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Detox Your Home and Body

We are typically exposed to many chemicals and toxins on a daily basis.  However, please don’t fret because there are simple things you can do to reduce your exposure, starting today! 

Why is it important to reduce our exposure to environmental toxin exposure? Well, because chemicals and toxins are endocrine disruptors.  

Basically, this means that they negatively impact our hormones, which are not only responsible for reproduction, but also for mood, brain function and metabolism. 

While toxins and chemicals disrupt hormones, making a mess of the menstrual cycle and impacting a woman’s ability to achieve and maintain a pregnancy, they can also reduce sperm production and quality. So this isn’t just a female reproductive hormone issue, it’s a male reproductive issue too. As we all know, it takes two to make a baby. 

So what can we do? 

We can make minor and simple changes to the water we drink, the food we eat, and the products we use regularly. 

Water consumption:

We all know that water is important to our body’s wellbeing, so it’s important to drink 1.5-2L/day to stay properly hydrated. For fertility purposes, this is especially important because proper hydration helps with liver and kidney function, which helps the body metabolize hormones and rid the body of toxins. 

Because heavy metals can be found in many water sources, I can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure yours is clean, reliable and/or filtered.

If you are unsure about your water source, please look into ways that you can have your water tested and explore different filtration systems.  

How you store your water is also important and it is best if your drinking water is stored in a glass, metal, or BPA free bottle. These bottles won’t break down and leach harmful chemicals or microplastics into your water, like commercially bought water bottles do.  

However, if you are drinking commercially produced water that is sold in plastic bottles, please please refrain from storing these in your vehicles or warm areas. As plastic heats up, it breaks down and leaches into your drinking water. 

Foods 

I recommend a well balanced diet, especially including leafy greens, vegetables and a small amount of fruit/berries. 

Certain nutrients, like B vitamins can actually bind to toxins to pull them out of our system. Foods high in B vitamins include: whole grains, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, and meat products.

If you are trying to conceive it is also very important to take your prenatal supplements, which also have B vitamins in them.  

Another nutrient that helps to detoxify is glutathione. The liver needs glutathione to assist in hormone metabolism and foods high in glutathione include: avocados, spinach and walnuts. 

Unfortunately, there can be a downside to eating these nutritionally dense foods. Despite containing essential nutrients, they can also be exposed to pesticides and herbicides, which are terrible for the reproductive hormones. 

Therefore I advocate eating organic foods when possible and especially those that are classified by the Environmental Working Group  as the dirty dozen. These are foods that carry a heavier toxic load from exposure to pesticides and herbicides:

  1. strawberries
  2. spinach
  3. kale   
  4. nectarines
  5. apples
  6. grapes
  7. peaches
  8. cherries
  9. pear
  10. tomatoes
  11. celery
  12. potatoes 

However, if it’s difficult for you to access organic produce from the ‘dirty dozen’ list, you can do a simple wash. Although this wash doesn’t reduce all of the chemicals, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (2), it does effectively remove a fair amount of the pesticides. 

Produce Detox Wash

What you need

Kitchen sink/wash basin 
3L water
1 Ounce Baking Soda

How

Fill up the sink/basin with 3 litres of water, dissolve 1 ounce of baking soda in the water and then place your produce into this bath for 12-15min. 

Time saving hack

This might seem like one extra thing that you have to do but here’s what works for me:

I make the produce bath as soon as I get home from the store and let my produce soak as I’m putting the rest of my groceries away. By the time I’m finished putting everything away, my produce is good to go!

It feels like minimal effort and making the most of multitasking!

Personal products

A lot of the products we use daily can contain high amounts of endocrine disruptors such as parabens and phthalates. Typically these are in our lotions, makeup, shampoo, and personal care products. 

I’m not expecting you to empty your cupboards and closets and throw everything out, that’s definitely not feasible or economical! However, I do encourage you to replace them with healthier versions as you run out.

I’m not here to promote one brand over another, but you can reference the environmental working group’s website.

Another handy tool is the Think Dirty App. This is an app that you can download onto your smartphone to scan products for their toxic rating.

Household Cleaners and Products 

Household cleaners carry a lot of chemicals in them. In fact, products that smell especially “good or clean” typically contain phthalates. 

One way to decrease the use of these types of products is by switching over to a vinegar and water solution.

How to make your own cleaning solution: 

  • 4 tablespoons of vinegar mixed with
  • 3 cups of water 
  • 5-6 drops of your favourite essential oil ( if you want some delicious air freshening properties )

**Please Note: Vinegar and water cleaning solution hasn’t been shown to disinfect against the COVID19 virus. Please continue to use disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide or bleach cleaners for high traffic/ touch areas.

This vinegar and water solution is for dusting and cleaning areas that don’t get a lot of traffic or hands-on use. 

Air freshening spray

To make a clean and easy room spray, all you need is:

  • A spray bottle
  • Water 
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 5-10 drops of your favourite essential oil 

Fill the bottle mostly with water (not fully, leave some room) add the baking soda and essential oil and you are done! 

Air freshener vacuum (canister vacuums only) 

If you want to freshen the air in your home as you vacuum, you can try putting 10 drops of your favourite essential oil onto two cotton balls each and placing them into the canister portion of your vacuum cleaner. This will then disperse the essential oil while you vacuum. 

My favourite essential oil is lavender, because it has a calming effect. 

I hope that the transition into cleaner living is a smooth and burden free process for you.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us !

Yoga

A regular yoga practice offers many health benefits to both the mind and body. Yoga practice provides a refuge from our busy stressful lives.

Physical Benefits:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Muscle tone
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Circulation
  • Physical endurance
  • Lung capacity
  • Weight reduction
  • Pain and injury prevention
  • Anti-inflammatory

The mental and spiritual aspects are extremely valuable; yoga can help with stress management and calmness. It can help alleviate depression, insomnia and anxiety as well.

We offer both group yoga sessions as well as one-on-one personalized yoga.

Our instructors are additionally trained in fertility and prenatal yoga as well as acupressure as an effective adjunct.

Contact us for more information.

3 Helpful Supplements for Endometriosis

After hours of reading studies on endometriosis, researching supplements for the treatment of endometriosis, and reading others blogs on this subject, I came across an interesting article in Vogue.  

Did you know Lena Dunham had a hysterectomy at the age of 31 due to Endometriosis pain? I know that’s a scary thought, and obviously not an option for everyone. (Read her story here

It’s definitely a reality check when someone so young would take the option of removing an organ, giving up her potential to carry a baby to term and give birth because she never wanted to go another day feeling the pain that she did. She would say “okay” to early menopause and hormone therapy willingly, just to ease her pain. 

While I can’t completely understand the severity of the pain Lena, and some of my patients feel daily, weekly, or monthly, or the extreme cases of infertility and endometriomas that can come along with this diagnosis, I do empathize with the fact that sometimes we are dealt these crappy hands in life and we just have to do what’s best for us. 

I also can’t pretend to know how alone some of my patients feel in dealing with this diagnosis. To enjoy life is something that everyone deserves, and for some, removal of the uterus has been the eventual answer, but it doesn’t come without risk and ideally should be a last resort. So I want to share some options that can offer hope, particularly if you want to try to preserve your fertility. 

So let’s dive into three ‘easy to find at your local health food store’ supplements that research shows helps to reduce pain, ovarian endometriomas and endometrial-like tissue in the presence of Endometriosis.

Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol or Pine Bark extract has been known to have many analgesic properties. This extract taken in capsule form has been shown to reduce pain in many conditions from osteoarthritis to dysmenorrhea or painful periods, which is a common symptom of Endometriosis.

This natural supplement has been proven in studies to have lasting and compounding effects. In one study pycnogenol was found to be more effective in treating painful periods in Endometriosis than Gn-RHa or gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist, a common hormone therapy treatment for endometriosis. Not only were the effects of pycnogenol long lasting with results lasting even after discontinuing use but the longer the supplement was taken, the better results patients received. 

Another study showed that the use of pycnogenol reduced pain scores of dysmenorrhea significantly as well as the need for analgesics. Even after the women stopped using the pycnogenol, fewer analgesics were needed and the analgesic effect of pycnogenol continued.

Melatonin

This well known supplement for sleep has also been found to help reduce chronic pelvic pain in those diagnosed with Endometriosis. You may think of Melatonin as a sleep aid, but that’s not all it can do. Melatonin has been found to help reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and is also an antioxidant.

In a 2013 study of 40 women, 10mg of melatonin taken daily was found to decrease daily pain, pain during sex, pain during urination and painful periods. Daily use of melatonin was found to improve sleep quality, and reduced the risk of using pain medication by 80%.

NAC

NAC or N-Acetyl cysteine is a form of the amino acid cysteine naturally found in chicken, eggs, and garlic. NAC is responsible for the increase of natural glutathione which is a detoxifier/ antioxidant responsible for the destruction of free radicals in the body, as well as the ability to reduce and inhibit the growth of epithelial cells, or endometriosis like tissue.

One recent study of 47 women taking 600 mg of NAC three times a day for three consecutive months, found the women did not experience endometrioma (cyst) growth. They had a greater number of cysts shrink, eight women had cysts disappear completely, half of the women cancelled their laparoscopic surgery, and eight women became pregnant during the study or within 12 months. 

Please note that it’s always important to consult with a registered health practitioner before taking any supplement to make sure that it is the appropriate supplement and dose for your case. 

While there is currently no cure for Endometriosis, there are options like acupuncture and supplements that can help those suffering with this silent disease. More research needs to be done to continue to increase awareness. 

If you or someone you know suffers from Endometriosis or endometriosis-like symptoms, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute q & a to explore the options that we offer, we are happy to help!

You don’t have to suffer alone. 

Image: Tio Cuchillos

Resources

PMID: 18567279
PMID: 28367412
PMID: 17879831
PMID: 23602498
PMID: 23737821
doi.org/10.1155/2013/240702

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!

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

About 1 in 10 Womxn have endometriosis.

Endometriosis is when tissue similar to the uterine lining (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus and responds to hormonal changes, as the endometrium does. So during menstruation, it also bleeds, but unlike the endometrium – it has nowhere to go.

This tissue forms endometrial adhesions in the pelvis and causes all kinds of issues including inflammation, scarring, nerve pressure, and even organ damage and dysfunction.

Severe and often debilitating pain, heavy / prolonged menstruation, digestive disorders, infertility and chronic fatigue are among some of the symptoms of endometriosis.

It is a part of the period poverty landscape, as it can be a barrier to opportunity, with its often debilitating symptoms. Endometriosis is estimated to cost the US over $78 billion each year in medical costs and work productivity.

It has long been theorized to be due to retrograde menstruation – period blood that goes the wrong way through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity. This is apparently a common occurrence in all womxn, but only develops into endometriosis 10% of the time.

Although the above theory may be true in some cases, endometriosis present in fetal development – before any kind of menstruation takes place, let alone retrograde menstruation – suggests that may not be true in all cases.

So there is ultimately no proven cause or cure for endometriosis.
Other theories suggest a genetic component. Those who have a close relative with endometriosis are 5-7 times more likely to also have it.
Theories involving stem cells, the lymphatic system, immune system and complex inflammatory responses have been proposed, but mechanisms are poorly understood.

It can take upwards of 7-10 years for a proper diagnosis, and the only definitive diagnosis for endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery and biopsy.

️Follow us throughout the month to learn more about endometriosis, and ways to support yourself, or those you know who struggle with it.

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

Lets Talk About Period Poops

Periods poops. No, you aren’t the only one who suffers from these! Many of us do. The problem is we just don’t talk about it. Well let’s start talking about our poop and periods more! Periods shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of, they’re a healthy and natural function of our bodies. However, the period poops don’t have to be.

A 2014 study of 156 women found that 73% experienced at least one of the primary GI symptoms either pre- or during menses, abdominal pain and diarrhea being the most common. 58% experienced abdominal pain before their menses, while 55% experienced it during. Similarly, 24% experienced diarrhea before menstruation, while 28% experienced it during. (1)

Prostaglandins

But why oh why, does it seem when you are on your cycle that your guts go a little haywire? You can blame prostaglandins!

Who are they? They are chemicals responsible for signalling the smooth muscle of your uterus to contract and shed your lining. The only problem is, sometimes there is an excess that ends up in the blood stream. These prostaglandins then influence other smooth muscles in the body- aka the intestines- to do the mambo number 5.

This is where flushable wipes come in handy ladies, they are your best friend on your period. Especially if there is GI distress! Just look for the ones without all the harsh perfumes and chemicals.

Also try to cut down on coffee intake before your cycle if you are prone to period poops. Caffeine acts as a natural laxative and can contribute to more diarrhea. 

Progesterone

While some people experience diarrhea, others experience the opposite. Their bowels decide to hibernate before their period. This can create an angry bear in all of us. No one likes to be constipated! So, what’s up with this?

Well, we know it’s in part due to hormones. Progesterone is thought to be a culprit. Progesterone starts to increase with ovulation. With this increase comes an effect on the bowel, and it can slow movement of food through the intestines. It can also ramp up increased feelings of hunger, which may cause you to reach for more carb-heavy, sugar packed treats, which in turn exasperate an already backed up system.

Try incorporating more plant heavy fibre-rich fruits and vegetables. Physical activity is always great for helping the intestines “move” as well. Acupuncture is also fantastic!

Acupuncture

Acupuncture targets the entire system and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system. When the body is in a relaxed state, digestion improves! It can also help increase peristalsis, especially helpful for when the lower GI tract is backed up.

Acupuncture is great because it addresses the underlying imbalance in the body! Whether it’s diarrhea or constipation during the cycle, acupuncture covers the bases.

Period Health

There isn’t a ton of research out there that tracks women’s GI complaints during their cycles. There could be several reasons for this, but I’ll save that topic for another blog. In the meantime, what can we do to help normalize periods and discuss the not-so-nice GI issues that come along with it?

Let’s talk about it!

The next time you have a girls’ night, why not bring up your periods! You may learn you aren’t the only one in your group suffering from GI distress during your cycle. Then the conversation can open up to exploring all of the things we can do to help treat it, such as changes in diet, exercise and acupuncture!

If you need support with your period poops, contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Follow Kelsey on Instagram @kelsey_shaw_Acupuncture

References

  1. Bernstein, M.T., Graff, L.A., Avery, L. et al. Gastrointestinal symptoms before and during menses in healthy women. BMC Women’s Health 14, 14 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6874-14-14

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?

Period Pain: My Story

For those of you struggling with painful periods or other uncomfortable menstrual symptoms, have you ever imagined the possibility of a smooth and easy menstrual cycle – a regular cycle with no pain, no bloating and no premenstrual symptoms? 

One of my mentors used to say:

“A period should be polite, it should come and go with ease and cause no trouble.”

Some of you might find this concept incredulous, and you are not alone. 

I remember back when I first transformed into a woman at the age of fourteen.  I remember when my first periods were arriving, having to leave work because the cramps were so severe that my face was grey. I was unable to stand upright and I was nauseous. 

Thus began many years of missing school and work, waking up in the middle of the night dreaming that a shark was eating my uterus. All of this was accompanied by copious amounts of painkillers. 

Throughout my teens, I visited many doctors and gynaecologists who told me that this immense pain was perfectly normal and that birth control was my best option to control the pain. This was difficult for me, especially since I hadn’t even had an ultrasound or any diagnostic testing.

A study from 2012 reports a staggering prevalence of menstrual pain among young women.  Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) is reported by 84% of women, with 43% reporting that the pain is occurring every period.  55% of women need medication to control the pain, 32% of women experience the inability to function normally, and 25% of women need medication as well as absenteeism from daily activities such as work. (1)

It is no wonder, when faced with numbers such as 1 in 4 requiring both medication and absenteeism due to menstrual pain, that it is considered to be a ‘normal’ condition by our medical community. 

Fast forward through many years of awkward and uncomfortable symptoms from the birth control pill, to when I finally discontinued it in my later 20s.  The dysmenorrhea came back with a vengeance and continued to disrupt my life.

Again, this was something that I accepted as normal. Throughout all of my years with this traumatizing monthly condition, I never found anything that could alleviate my pain and was conditioned by society to accept this pain as ‘part of being a woman’.

Finally, I had the blessing to begin my studies at a Traditional Chinese Medicine school nestled in the heart of the Kootenays.  When we first started our gynaecology class, our instructor told us that a woman’s period should be painless. I literally had to excuse myself from the room because the incredulous laughter that was rolling out of my being was a disturbance to the rest of my classmates.  It took me a long time to believe that what has been passed off as ‘normal’ my entire life was unnecessary and indeed even treatable. 

The astonishing knowledge that there is a natural and effective treatment option for dysmenorrhea has the potential to improve many women’s lives.  Not only does Traditional Chinese Medicine have the potential to reduce the intensity and duration of menstrual cramps, but it also can help to regulate irregular cycles, heavy or scanty menstruation, absence of menstruation and any premenstrual symptoms.  

A meta analysis conducted in 2018 included randomized controlled trials comparing acupuncture to no treatment, placebo or medications while measuring menstrual pain intensity and associated symptoms in women with primary dysmenorrhea.  This review suggests that acupuncture has beneficial effects for significant improvement of dysmenorrhea and remains efficacious after a short term follow-up (2). Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine regulate the hormones, decrease stress, increase blood circulation, regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce pain and regulate inflammation. 

During an intake with a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, many questions will be asked, and every detail of your health will be taken into consideration.  An individualized treatment plan will be prescribed for you, usually including an acupuncture and herbal medicine protocol. Other lifestyle advice such as diet, exercise and mindfulness might also be incorporated.  Generally speaking, it takes about three months of treatment to affect the cycle of hormones in a lasting way. So while it takes some level of commitment to go through this process, it is well worth the dedication, especially as you watch all of the uncomfortable menstrual issues that you have been told your whole life are normal -resolve. 

Do you have menstrual pain? Join us for our Free Community Clinic Day to ‘Stop Period Poverty and Period Pain’. Receive free lifestyle tips on how to prevent dysmenorrhea and a free community acupuncture and massage treatment in exchange for a menstrual product donation for No Woman Without.

Contact us to register. Space is limited!

References:

  1. Grandi, G., Ferrari, S., Xholli, A., Cannoletta, M., Palma, F., Romani, C., … Cagnacci, A. (2012). Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea?. Journal of pain research, 5, 169–174. doi:10.2147/JPR.S30602
  2. Woo, H. L., Ji, H. R., Pak, Y. K., Lee, H., Heo, S. J., Lee, J. M., & Park, K. S. (2018). The efficacy and safety of acupuncture in women with primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 97(23), e11007. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011007

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

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