Natural Help for Perimenopause

PMS Set

Image by Coffeelatte via Flickr

Though most women have heard of menopause and may be dreading its arrival, many are still unfamiliar with the phase that precedes this life cycle milestone — perimenopause. Because of this and because its symptoms come on earlier than would be expected for actual menopause, many women suffer needlessly in this in-between stage in their lives.  Some of the most common of the wide array of symptoms present during perimenopause, which equates to hormone fluctuations, as women make the transition from fertility to menopause,  can include:

    • Irregular periods
    • Increased Irritability
    • Heavy bleeding during menses
    • Depression
    • Weight gain
    • Fuzzy or clouded thinking
    • Forgetfulness
    • Anxiety
    • Headaches

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause can begin as early as your mid 30’s or as late as your 50’s for some — this makes the average somewhere right in the middle, starting for the majority of women in their mid to late 40’s and leading to menopause at the average age of 51.

Though hormonal fluctuations are common throughout the life cycle of a woman (and men, too!) a healthy body usually navigates these changes with little effort. But when these hormonal shifts are most dramatic, as in pregnancy or during perimenopause — our bodies may need extra support to stay in balance.

If puberty is the phase leading into fertility, perimenopause is its bookend, the phase leading the way out. As such, if left unchecked, it can leave you feeling just as crazy and moody as teenagedom, with hormones fluctuating far more than in the years previous. In fact, in a society like ours, filled with processed food, numerous environmental factors and inordinate amounts of stress, as well as lack of sleep, these natural hormonal fluctuations can become so erratic that you find yourself with a true hormonal imbalance.

What if I have an imbalance?

With hormonal imbalance, your symptoms during periomenopause can increase in severity and variety and may include severe irritability, depression, increased emotionality, irregular cycles, weight gain, migraines accompanying menstruation, poor sleep, and more.

Who is more likely to experience severe hormonal imbalance?

Women who are already burdened with extreme amounts of stress, and health or emotional issues, seem to have a tendency towards more extreme hormonal imbalance. Women who  struggle with severe PMS symptoms, an indicator of hormonal imbalance in itself, also seem to suffer more during perimenopause and menopause. Chronic stress amplifies the effects of changing sex hormones and neurotransmitter levels in perimenopause and menopause, affecting the ratios between the two and resulting in more exaggerated symptoms.

In addition to chronic stress, lack of adequate sleep, poor nutrition, and inactivity factor in, and can escalate perimenopausal symptoms. This is because an unsupported body, loses its natural ability to detoxify and maintain its own natural balance effectively.

How Can I Regain Hormonal Balance and Find Relief?

Though a woman is not actually in menopause until she has not had a period for 1 year,  the phase preceding this life change — perimenopause — can feel very tumultuous. The first thing to remember is that these hormonal fluctuations are normal in the life cycle of womanhood and not to let fear of menopause or the label of these phases define you.  The more you resist the facts surrounding the time of life you may be entering, the less likely you are to seek help for your symptoms. Perimenopause doesn’t mean menopause is happening next year.  In fact, women can experience perimenopausal fluctuations for 10 to 15 years prior to menopause. Wouldn’t you like to make the most of those years and not let hormonal fluctuations slow you down?

We’ve found the most effective approach to relieving perimenopausal symptoms begins with a well-supported body and endocrine system, through a healthful diet, moderate exercise, proper rest and reduced stress. In addition, supportive herbs and nutritional supplementation help to target and regain hormonal balance.

How we treat perimenopausal symptoms at Bloom

When a woman comes in to Bloom Natural Healthcare with perimenopausal symptoms, we take their complete history, do the necessary physical exams, order regular blood work if needed, and any other pertinent tests (such as a mammogram, etc.) Because hormonal fluctuations are normal during this time of life and provide only a mere snapshot of the activity happening for a woman and because most symptoms are treatable without formalized testing, we don’t test hormone levels routinely. We reserve costly testing for those patients who specifically request it, those who are interested in hormone replacement therapy during menopause or those cases, in which we suspect severe hormonal imbalance.

Our first line of treatment is to help our patients adjust their diet, exercise and lifestyle accordingly, helping to reduce stress and re-balance the system through acupuncture and supplementation like calcium and b-vitamins. The second line, is herbal medicine to help balance hormones and nourish the adrenal glands. If the symptoms prove more severe, only then will we move to the addition of bio-identical hormone supplementation. But, in general, we only use hormones, starting at the lowest possible dose and for the shortest time necessary, if all other efforts to re-balance the system, naturally, have failed. Thankfully, this has become the new standard of care for all physicians these days — western and holistic medicine alike.

By working on your overall health during this time of your life, while managing symptoms as low impact as possible, we find that many women can weather their body’s natural changes without hormone supplementation.

 
If you suspect perimenopausal symptoms are affecting your day-to-day well-being, contact us to schedule a consultation and get you back on the road to balance.

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How to Eat Organic without Breaking the Bank

Fresh vegetables are available everywhere at H...

Image via Wikipedia

In a perfect world, (or one very nearly resembling the one our grandparents grew up in) all food would be organic and therefore priced within everyone’s reach. But for most of us, in this economy and with families to feed, it can be a challenge to afford to buy organics all the time.

Since we highly recommend organics to our patients, (not only for the increased nutritional value but for the lack of man-made chemical pesticides commonly used on commercial produce) we thought we’d give you a few tips on how you can balance giving your family the best nutrition, while saving your bottom line.

Why Organic is Better

Pesticides

Pesticides are substances intended to prevent, kill or repels pests. They can also create “super-pests,” or those that are resistant to commonly used pesticides, creating a need for greater pesticide use or more powerfully toxic chemicals, in order to do the job. This has a severe impact on the health of human beings and on our world.

Pesticide residue can be found lingering  in our soil and water, as well as concentrated in our  food and subsequently our body tissue, with correlations proven between pesticides and certain types of cancers and birth defects. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, “an estimated three million  cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year, resulting in an excess of 250,000 deaths.”

To be fair, organic farmers use a certain number and amount of bio-pesticides approved for organic farming, in addition to their other, first-line pest control methods. These bio-pesticides are thought to be natural and less toxic than synthetic pesticides.

Nutrition

According to a study reported in Time Magazine, “the average vegetable found in today’s supermarket is anywhere from 5% to 40% lower in minerals (including magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc) than those harvested just 50 years ago.”

It Doesn’t All have to be Organic

Now, this may come as a surprise, since we just told you why organics were superior, but not everything you buy has to be organic to be a healthful choice. Of course, all organic, locally produced is best, if you can manage it.  But since most of us can’t, you can make room in your budget by being choosy about when and what you buy organic.

  • EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” List gives you the 12 most pesticide residue laden fruits and veggies  to avoid buying conventional and the “Clean 15” — those fruits and veggies that have the least pesticide residue of the bunch. And now, besides the handy in wallet guide you can print-out, as always, EWG has launched an app you can download, so that you’ll always have the list by your side. “Consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG’s Clean 15 list rather than from the Dirty Dozen can lower the volume of pesticides they consume by 92 percent.”
  • Eat Organic and Grass-fed Meat and Poultry (when you can) and when you can’t, try opting for doing something good for your body, your wallet and the planet by adopting Meatless Mondays. Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber and organic tofu is often priced around $2 to $3 for a pound and tastes delicious in recipes like tofu spinach patties or Ma Po Tofu. If going meatless isn’t in the cards for you, buy free-range and hormone-free options as much as possible. Lastly, if cost or supply is a factor and you cannot find or afford these options, simply cut down on the amount of meat for that meal by adding more whole grains, vegetables and legumes to your plate.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch  is a wonderful clean fish guide helping you source ocean-friendly seafood and their “Super Green,” list, gives you  seafood that is not only  ocean-friendly but meets these criteria:
    • Low levels of contaminants (below 216 parts per billion [ppb] mercury and 11 ppb PCBs)
    • The daily minimum of omega-3s (at least 250 milligrams per day [mg/d])*
    • Classified as a Seafood Watch “Best Choice” (green)
  • ALWAYS Aim for Organic Dairy products, especially butter (due to the concentrated pesticide levels in fat.) But if your aim misses the target, look for those labeled no rBST or hormone-free varieties, as they require less antibiotic use.
  • Choose Organic Grains when possible.
  • Look for Transitional Produce, these farms are transitioning from conventional farming practices to an organic operation (the process takes several years), which usually means they are not currently using synthetic pesticides, while they await approval to ensure soil pesticide levels have died down and mineral content is up. Because they are not yet certified organic, the prices are usually lower than organics.
  • Compare Prices: many times organics are nearly the same price and even, occasionally less, especially if it’s local and in season.
  • Garden: If at all possible, do what we do and grow your own! Having a vegetable garden is a great way to get exercise, soak up some vitamin D and save money on organic produce and it’s something the whole family can participate in. There’s nothing quite like the taste of something fresh picked out of your own garden!
  • Shop your local farmer’s market
  • Sign-up for Coupons with your favorite organic purveyors of frozen fruits or veggies, dairy or pre-washed lettuces.
  • Look for Local, Organic U-pick Farms where you save money by harvesting the produce yourself (and its fun for the kids!)

Remember, by doing a little planning ahead you can balance the needs of your family, their health and your bank account.

Hypnobirthing: Is the Hottest Trend in Childbirth Right for You?

Pregnant women, especially first-time moms, are often regaled with tales of their friends and family members enduring long and very painful childbirth. They’re also given plenty of unsolicited advice to “get the epidural.”It seems that in a era where many moms are pre-scheduling their C-sections, fear of the pain of childbirth has taken over.  For those who wish to give birth naturally, the overwhelming message can be — it’s really going to hurt.

But does it have to?

Not so, say the over 1400 practitioners of the hypnobirthing movement. According to the  report HypnoBirthing Outcomes United States, 2005-2010 , (which compares data from Listening to Mothers II Report of the Second National U.S. Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences, Births: Final Data for 2007, and National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 58, Number 24 August, 2010) women who used hypnobirthing methods had far fewer interventions during their labor and delivery and described their birthing process as overall less painful than mothers who didn’t.

What is HypnoBirthing?

It’s the process of employing hypnosis or hypnotherapy techniques to the birthing stages,  allowing the mother to relax , reframe the birth narrative and decrease anxiety and fear surrounding labor and delivery.

How does Hypnosis work?

Most of us have already experienced a hypnotic state, though you may not realize it. Hypnosis is a natural state of consciousness, one that we transition in and out of on a daily basis. Have you ever been totally immersed in a project or book? Ever found yourself pulling into the driveway at home but can’t remember the drive home? These are moments of self-hypnosis — no black magic, no mind control, no clucking like a chicken — just the ability to harness your own natural clarity. In a hypnotic state you are more focused and relaxed yet lucid.

  • All hypnosis is self-hypnosis — hypnotherapists are merely a guide.
  • Hypnosis is an at-will state you can enter or exit whenever you desire.
  • 90-95% of the people can be hypnotized.
  • Contrary to popular belief, stronger-willed people are easier to hypnotize because hypnosis is determined by your desire.
  • You cannot be made to do anything against your will while in a state of hypnosis.

Fear and Expectation in Childbirth

In other cultures, childbirth is regarded as a natural, normal event in a woman’s life, not a medical event. As such, these young girls and women often grow up with a positive expectation of the birth experience. They are supported and their pregnancy and births are celebrated and honored. By contrast in our culture, the birth narrative is one of pain, fear and intervention. These expectations help to shape our birth experiences.

If you are fearful or anxious, chances are your body will be tense, causing resistance and the birthing process to be more difficult and often painful. But for women with no negative expectation or fear they can enter into labor and delivery in a more relaxed mental and subsequently physical state of being, easing the process and minimizing pain.

Benefits of Hypnosis in Childbirth

  • A lucid, energized mother, in a state of calm relaxation throughout the birthing process.
  • Few to no drug intervention in labor and delivery, means decreased risk of side effects.
  • Reduced labor times because muscle resistance is reduced or eliminated.
  • A more serene birthing environment.
  • Breech and posterior babies can be turned using hypnosis.
  • Fewer interventions and complications.
  • More peaceful babies post-delivery, due to mother’s calmer state and the lack of drugs in the babies’ systems, making them better sleepers and nursers.

Want to Explore HypnoBirthing  Yourself?

Our Licensed Massage Therapist and Hypnobirthing Educator, Lori Reising holds hypnobirthing classes here at Bloom. The next 5 week session  starts on September 22, 2011 from 6:00-8:30pm. Call 503.223.3741 to register.

DHA in Pregnancy: Fetal and Newborn Health

DHA: Omega 3 fatty acids for you and your baby

A recent article in Time magazine called  Fish Oil During Pregnancy Fights Colds Among Newborns highlights the benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil and its affects on the health of a developing fetus’ immune system and how that translates to a healthier newborn up to 6 months old.
According to the research study, at Emory University and in Mexico, which was featured in the article and released in Pediatrics, pregnant women who took 400mg a day of DHA , helped their newborns to fight off more cold symptoms than moms who took the  placebo and the effects seem to last for six months. After the initial 6 months post-birth, the DHA-protected infants began to experience roughly the same rate of symptoms (though they were for a shorter duration) as those babies whose mothers did not take DHA.
This, of course, is NOT news to those of us in the holistic community. We always encourage our moms-to-be to take DHA along with a good prenatal vitamin during pregnancy. We find that pairing these supplements, along with acupuncture can greatly benefit both baby and  mom, including in helping to prevent postpartum issues.

DHA: Flowering a healthy immune system and vibrant brain for your baby

Other Proven Benefits of DHA Supplementation:

  • More advanced attention spans into the child’s second year of life
  • Greater infant brain development
  • Higher IQs at four years of age than children of mothers not supplementing DHA
  • Decreased potential risk  for depression and particularly, postpartum depression in mothers
  • Longer average gestation periods, allowing for greater development of baby

Besides being great during pregnancy, Omega 3 oils containing DHA found in food sources like cold water fish, flaxseed, spirulina and walnuts can help protect your heart, lower blood pressure and reduce rates of clinical depression.

Total Pain Solution: Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Gyrotonics

Often, when people are have pain or musculoskeletal issues, we’ll give them acupuncture or bodywork, then refer them to our onsite chiropractors and recommend gyrotonics for strength training, stretching and balancing.

We love this powerful healing combination because those who follow through on our recommendations see dramatic results.  Though you’re no doubt familiar with the terms chiropractic and acupuncture and what they are, you may need a little help when it comes to Gyrotronics.

The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® uses personal one on one training and specially designed equipment to create an integrated approach to developing and understanding your body’s ideal combination of strength and flexibility. The equipment is made up of a weight and pulley system, which aids in decompression of joint space and allows for a full range of motion and freedom of movement.

The equipment allows your body to move  with little resistance and has a decompression mechanism that mimics the sensation of moving through water. It’s  a great way to stimulate the body and nervous system as well as to rehabilitate from injury and prevent inevitable wear and tear in your active life.

When paired with a total solution like bodywork and chiropractic as well as dietary changes, herbal anti-inflammatories,  pain tonics, hydrotherapy and/or adrenal support, our patients find that, not only are their pain issues greatly reduced or eliminated, but their overall health, well-being and strength improve significantly as well.

If you’re suffering from chronic pain or are just looking to get on a path to total wellness, visit us at Bloom in The Seed Center and give Gyrotonics a try.

Balancing Brain Chemistry Naturally

Feed your brain and feed your ife

 

If you are someone battling depression, anxiety, panic disorders, obsessive behavior, addiction or even memory loss, you can bet your brain chemistry is out of balance.  Depression and anxiety can often be caused by a wide variety of disease conditions and imbalances, including anemia, blood sugar imbalance, adrenal fatigue, sex hormone imbalances and hypothyroidism.

The underlying cause for these types of issues is nearly always a deficiency in certain nutrients that are key in nourishing and supporting the brain’s chemistry and its functions.

You’re not Alone

Roughly 20.9 million Americans  (9.5 percent of the population) have mood disorders but what many don’t know is that making some significant changes in your diet and exercise routine can often help to rebalance your brain, either eliminating or reducing the need for pharmaceuticals.

Neurotransmitters and YOU

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit nerve impulses that affect the way your brain and body function . If imbalanced, you may find yourself feeling depressed, anxious or stressed. You may also see issues in your sleep patterns and behavior. Some of the most important chemical neurotransmitters are:

  • Serotonin: Affects mood, memory, sexual functioning, learning and social behavior.
  • Dopamine and noradrenaline: These chemicals facilitate overall brain function, helping you to “feel-good,” energized, focused and motivated.
  • Epinephrine (adrenaline) and Norepinephrine: Responsible for the “fight or flight” response to stress.
  • Endorphins: Promote a sense of euphoria like those experienced by runners, or can take the edge off of pain or stress in emergencies  injury.
  • Acetylcholine:  Increases  memory, cognition and concentration.
  • Insulin: Regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism, this hormone encourages cells to take up glucose from the blood and store it as glycogen in the liver and muscle.

How Can Your Naturopath Help?

The human brain
Image via Wikipedia

By helping you balance brain chemistry with Naturopathic and Chinese medicine modalities. We treat underlying causes by first, taking a complete history then, running labs as necessary and finally considering neurotransmitter/hormone/adrenal testing through Neuroscience, Inc.

After receiving all results back, we then begin treatment through acupuncture, amino acid therapy like L-theanine and 5-HTP, herbal (Western and Chinese), hormone balancing, tonification and balancing of adrenals,  focusing on sleep issues as well as diet changes and of course, exercise.

If there are any greater underlying health issues we will help to treat these accordingly and are open to prescribing pharmaceuticals as necessary.

Here at Bloom, we work in partnership with The Seed Center, which offers Gyrotonics. We find this form of exercise very calming and balancing and it has the resistance component we feel is necessary for optimum health.

Our goal is to help people improve the effectiveness of any medications they may already be taking, by optimizing your health. Many times this approach to overall health, leads to the elimination or reduction of anti-depressants and other medications, if appropriate.

Many of these therapies are safe and effective during pregnancy and nursing too. This is a wonderful option for women who want to be drug-free during this time but still may be in need of mood balancing.

If you’d like to work towards a greater emotional and chemical balance, please give us a call today to schedule your evaluation.

Summer Sun: Skin Cancer Prevention

Photo courtesy of Amaren Colosi Photography, Portland, OR

In your haste to greet the brightly shining orb in the sky, in this the sometimes sunny and warm weather of Portland’s long-awaited summer, don’t forget to give some attention to the largest organ of your body — your skin.

You may not realize this, but your skin’s health is integral to your overall health — protecting internal organs from injury and bacteria, as well as regulating your body’s temperature and helping to process excess water and salts — your skin is  looking out for you.

But what are you doing to look out for your skin?

Skin Cancer: A primer

The most common of all cancers — skin cancer, accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. Including more than than 2 million cases of non-melanoma and over 68,000 cases of melanoma found each year.

The majority of skin cancers are classified as non-melanomas,  that develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands, they rarely spread to other parts of the body and are much more likely to resolve with early detection and treatment.

On the other hand, melanoma is a cancer that begins in the cells that produce your skin’s pigment or melanin. These cells protect your deepest layers of skin from sun damage. Although, it’s nearly always curable with early detection and treatment, if left untreated melanoma can be deadly. In fact, of the over 68,000 people who will be diagnosed with melanoma each year, around 8,700 of these will die.

Still, melanoma has a high survival rate when detected and treated early (around 94%). Statistics show, early detection and treatment of skin cancers is crucial to survival but as we always say at our clinic:

Prevention is the best medicine

We all know by now, the advantages of using sunscreen in preventing skin cancer but what you may not know is that examining your skin monthly for signs or symptoms of skin cancer and asking your doctor about anything you find that is questionable, is also an important part of skin cancer prevention. Regular skin examinations can lead to early diagnosis, treatment and positive survival outcomes. We recommend annual derm checks with a dermatologist, especially for those with fair skin, light-hair or people with a family history of skin cancer.

At Bloom, we can also help you support your body from the inside out, reducing the negative effects of past skin damage through changes in diet, the addition of certain antioxidants, balancing hormones, and shoring up the immune system. In addition, we also recommend taking vitamin D — ironically, this vitamin (which is naturally manufactured by exposure to the sun) can help aid in repairing damage to skin caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation.  The trick here, is that a little bit of sun exposure to skin and eyes goes a long way (no sunscreen, no sunglasses) for about 20 minutes maximum at a time. But never, if temperatures are too high. You can and should supplement your vitamin D intake as well.

Photos courtesy of Amaren Colosi Photography, Portland OR

Here are some of the best ways to practice sun safety:

  • Sunscreen, SunScreen SUNSCREEN! Apply sunscreen in SPF15 or higher, liberally and often throughout the day when you will be exposed to the sun, reapplying after swimming, toweling off, or perspiring. If you will be outside for longer than 20 minutes of exposure, use lotions, makeup and lip balms fortified with sunscreen, even on hazy or overcast days.
  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Seek shade, especially mid-day when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Cover your precious skin to protect it as much as possible in bright sun conditions. Clothing and hats should be light and comfortable but also made of tightly woven materials that you cannot see through. There are some materials and clothing lines recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, specifically designed to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.
  • Wear sunglasses offering 100%  UV protection.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.
  • Don’t forget your toes, neck and ears. These smaller areas need protection too, so be sure and slather them with sunscreen as well.

Skin Cancer Risk

Those most at risk for developing skin cancer are those who have or had:

If you suspect a mole, lesion or skin anomaly of being skin cancer, please see your doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Now, grab your sunscreen and floppy hat and go enjoy the sun!

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