The female body is a marvelous thing; however, despite its wonder and beauty, once a month, it goes through absolute…well, let’s just say it isn’t very fun. And it isn’t really a once-a-month thing, either. In actuality, the female body is continuously changing over the course of a month. Hormone levels are in constant flux. From day one of her cycle, estrogen levels begin to increase, the uterine walls thicken, and hormone levels increase to prepare for ovulation. Once ovulation has occurred, and provided no fertilization has occurred, hormone levels drop, the egg breaks apart, and the thickened uterus lining is shed. Then it starts all over again. Repeat until menopause, barring any pregnancy-related disruptions.
The fact that our bodies are on this perpetual hormone-related roller coaster means there really is no “normal”. When not experiencing the painful effects of our periods themselves, there is always the pre- and post-hormonal flux to hit us right in the psychoses.
For many, “normal” can include tension, anxiety, depression, crying spells, mood swings, irritability, anger, cravings or loss of appetite, insomnia, social withdrawal, inability to concentrate, joint or muscle pain, headaches, fatigue, wait gain, abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, acne, and even constipation or diarrhea.
Everyone’s body reacts a bit differently and because our hormone levels, physical and mental states are continuously changing, our symptoms can vary from month-to-month.
One thing is certain: PMS and period symptoms can be extremely disruptive and extremely unpleasant, if not physically or mentally painful.
Natural Methods to Manage Symptoms
Fortunately, there are a few strategies that can help you manage your symptoms without having to cram a bunch of chemicals into your body that may also cause a fluctuation of effects.
- Acupuncture, Naturopathic Medicine, Massage Therapy, and Herbs– Seeking care from complementary health treatments such as acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, and massage therapy is a highly effective way to help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce stress, influence hormone regulation, and improve blood flow in the reproductive areas. Traditional Chinese Medicine provides an excellent means to manage your health and relieve symptoms of PMS gently and naturally.
- Improve your Diet- Your period takes a lot out of your body. Literally, your body needs extra vitamins and nutrients to get through, which means it can leave you more than a little deficient at the end. Do you ever wonder why you seem to get sick right around your period? Ensuring your body is getting the vitamins and nutrients it needs can go a long way towards calming and regulating the monthly horror. A lot of the time, the most unpleasant of symptoms can actually occur because our bodies are missing key vitamins or nutrients. A few to watch out for: iron, magnesium, vitamin D, and the Omega oils. As always, it is best to check with your doctor to find out what your iron levels (etc.) are in case you need to incorporate a supplement into your diet.
Cutting back on sodium can help a lot, too. Sodium leads to bloating, which means it can make the monthly bloat a lot more uncomfortable.
- Drink Tea- There are a lot of herbal formulations that can help with the symptoms—and even the pain—of PMS and menstruation. Plus, drinking tea keeps you hydrated and having extra fluids in your body can help ease bloating and replenish your body as it fights to regulate those hormones.
- Exercise- Exercise can help balance out some of the mood-altering effects of PMS, but keeping it low-impact is best, especially for bodies that are having a rough time with all those hormone fluctuations. Go for a walk, boosting vitamin D while exercising to balance blood sugar, etc. can be the best medicine and it can help you sleep at night. There are also a number of yoga poses and stretches that can help ease your cramps.
- Sleep- Finding a way to get regular sleep goes a long way towards regulating your fluctuating hormones. Take a nice long bath with Epsom salts, drink a cup of caffeine-free lemon tea, grab a hot water bottle, and catch a few extra hours of sleep until it’s over.
If you have any questions on natural methods to reduce PMS symptoms and are interested in learning more about how acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, and massage therapy can help please do not hesitate to contact us today!
There are times when stress is completely unavoidable, such as a high demanding job, training for a competitive sport event, dispute with your partner or friends, or caring for a sick parent, etc. (more…)
I know it may seem hard to believe but I am not always the most calm and collected individual, anxiety can hit me like a ton of bricks and trust me it can be hard to come out of. Here are some strategies that I’ve learned to help me cope:
- Regular Exercise
This helps me to expel that extra pent up energy that can often turn into anxious type feelings. I’m not saying that you have to run five miles a day, but scheduling at least 30-60 min three times a week of moderate to intermediate physical activity will quell over whelming feelings of anxiety and stress. Plus getting the blood pumping and body moving enhances the release of endorphins which helps us feel happy. Exercise also, benefits self-esteem by seeing physical results that may include less body fat, increased stamina, and muscle tone.
- Proper Eating Habits
I know that if I let myself get too hungry I am not a happy camper (some people call it hangry) Therefore, it is important to be eating regular meals everyday in order to stabilize blood sugar. When blood sugar becomes too low it causes stress to the brain and can lead to anxiety becoming worse. This is because the body is not getting nutrients into the blood stream.
The types of food that you put into your body also have an effect on anxiety. Feel good meals should include:
-Foods high in Tryptophan (precursor to serotonin): Turkey, chicken, banana, oats, cheese, soy, nuts, and sesame seeds.
– Vitamin B rich foods/supplements: Beef, chicken, pork, eggs, leafy greens, legumes, rice, oranges/citrus fruits, nuts, and whole grains
-Omega 3 rich foods/supplements: Chia seeds, flax seeds/oil, salmon, tuna, lake trout, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies
– Foods high in Protein (stimulates production of norepinephrine and dopamine): Greek yogurt, lentils, beans, soy, nuts, cheese, eggs, and meat
Foods that should be avoided that increase anxiety include:
-Caffeinated and alcoholic drinks: both lead to dehydration, which increases chances of anxiety. Caffeine also suppresses brain serotonin and as we know this is a feel good hormone.
-Foods high in sugar: The initial reaction to sugar may feel good at first but as the body releases insulin to counter balance that rush the body and mind are left feeling tired and in a low mood.
-Processed foods (meats, high fat dairy, fried foods) A UK study found that people who consumed processed foods regularly were more prone to anxiety and depression (source).
- Breathing Exercises
Sometimes I let my day get away from me and realize that I have not been taking full breaths and wonder why all of a sudden I’m feeling overwhelmed? Therefore I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to take a few deep breaths every 30 min to help my mind and body feel more at ease. Deep breathing gets more oxygen into our body that stimulates our calm at rest state of being also known as the Parasympathetic nervous system. Shallow breaths stimulate our fight or flight response or our sympathetic nervous system thus making us feel anxious and overwhelmed.
One particularly easy breathing technique I like and can be done anywhere at anytime is called “Equal Breathing” Start by inhaling through your nose and count to four and be conscious that you are moving the air all the way down (your abdomen should inflate if you are doing it right) and then exhale through your nose for a count of four. I like to do this 2-3 times in a row to really get myself in a calmer state.
- Me Time
Schedule at least thirty minutes to an hour to your own downtime every week is also important when managing anxiety and stress. Relishing in the things you like to do will help you to feel happy and grounded. These things can be as simple as taking a bath, reading a book, or listening to your favourite music. Invest time in yourself, because you are worth it!
As stated in my previous blogs regarding anxiety, acupuncture helps to reduce stress hormones in the body. This is essential for the body to get to its state of rest and relaxation by inducing the parasympathetic nervous system to go into action. Another added bonus to acupuncture is that it can be counted as me time! How often do we get to just lay back and relax for 45 minutes without the world buzzing around us? When coming in for anxiety treatments, I suggest starting off with weekly appointments to monitor how you are coping and if things are going well then we taper the treatments off to twice a month then to once a month.
Sniffling, sneezing, aching muscles and headaches… does this sound familiar to you? Unfortunately winter isn’t all about sleigh rides and ski trips and with cold winter weather comes a variety of illnesses that can really put a damper on the season. The next time you’re feeling run down by winter ailments consider regular acupuncture to help alleviate, treat and prevent these illnesses.
Why Choose Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been used for hundreds of years to cure a broad range of afflictions and today, many believe it to be one of the oldest and most long-standing healing methods in the modern world. Acupuncture has been known to naturally treat a variety of disorders ranging from headaches, insomnia and cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, to digestive issues, athletic injuries, skin conditions and weight control. Regular acupuncture treatments can help identify weakness in the immune system and target areas that need to be addressed. And the stronger your immune system is, the faster you can fight off and recover from illnesses when they happen!
Strengthen Your Immune System
With today’s busy lifestyle of go, go, go our immune systems are being challenged more than ever. Long work days, hectic home lives, excess stress and poor eating habits take a toll on your body so it’s no wonder recurrent colds, flus, chronic fatigue and seasonal illness are on the rise. We all know there are many strategies we can use to strengthen our immune system and improve our overall health. Healthy food choices, daily physical activity, adequate rest and healthy living habits all contribute to keeping the body in optimal working order but even when doing all we can, cold and flu germs still seem to find us. This is where acupuncture fits in. When incorporated into your toolkit of healthy living strategies, regular acupuncture treatments can give your immune system a boost and add that extra armor to fight off and prevent illness that often plague us during the winter months.
Acupuncture and Winter Illness
It is proven that regular acupuncture treatments and prevention and treatment of colds and flu. Acupuncture elevates the body’s immune-enhancing hormones and blood counts, thereby enabling the immune system to fight off colds, reduce aches and pains, decrease inflammation and increase energy levels.
The concept behind Chinese Medicine is that “Chi”, or the body’s flowing energy, can become stagnant. If Chi is not flowing smoothly or becomes sluggish, the body is more prone to illness. After the location of Chi breakdowns are identified, acupuncture treatments will be customized to achieve individual health goals.
Regular acupuncture treatments are extremely effective in providing immediate relief and preventing winter illnesses such as the common cold and flu for people of any age. Acupuncture accelerates the healing process and alleviates symptoms while strengthening the immune system. When incorporated into a healthy living protocol, this natural treatment will help you enjoy your winter season without the unpleasantness that comes with common winter illnesses.
Eating healthy in the colder months isn’t just about swapping out some snacks for this year’s miracle food. Eating healthy is about making small changes and finding a balance of diet and exercise that fits your lifestyle and your metabolism. Acupuncture can also aid in finding that balance as it is a highly effective stress reliever for both mind and body. For finding balance in your diet we’ve put together a short guide to point you in that direction.
Change the way you shop
Think about the last time you visited the grocery store, did you stick mostly to the edges or did you find yourself spending most of your time in the aisles? Now look at what’s in your basket, is it mostly boxes or whole ingredients?
Small changes in your shopping habits can turn into big changes in the quantity and quality of calories you are consuming. Grocery stores tend to put the unprocessed foods along the outer edges of the store. Not only will these foods be lower in calories, they’ll also be lower in harmful additives, sugars and salts.
Aim for quality not quantity
Counting calories can be a helpful guide to losing weight, but it can also trick you into thinking you are eating healthier than you are. A low calorie yogurt may seem like a healthier choice than a high in fat Greek yogurt, however not only is that low calorie yogurt likely filled with artificial colors and sweeteners, you’re missing out on some important nutrients. Even though it is higher in fat, the combination of the fat, protein and probiotics in the Greek yogurt will help your body feel full longer and burn more calories.
However be cautious this rule isn’t cut and dry, there are many high fat, high protein foods that aren’t good for you. As a general rule aim for foods in their whole form or foods you’ve prepared from whole food items.
Take time to enjoy your food
This might be the hardest guideline to follow. Set aside time for food. That means taking the time to prepare meals, even if it means in advance on the weekends, eat as a family, eat your meals slowly and not in front of the TV.
Eating as a family will not only heighten the enjoyment of your meal, but also encourage you to be creative and dig out a cookbook. Not only is cooking from recipes fun, but they are more likely to call for whole ingredients. And family dinners can be one of the few times in an otherwise busy day that you get to spend time together as family and that can be another important step in achieving balance.
Maybe your toddler has experienced it, or your friend’s child experienced it; separation anxiety is extremely common and usually occurs after 8 months of age, up until your child first starts school. It can range from a full on tantrum to a few stray tears and can come up at different times during your child’s development.
Separation anxiety is a natural behaviour and although it’s hard not to, you shouldn’t feel worried if your child displays symptoms of this common affliction. In fact there is a positive side to separation anxiety: it represents a change in your child’s thinking, they are now “aware that they are a separate entity from you but one that is still dependant” 1. Your child is recognizing your importance in their life and expressing an opinion that your presence is important to their survival.
Even though separation anxiety has some positive traits it is still not a behaviour that should be encouraged. It is often one of the first challenges a child faces and is an early experience parents can use on their path to build their children into emotionally healthy adults.
It may not always feel easy but no matter how much your child cries when you leave the house (or even the room) you should go when you say you will. When your child sees that their crying has caused you to return it just means they will cry longer and louder the next time around. Instead of giving in to their crying try instead to tell your child when you are going to be back. “Even if your child is not yet speaking, they will still often understand what you are communicating to them.”2 Not only does this let your child know you are leaving but it lets them know you are not abandoning them and you will be back.
It may not always feel easy to leave the house when your child is experiencing separation anxiety, but getting some space is an important developmental step to helping your child overcome their anxiety. Not only are you starting on the important path of good communication with your child you are also signalling to them that this time apart is only temporary.
A child will often experience worse separation anxiety if you leave them without telling them. It may seem like a tempting option however it only delays the inevitable reaction they are going to have when they learn about your departure and it doesn’t give them an indication that you will be coming back. Your unexpected departure is also validating their fears that you are abandoning them. Instead give a short, loving goodbye with an indication to your child when you will return.
Scheduling time for soothing family activities can also help soothe anxious children. This will also help your child not feel abandoned by showing them you are setting aside specific time for them.
Another alternative is pediatric acupuncture which is a great way to relieve anxiety in children and toddlers as this form of Traditional Chinese Medicine minimizes the need for medications and invasive therapies, provides excellent preventative care, and provides children with non-invasive, nurturing quick relief. Whole Family Health is highly specialized in treating children, and benefits of pediatric acupuncture are far reaching and can help an anxious child achieve balance.
During this time most importantly of all, you need to stay strong and confident. If you hear your child crying don’t go back inside, that will only encourage their anxiety. This can be a challenging time for any parent, but it is one of the first emotional obstacles a child and parent overcome. By starting open communication with your child early on you can lay the brick work for a healthy and honest relationship in the years to come.
For more information on we can help your child, call us now: 780-756-7736.
Cecil Horwitz RAc, DAc, CH presents Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture: Framework for Mental Health for Alberta Health Services Concurrent Disorders Telehealth Education Series. (more…)