Why Hormonal Birth Control May Not Be the Best Choice

not sure if the pill is right

Maybe you used to think that using the Pill was no big deal. But did you know that using hormonal birth control to treat symptoms (such as acne or heavy periods) is only covering up an underlying issue and potentially allowing the symptoms to get worse or the underlying issue to progress? Maybe you used the Pill for its intended use – to prevent pregnancy. But did you know that while it can be extremely effective, there are some major negative consequences of long-term use? Some of the side effects are heart attack, stroke, blood clots, skin & breast changes, hair loss, effect on your libido, and so much more. And that doesn’t begin to cover the increased risks of depression, plus the hormonal mess this kind of birth control can create.

So if you are considering ditching the pill or another form of hormonal birth control, it’s important that you understand what happens when you stop using it. Please read on so you have the info you need…

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GO OFF BIRTH CONTROL

You may think going off of hormonal birth control will lead you to regular cycles and no side effects, (and a few lucky people DO start regular cycles again and have minimal symptoms), but that likely won’t be the case. Because most women using hormonal birth control (like The Pill) are doing so to regulate hormonal imbalances, that means that when they stop using it, their hormonal imbalance symptoms return. This equates to menstrual irregularities, acne, hair loss, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and vaginal infections. Symptoms usually show up withing 4-6 months after discontinuing use.

This is called post-birth control syndrome (PBCS).

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WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PBCS

Post-birth control syndrome has been around since the introduction of hormonal birth control. The underlying causes can include nutritional deficiencies, impaired liver, stress, and more. If you’re suffering from PBCS you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Infertility
  • Menstrual irregularities such as loss of menstruation, painful periods, short cycles, or heavy menstruation
  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Adrenal dysfunction
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Hair loss
  • Blood sugar dysregulation
  • Leaky gut
  • Gas or bloating
  • Inflammation and other immune imbalances

Not a lot of fun, right? Luckily, with a few diet & lifestyle changes you can beat post-birth control syndrome and all without using anymore drugs that might affect your body negatively.

What do you need to do?

HOW YOU CAN REBALANCE YOUR HORMONES

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Realign your gut. Using hormonal birth control can disrupt gut flora and create an environment that breeds harmful bacteria which can lead to leaky gut. You can help restore your gut by incorporating fermented foods like sauerkraut and fiber-rich foods such as flaxseeds into your diet. You could also reduce the amount of grains, legumes and processed foods you consume, as they can be hard to digest. Start taking gut healing supplements such as probiotics and fish oil.

Replenish your nutrients. Birth control has been shown to deplete important nutrients your body needs, including folate (vital for fetal development if you want to get pregnant), B12, B2, B6, Vitamins C & E, and more. Restoring nutrients to your body should be at the top of your to-do list! Make changes to your diet by incorporating plenty of fruits & veggies, plus quality fats and grass-fed meats. Also, up your supplement game by taking a good prenatal vitamin that has plenty of zinc, magnesium, Vitamins A & D, and the rest of the nutrients mentioned.

Love your liver. Your liver removes excess hormones, but birth control can cause a hormonal buildup, making it harder for your liver to detox what it needs – especially because the process relies partially on B vitamins which birth control can deplete. This means your liver needs some major TLC after  going off birth control! It’s not a bad idea to do a detox to clean out your liver, for starters, as well as adding liver-supporting foods to your diet such as beets, dandelion root tea, and garlic.

Dial back the stress. Chronic stress causes adrenal fatigue which messes with the hypothalamus & pituitary glands that help regulate the menstrual cycle causing irregular cycles and sometimes leading to amenorrhea (no longer having periods). If you’re trying to overcome post-birth control syndrome your cycle may already be out of whack so managing stress is essential. Try meditation, journaling, yoga, going for a run, or whatever helps you relax, on the reg to maintain lower stress levels!

Up your sleep game. You know sleep is important, but sometimes it just seems that there’s too much to do and you don’t get enough. Plus, chances are you aren’t getting as good of a sleep as you might think due to late night TV, tablet reading, or cell phone/device use. All of these affect your body’s natural sleep process in negative ways. You’ve likely heard of circadian rhythms – the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. This affects all endocrine hormones, some of which are vital to maintaining a regular menstrual cycle. When you get less than enough or ineffective sleep, these hormones aren’t released at the right times. One of the biggest ways to combat this is by reducing your light exposure at night. Try using blackout curtains or even a sleep mask to have as little light as possible near you while trying to sleep. And turn off the TV and electronics at least an hour before bed – their artificial light tricks the brain into staying awake! Plus, you can up your ‘sleep health’ by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. You’ll soon find you sleep better than ever.

Identify your hormone imbalances & fix the issue. The Pill works by shutting down the conversation between your ovaries and your brain, so when you stop taking it they sometimes have issues starting the conversation back up again. And the synthetic hormones in the Pill impact estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, cortisol, and the thyroid. It’s no surprise that all of this disruption results in mood swings, painful periods, and more! The first thing you should do if you’re suffering symptoms of PBCS is to get your labs checked – this includes comprehensive thyroid testing, adrenal testing, and checking sex hormones. Once that’s done and you’ve discovered the root cause of your symptoms you can work with an integrative wellness practitioner to develop a plan that balances your hormones and gets your ovaries & brain speaking once again.

 

WHAT TO DO NEXT

If you’ve decided to go off hormonal birth control, I want to support you on taking the first step to a healthier better you! If you find yourself suffering from any of the symptoms of post-birth control syndrome, I’d love to help you with that. Let’s chat so I can help you identify what’s going on with your hormones and get you back to feeling happy, healthy, and normal in no time! Before you know it you’ll feel like your best self yet.

What You Should Know About Precocious Puberty

What You Should Know About Precocious Puberty

Remember puberty – that awkward, sometimes uncomfortable phase of childhood that somehow meant you were turning into a young woman? Do you remember how old you were when it hit or when you first got your period? Well if you have a daughter, chances are she has or will be experiencing puberty much, much younger than you did. It’s called “precocious puberty” – the appearance of secondary sex characteristics like pubic hair or breast growth before age 8, or the onset of menarche before age 9 – and impacts at least 1 in 5,000 U.S. children, and the rate is on the rise.

Currently the average age of the onset of menstruation is 12. But even before the first period, changes start to happen to girls’ bodies – signs of development, such as breast “budding” and growth of pubic hair. And these developments have become so common amongst 7, 8 and 9 year olds that doctors have simply deemed it the new “normal”. But are our girls ready for these changes and puberty at such a young age? What negative consequences might there be? Unfortunately, many. Early puberty can set the stage for emotional and behavioral problems, and is linked to lower self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, alcohol use, earlier loss of virginity, more sexual partners and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. There is also evidence that suggests these girls are at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, as well as cancer, later in life.

Why the change in onset? There are several theories out there with the biggest being that environmental chemicals are playing a role. We’re surrounded by chemicals in products everyday and some of these chemicals contain estrogen-mimicking, “gender-bending” chemicals – chemicals that disrupt hormones. For example, Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial petrochemical that acts as a synthetic estrogen, is found in our plastics and our tin can linings, in dental sealants and on cash-register receipts. In tests done by the Environmental Working Group, 90% of of newborns tested had BPA in their umbilical cord blood. Scary, huh? Other chemicals include phthalates, a group of industrial chemicals used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible and resilient. They’re also one of the most pervasive of the endocrine disrupters, found in everything from processed food packaging and shower curtains to detergents, toys and beauty products like nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, deodorants, and fragrances. There’s also PCBs and DDE which may also be associated with early sexual development in girls. And on top of all that, these chemicals can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Another possible factor in early puberty is a deficiency in Vitamin D. In one study, upon measuring vitamin D levels in 242 girls aged 5-12, researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that those who were deficient were twice as likely to start menstruation during the study period as those with higher levels. Vitamin D deficiency is also a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease and many other diseases. Entering puberty early also puts one at more risk for certain cancers such as breast cancer because one is exposed to estrogen for a longer period of time. So it could be that some of the increased risks that come from early puberty are linked to low vitamin D levels.

And finally, obesity and stress have both been linked to precocious puberty. Obesity exposes girls to more estrogen because estrogen is both stored and produced in fat tissue. The main theory about stress seems to be: “Evolutionary psychology offers a theory,” the New York Times reports. “A stressful childhood inclines a body toward early reproduction; if life is hard, best to mature young. But such theories are tough to prove.”

So what can you do? Looking at the above, you can try to avoid environmental chemicals as much as possible. You can make sure your daughter is getting plenty of sun exposure (while wearing plenty of sunscreen!) and taking a Vitamin D supplement. And regular exercise appears to be one of the best known ways to help prevent early puberty. Other things to keep in mind though are that because of precocious puberty, you may need to start broaching some tricky subjects with your child a bit earlier than you’d planned. Make sure your child knows their body will be changing and that it’s normal for everyone to change at different rates. Younger children are often far more receptive to talking about body issues and puberty. And there’s a possibility that the “birds and the bees” talk might need to happen earlier as hormones are hitting earlier. Most important of all though? Our daughters need us to model loving their bodies and appreciating what those amazing bodies can do rather than criticizing it or wishing for something different.

Aloe for Reflux, Heartburn & Constipation

Aloe for Reflux, Heartburn & Constipation

If you’ve heard talk of aloe juice recently and thought to yourself, “EW”, you’re not alone. Most people hear the word “aloe” and think of summer & sunburns & thick, goopy gel. Definitely not something you want to ingest, right? But aloe juice is a VERY different part of the plant; a part that can help heal your body from the inside. (We promise it’s not as bad-tasting as it sounds!) What exactly can aloe juice help with?

Have heartburn? Then you’re probably taking a proton pump inhibitor like Nexium. But if you’re doing that, you’re only treating the symptom and not the underlying cause, which can lead to more health problems. PPIs suppress the production of stomach acid, and contrary to popular belief, most cases of heartburn are actually due to having too little acid in your stomach, not too much. So taking a PPI will actually worsen your condition since stomach acid helps digest food protect against ingested pathogens.

Lack of stomach acid makes you more vulnerable to a number of problems, like nutritional deficiencies, food poisoning, and digestive system infections. However, the juice of the aloe plant naturally helps reduce inflammation, which may ease symptoms of acid reflux. Aloe is also known to soothe and cleanse the digestive tract, helping improve digestion, as well as helping to decrease the amount of unfriendly bacteria in our guts.

What other benefits do we get from aloe juice? Pure aloe vera juice reduces dental plaque as effectively as mouthwash. Pretty impressive, huh? In a mouth rinse study of 300 healthy people, 100% pure Aloe vera juice was compared to the standard mouthwash ingredient chlorhexidine. After 4 days of use, the Aloe vera mouth rinse was found to be just as effective as chlorhexidine in reducing dental plaque. Aloe vera does this by killing the plaque-producing bacterium Streptococcus mutansin the mouth, as well as the yeast Candida albicans.

When it comes to inflammation, the next time you are suffering try drinking some aloe vera juice. It contains over 12 different substances that can help you get rid of it! In fact, this juice is a rich mix of vitamins and minerals. It contains Vitamins A,C, and E; a contingent of B (including B1, B2, B3, B6 & B12); folic acid and choline. Plus it has over 20 different minerals including calcium, sodium, potassium, selenium and iron, and contains fatty acids and 8 essential amino acids. This is one powerful juice!

I’ve got a wonderful aloe juice to get you started (amongst other aloe products) and am available to answer any questions you may have. Here’s to healthy & happy!

Could You Be B12 Deficient?

Could You Be B12 Deficient?

Did you know your ability to absorb Vitamin B12 gradually decreases with age? In fact, B12 deficiency is a silent epidemic with serious consequences to your health. Reports from the USDA show B12 deficiency may be more widespread than thought, with at least 40% of the population being severely deficient. Okay, yeah, so? Why do we even need B12? What does it do? Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse that helps make DNA, nerve and blood cells, and is crucial for a healthy brain and immune system. Plus your metabolism wouldn’t run smoothly without it. So, it’s pretty important. Add advancing age, certain prescription meds (such as heartburn medications), and a lack of meat in one’s diet (looking at you, vegetarians & vegans!) and you could find yourself severely lacking in vitamin B12.

So how do you know if you’re deficient? The following symptoms are signals of a possible deficiency!

  • Fatigue – The fatigue we’re talking about here isn’t the kind you get after a long day of work and chasing the kiddos around, on only 5 hours of sleep. Nope, this fatigue is constant and is around no matter how much sleep you get. Researchers from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found those who felt zapped of energy even though they get plenty of zzzzz’s may be struggling with low B12 levels. Why? Because your body relies on B12 to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your organs, and without enough oxygen in your cells, you’ll feel tired no matter how long you sleep.
  • Weakness – If they’re not getting enough oxygen from red blood cells, your muscles will feel like mush. This can equal weakness and sluggishness.
  • Dizziness – Been feeling a bit off-kilter? Frequent bouts of dizziness or vertigo often signal B12 stores are low. (ie experiencing a feeling of swaying when you get up too fast from a sitting position) One Turkish study compared the vitamin B12 levels of patients who sought treatment in the ER for dizziness with those of 100 healthy volunteers. The result? Those dizzy patients had 40% less B12 than the volunteers.
  • Vision IssuesNo, there isn’t something in your eye causing the spotting, blurred and double vision. Low B12 stores can lead to vision changes and actually damage vision, so you may experience light sensitivity, blurred or double vision, and tracers or shadows.
  • Pins & Needles – You know the numbness (and then tingling) you get when you leg goes to sleep after you have it tucked under you for too long? Well, if you experience that numbness/tingly sensation without something having fallen asleep, you might have a B12 problem. Remember the whole “poor red blood cell production from the lack of B12” thing? Yeah…that can result in nerve damage (and trust us, you do NOT want to go to there!).
  • Smooth Tongue – Smooth tongue? What? About half of people with a severe B12 deficiency lose the papillae—those little bumps—on their tongues, especially around the edges. Patients also complain of burning and soreness, particularly on the back of the tongue. And since most of those papillae contain taste buds, if you lose a lot of them even your favorite foods are going to taste blah.
  • Forgetfulness – Forgetting where you put the keys every once in awhile is one thing; chronic forgetfulness is quite another. It very well could be a vitamin B12 deficiency! Symptoms of a B12 deficiency often mimic those of dementia, such as memory loss, disorientation, and difficulty thinking and reasoning. It can be hard distinguishing deficiency from dementia, especially since older folks are at risk for both. And the two conditions often overlap; 75% to 90% of B12 deficient people also have neurological complications such as dementia. If you or a loved one is having issues with this one, you DEFINITELY want to get tested!

Feeling concerned about your vitamin B12 levels? We’ve got you covered! Integrative Wellness Advisors, working with nutraMetrix, offers a fabulous B-complex in isotonic form for maximum impact. You can find all the deets HERE and you can call or email us with any questions about B12 or any other health questions you may have! Let’s have a healthy & happy new year!

Why Good Sex is Good for You

Why Good Sex is Good for You

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We’ve all heard that a good sex life isn’t just something that feels…well, good! It also provides a plethora of health benefits such as:

  • Alleviation of joint and muscle pain through the release of natural opiates that are an extremely effective pain reliever
  • Stress relief
  • Energy boost
  • Stimulation of the immune system
  • A stronger connection to our partner

Yet many people are in the same boat of daily management of a full time career, a home, children, homework, meals, exercise and more leaving little energy left for your sexual relationship. And that’s unfortunate because you could probably really use some of those benefits we mentioned above when you have that much going on. Right? But what if it’s not just time that’s keeping you from a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship? Sexual dysfunction can be caused by:

  • Taking prescription medications
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Drug abuse
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Stress
  • Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea

A health coach can help! Although nutrition is important in the battle against obesity, diabetes & heart disease and for helping to potentially wean off of prescription medications for these in the future, those are only a part of what a health coach will address with you. In the coaching world, we refer to nutrition as a “secondary source” of energy. “Primary foods” (or non food sources of nourishment) are what really fuel us. Some primary food examples are: the feeling of being deeply in love and feeling exhilarated by your lover’s presence, or working at a job that is meaningful and stimulating. When you’re working with a health coach, we’ll take some time to explore your personal balance between primary food and secondary food. We will work on making changes that alleviate stress and promote well being which in turn will help to fuel your sex drive.

In addition to feelings of dissatisfaction, stress and well-being, there are hormonal reasons that sex drive declines as people age. In females, progesterone levels begin to drop during peri-menopause, which can start as early as age 35. Low progesterone levels cause women to experience breast tenderness, mood swings, “fuzzy” thinking, irritability, sleep disturbance and water retention. No wonder we don’t feel like having sex! In addition to health coaching, there are supplements available that may help alleviate symptoms. Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E may be helpful in raising progesterone levels even in women who are post-menopausal, which in turn lessens anxiety, as well as having a positive effect on serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters that have been proven to affect sexual desire and function.

There are also several botanicals that help support normal sexual function. Damiana helps support normal sexual drive while Ashwaganda has been shown to promote normal engorgement of sexual tissues. Because aging can effect both vaginal tone and comfort P. mirifica is a botanical that can promote normal vaginal secretions and vaginal muscle strength. (Dr. Deedra Mason, Director of Clinical Research Market America.)

In males, erectile dysfunction (ED) affects 25 million men in America. As men age, hormone production declines resulting in changes in sexual function, energy and mood. (Dr. Deedra Mason) The supplement zinc initiates enzymes important in vasoconstriction of the blood vessels involved in sexual arousal. Ginseng is thought to help the body make more nitric oxide – as does Viagra. Botanicals such as ginkgo, Tribulus terrestris, Epimedium and the amino acid L-arginine may all increase blood flow to the penis and enhance sexual arousal. (Dr. Deedra Mason)

Vitamin C may help both men and women as it increases blood flow and one study indicates that it may increase libido in women. Essential fatty acids found in evening primrose oil, fish oil and borage oil also help improve blood flow.

A health coach can help you evaluate whether different exercise modalities might be right for you too. You might also try yoga and meditation, as they can reduce the effects of stress and relieve anxiety about sexual dysfunction. Massage is another fabulous stress reducer.

Sexual health is important so don’t let yours fall to the wayside! Let us help get you back on track and feeling good. We’re just a call away!

Giedre Trahan is an Integrative Health Coach at Integrative Wellness Advisors, working in Denver, Colorado, and helping people make changes towards optimal health and well being.

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