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.

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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Vitamin D & Your Health: What you Need to Know

sunlight and vitamin D

Earlier this month, the Endocrine Society revealed their Clinical Practice Guidelines for prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency. While these guidelines are news in the world of western medicine, they are business as usual in our integrative medicine practice. But for those of you still unaware about the need to supplement, especially living here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve put together an easy to use guide on why and how to supplement your vitamin D levels.

What is vitamin D?

Although it’s commonly referred to as a vitamin, vitamin D is actually a hormone. Vitamins, though processed and utilized by the body, are not manufactured by the body. Vitamin D on hand other hand, is  produced by the skin of the body but only when sunlight is present to carry out the synthesis. A fat-soluble vitamin that exists in several forms, each with a different biological activity, it is the body’s only source of calcitrol (activated vitamin D),  the most powerful steroid hormone in the body.

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D is involved in the making of hundreds of enzymes and proteins crucial to good health and disease prevention. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone and has anti-inflammatory effects. It is also known to boost immunity and insulin functions.  Because of this, vitamin D deficiency is thought to play a role in most major diseases.

Many people don’t realize that one of the country’s biggest epidemics is vitamin D deficiency. But how will being deficient in vitamin D really affect you? Well, we have only to look at the list of diseases in which vitamin D deficiency plays a role to recognize the importance of this supplement.
  • Osteoporosis & Osteoarthritis
  • Cancer (including breast, prostate and colon)
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infertility and PMS
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Psoriasis

What can I do to get enough vitamin D?

Since sunlight is the only way for the body to generate vitamin D itself, getting adequate exposure to the sun is, obviously, one of your best sources of vitamin D. Remarkably, the human body, if unshielded by clothing, sunscreen and other blockades to ultraviolet rays, can produce in the realm of approximately 20,000 units of vitamin D in 20 minutes of summer sun.

Since only 10% of your body’s vitamin D comes from food sources like fish oils,  fatty wild caught fish (mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring), fortified foods (milk, orange juice and cereals), dried Shitake mushrooms and egg yolks, the only other reliable source is through supplementation of vitamin D3.

Because you’d need to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fatty fish a day or drink 20 cups of fortified milk to get the amount of vitamin D necessary to maintain overall health, supplementation with vitamin D3 becomes crucial when living in low light climates, like we do here in the Pacific Northwest.

Our thoughts on Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is and has been a part of our basic treatment guidelines.
  • We ALWAYS include vitamin D testing in all our regular blood work and the MDs we routinely work with usually do, too.
  • We prefer liquid, emulsified vitamin D3. It’s easier to take and  more highly absorbable than other forms. Our favorite brands have 1000 IU’s per drop.
  • We like the new guidelines, because they’re pretty much in line with what we’ve already been doing and advising our patients to do. The new guidelines just mean that more people will begin to educate themselves about the very important need to include this supplement (along with adequate sun exposure) in their daily diets .

If you’d like more information on vitamin D supplementation or would like to be tested for a deficiency, please contact our office for an appointment.

Breast Feeding Decreases Illness Risk

Breastfeeding IllustrationBabies who are exclusively breast-fed for at least the first 15 weeks of life have less respiratory illness during childhood. Those children tended to have lower blood pressure and were leaner than those who were started on solid food before four months of age.

The findings add to previous evidence of a link between adult disease and nutritional factors in the womb and during infancy.

As to weight, children who had been given solids before 15weeks were significantly heavier by age 7 than those given solids at 15 weeks or later, the researcher states. They also note that the percentage of body fat was greater among children who were started on solids earlier.
British Medical Journal (1998;316:21-25)