Category Archives: Women’s Health

Naturopathic medicine articles, research, news, tips on women’s health including fertility, pms, pregnancy, menopause, hormone balancing.

Raising Progesterone Naturally

By Dr Nina Lange

Progesterone is one of the key hormones in a woman’s body. In proper balance with Estrogen and Testosterone, it functions to regulate menstrual cycles, improve fertility, ease menopausal transition and PMS, promote sleep and feeling calm, speed up metabolism and generates a general sense of wellbeing.

Without adequate levels, we see signs such as insomnia, bloating and water retention, PMS, irregular cycles, menstrual cramping, fibroids/PCOS, infertility, and anxiety.

As Naturopathic physicians we often test the levels of these hormones through a salivary hormone panel and make a plan for optimizing your levels of all of these hormones. Because we live in a society where Estrogen tends to dominate due to the use of pesticides, plastics and chemical hormones we more often see low Progesterone.

So what do we do to raise this incredibly important hormone?

1.Treat the adrenal glands:  This is another way of saying “help your body adapt better to stress”.  Because Progesterone is produced in both the ovaries and adrenal glands (that also regulate your stress responses) these important glands need to be strong. Reducing chronic stress by taking even small steps to support the adrenals through lifestyle changes (sleep, diet and moderate exercise) and supportive herbs and nutritional supplements will help to optimize their ability to produce adequate levels of Progesterone.

2.Detoxify the liver: the liver metabolizes hormones so in order to ensure proper ratios of Estrogen to Progesterone, support the liver on an ongoing basis. We also suggest talking to your ND about whether doing a detox/cleanse is right for you.

Along with some herb/supplements, consider a simple step such as a glass of warm water with lemon every morning to start stimulating the liver’s detoxification processes.

3. Herbs and Nutrition: Along with food sources, use supportive herbs and nutritional supplements in doses that are prescribed specifically for your needs.  Although there are many herbs and nutrients that can assist in bringing up Progesterone, some of our favourite ones include

I3C: broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts

These help to reduce the load of harmful Estrogen in the body, which in turn increases the ratio of Progesterone to Estrogen

Vitamin B6: walnuts, beans, bananas, spinach, potatoes, lean red meat

Helps liver detoxify Estrogen

Zinc: shellfish, beef, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, wheatgerm

Stimulates Progesterone production

 Magnesium: beans, pumpkin, whole grains, nuts, spinach

Supports adrenal glands in is useful in every enzyme reaction in the body which in turn helps produce hormones

Chaste tree: a herb that has a potent effect on the pituitary gland and is useful in directly stimulating the body’s production of Progesterone

Licorice Root, Rhodiola, Ashwaghanda, Shisandra: these herbs help to strengthen the adrenals allowing them to help produce and release sex hormones.

Evening Primrose Oil/Borage Oil: high in the fatty acid, GLA, these oils help to provide compounds for the body to make more Progesterone. Always balance these with fish oils or flax (omega 3s).

4.Regular sleep and meals: Make sure you get adequate sleep and at regular times. Ideally, going to bed between 9-11pm and waking between 6-8am, ensuring 7-9 hours sleep nightly, will assist the adrenals and pituitary gland in the brain in regulating the production of Progesterone

Eat meals that include protein at regular intervals to keep blood sugars stable. Eating erratically or having blood sugar spikes and lows will further stress the adrenals.

Decreasing the stress of inadequate sleep and blood sugar imbalances will unburden the adrenals, allowing them to release adequate levels of the hormones necessary for proper hormone balance.

Take charge of balancing your Hormones today! You can find out if your Progesterone is low and treat it! Proper hormone levels make a world of difference as they affect all aspects of your sense of wellbeing.

 

Sleep: It’s the Best Kept Secret – By Dr Nina Lange ND

Sleepy WomanSleep is a basic necessity! If you already think that you aren’t getting enough of it, chances are that you are sleep deprived. Sleep allows essential hormones to be released and recovery to happen

So, what is “adequate” when it comes to sleep?  Most people require 7-9 hours/night, but if you are doing athletic training at higher volumes, going through a “stressful” emotional time or fighting an infection you may need up to 10 hours.

“Sleep debt” is a term that is used to refer to the cumulative effect of sleep deprivation over time. Think of it as a snowball effect…if you continuously get an hour less sleep than you need, the negative effects will increase exponentially. So, a sleepless night here and there, you can probably handle…but do this night after night and you will notice an effect on your health in terms of mood, strength, energy and productivity.

Not only the number of hours, but the timing and the quality are also important.

For better sleep try getting to bed at around the same time and getting up at the same time every day. The best times would be going to sleep between 9-11pm and getting up between 6-8am. You should feel refreshed and ready to start your day (without hitting the “snooze button” over and over or begging for “just 5 more minutes”).   Make sure your room is completely dark, get rid of all electronics in your bedroom and keep the temperature of the room a bit cooler for better quality sleep. If other things are interrupting your sleep, it may be good to figure out the root cause and get it sorted out….because you NEED your sleep!  If you have trouble falling asleep try a bath with calming lavender essential oil, meditation every evening, deep breathing exercises, Try lemonbalm, skullcap or rose tea (small cup around 30-60 minutes before bed). It is also beneficial to stop using any electronic devices an hour before bed.

If you are waking in the night, it may be due to hormonal imbalances or anxiety. If you do get up, try not to turn on too many lights as this decreases melatonin (sleep cycle hormone).  If you have tried breathing exercises, tapes, teas or getting up for a bit and doing something and you still are feeling sleep deprived then it is definitely time to get to the bottom of this. Resolving imbalances through acupuncture, homeopathic remedies and supplements have been shown to help with insomnia of all kinds as the root cause is treated.

What happens when you sleep? Sleep stimulates the release of Growth Hormone, without which muscle repair and building cannot occur properly. It also stimulates bone building and fat burning.  Your adrenal glands also build and release hormones with adequate sleep(these are responsible for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone production as well as adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones). Our nervous systems also also process our experiences, emotions, thoughts and energies during sleep.  Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it!?

Try committing to getting more sleep than you think you need or than you have been getting for 3 weeks and see how you feel.  If you need help with it, talk to your naturopathic physician about it.

Just imagine waking feeling refreshed and ready for the new day after a good night’s sleep….plus, it gives you more hours to dream !

 

 

 

 

Naturopathic Medicine for the Soul By Dr Nina Lange ND

The Heart is like a garden. It can grow fear, resentment, or love. What seeds will you plant there?
-Buddha

Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see.
Anonymous

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.
-Unknown

And remember:
The grass is always greener where you water it.
So, plant your seeds, have faith that you can do it and acknowledge how far you have come with your commitment to reaching your goals in every aspect of your life. 

How to Beat Insomnia, Naturally – By Dr Julie Durnan, ND

 

 

 

 

 

Tired but Wired
Most adults have experienced trouble sleeping at some point in their lives.  An estimated 30-50% of people suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia can be a chronic issue or one that lasts just temporarily.  In either case, it can be very frustrating.  The good news is that you don’t have to suffer with insomnia and there are solutions beyond pharmaceutical medications.

Snoozing Solutions
Insomnia is a very common problem, particularly when there are feelings of anxiety during the day, problems regulating blood sugar, or hormonal imbalances, such as low progesterone.  If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your ND about the possible root causes of your sleep trouble.  In the meantime, try incorporating just a few simple “sleep hygiene” changes into your routine.  They can make a big difference.

Slow Down
Remember to give yourself plenty of time to wind down in the evening.  The best thing to do is to turn off the TV, get away from stimulating activities involving computers, cell phones, and other electronics, grab a relaxing book, practice some gentle yoga, have a bath, have a cup of soothing tea, and prepare for sleep.  Create a soothing rhythm for yourself in the evening and stick to it to help your body prepare for and to expect sleep.

Dark Truth
Melatonin, the hormone required for sleep, is released only in the dark.  So get away from flickering, bright, artificial lights in the evening while you prepare for sleep.  Ensure your bedroom is pitch black.  If necessary, buy some black-out curtains or shades for your window.  Get rid of night lights (yes, this goes for kids too) as they will disrupt your melatonin release.  It’s not necessary to supplement with melatonin if you are providing your body the proper building blocks to make it on your own.  The first ingredient is darkness and it works wonders for your hormonal system.

Get a Move On
Exercise has been shown to greatly reduce the stress response, relieve anxiety, and to improve sleep.   Since the hormones produced during exercise also help us to sleep, it’s important to get some exercise in DAILY.  During the day (not evening), do some form of interval cardiovascular workout or weight-bearing exercise for 20 to 40 minutes.  Exercise is wonderful for so many other reasons, but one benefit we can see quite quickly is its effect on sleep.

Unplug It
EMF (electro-magnetic frequency) can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and interrupt the regular hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycles.  My advice for all women, men, and children, is to unplug the bedroom.  This includes getting cell phones and laptops out of the bedroom, but also removing TVs, plug-in lamps and clocks as well.  A battery-powered clock is best as long as it doesn’t shine light in your room while you’re sleeping.  If so, turn it around so it faces the wall instead.

Sleepytime Snack
Many people will wake in the night from a drop in blood sugar.  When hunger strikes, you will likely wake up!  Try eating a small snack at bedtime to get you through the night.  Something with a bit of fat and protein in it is ideal so it stays in your gut for longer. You may consider an apple with almond butter,  avocado/hummous/or cheese on a grainy cracker, a small protein shake, or handful of nuts and seeds.

Nutritional and Herbal Support for Sleep

Cal-Mag
A Calcium Magnesium supplement at bedtime can be helpful.  Aim for a  1:1 or a 2:1 ratio of  Calcium to Magnesium.  About 400mg of Cal and 200mg to 400mg of Magnesium at bedtime can help you to relax and fall asleep.

Relaxing Teas
Relaxing nervine herbs in a tea taken before bed can induce the relaxation response and cue sleep.  Botanicals such as:  lemon balm, catnip, valerian, skullcap, oat straw, chamomile, passion flower, lavender, and hops.

Herbs for Stress
If your sleep problems are due to stress, consuming adaptogenic herbs to modulate your response to stress can be incredibly helpful.  Herbs such as ashwagandha, eleuthrococcus, schisandra can be taken in teas, tinctures, or tablets throughout the day.

Sleepy Pillow
An alternative to taking botanicals in the forms of teas and capsules is to make yourself a sleepy-time pillow.  This is done by wrapping dried lavender and hops into a bandana or small, thin organic cotton cloth bag.  Place the wrapped herbs under your pillow case and enjoy a restful sleep.

Happy Snoozing!
Incorporating some of these suggestions into the rhythm of your day will help you get to sleep and stay asleep.  Please see your ND for sleep problems that are affecting your energy, mood, or productivity at work or home.    Sleep is one of the most important pillars of overall health.  Happy zzzs!

 

 

 

Do You Pass the Holiday Stress Test? – By Dr. Julie Durnan ND

Yes, it’s true that the Holidays are considered to be the most wonderful time of the year.  But for many, they can also be the most stressful time of year.  Instead of putting your health on the back burner right now, I invite you to take a moment to check-in and see how you’re doing.  The following Naturopathic Stress Assessment can be completed in just 5 minutes.  Answer true or false to the statements below and calculate your total score at the end.  The higher the score, the more likely that stress is adding up for you and taking a toll on your overall health.

  • I often feel dizzy, faint, sleepy, or foggy
  • After getting up from a seated position, bending down, or getting out of bed, I often feel light headed or dizzy
  • I have dark circles under my eyes
  • I catch colds or other infections (lung or sinus infections, cold sores, yeast infections, bladder infections) easily and often
  • I’m gaining weight around my mid section
  • I am forgetting appointments, deadlines frequently
  • My nails are brittle and weak, my hair is dry and thinning and/or my skin seems to be aging too quickly
  • I feel exhausted, tired, run down, drained, or simply out of juice emotionally or physically
  • I am working harder, but accomplishing less
  • I often have trouble waking in the morning even though I seem to get enough sleep
  • I’m often tired after exercise, rather than energized
  • I have developed allergies, hay fever, asthma or skin rashes over the last few years
  • My body temperature seems off balance. My hands and feet feel cold and my face feels warm even though I’m not sick
  • I drink more than one cup of coffee, caffeinated drink or cola everyday and need it to keep up with the pace of my life
  • I have strong cravings for sweet or salty foods
  • I feel overwhelmed or stressed by work, family and social responsibilities
  • I’m often irritable, impatient or pessimistic
  • I am experiencing more physical complaints, aches, pains, or headaches
  • In my free time I’m too tired to do anything that involves leaving the house
  • I rarely take pleasure in many of the things I used to enjoy

Scores:
0-8: You’re probably just having a tough week.  After the Holidays, take this test again and see how you score.  For now, please be gentle on yourself.  Eat healthful food, get some rest, and ensure you’re sleeping 8 to 9 hours per night.
9-13: Stress is beginning to take a toll on your health. You need to be careful that you don’t burn out.  Begin by saying no to some of life’s demands and consider making some positive changes, such as improving your diet, resting often, ensure you are breathing properly (through your diaphragm and not your chest), and taking some additional supplements (B complex vitamins) or herbs (Astragalus or Ashwagandha are just two of the many options I recommend at this stage) at this time.
14-20: You are more than likely experiencing adrenal fatigue. When the adrenals become exhausted, this can lead to a more serious illness. Please consult with your naturopathic physician to be fully assessed and discuss treatment options.

A Happy Liver: How to Support Your Liver During Detox

By Dr. Rick Santimaw, ND

The Bucket Analogy

Here is an easy way to envision how the body’s detoxification systems work. Think of your body and its detoxification systems as a bucket. At the bottom of your bucket is a drainage hole representing your organs of excretion (skin, bowels, lungs, lymphatic system and kidneys). A filter that precedes the drainage hole will represent your liver as it regulates what stays in your bucket and what is drained out. Now, when you are very young, your bucket is filled up with to a certain level due to your genetic make-up, vaccinations, childhood illnesses, etc… Then, as you age, your bucket continues to fill up in the form of environmental toxins, allergens, life stressors (relationships, work, etc…), poor diet, drugs and alcohol, or lack of exercise (just to name a few). In a normal healthy person, the hole at the bottom of your bucket will drain out the “toxic water” faster than it can be put it. Thus, the bucket will never overflow!

However, when we are not living a healthy, balanced life or there is something wrong with our drainage hole or filter, our bucket will start to fill and fill until it eventually overflows. When our bucket overflows it usually presents as musculoskeletal pain, skin problems, and/or fatigue (physical or mental). This is our body’s way of telling us that it is not happy and that things are not going well.

As you can see the skin, bowels, lungs, lymphatic system and kidneys are all involved in the detoxification process. However, since the liver (filter) decides how quickly and efficiently toxins are drained from or body, it is critical that we support the liver while we detoxify.

How Do We Support Our Liver?

Now we can better understand how the detoxification process works and that a healthy liver is key to a successful detox. A healthy liver requires energy in the form of certain vitamins and minerals along with supportive herbs in order to function properly. Therefore, popular water or juice fasts are not beneficial because they deplete the body of the essential nutrients required for healthy detoxification. In fact, these fasts can have many adverse health effects, including decreased energy production, breakdown of muscle instead of fat, increased oxidative stress, and unbalanced detoxification. Instead of decreasing nutrient support during detoxification, we should eat a diet full of high quality proteins, which will provide the amino acids needed to run the detoxification process smoothly.

Nutrients and Herbs That to Support Liver Function

  • Cruciferous Vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, bok choy, broccoli and similar green leaf vegetables) contain indole-3-carbinol, which helps remove toxins and excess hormones from our system.
  • B-Vitamins support energy production and help to break down toxins.
  • N-Acetylcysteine helps to create Glutathione, a powerful anti-oxidant that also helps in thedetoxification of heavy metals.
  • The amino acids Glycine and Glutamine are also used to create Glutathione
  • Vitamin B12, Folate (B9), Methionine, and Choline
  • The herb Milk Thistle contains silymarin; it protects the liver as well and improves its overallfunction. Silymarin also increases glutathione and is therefore a strong antioxidant
  • Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is another liver-protectant herb, which also provides a strong antioxidant effect.
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