of most when we think of ‘that time of the month’? The first thing that probably comes to mind is emotional instability, moods swinging from happiness to anger to tears.

If you’re familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine, you know that emotions like anger and frustration are related to ‘Liver Qi stagnation’. Although the organ systems in Chinese Medicine are broader functional systems than the actual physical organs, there is some overlap. So one of the major symptoms of PMS leads us to the clue that the liver may be out of balance.

The liver is responsible for regulating and excreting hormones. If it’s congested due to dietary and environmental stress, old hormones get recycled into the body creating hormonal imbalances, like estrogen dominance.

ESTROGEN DOMINANCE

Estrogen dominance is not uncommon, and it is particularly prevalent in those who suffer from endometriosis. It presents in people with essentially too much estrogen compared to progesterone. Estrogen can over saturate the endocrine system for two possible reasons. One, you are taking in too many xenoestrogens. Or two, your body is not breaking down and excreting old estrogen properly.

Xenoestrogens are synthetic and naturally occurring compounds that have estrogenic-like effects within the body. They come from pesticides, conventional makeup, nail polishes, birth control, plastics, BPA, conventionally raised meat, and naturally occurring phytoestrogens come from foods like soy or dairy. These compounds have the ability to bind to estrogen receptors in our bodies and potentially cause hormonal imbalances.

On the other hand, if your liver is sluggish and it isn’t excreting old estrogens properly, they get recycled back into the body creating an excess. The liver is responsible for conjugating old estrogens so that they become water-soluble and leave the body via urine. Because the liver plays such an important role in excreting old hormones, any hormonal imbalance can indicate that the liver is in need of some support.

Signs of estrogen dominance are PMS, mood swings, anger, endometriosis, abnormal weight gain, hormonal acne around the jaw area, irregular periods, cramping, bloating, blood clotting, fatigue, sore breasts, breast cancer.

Estrogen dominance is incredibly common and is not something to be feared. We simply need to understand it to correct it.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Pesticides: Pesticides and herbicides are a huge problem if you are suffering from hormonal imbalances or liver problems. Our bodies are bombarded with chemicals on a daily basis and the liver has to deal with it, often creating stagnation. Choose organic produce instead, especially those that are typically heavily sprayed and listed on the ‘dirty dozen list’.

BPA and plastic: BPA can imitate the body’s hormones, and it can interfere with production, secretion, function, and elimination of natural hormones. Try to avoid water/drinks that are bottled in plastic.

Conventional beauty or cleaning products: Often conventional soaps, makeup, nail polish, lotions, perfumes, air fresheners have compounds that can mimic estrogen. Swap out products for organic and eco-friendly products to reduce the chemical load in your home.

Nutritional deficiencies: Zinc, Magnesium and B vitamins all play a role in regulating hormones. Studies suggest that nearly 75% of the population are deficient in magnesium, zinc and vitamin B12. Add these into your supplement regime to help regulate hormones.

Low fibre diet: Estrogen latches onto fibre and leaves the body via stool once it has completed its cycle. If you don’t have regular bowel movements (1-3 times daily), estrogen is reabsorbed into the bloodstream, creating estrogen dominance.

Lack of movement: Movement helps to increase blood flow. More exercise like hiking, yoga, dancing, lifting weights, Qi gong, or swimming helps to reduce the number of fatty deposits in the liver so it can metabolize hormones more effectively.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Focus on supporting your liver with foods and herbs. Don’t eat any dense fat in the mornings so that your liver can continue to cleanse itself and get rid of excess estrogen. Dense fats include avocado, eggs, meat, coconut. Save these for lunch or dinner.

Eat cooked, warming, nourishing meals while menstruating to soothe the reproductive system. Try having baked yams, sweet potatoes, beets, warm soup, warm greens, and cruciferous vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

Cruciferous vegetables are an extremely important part of pain-free menstruation due to their ability to stimulate phase 2 of liver detoxification. It is in this phase that old estrogens leave the body. When the liver is overburdened, phase 2 is slowed down, impacting the regulation of hormones.

Drink ginger tea! Ginger relieves menstrual cramps, nausea, and upset stomachs. Try having this before and during menstruation to help avoid cramping. This warming herb helps move blood and the hormones move with it. Remember that it is important to take herbs consistently to really receive their benefits.

MOVE!!! Do some gentle yoga or go for a walk. As difficult as this may seem while experiencing cramps, it will help reduce pain by pumping out stagnant blood pooled up in the liver. By moving blood with movement, you are helping move old hormones out of the body.

Take Broccoli sprout extract. Perhaps one of the most promising supplements to take for estrogen dominance. Sulforaphane, the active compound in broccoli sprout extract, has a unique ability to stimulate the phase 2 liver detoxification system.

The phase 2 pathway is very important since it is the final stage for the removal of harmful compounds and detoxification of excess estrogens. It is so important because it’s actually quite easy to stimulate phase 1 detoxification (for example with herbs and B-vitamins) but it is more difficult to activate the very important phase 2 pathway.

This pathway is essential for the elimination of excess hormones like estrogen. Sulforaphane also has an impressive range of anti-cancer activity by preventing cancer cell replication and reducing tumour growth in women’s reproductive systems.

Drink Nettle and Raspberry leaf tea. Raspberry leaf and Nettle support the reproductive system by supporting the adrenal glands production of progesterone, the opposing hormone needed to balance estrogen. In women’s health, the ovaries get a lot of attention for producing the reproductive hormones. In truth, the adrenal glands share equal responsibility in producing estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When hormones are thrown off balance, it’s important to look at the health of the adrenal glands as they help to regulate normal levels.

Eat fruit. A woman’s reproductive system is like a flowering tree that requires the proper nutrients to bear fruit. And those nutrients come from, well, fruit. The phytonutrients found in fruit play a critical role in avoiding disease and polycystic ovary syndrome with the help of their anti-cancer and anti-tumour properties. The abundance of antioxidants found in fruit also helps detox a stagnant liver to help remove old estrogens. The active water content in fruit hydrate a thirsty liver and soothe tight muscles that are associated with cramping. Eat an abundance of fruit; especially berries, apples, papaya, cranberries, pomegranates and melons.

Use organic tampons and pads. The chemicals found in conventional tampons and pads are endocrine disruptors meaning they mimic the action of estrogen in the body and cause imbalances. This rule also applies to household cleaning products, makeup, detergents, and food. Buy organic as much as possible.

WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T DO

Try to limit meat as much as possible while menstruating because its hormone content can mess with our own. You should definitely avoid red meat, processed meat, sandwich meat, and conventionally raised meat. Choose organic, grass-fed meat if you do choose to eat it.

Avoid heavy, creamy, cheesy sauces. These are hard on the liver and create even more stagnation.

Avoid oily or fried foods as the fat content slows down the liver.

Avoid consuming ice cream, iced drinks or chilled foods as the coldness increases stagnation and cramping.

Avoid drinking alcohol. For obvious reasons. Especially right before or during your period. We need to support our liver as much as possible during this time, not repress it.

Avoid eating too late in the evening. Nighttime is when the body regenerates all of its organs. Your liver is supposed to be repairing itself, not secreting bile to digest the food that you ate. If you eat late at night, your liver won’t fully regenerate.

Don’t repress your emotions. Repressing your emotions puts stress on your organs and slows down their function. Say how you’re feeling aloud, even if it’s just to yourself, or journal how you feel as a form of release.

CONCLUSION

It’s the liver!

The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

The human body undergoes rapid and magical changes during pregnancy to accommodate the growing life inside. With these changes, there can also be physical and mental symptoms that occur. Prenatal yoga can help to:P

  • align the pelvis 
  • provide ease and create space in areas of discomfort such as in the hips, shoulders, and the lumbopelvic region
  • teach supported labour positions, breath-work as well as stress reduction techniques to utilize during labour and delivery
  • provide support and community among other expectant parents

Research

A 2014 article reviewed and summarized the results of ten studies on the health effects of yoga during pregnancy (Jiang, 2014). The results found that prenatal yoga lowered stress and pain, specifically lumbopelvic pain, showed a decrease in prenatal disorders and highlighted benefits for mother-child relationships (Jiang, 2014). Prenatal yoga was also shown to be helpful for expectant moms who have depression or are high-risk (Jiang, 2014). People who practiced yoga regularly were less likely to develop preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension than those who did not practice yoga (Jiang, 2014). 

The article concluded that for pregnant people, prenatal yoga proved to be more beneficial than other forms of exercise such as walking or general stretching (Jiang, 2014). 

Whole Family Health YogaPuncture

Whole Family Health’s upcoming Prenatal Yogapuncture series will be gentle and relaxing, with acupuncture points offered during the final resting pose. It will allow you space and time to nourish the growing baby inside you and provide ease to your own body, while you share in the experience with other expectant moms. 

References 

Jiang, Qinxian & Wu, Zhengguo & Zhou, Li & Dunlop, Jenae & Chen, Peijie. (2014). Effects of Yoga Intervention during Pregnancy: A Review for Current Status. American journal of perinatology. 32. 10.1055/s-0034-1396701.

PMDD: Riding the Wave vs. Drowning

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is similar to PMS however it is much more severe. It takes a toll on a person’s emotional state and how they might react to people or situations. This can put a strain on relationships with others and themselves. 

One of my patients is so graciously and bravely willing to share her story about what she experienced prior to finding multiple ways to cope with PMDD. She shares about how these resources, including acupuncture, have helped her live her life a bit more fluidly.   

These are M.C.’s Words: 

“While going through my spousal separation and at the same time starting a business, I experienced an abnormally high amount of stress. Although normally high functioning in my career and life, one week, I found myself increasingly unable to cope. At the worst point, I was playing with my 5 year old son and although I would normally enjoy that, on that morning, I was struck by a sudden sense that my whole life felt hopeless, empty and bleak.

Getting through the day was a struggle between moments of severe depression and debilitating anxiety, and I felt a combination of ashamed, confused, and afraid about what I was experiencing.

I went to the grocery store that evening and felt so depressed when I got home that I went straight to the couch and couldn’t even bring myself to put things in the fridge or freezer. As I fought with myself over it in my mind, I also felt a sense of not wanting or being able to survive another minute if this was what my life was going to be like. 

The next day I got my period and was immediately perfectly fine again, which was a huge relief but also made me realize that my menstrual cycle likely was influencing what I was experiencing.

I went to see my doctor, and was diagnosed with PMDD, a type of PMS affecting about 10% of women that is so severe that it can impair one’s ability to maintain relationships and employment, and often results in suicidal thoughts. I recall him saying that psychology wouldn’t help – I was up against my physiology.

The diagnosis felt devastating. That this state of being was a condition that I would live with forever felt heavy and overwhelming. But getting the diagnosis at 39 years old also gave me a name for and some answers to explain the inconsistent bursts of depression, anxiety, and inability to trust my emotional state. I had experienced these feelings since being a teenager and that had been a significant barrier to me developing healthy confidence and self esteem, and at times, healthy relationships. 

Now knowing what I was dealing with, I started tracking the patterns and did a lot of research and experimenting to figure out how to manage the condition. I found that under stress, the unpredictable hormonal swings I experienced in the 10-14 days before my period were causing me to show up as angry, sullen, emotionally volatile, and mean, and that was not the kind of parent, partner, friend, or person I wanted to be.

I also didn’t want to go on the antidepressants my doctor had described, as the side effects sounded as bad as the condition they were addressing. I saw a naturopath, took many vitamin supplements, started eating better and exercising more frequently, meditated, went for massages and acupuncture, started using an app and journal to track my symptoms, and had conversations with everyone close to me about what I was experiencing. I also made a very intentional effort to reduce stress in my life. 

Acupuncture was one of the most effective interventions in alleviating the severity of the symptoms. I recall my first meeting with Christina, where I was so on edge and upset by my condition, I cried within the first five minutes and felt helpless and hopeless. She was extremely kind and empathetic, and the treatments made a noticeable difference.

After a few months of treatments, along with other lifestyle interventions, things turned a corner. Seven months after my diagnosis, I now feel in control of my PMDD, like I can surf the crashing ocean waves inside rather than getting drawn under and drowning. It’s still very hard to deal with each month and I somewhat dread the week before my period, but I also know what I can do to manage the symptoms and I remind myself on the worst days that it will be over soon and I will feel like myself again.

Having a condition like this is awful, but it has also helped me understand myself and my past experiences better and appreciate the positive experiences in my life more. And being in control of the condition has made me feel more in control of my life, which is refreshingly empowering.” 

As M.C. has stated, she does a multitude of things to manage her PMDD with acupuncture being one of her ways of getting through the hump of it.

Acupuncture has helped other people who suffer from PMDD. One meta-analysis shows that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) reduces PMDD symptoms by more than 50% (1). 

If you have been diagnosed with PMDD or experience emotional symptoms such as irritability, frustration, sadness, or anxiety leading up to your menstrual cycle our qualified practitioners can help. Contact us today

Resources:

  1. Jang, S. H., Kim, D. I., & Choi, M. S. (2014). Effects and treatment methods of acupuncture and herbal medicine for premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder: systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine14, 11. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-11

How To Cope With Heavy Menstruation

I love being a woman and all the joys that come with the territory, however menstruation can be a lesser joy too. This time of the month can cause even more distress among people who experience an excess of menstrual flow. 

I know this from personal experience with my mom. When I was young, I witnessed my mom going through this whenever her menstrual cycle arrived. We would always have to be close to a washroom so that she could change her sanitary product in time to prevent it from leaking and ruining her clothes.

Unfortunately, there were times that she wouldn’t be able to make it in time and I remember seeing the embarrassment and struggle on her face.  Ruining clothing was only one aspect of her heavy menses, another aspect was extreme fatigue, due to such a high amount of blood loss. It pained me to see her barely able to get up in the mornings or having problems getting through the day efficiently. 

So how do you know If you have a heavy menstrual cycle?  

Heavy menstruation is when you bleed ≥80 mL or fill ≥16 normal sized sanitary products during a single menstrual period (4-7days).  Also, heavy menses are indicated if you have flooding- filling a super sanitary product in less than 2 hours. 

Individual bodies bleed differently each month, but it is considered normal menstrual blood loss if you bleed 10-35mL or fill 1-7 normal sized sanitary products in a single menstrual period. 

One way to track how much you are bleeding is by using a menstrual cup, which will have measurements marked on it. This would allow you to record the amount of blood loss every time you empty your cup. 

What causes heavy menstruation?

The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research at UBC states that it is still unclear as to why some women experience heavy periods when compared to others. However, they do discuss that excess estrogen and low progesterone could be part of the issue. This is because estrogen can help to build the uterine lining while progesterone can thin it.  

People who tend to have heavier menstruation tend to be those with estrogen/progesterone irregularities such as teens, perimenopausal people, and sufferers of fibroids and endometriosis.  

Other reasons for heavy menstruation could be related to thyroid or blood clotting issues and in rare cases it could be due to cancer. Therefore it is important to discuss heavy menstruation with a medical doctor in order to get the proper testing and diagnosis. 

What can you do to help? 

Acupuncture 

Since hormonal imbalance can be an issue related to heavy menstruation, acupuncture can have a positive effect by balancing hormones throughout the cycle (2). 

In one 2018 study, a 17 year-old with abnormal uterine bleeding (who bled 3 times per month, using 10 heavy sanitary pads per day) had normalized menstrual flow and regularity after receiving 10 acupuncture treatments within 4 weeks. (3)

Supplements 

DIM (diindolylmethane) and I3C (indole-3-carbinol) help to metabolize estrogen, decreasing excess estrogen and supporting the relationship between estrogen and progesterone. 

Calcium D-glucarate detoxifies excess and toxic estrogens. It also assists in liver metabolism of toxic substances. 

Always talk to a health professional before starting any supplementation to confirm what supplements and doses are right for you.

Conventional Western Medical Intervention 

Progestin-secreting IUDs decrease menstrual flow because they deliver a small dose of the synthetic progestin directly to the uterine lining. Some of that synthetic hormone does enter the bloodstream, but at one-tenth the dose of most oral contraceptive pills (OCP).  

Endometrial ablation is the surgical scraping of the uterine lining. It is effective, but 22 percent of women require a repeat procedure, and 20 percent experience long-term pelvic pain.

A hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) is the highest level of intervention and has been the standard medical treatment for heavy menstruation for many years. It is still necessary for some people, but I encourage my patients to avoid this option, if at all possible. 

Medical treatments are sometimes required, despite every effort to address the issue. As in the case of my mom, the only option was for her to have a partial hysterectomy. Please know that it is not a failure to resort to a medical treatment.

No one can be expected to endure very heavy periods for a long period of time.  Providing that it isn’t detrimental to your health, it is often a viable and effective option to try natural treatments before exploring surgery or hormone treatments – it’s certainly worth exploring.

The practitioners at Whole Family Health specialize in reproductive health and we would be happy to assist in your menstrual wellbeing. Contact us today to get started!

References

  1. Ko JH, Kim SN. A Literature Review of Women’s Sex Hormone Changes by Acupuncture Treatment: Analysis of Human and Animal Studies. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:3752723. Published 2018 Nov 15. doi:10.1155/2018/3752723
  2. Penn, YY. Acupuncture treatment for dysfunctional uterine bleeding in an adolescent. BMJ case reports vol. 2018 bcr2018224725. 9 Aug. 2018, doi:10.1136/bcr-2018-224725 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6088286/

Seed Cycling and Menstrual Health

We are complex and intricate creatures, us women.  One of the phenomenons that make us so great is the menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle is regulated by the interplay of many different hormones in the female body. These hormones play a specific role in each phase of the cycle, and disturbances in these hormones can cause many different ailments from amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, acne, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis and other hormonal issues.

Over the years, women have been forced to deal with some of these issues on our own, and this can be tough terrain to navigate alone. Our Registered Acupuncturists at Whole Family Health are trained extensively in the intricate hormone balance our body goes through each month, so you don’t have to suffer from these symptoms that may plague you every day or every cycle. Aside from regular acupuncture and herbal treatments, one great way to regulate our cycle and to combat some of these symptoms of hormonal disruption is Seed Cycling.

What is Seed Cycling?

Seed cycling is the use of seeds during certain phases of the menstrual cycle. These specific seeds help to support hormones such as estrogen and progesterone which are present at certain times of our cycle.

Each seed contains a substance which can help to produce or mitigate progesterone or estrogen as needed in the body, depending on what phase of the cycle you are in. 

Follicular phase (Cycle Day 1-14)

This phase represents the first 14 days of your cycle. This phase is where the endometrium (uterine lining) grows and prepares for possible implantation.  Several follicles grow and mature within the ovaries during this time with the help of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Once one dominant follicle has reached its maturity and is ready for ovulation, it starts to produce estrogen. 

During this estrogen phase, we cycle with flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Flax seeds contain phytoestrogens which have the capacity to regulate estrogen in the body through lignans.

Lignans are a fibre-rich substance that can help increase estrogen production or reduce it, by binding to excess estrogen and helping to eliminate it.

Pumpkin seeds are used here for their levels of zinc, which are helpful for progesterone production in the second phase, as well as for egg quality.

Both pumpkin and flax seeds are also high in Essential Fatty Acids ( EFA’S) which are crucial to supporting hormonal health.

Supplementing with a good quality Omega 3 fatty acids (EFA & DHA) has also been found to be helpful in reducing inflammation and hormonal function. If you’re trying to get pregnant, these Omega 3’s can help with implantation and fetal development.

Luteal Phase ( Cycle Day 15-28)

After ovulation occurs, the ruptured follicle that’s left behind forms a structure called the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. This hormone prepares the uterine lining for implantation to support a potential growing embryo. Estrogen is also present at this time to help with the thickening of the endometrium. If fertilization or implantation does not occur, after 14 days the corpus luteum degenerates, progesterone and estrogen drop off and menstruation begins.

In this second phase of menstruation we cycle with sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Sesame seeds are high in zinc and selenium. Zinc is essential to the balance between estrogen, progesterone and testosterone throughout the whole cycle and is essential to the maturation of our eggs for fertilization. Selenium is also important for its antioxidant properties and for increasing egg quality.

Sunflower seeds contain Vitamin E, another antioxidant which helps reduce reproductive oxidative stress and support proper progesterone levels.

What to do if you don’t have a cycle?

The great thing about seed cycling is that you can use it to restore hormone balance even if you don’t have a cycle, like in the case of amenorrhea, peri-menopause or menopause.

If you currently do not have a menstrual cycle but want to start seed cycling, you can follow the length of the lunar cycle. So begin your first phase or follicular phase on the new moon, and the second or luteal phase on the full moon.

SEED CYCLING INSTRUCTIONS

How do you consume the seeds?

Only fresh, organic, raw seeds should be consumed when seed cycling. Flax seeds and sesame seeds should be freshly ground. A pepper grinder works well for this.

Seeds can be enjoyed in oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies!

Follicular Phase (Cycle Day 1-14)

  • 1 TBSP Flax seeds
  • 1 TBSP Pumpkin seeds

Luteal Phase (Cycle 15-28)

  • 1 TBSP Sesame seeds
  • 1 TBSP Sunflower seeds

References:

https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/biology-of-the-female-reproductive-system/menstrual-cycle

https://nunm.edu/2019/02/seed-cycling/#r3

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141117111008.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836012/

https://www.stamfordhealth.org/healthflash-blog/integrative-medicine/seed-cycling/

Should You Try Seed Cycling for Hormone Balance?

7 Ways to Prevent the Winter Blues 

It’s February and we’ve made it through some of the coldest days on record in 20 years. Cabin fever sets in during any typical winter season, but after this past cold snap, I know that I am especially starting to feel a bit down. With the combination of the shorter daylight hours and the bitter cold, it would get anyone in a bit of a funk.  

Winter blues can be associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), 15% of Canadians can experience mild symptoms of SAD and women are eight times more likely to be affected than men (1). 

What are the symptoms of SAD?  

  • Oversleeping 
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy /low energy
  • Increase craving for carbohydrates and refined sugar 
  • Weight gain
  • Withdrawal from social contacts
  • Depressed mood 

How To Prevent Mild Symptoms of SAD

1. Acupuncture

  • Acupuncture helps to alleviate anxiety and depression by modulating adaptive neurotransmitters to alleviate autonomic response. This activates distinct brain regions between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to calm the brain (2).
  • Acupuncture also helps with mood disorders by stimulating the release of feel good hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine (3).

2. Meditation

  • Meditation trains the brain to focus and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and negative physical sensations occur. This helps the body to return to a more relaxed and positive state of being (4).
  • Another way meditation helps the brain is by protecting the hippocampus, which is typically smaller in people who suffer from depression. One study shows that after meditating for 30 minutes per day for eight weeks, meditators had an increased volume of grey matter in their hippocampus. (4)

3. Exercise

  • Although weather dependent, outdoor exercise is best because you get the added benefit of sunshine exposure and fresh air.
  • Heading to the gym is the next best option, especially if you pick a cardio machine located near a window.
  • Weight gain is associated with seasonal mood disorders and exercise helps to reduce the risk of weight gain.

4. Diet

The types of food that you put into your body also have an effect on mood. For example, avoiding refined sugar and fatty foods that cause weight gain and inflammation can worsen mood disorders.

Feel good meals include:

  • Foods high in Tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin): turkey, chicken, banana, oats, cheese, soy, nuts and sesame seeds.
  • Foods high in Protein (which stimulates production of norepinephrine and dopamine): Greek yogurt, lentils, beans, soy, nuts, cheese, eggs, and meat
  • Probiotic foods (that aid in digestion, immunity, and the stomach’s production of serotonin): yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha and pickled foods.

5. Supplements

  • Vitamin D: Decreased sunlight hours in the winter months leads to a decrease in vitamin D levels which can be a factor in seasonal affective disorder (5).
  • Omega 3: These fatty acids travel easily through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. Because inflammation is linked to depression, Omega 3’s also help to reduce depression through their anti-inflammatory actions (6).
  • Complex B Vitamins: These essential nutrients play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.

*** Talk to your healthcare provider about dosages and if supplementation is right for you.

6. Light Therapy

  • Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood, easing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Using a light therapy box, visor, or sitting in front of a window for thirty minutes per day stimulates the body’s circadian rhythms, suppressing the release of melatonin.
  • Since light therapy decreases the release of melatonin, it is best to do light therapy treatments in the morning.

7. Massage

  • It should come as no surprise that massage not only helps you to feel well physically, but it also helps you to feel better mentally. 
  • One meta-analysis confirms a significant reduction of depressive symptoms with a massage group when compared to a control group. All of the studies further demonstrate the consistent antidepressant effects of massage (7).

If you feel as if winter has gotten you down, contact us today Our multidisciplinary health professionals would be happy to assist in helping you get through the winter more effortlessly!

Resources 

  1. MDAO.https://www.mooddisorders.ca/faq/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad
  2. Li QQ, Shi GX, and Wang LP. Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2013). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3677642/ 
  3. Wen G, He X, Lu Y, Xia Y,  Effect of Acupuncture on Neurotransmitters/Modulators.  Acupuncture Therapy for Neurological Diseases. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-10857-0_5
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. (2018). How Meditation Helps with Depression. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression
  5.  Kerr DC, et al. Associations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in healthy young adult womenPsychiatry Res. (2015)
  6. Mischoulon D. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School (2018).  Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/omega-3-fatty-acids-for-mood-disorders-2018080314414
  7. Hou WH, Chiang PT, Hsu TY, Chiu SY, Yen YC. Treatment effects of massage therapy in depressed people: a meta-analysis. J Clin Psych 2010; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20361919

FREE Community Clinic Day: Stop Period Poverty & Period Pain

What.

Come to our FREE Community Clinic day to ‘Stop Period Poverty and Period Pain’ !!

Drop in to learn tips on how to prevent often dismissed menstrual symptoms, like cramps and PMS.

and

Receive a free community acupuncture and massage treatment in exchange for a donation of menstrual products (which we will contribute to No Woman Without‘s third annual pad drive this month.)

Why.

When we heard about this month’s third annual No Woman Without.Period campaign to address Period Poverty, and knowing that people are forced to choose between buying food and buying menstrual products, we knew we had to jump in and help!

We see this as an opportunity to de-stigmatize menstruation by getting it out of the closet and educating women about their bodies and their menstrual health.

A recently published study shows that period pain is linked to losing almost nine days of productivity at school and work per year. There needs to be an end to the normalization of women’s pain.

What else.

We are also assembling a limited number of ‘Menstrual Survival Kits’ for sale during the free community clinic day.

The kits will be featuring:
– specially formulated Blood Tonic Bone Broth from popular Edmonton restaurant RGE RD
– an herbal heat pack
– an herbal menstrual survival tea
– acupressure points
plus more tools for menstrual support.

There will be a limited number and first come first served 🙂
All proceeds from Menstrual Survival Kit sales will be donated to No Woman Without.

Where and when.

Whole Family Health Wellness Centre
6523 – 111 St NW
Sunday, February 23rd
12 – 3pm

Space is limited!
Register today!
587-200-5607 or info@wholefamilyhealth.ca

What is Period Poverty?

Half the population is made up of menstruators. Typically once a month, we can be found discreetly placing tampons, pads or other menstrual hygiene products out of the way of seeing eyes and heading for the washroom. The quiet whispers of, “Shoot! I wasn’t expecting this! Can I borrow a tampon?” may be overheard in restrooms.

It’s all very quiet, all quite hush hush. What happens when someone gets their period and they don’t have access to menstrual hygiene products? This is a real issue that has been kept the quietest of all.

Every month, people all over the globe experience menstruation. Did you know, though, that even in Canada people experience period poverty? This is the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and more often than not, this is a financial barrier.

A study by Plan Canada highlights that 12% of menstruating Canadians surveyed regularly have to miss out on activities because of lack of access to period products, while a larger 32% have to miss out occasionally.

Could you imagine having to regularly miss about five days of school or work every month because there is not enough access to these products? A person’s health can also be negatively impacted if unsanitary measures are taken- like trying to prolong tampon use, leading to an infection that may cause toxic shock syndrome.

Because menstrual products are an added cost, 27% of Canadian menstruators occasionally have to sacrifice other items in their budget to afford products for menstruation. The most at-risk population are those between the ages 18-24 years old. Sometimes this might even look like having to prioritize period products over a meal.

Periods are a normal biological function that half of our population deals with almost regularly. Breaking down the barriers to access of menstrual products is fundamental in normalizing periods and menstruation.

Join Us in the Movement Against Period Poverty!

Throughout February, Whole Family Health is supporting No Woman Without. Period in the collection of menstrual product donations, to raise awareness about period poverty in our own communities.

If you are interested in supporting this cause and helping to end period poverty, please stop by the clinic with your donations!

We will be offering a one-time 10% discount on your treatment when you bring in a menstrual product donation this month.

Also check out our ‘Stop Period Poverty and Period Pain’ Community Clinic Day on Sunday, February 23rd. Receive a free community acupuncture/ massage treatment in exchange for a menstrual product donation.
Register Today. Space is limited!

Sources:

https://plancanada.ca/file/downloads/Plan-International-Canada—Female-and-male-views-on-menstruation—May-2019.pdf

Catherine’s 4-Step Bone Broth Recipe

Happy National Soup Month!

In honour of National Soup Month, I am excited to share my bone broth recipe with you!

Bone broth is an incredibly nourishing substance and can be used as a base to enrich your soups with both a lovely punch of micronutrients and flavour, as a super nutritious elixir, or to add in small amounts to all of your meals.  

The Benefits of Bone Broth

Bone broth is highly concentrated with nutrients such as collagen, gelatin, glycosaminoglycans, glycine, proline and glutamine.  This means that it is beneficial for skin health, metabolic health, cardiovascular health, muscles, bones, joints, gut health, digestion, eye health, brain health, moods, sleep and immune function.  As you can see, bone broth has an incredible wealth of benefits for your body to feast upon!

The use of bone broth also has a rich history within the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  The ancient physicians saw it as such a potent medicinal that they claimed that it bolsters a person’s basic constitution.  They also found that it helps to strengthen a person’s digestion, brain health, bones, joints and immune function. It is always fascinating when modern medicine echoes the wisdom of ages past!

The Four-Step Recipe

Here is my simple chicken bone broth recipe boiled down into 4 easy steps:

Step one

Take 2 chicken carcasses with the chicken stripped off and place in a pot. Sometimes I purchase more chicken bones from the local butcher to make a bigger batch. Cover the bones with cold water and add a generous splash of apple cider vinegar. This helps to extract the nutrients from the bone. Soak for 1ish hour.

Step two

Simmer bones for 12-48 hours in the same water you soaked them in. After the bones have simmered for about 10ish hours, pull the bones out and cut them into small pieces to unleash the marrow. Usually I simmer the bones until the odours released are tantalizingly delicious, and use that as my gauge for when it is complete. Generally, I simmer them for 20-40 hours, although some people simmer them for up to a week, so it is really up to you!

Step three

Strain all of the excess material out of the broth and transfer the hot broth in the pot directly into the fridge. This helps it form into a jelly. Once it is cold it is easy to scoop the excess fat off of the top.

Step four

Voila!! You now have a beautiful batch of chicken bone broth to drink as a snack or to cook soups with! Enjoy!

Feel free to substitute turkey bones instead of chicken bones.  The only difference is that you will need to boil it for a little longer in order to soften the bones to crack them open.  

Have you made lots of bone broth? Do you make it differently?

For more nutritional tidbits and recipes, follow us on Instagram @wholefamilyhlth for our Foodie Fridays Posts

Contact Us now to book your free 15-minute phone Q&A with one of our natural health experts.

How To Stop Our Horse-Powered Minds

What To Do How To Be In The New Year

The new year brings opportunity for beginning anew. It’s a returning, where ending meets beginning and we have a chance to take inventory on what has come to pass. We can examine what has worked and what has not worked. We can reflect on what we wish to thank and bid adieu to. We can recognize what seeds we wish to plant and grow in the coming year.

It’s a time for resolutions and setting intentions. In the past, I’ve made resolutions to read more, do more yoga, ride my bike to work, go to bed early, stop eating gluten, floss every day, and the list goes on… I have had some success, but I’ve also put a lot of pressure on myself with these long lists of expectations…

This year I am going to keep it more simple. The last thing I need is one more thing to do. So I am going to try to remember to be.

Where Are We Going Going Going in Such A Hurry?

It happens more often than I would like. When I find myself hurrying into a room and suddenly wondering, “Wait, why did I come in here?”

There is an ancient Eastern story about a person on a horse. The horse is galloping speedily and it appears that the person is on their way somewhere important. As they pass another person standing on the side of the road, this bystander asks, “Where are you going in such a hurry?”  And the person on horseback replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

Mindfulness meditation teachers explain that this is like many of us. We are going, going, going, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop.

The horse is our habit energy, pulling us along and we are powerless. We keep going and running and struggling and it has become a habit.

Stop The Horse:

1.    Stop to breathe

They don’t call it horsepower for nothing. The horse, our habit energy is strong. Its running is part of our primitive brain’s functioning and has been critical for survival as we have evolved. The threat of danger is different now though. It’s no longer a sabre-toothed tiger, but our day to day social and financial stressors.

Our breath is an anchor: an autonomic bodily function that is always happening, whether we are aware of it or not. When we are attentive to our breathing, our mind is reunited with our body. At the same time, we are also flexing our brain’s muscle for concentration and higher cognitive thinking. It’s the part of our brain that can take control of the reins, to calm and to stop the horse.

Imagine walking around with a dumbbell all day and flexing the bicep whenever remembering to do so. That bicep, over time would build, becoming strong and ready to support and stabilize us in the midst of any adverse event.

The pre-frontal cortex is the same. Breath awareness actually makes this part of the brain grow bigger, giving us the ability to maintain self-regulation and control in the face of strong habit energies and emotions. It allows us to tame the horse.

2.    Stop to calm


Once we have practiced with stopping to breathe, we can practice with stopping to calm our body and our emotions. It is impossible to calm down without stopping first.

When our horse is spooked and caught in an emotional storm, it cannot see clearly and it can kick, trample, and hurt itself or those around it. Similarly, when we are having a strong emotion, we lack the clarity that we need to stop ourselves from making rash decisions or taking action that we later regret.

When our ability to stop and breathe is strong, we are able to stop and calm ourselves as we practice recognizing and accepting our strong emotions. It’s not about denying these difficult emotions, it’s about making space to calmly accept and be with what is coming up for us in the moment.

When we are calm enough, we are also able to look deeply into the roots of these difficult emotions and understand what has brought them about, rather than be carried away by them.  More often than not, the strong feelings are a function of how we are perceiving things.

When we have the space to look deeply at all of the various causes and conditions leading to our difficult emotions, we are able to view the situation from more perspectives. This allows us to have the insight to know what we can do or stop doing in order to move through the difficult situation.

When we are able to stop and calm the horse, there is increased capacity to view the landscape to better lead and direct the horse.

3.    Stop to rest


After calming ourselves and the horse, we must take rest. Calming allows us to rest, which is a precondition for healing. When animals are wounded, they find a place to lie down and rest, sometimes staying there for days.

When our minds or bodies are wounded, we tend to want to make the issue go away. Our habit energy is to resist uncomfortable situations.

We must practice to rest in order to allow our bodies and minds to be with and heal these wounds. Resting and healing is not something that we ‘do’. We tend to want to attain, so when we want to rest, we might go on vacation perhaps to the beach or to the mountains. But sometimes we return from holidays more tired!

Taking rest is to stop doing and to be. It shouldn’t be a struggle or an attainment, nor should it be tiring. Our bodies and minds have the innate capacity to heal themselves, so when we stop, calm and rest, we are making space for our bodies to take good care of our wounds.

4.    Stop to internalize the positive


Our minds are made up of our experiences. The flow of our experience shapes our brain, our mind and who we are.

Unfortunately, our brains have a negative bias. The brain has evolved to preferentially scan for unpleasant threatening experiences, because it helps to protect and preserve us from danger.

What this means is that even if our positive experiences outnumber our negative ones, our negative memories pile up faster.

The remedy? Well it isn’t to suppress or even avoid negative experiences, but to pay extra attention to positive ones.

If we stop and take a moment to be really present with our pleasant experiences, they get integrated into our implicit memory and become a permanent part of who we are.

How To Cultivate The Positive

First.

Don’t let the good stuff go unnoticed. Look for it – kindness, wonder, something beautiful or gratifying, a pleasant sensation, whatever it may be … open up to it and take it in.

Second.

I mean really take it in and savour the experience, focussing on your emotions and body sensations.

Dwell in the experience for at least 5-20 seconds. The longer it is held in your awareness, the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons will fire and wire together, creating a stronger memory.

Third.

Imagine the experience sinking deeply into your mind and body, like the warmth of the sun.

Stop, breathe, calm, rest and relax your body so that the experience can be absorbed and integrated in the form of emotions, sensations and thoughts.

Stop And Be And Take It In

I have enough things to do on my list already!

So basically, my New Year’s aspiration is to invite moments of remembering to Stop and Be.

An act of non-action.

They don’t have to be big moments. They can be small and simple everyday moments. A flutter in a breeze, the warmth and aroma of my tea, the sound of someone’s laughter…

Stopping to take a breath, to invite calm and rest and to internalize the nourishing stuff that is around and available to me in every moment.

To take in life’s beauty and wonder and to make room for it to grow in me.

What are some of life’s beautiful experiences that have touched you and that you have welcomed to become a part of yourself?

Book in for a free 15-minute phone Q&A to learn more about how we can help you with stress and your racing mind.

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