stress and hormones

Managing stress to balance hormones

The bodies response to stress

Human bodies were designed to very effectively address stressful situations. The fight or flight response was a lifesaving mechanism back in the day.

Nowadays the body can feel the stress of a busy work week, a challenging coworker, traffic when you are late, but it cannot differentiate that your life is not on the line. So, not recognizing the distinction, pumps out all the same chemicals and hormones that it would if you were in fact, in a life or death situation.

The hormone cascade during a stress response

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland (both in the brain) are talking to each other and telling each other what to be doing when stress happens. They send signals down to the adrenal glands (sitting on top of the kidneys) to release a specific cascade of stress hormones.

Think adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline boosts blood pressure and heart rate.

Cortisol sends glucose to your muscles so you can outrun danger.

When the body is in a constant state of stress, with elevated or unregulated adrenaline and cortisol levels, the perpetual state of ‘on alert’ can wreak havoc on your hormones.

If you read the previous blog post on blood sugar levels, you will know that mismanaged blood sugar is a stressor that can cause this effect in the body (see how its all related).

Over prolonged periods of time, this may lead to something that is called adrenal fatigue. This I often see in overworked people, CEO’s, single parents, or anyone in a longterm state of stress.

A few ways to manage stress in the body

As you have learned, there are internal stressors in the body, like unregulated blood sugar levels; and there are external stressors on the body, like job stress, traffic, finances etc.

As you would have read in previous blog posts, there are a few simple steps to help manage stress, although they may not always be easy.

Get enough sleep. This is wear your body rests, repairs, and manages inflammation.

Manage blood sugar levels

Exercise regularly  – high intensity or low impact will depend on your bodies needs and current symptoms

Meditation or flow state – even 1-2 minutes of meditation per day can be impactful. If meditation doesn’t feel right, find an activity that allows you to be focused, present and playful.

For a more comprehensive program to help your body manage stress, get in touch for a virtual or in person consultation.

Call 1-778-400-6360 to book.

 

stress and hormones

Balancing hormones by regulating your blood sugar levels

What does blood sugar have to do with hormones and menstrual cycle?

Unstable blood sugar can be an important underlying cause behind hormonal problems.

“Your endocrine system (hormone system) performs all of its complex functions via the language of the hormones. One of its main functions, first and foremost, is transporting glucose to your brain, muscles and heart. If anything with that process is amok, you’re going to have mismanaged blood sugars as your first problem; as a result, though, none of the other parts of your endocrine system will function according to plan either!” – Vitti

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers, helping to control nearly every physiological process in the body. This includes metabolism, immune functioning, the menstrual cycle, and overall reproductive health

Balanced hormones are essential for overall health. (Head back to this article to learn more about that.)

Blood sugar metabolism in the body

Three of the organs associated with blood sugar regulation in the body, are the pancreas, the liver, and the brain.

When you eat an abundance of sugar, or things that turn into sugar, the pancreas reacts to this increase in glucose in the body by releasing insulin. When your blood sugar is low, your pancreas pumps out glucagon, which the liver turns into glucose so that it has enough to send to your muscles, brain and heart.

Maintaining control of your blood sugar levels can become a delicate seesaw process that easily goes awry.

Therefore, a diet high in sugar can have significant effects on the reproductive hormones.

How to stabilize blood sugar levels

A good place to start is by working with your health provider to do a simple blood test checking for fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.

Depending on results, these tests may be repeated after a few months of diet and lifestyle shifts.

A few simple steps to get started:

  • Notice how you feel after you eat certain foods. Are you tired, lethargic, energized, or bloated?
  • Eat well rounded, nutrient dense meals, avoid snacking. This allows time for the body to metabolize the food and self regulate blood sugar levels (if you have any other disorders, like diabetes or PCOS, talk about this with your care provider)
  • Less refined white sugar, instead try fresh fruit or substitutes like honey or maple syrup
  • Drink enough water. This can help with over eating and proper elimination
  • Avoid processed food, fast food, oily and greasy food

These are great steps to get started regulating blood sugar levels, for more personalized support get in touch to book a virtual or in person initial consultation.

Call 1-778-400-6360 to book!

 

balanced hormones

Balanced hormones- for more than fertility

The importance of a healthy menstrual cycle

We all know the importance of balanced hormones, but do we really know why? Many of my patients come into my office thinking that the only reason to address hormonal imbalances or menstrual cycle challenges is if they want to get pregnant.

While, if that is a goal of yours, it is essential to address these issues, your menstrual cycle health has so much more to do with your overall health than just your ability to conceive.

Balanced hormones and a healthy menstrual cycle has major roles in

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Bone and joint health
  • Libido (sex drive)
  • Stress management
  • Adequate sleep

to name a few!

Hormone balancing basic

There are a few basic tools and steps I invite my patients to incorporate during their treatment plans to help reach their health goals.

The book titled ‘Womancode’ by Alisa Vitti, is one I encourage all my patients to read. It offers a step by step introduction to hormone balancing. It is easy to read and understand.

I will be elaborating on these steps in this blog series. Vitti breaks it down into 5 simple steps:

  1. Regulate blood sugar levels
  2. Address stress and the adrenals
  3. Proper elimination
  4. Understanding your menstrual cycle
  5. Living in alignment with your cycle energy

Simple, but not always easy

While the information I will be sharing with you about balancing hormones may seem simple at first, it is not always an easy adjustment if you are used to eating, acting and living a certain way.

I will be the first to admit, it is not always easy to see the correlation between these actions and our symptoms. With anything cycle related it can takes weeks, or even months, to notice any change. So, often times you will not see the direct benefit from your actions right away.

However, if you stick to these simple hormone balancing tools, with time, you will start to notice a change in your menstrual cycle, energy levels, and more!

 

 

 

As always, get in touch with any questions of concern you may have, or to book an initial consult either virtually or in person.

Call 1-778-400-6360 to book.

balanced hormones

Third Trimester – Pregnancy Acupuncture

The final stretch – the third trimester

It may feel as if there’s no way your belly can get any bigger, but there’s no doubt about it —  it will get bigger over the course of the third trimester of pregnancy. A lot bigger. Here’s what to expect from your body and your rapidly-maturing baby in these final few weeks.

Some commonly asked questions about these last few weeks

How long is the third trimester?

Week 29 – Week 40 (birth)

How is my body preparing for delivery?

One of the ways your body prepares is as your due date approaches, your cervix becomes thinner and softer in a process called effacement that helps the cervix open during childbirth.  This is a normal, natural process that helps the birth canal (vagina) to open during the birthing process.

Why do I have to pee so much?

As you baby grows, the pressure on your organs will increase, including your bladder.

How is my baby growing?

  • Your baby’s bones are soft but fully formed.
  • Movements and kicking increase.
  • Body fat increases
  • The eyes can open and close.
  • Organs are almost fully developed
  • Lanugo (fine hair) begins to fall off

Symptoms you may experience

  • Your belly button may protrude
  • Hemorrhoids
  • The baby “dropping,” or moving lower in your abdomen
  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Contractions – which may be a sign of real or false labor
  • Softening of ligaments and joints in preparation of birth
  • Stretch marks

Tips to manage third trimester symptoms

  • Keep moving – gentle walks, a prenatal yoga class
  • Massage- most mums find massage extremely helpful for general aches and pains during pregnancy
  • Acupuncture for labor preparation and cervical ripening
  • Plan ahead for postpartum care. I invite all my patients to pre book their post party visit prior to labour. This ensures if there are any post part symptoms to address, they won’t be put on the back burner. Postpartum doulas are extremely helpful, to help with cooking, holding baby while you shower, offering advice about recovery, breastfeeding etc.

 

 

Stefanie Miska is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with a practice focus on reproductive care. Call 1 778 400 6360 to schedule a consult.

 

First Trimester – Pregnancy Acupuncture

First trimester of pregnancy

For some folks, the first trimester of pregnancy can be the most challenging. With symptoms ranging from extreme fatigue to debilitating nausea, and the sensitive (sometimes secretive) nature of this time can lead to feelings of isolation.

When I work with mum’s in their first trimester, having a safe container to speak openly about their experience is welcomed and often looked forward to.

Some commonly asked questions

How long is the first trimester?

The first trimester lasts from week 1 through the end of week 13 of pregnancy

What part of the baby is growing during this time?

Bones, hair and nails, digestive system, heart, brain, sense of taste and touch, muscle and white blood cells

Is it a Boy or girl?

You probably won’t know if you’re having a baby boy or girl for about 16 or more weeks, but sex is determined at the moment of fertilization.

Some common symptoms during the first trimester

Morning sickness: not all women experience their nausea or vomiting during the morning hours. Symptoms can be felt at any time of the day or night. Some women experience mild symptoms while some require medication to subdue vomiting.

Fatigue: a common symptom (your body is doing some pretty amazing things!) extreme fatigue should be check by your care provider.

Weight gain: if you are feeling more hungry and consuming more calories through the day, some weight gain is completely normal, a greater increase in weight will be noticed later in the pregnancy.

Tips to manage first trimester  symptoms

Rest- if you feel tired, sit down, take a nap, let your body rest. One of the most common complaints I hear in my clinic is about lack of energy in the first trimester, where working long hours, attending many meetings throughout the day, and maintaining our usual social and exercise schedule feels impossible. Listen to your body, yes exercise is important, and letting your body rest during this time is possibly more important.

Eat frequently- eating small meals or snacks consistently throughout the day can help with nausea and vomiting, mood changes and energy levels. Bland, easy to digest foods work well. Think plain crackers, congee, potato soup etc. Always a good idea to keep snacks in your purse, your desk and work and in the car.

Get acupuncture- acupuncture is extremely supportive and beneficial for symptoms like fatigue, nausea, stress/anxiety, mood swings, digestion, threatened miscarriage, etc.

 

 

Stefanie Miska is a Dr. TCM, a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with a practice focus on reproductive care. Call 1 778 400 6360 to schedule a consult.

 

Acupuncture During Pregnancy

Is Acupuncture during pregnancy safe?

Pregnancy is a transformational and exciting time in a new families life. It can bring so many different emotions and symptoms with it. From joy, anticipation, fear and worry, to nausea, fatigue, physical discomfort and more.

The first and most common question we get is “is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?”.

The answer is YES, absolutely.

By working with a trained and licensed care provider, and someone who specializes in pregnancy care, you are in good hands during your pregnancy.

With all the poking and prodding that comes along with pregnancy, getting stuck with needles voluntarily probably seems like the last thing you’d want to do. But when it comes to banishing some pregnancy woes, many moms-to-be sing the praises of acupuncture. 

A few of the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy:

Acupuncture eases nausea

Pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting are common among women, particularly in the first and second trimesters. Acupuncture helps to ease the severity of these symptoms and support the body.

Acupuncture relieves pain

Women experience discomfort in all stages of their pregnancy, whether it’s pelvic pain, hip pain, lower back pain or ligament pain. Acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective way to improves these complaints.

Acupuncture reduces stress

Stress can have a negative impact on the pregnant body and the development of your baby. Acupuncture helps to calm the nervous system and reduce stress in the body which is beneficial to both mum and babe.

What can acupuncture during pregnancy treat?

During pregnancy, acupuncture has been shown to effectively treat the following conditions :

  • Miscarriage prevention
  • Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting)
  • Fatigue
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Breech and posterior positions
  • Edema (fluid retention)
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Sinusitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Pain
  • Induction
  • Cervical Ripening

 

 

Stefanie Miska is a Dr. TCM, a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with a practice focus on reproductive care. Call 1 778 400 6360 to schedule a consult.

 

 

mittelschmerz

Mittelschmerz – How to tell if you are ovulating

Ovulation Marker #4 – Mittelschmerz

The previous three blog posts have highlighted proven methods of detecting ovulation. The bonus marker for detecting ovulation is mittelschmerz, a German word that means ‘ middle pain’.

While this marker isn’t an accurate (a.k.a official) marker for ovulation, many women experience mittelschmerz around ovulation.

Defining the word

Mittelschmerz: Pain due to ovulation that usually occurs at the midpoint between the menstrual periods. From the German mittel, meaning ‘middle,’ and schmerz, meaning ‘pain.’

Ovulation pain may occur because that follicular growth stretches your ovary before the egg’s release. It might also happen when the cyst actually ruptures, letting loose the egg along with some cystic fluid or blood, which can irritate the lining of your abdomen.

Mittelschmerz pain usually lasts a few minutes to a few hours, but it may continue for as long as a day or two.

How to know if you are experiencing mittelschmerz

While most describe it as a slight pinching sensation, you may experience pain that is:

  • On one side of your lower abdomen
  • Dull and cramp-like
  • Sharp and sudden
  • Accompanied by mild vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Rarely, severe

Mittelschmerz pain occurs on the side of the ovary that’s releasing an egg (ovulating). The pain may switch sides every other month, or you may feel pain on the same side for several months.

Keep track of your menstrual cycle for several months and note when you feel lower abdominal pain. If it occurs midcycle and goes away without treatment, it’s most likely mittelschmerz.

If you have been keeping track of your other signs of ovulation, BBT, cervical mucus, and position of the cervix, and know you are around ovulation, then mittelschmerz is an added tell, or sign, that ovulation is occurring.

I hope you enjoyed this added bonus marker!

Book your consult by calling 1 778 400 6360 or if you are not local, we can connect virtually by booking your 15 minute here.

 

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mittelschmerz

position of cervix

Position of cervix – How to tell if you are ovulating

Ovulation marker #3 – Position of cervix

Believe it or not, the body has a pretty miraculous way of keeping your informed as to what is going on. One of the ways it does this, is by literally showing you ovulation. This changes the position of the cervix.

During ovulation, the cervix begins to show, by changing position and firmness, almost like a flower softening and opening up for reception.

How do I check the position of my cervix?

The only way to check this yourself, is by using your fingers to feel your cervix. This should be done with clean hands (and short nails), a perfect time to do this is in the shower.

It may sound like something only taught to doctors and nurses, but there’s no reason a woman can’t learn where her cervix is and how to notice changes in cervical position.

For the majority of your cycle, your cervix sits slightly lower in your vagina (meaning its easier to reach with your finger) and is a little but more firm, like touching the tip of your nose.

During ovulation, when the cervix begins to show, she gets softer ,like touching your bottom lip, and sits a bit higher up in the vagina (meaning you must insert your finger deeper).

This is one of the ways your body naturally becomes more receptive for pregnancy, by having a closer, more closed off gateway throughout the cycle, and softening and opening up during ovulation when conception may be desired.

Tips for checking the position of your cervix

Some pro tips:

Don’t expect to understand what you’re feeling the first, second or even tenth time you try—this is a skill that comes from practice and patience. Once you learn what the signs are by experiencing the changes in your cervix throughout a few cycles, you’ll be a pro.

When you’re just learning, try to check your cervical position every so many days, even when you don’t think you’re ovulating. It’s easier to find when you’re not ovulating, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re feeling.

 

 

Book your consult by calling 1 778 400 6360 or if you are not local, we can connect virtually by booking your 15 minute here.

 

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Stay up to date on Instagram

 

position of cervix

Your Menstrual Cycle – The Follicular Phase

What is the follicular phase?

After the last day of your period, your body prepares for ovulation, this is the follicular phase.

Signals from the brain tell the ovaries to prepare an egg that will be released.

Here, a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates your ovaries to produce a matured egg.

This maturing process produces estrogen, which makes the lining of your uterus thicken with nutrients and blood, so it will be able to provide the egg with the support it needs in case of pregnancy (the lining of the uterus must be thick in order for an egg to implant)

During the period, the pituitary gland (a small area at the base of the brain that makes hormones) produces a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).

FSH tells the ovaries to prepare an egg for ovulation (release of an egg from the ovary).

What is happening when you are in the follicular phase?

It’s known as the Follicular phase because your pituitary gland releases a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH).

FSH stimulates the follicles in one of your ovaries to mature.

FYI-these follicles contain your eggs.

The pituitary gland then starts to release Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which is responsible for making ovulation actually happen.

Only one of these follicles will “ripen” and become mature.

During this time you will notice that your cervical fluid takes on a wetter consistency. It typically looks creamy.

What are hormones doing during the follicular phase?

Your estrogen and testosterone levels remain low in the beginning of the follicular Phase but gradually increase as ovulation gets closer.

Both estrogen and testosterone start to boost your energy, mood and brain skills. You start to feel more confident, powerful and are willing to take more risks.

High estrogen also makes you braver, more confident and ready for a challenge. You’re thinking quickly and learning new facts and skills more easily.

During this cycle week, you’re more coordinated and have faster reaction times, your verbal skills peak and you’ve got a sharper memory.

Testosterone starts to stimulate your libido while at the same time making you more impulsive. Estrogen makes your skin look and feel better. It also makes you feel more extroverted and pushes you to be more social and to connect with other people.

When that happens, it tends to make you more impulsive, daring and competitive. Your libido is high all during your week 2, however, when testosterone spikes, it boosts your libido even higher.

On a primitive level, all of this is done to help attract a mate for the next phase of your cycle.

(Read Your Menstrual Cycle Simply Explained here)

What to do when you are in the follicular phase of your cycle

The follicular phase of your cycle is a great time for brainstorming and problem solving. It is the perfect time for creating new projects, and socializing. You can increase your activity level and experiment with something new.

 

 

Need some help understanding your menstrual cycle? Connect with me here to see how I can help you.

 

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