Don’t Believe the Hype: A Decade of Menopause

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Cue the moans and groans: Experts report menopause can start 10 years before the cessation of menses.

Many women can experience hot flashes and night sweats in their 30s and 40s.  The experts in the study, released in JAMA, observed this and interpreted this finding to indicate the start of menopause even though this truly is not the case for most women.  When we dig deeper than the surface observation we will find that there are options to help restore hormone balance and resolve symptoms.

There is science to support that fluctuating hormone levels and the slowing of function in the ovaries is the reason why women can experience hot flashes and night sweats earlier than fifty, the mean age for menopause.  Yet, conventional medicine fails to offer the next step in assisting women to find options that naturally OPTIMIZE ovarian hormone secretion and NORMALIZE fluctuation hormone fluctuations… because the options are out there.

In my practice I have worked with many women who were frustrated when told they were “Perimenopausal” and given two options 1) medication (The Pill or an antidepressant) or 2) wait and see.  The added suggestion in the article referenced above included 3) avoid spicy food 4) dress in layers and 5) adjust room temperature levels accordingly.  For so many women these are just not acceptable or effective solutions!

Once we work on an individualized plan to balance a women’s own hormone picture, which includes improving hormonal tissue function (ie. the ovaries, the pituitary) and supporting their body’s own secretion of estrogen and progesterone, the hot flash and night sweats resolve.

Moreover, cortisol, the stress hormone from our adrenal glands, can significantly impact female hormone balance.  For some women, their night time hot flashes and sweats are actually related to irregular shifts in cortisol, not because of declining ovary function.

There are wonderful, effective and safe options that fine tune female physiology.  Over time, stress, pregnancy, illness and life changes can shift the delicate balance of the hormonal system.  If measures are not taken to restore the balance of things, the hormonal system can get further and further out of alignment.  Taking a drug to treat these types of symptoms only masks the deeper concern and puts women at risk for developing toxicity and more severe health issues down the road.

When we think broader about health and the way a woman’s body works, we can resolve concerns here and now.  Thus preventing women from experiencing a compromised level of health and a long road of unanswered questions.

If you would like more information about female health, feel free to email me at drlaura@winhealth.ca.

 

Shift Your Sex Into Drive

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Has your intimacy become a shadow of what it was?

A healthy sex life is important for increased immune system, hormone balance, improved prostate and heart health, reduction of stress and promotes great mood. You know, that sparkly happy feeling…Who can argue with that? 🙂

However, many people struggle with a low libido.  This is a concern that affects women and men of all ages.  There are many things in our daily lives that interfere with our mojo.  Working with a Naturopathic Doctor can help people get the mojo back.  Having the energy, the sex drive, the good mood and the good health for intimacy with your partner is the foundation for enjoying (yes…to all those tired mamas out there… I said enjoying) a healthy sex life.

Here’s my top considerations for helping my patients shift their libido from “Park” to “Drive.”

1) Nutrition

Did you know that all of our hormones are made from fat?  Many patients are always surprised to learn this tidbit of nutrition information.  The body requires good fat to make the hormones necessary for our libido, in addition to all the other hormone driven processes.   This is another reason why we need the right kinds of healthy fat in our diet, and in adequate quantities.

Many patients will tell me they eat salmon or nuts and seeds, so they feel they are getting their healthy fats, or essential fatty acids (EFAs), however most of us benefit from the use of specific EFAs in therapeutic concentrations.  Our current pace causes our bodies to rapidly use up good fat.  Good fat is in high demand for our biochemistry but it also protects us from stress.

There are so many varieties of supplemented essential fatty acids that can help with sex hormones such as omega 3s, GLA and plant sterols.  When I put a plan together for a patient I consider their picture of health, select an EFA that is a good fit and then discuss the benefits with them.

While we are on the nutrition note, of course clean eating is essential as it improves energy.  This energy goes toward improved sex drive but also helps people feel interested and energetic enough to have sex.

2) Medication

Certain medications such as oral contraceptives and antidepressants can decrease sexual desire.  Talking with your prescribing doctor about your change in libido may lead to an option that has less side effects.  My role in a case like this is to help support the body’s detoxification pathways to minimize medication side effects.  Also, building up health in other ways, such as the ones listed here, can help people get the best of both: continue their medication and experienced improved libido.

3) Self Care

Are you gunning through the day on low reserves?  Guess what… the tank is destined to be empty when you or your partner is wanting to be intimate.

Life is busy.  This seems to be the perfect caption for the lives of many of us.  When we go about our day and we are constantly tending to things (i.e. work, home responsibilities, kids, pets, family, friends, the internet, text messages, email, social media) we spend our energy.  Simply resting on the couch at the end of the day does not put energy back in the bank.  It may feel good, but it doesn’t build up our reserves.

What builds are reserves?  Doing things that you love, that makes your soul sing, that calms your brain.

In a world of crunch time, stretched schedules and hurry-ups we can find time for this.  It doesn’t have to be everyday, it doesn’t have to be for long.  Doing little things to replenish at different times during the week WILL build our reserves over time.  Self care also makes  us feel calmer, happier and resilient.

Some examples of self care that I recommend: a couple minutes of meditation, a bath with epsom salt, 30 seconds of deep breathing, doing something creative that you love, a fun outing with friends, a fun outing with your kids, music, dancing, a yoga class, time outdoors, time with your pet, and so many more.  I often talk with my patients about what things they like to do for enjoyment and then we build a plan for Self Care.

4) Resolve Hormonal Imbalances

It’s true… when PMS lasts two weeks out of four even the thought of having sex can be a turn off.  A hormonal imbalance or reproductive tract tissues changes that cause PMS, menstrual irregularities, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis. menopause or prostate issues can be addressed.  Working on a root cause solution to these concerns can readily resolve them for most people.  A balanced system leads to an increase in interest in sex and libido.

A strong foundation of health and correcting imbalances in the function of our physiology can significantly improve sex drive.  If you want more information about hormone help and want to understand more about what can be done to boost libido feel free to email me at drlaura@winhealth.ca.

Mindfulness + Marriage

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The way mindfulness connects to health concerns is always on the forefront of my mind when I talk to patients.  So naturally, I was intrigued when I read an article about how mindfulness impacts a marriage.

This article, “Why women leave men they love – what every man needs to know” was written by a counsellor named Justice Schanfarber, who is located in British Columbia.  It was a fascinating piece about the husbands and wives who have no major dysfunction in their relationships yet find their bond eroding.  The article focused on why people who love each other find they drift apart and lose connection along the way.  As distance grows there is a lack of togetherness and over time a marriage can fall apart.

This is a prominent marital concern given our modern day pace. Some marriages make it through and some do not.  His article is a reminder about how it’s the little things that happen every day that can hold something bigger together, like a marriage, just like it does health.

Schanfarber writes:

“While many situations are complex, there’s one profoundly simple truth that men need to know. It’s this – Women leave men they love.

They feel terrible about it. It tears the heart out of them. But they do it. They rally their courage and their resources and they leave. Women leave men with whom they have children, homes and lives. Women leave for many reasons, but there’s one reason in particular that haunts me, one that I want men to understand:

Women leave because their man is not present.”

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Although this article is directed towards husbands, it certainly can certainly apply to both husbands and wives.  Mindfulness between spouses can contribute to the glue that keeps them together and the nourishment needed for the love they have.

This is a great article to read, share with your spouse, read with your spouse or share with a friend or family member who may relate.  It could make a difference in your life or theirs.  To read the whole article, click here: Why women leave men they love – what every man needs to know.

If you want to work on mindfulness with me, join me for tujawellness’ 30 Day Meditation Challenge.  Just like healthy eating, learning to be present and mindful requires practice.  The more familiar we become with mindfulness the easier it is to make it part of everyday.

The Daily Health Habits I Swear By

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My colleague Dr. Natasha Turner was recently on Dr. Oz discussed her 9 daily health habits that she swears by.  This appearance was featured by Chatelaine magazine.  I thought it would be fun to share with all of you what my top picks would be.  Some of them are similar to Dr. Turner’s however, in my usual style, I tweak things a bit in my life to resonate with me.

Here’s my TOP Daily Health Habits — do these as often as possible each day and feel fantastic!

#1 DRINK REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER

This came in at #9 on Dr. Turner’s list but I put it up front and centre in my life.  If I have a day that I don’t drink enough water I feel it.  It’s important to drink clean water.  The cleanest water we can get these days is reverse osmosis water.  Many people ask me if drinking RO water is unhealthy for teeth and bones because it lacks certain minerals and I would disagree.  RO water can be re-mineralized and re-vitalized by adding a lemon wedge, some crushed mint leaves, a few cucumber slices or some liquid chlorophyll.

Bottom Line: Drink RO water to support detoxification and your body’s most essential needs.

#2 GET MOVING

Keeping my bones, muscles and mind strong by staying active is something that I highly value as the years go on.  More than ever before I really believe the old adage “Use it or lose it.”  I try to do something everyday that stretches and/or challenges my muscles and my bones.

Bottom Line: Regular activity is healthy for mind, body and spirit.

#3 EAT CLEAN

This can be easier some days than others due to my home and work life balance, but I always return to the basics each day.  Since I’ve been starting my day with a green smoothie I find this helps me get a good dose of greens at least once a day.  It’s also a great way to jump start my energy in the morning.  At lunch and dinner I try my best to incorporate veggies of some kind.  It’s all about a balance, and making healthy choices with nutrition always helps my body feel its best.

Bottom Line: Plant foods can help support regular healthy eating.  Choose whole foods when planning your meals.

#4 EAT GOOD FATS

My go to is olive oil when I’m cooking.  I drizzle it over everything.  I also often get a daily dose of coconut oil, flax seed oil, avocado, nuts and/or seeds in my day.  As time goes on I realize how good fats are important for the way my skin looks and how my joints feel.  Healthy fats are the body’s natural moisturizer and band-aid.  We also need fats to support the formation of all the hormones in our body.

Bottom Line: Don’t shy away from healthy fats.  Include them as often as possible.  I’d take a bath in olive oil if I could. JK. 😉

#5 BRUSH YOUR SKIN

I keep piping on and on about skin brushing… I am a true fan!  It is tremendously supportive of detoxification, breast tissue health and the immune system.  I find a place for skin brushing before bed.  I brush my teeth, floss my teeth and I brush my skin.  Not at the same time, of course.  But this is the best way I find I can get it done on a daily basis.

Bottom Line: Skin brushing is awesome!  It helps tone our skin, keep breast tissue healthy, detoxifies our cells and strengthens our immune system.

#6 EAT AT REGULAR TIMES

When I eat at regular times I find I have better energy, mental focus and mood.  Going too long between meals can cause dips in blood sugar, and I find I’m susceptible to feeling these.  Moreover, regular meals help keep metabolism sharp.  Our bodies favour routine and this goes for the way we nourish our bodies and how this support our metabolic needs.

Bottom Line: Eating regular meals provides better energy, mental focus and mood.

#7 I AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, TOO!

I agree with Dr. Turner on this one.  Artificial sweeteners are nothing but trouble for our physiology.  Dr. Joseph Mercola talks in great length about how Artificial Sweeteners are a toxin for our body.  A long time ago I used to eat and drink things that contained artificial sweeteners and never gave it a second thought.  Over the years I have swapped them out for healthier options.

Bottom Line: Read labels to avoid artificial sweeteners.  Use natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup or stevia) in food and beverages.

#8 SLEEP!

I find I feel my best when I am asleep before midnight.  I have had instances in my past where I’ve had one too many late nights and I’ve come down with a cold.  Aside from depleting energy stores, lack of sleep impact the immune system, memory, hormone balance and metabolism.  Like many people, I can sometimes feel tired but wired at night.  There are times when I take natural sleep support before bed so I can get a solid restorative sleep without feeling drowsy in the morning.  I feel the most productive when I get to bed at a reasonable hour and have quality sleep.

Bottom Line: Regular bedtimes and quality sleep can help us feel like Wonder Woman (Guys: Insert superhero of choice here)!

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Kick Food Cravings: 4 Satisfying Solutions

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I think of the October to December stretch as one big non-stop Festive Season.  Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, New Years and all the celebrations in between can be one heck of a party gauntlet.  As with any gauntlet, the challenge is thrown down when it comes to food cravings during this time of year.  We often crave sugar, salt, carbohydrates or rich comfort foods.  My biggest food crush craving is chocolate!  With all of festive foods in circulation (…Cue the aps, dips and holiday baking…) it can set us up for a cycle of eating our greatest indulgences.

It’s alright to enjoy our favourite treats every now and then, however when cravings become incessant and a daily struggle, this can throw off our efforts in healthy eating.  Unchecked food cravings can leave us wanting more feel good food and this cycle is tough to break.

Luckily we can build a strong foundation for balance within our bodies to quell cravings.  Here’s my top four solutions to satisfy food cravings.

 

SOLUTION #1 – REGULAR NUTRIENT DENSE MEALS

Let’s start with the frequency of our meals.  If we skip a meal, or don’t eat enough nutrient dense foods at a meal, we feel hungrier as the day goes on because of a blood sugar imbalance.  It becomes easier to succumb to a craving and make food choices that will help us feel good and give us a little burst of energy.  In addition, we are more susceptible to experiencing stronger cravings later in the day and in the evening when our meals are not balanced.

To prevent this from happening, eat regular meals through the day and add snacks between meals if needed.  Choose nutrient dense foods like non-salad veggies, nuts, seeds, lean protein (i.e. eggs, fish, poultry), beans and healthy fats like avocado and nut/seed butter.

 

SOLUTION #2 – EXERCISE REGULARLY

There is something really special that happens biochemically when we exercise.  The body releases hormones and mediators that help control our appetite, balance blood sugar, improve energy and optimize our mood.  These physiological responses significantly diminish cravings and give us the grit to sail through our day without that hankering for something more.

Exercise routinely (at least 3 times a week) and ensure you are working up a good sweat each time.  This is a sure sign that you are hitting an effective intensity level for your body.

 

SOLUTION #3 – HORMONE HELP

There is a significant amount of influence our hormone balance has on the intensity of food cravings we experience.  Most women experience heightened food cravings with PMS, while pregnant, after having a baby or during menopause.  However, both men and women can struggle with food cravings if they are not sleeping well, if they have Thyroid and/or Adrenal imbalances, or all of these.

Maintaining proper hormone balance is tremendously helpful in the resolution of food cravings.  There are many safe, natural and effective options that address hormone balance.  This is something that is best done during a visit with me.

You can also learn more about hormone balancing through one of my November Webinars:

Click Here to Register: OPTIMIZING METABOLISM: THYROID & ADRENAL BALANCE

Click Here to Register: SOLUTIONS FOR FEMALE HEALTH CONCERNS

 

SOLUTION #4 – SHAKE IT OFF

Stress can be a major influence for cravings.  The cravings can be governed by our mind.  Indulging may make us feel good but it is always a temporary fix.  If the stress is still there the cycle can continue.  It’s important we find ways to manage our stress and negative emotions, experience authentic happiness within and feel comfortable in our own skin.  This is no easy feat, but there are ways to work our way along this path.

 

Health is a work in progress.  By starting now you can start resolving your food cravings and create a good balance to help support healthier eating now and over the holidays.  If cravings have thrown you off track, or seem to be in the way of your health goals, remember that every passing moment is a chance to start over and there are many options to build your resilience.

Diane Von Furstenberg: Health & Aging

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Style icon Diane Von Furstenburg has penned a new book about her life experience called “The Women I Wanted To Be.”  She includes a part a very inspiring part about her philosophy on aging as she looks back over the years of her life.

It was refreshing to read her honest recollection of her attitude about aging in each decade of her life.  Now, at the age of 67 she says this about aging:

“Youth is wonderful; it’s exciting because it is the beginning of life. But it is essential to learn from the past and look into the future without resentment.”

After she was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 she became more health conscious and began eating clean, included regular activity and did things that nurtured herself.  This has helped her maintain stronger vitality and fulfillment into the present day.

She also talks about how she views her appearance and talks about aging gracefully:

“In my older face, I see my life. Every wrinkle, every smile line, every age spot….Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life. My face reflects the wind and sun and rain and dust from the trips I’ve taken. My face carries all my memories. Why should I erase them?”

Read the whole excerpt from her new book “The Woman I Wanted To Be” posted by the Huffington Post here: Diane Von Furstenberg Shares Her Philosophy on Aging in an Excerpt From Her New Memoir

 

Something Fishy: Understanding Bacterial Vaginosis

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Many women suffer with the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV) but are improperly diagnosed or treated.  In addition, some women also avoid discussing their symptoms with their health care provider because they feel embarrassed or apprehensive.

BV is a very common health concern for women.  The vaginal environment is a very intricate one that involves the balance of micro-organisms, pH and hormones.  There are many things that can disrupt this environment such as stress, medications and certain nutritional choices being among the main influences.

Normal vaginal discharge will occur through the course of a women’s life and should have no odour.  When women notice an off-white discharge with a fishy odour, this can be a sign of BV.  Some women also notice mild itching.

It is common for BV to be diagnosed as a yeast infection, with the go-to being a treatment for yeast.  However, this can set a women up for the overgrowth of more unfavourable bacteria.  I often recommend that women try to avoid treating BV with a prescribed antibiotic treatment because this can then put them in a cycle of Bacteria alternating with Yeast overgrowth.    The cycle goes: anti-fungal –> bacteria overgrow –> antibiotic –> yeast overgrow –> anti-fungal…and so on.

A yeast infection often involves a white or yellow discharge and more pronounced external symptoms of burning, itching, soreness and irritation of the vagina and/or perineal area.

To definitively diagnose the issue, a women can have a simple test done via a vaginal swab to discover which microorganism (bacteria vs. yeast) is of concern.  However both respond very well to the same treatment that involves normalizing the vaginal environment.

The best way to re-establish a healthy and normal vaginal environment is to take a good quality probiotic.  Women who take probiotics and who still struggle with this issue should consider reevaluating their probiotic to ensure it’s enough to make a therapeutic impact.  Moreover, nutrition, body chemistry (pH), stress and medications may have an influence in the ability to clear up BV.  There are natural options to help minimize the effects of these factors.

If this topic interests you, be sure to register for my FREE Live Webinar on Female Health Topics on Wednesday October 22nd at 7:00pm.  Click this link to Register: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EA57DB8683483D