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.

 

Preconception Care – Trimester Zero

Planning ahead for the important things in life

We all know the importance of planning ahead for those big, life changing decisions. Like buying a new house, planning a wedding, preparing for your next vacation, yet often times we don’t spend very much time at all, planning for one of life’s biggest journeys – parenthood, and more specifically – getting pregnant. This is called preconception care.

Have you ever considered that most folks spend more time planning their wedding than they do planning to conceive?

Research confirms that the growth cycle of both sperm and eggs is approximately 90 days. So that means, if getting pregnant is something you are wanting or planning for in the near future, taking steps at least 3 months in advance to make sure you and your partner are healthy, is super important.

What is preconception care?

Preconception care is defined as:

a set of interventions that aim to identify and modify medical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health or pregnancy outcome through prevention and management.

These 3 months prior to conception are considered Trimester Zero. An integral part of the pregnancy journey.

What you should be doing to prepare for pregnancy

Some things to include during trimester zero:

  • A good prenatal supplement
  • Family doctor or Naturopathic Doctor check up with lab/blood work
  • Regular acupuncture treatments
  • Limiting stress or incorporating mindfulness technique like meditation or gentle walks in nature

When you received regular acupuncture treatments in preparation for conception, some of the benefits include:

  • More relaxed
  • Stress management
  • Increased blood flow to the reproductive organs
  • Balanced hormones
  • Improved egg quality

Many things impact our health and ability to conceive

When I work with patients who are trying to get pregnant there are many important factors that come into play. Having support from your health care team is one of those integral factors.

We know how influential the external environment and lifestyle can be for your overall health, and the health of your eggs and unborn children. Your genetic material is influenced by these factors so taking pro active steps for you and future baby is essential!

Schedule your consult for preconception care by calling 1 778 400 6360.

 

Cervical Mucus

Cervical Mucus – How to tell if you are ovulating

Ovulation key marker #2 – Cervical Mucus

One of the key markers of ovulation is cervical mucus. You have likely noticed it before, whether you knew it was linked to ovulation or not.

But … what is cervical mucus?

The hormones that control your menstrual cycle, they also make your cervix produce mucus. Thats the gooey stuff on your cervix that comes out of your vagina as discharge.

Your cervical mucus changes in colour, texture, and amount during your menstrual cycle, and especially around ovulation.

Cervical Mucous (also known as CM) increases at ovulation due to the increase in estrogen levels. This helps to create a hospitable environment for sperm.

Cervical fluid can be divided into two categories, peak and non-peak mucous. While both are considered fertile mucous, peak mucous is the well known, stretchy, egg white consistency.

Cervical mucous plays an important role in helping sperm survive longer in the vagina and helping them to move upward to connect with the waiting egg for conception.

Sperm can survive in the vagina for up to 5 days. Knowing when you are ovulating, by observing cervical fluid, can be an integral part of achieving or avoiding pregnancy.

You have likely noticed an increase in discharge around mid cycle, which you can tell by the slippery consistency when you wipe after going to the bathroom, some in your underwear or an overall feeling of increased wetness or lubrication.

Cervical mucus is 100% normal

In Toni Weschler’s book ‘Taking Charge of your Fertility’, she highlights a story about a women who was convinced she was having reoccurring infections every month and would continue to visit her doctor asking for antibiotics. What she did not realize, was that the increase in discharge, which happened monthly, is completely normal, and actually a really healthy part of the menstrual cycle.

Some things to look out for, which may require a check in with your doctor, is discharge that is foul smelling, green or thick yellow.

How to check for cervical mucus

There are three ways you can check your cervical mucous

  • Wipe the opening of your vagina before your pee with toilet paper, check the colour and feel of the mucous
  • Look at the colour and texture in your underwear
  • Put clean fingers into you vagina, and then check the colour and texture of the mucous with your fingers

 

 

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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Cervical Mucus

Tracking your BBT

How to tell if you are ovulating – Tracking your temperature BBT

Ovulation Marker #1 – Tracking your BBT

Tracking your basal body temperature, abbreviated as BBT, is one of the main, and most common ways to track ovulation.

Taking your BBT, involves taking your temperature at roughly the same time every morning before getting out of bed. This includes logging your results, either by paper chart, or one of the handy apps you can download on your phone, to keep track of daily measurements and patterns

How to track your BBT

In order to do so, you will need a thermometer that goes to 2 decimal points, for example 36.68C or 97.68F. This makes it easier to notice temperature shifts, which is what you are looking for.

After ovulation, a hormone called progesterone, is released from the same follicle that the egg came from. This release of progesterone creates a slight temperature increase in the body. This is how we know ovulation has occurred, by tracking BBT.

For example, if you are taking your temperature throughout your entire cycle (which is required to get an accurate reading) your temperature will be lower for the first half, and higher for the second half.

Understanding your menstrual cycle

If you are unsure about the different phases of the menstrual cycle, their duration and what’s happening, I encourage you to go back and read the previous posts:

Menstrual cycle simple explained

Your period

Follicular phase

Ovulation

Luteal phase

If a person has, say, a 28 day cycle (let me clarify though, a ‘normal’ cycle is anything between 21-35 days) from day 1 (first day of bleed) to day 14 (ovulation), body temperature would be roughly 2 tenths of a degree cooler than from day 15 to when bleeding starts again.

*If pregnancy occurs, progesterone levels continue to rise (throughout pregnancy) and therefor body temperature continues to rise and will not drop again at day 28.

You can purchase a BBT at any drug store, or easily off amazon. While you can get more fancy versions, it is not necessary, and you can easily get started with a thermometer for $20.

Apps to use when you start tracking your BBT

Some apps to check out are:

  • Kindara
  • Daisy
  • Natural Cycles
  • Clue
  • Period Tracker

 

It is important to remember, that in order to get accurate readings, you must take your temperature after 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, at roughly the same time every morning, and certain things like drinking alcohol, staying up late, or illness will effect your body temperature.

If you need help with charting your cycle or learning to read your BBT, 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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Tracking your BBT

importance of ovulation

The Importance of Ovulation (and its markers) for Women’s Health

A key marker for overall health

One of the key markers of a healthy menstrual cycle is ovulation, to catch yourself up on exactly what is happening during ovulation, check back to the original blog post here.

In addition to being paramount in conception, ovulation is ALSO important for the health of, your bones, cardiovascular system, and your overall endocrine (hormonal) system.

After reading the blog post ‘The ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle’ , you now know what is happening in your body, the next question is … how can you tell if you have ovulated?

How to tell if you have ovulated

There are three key markers (plus a bonus one) to help you tell if your body is ovulating, and if so, when it is.

The four markers of ovulation are :

  1. Basal Body Temperature or BBT / cycle charting
  2. Cervical fluid/mucous
  3. Position and firmness of cervix
  4. Mittelschmerz

 

The top three are markers, that if use correctly, are very accurate ovulation predictors.

One of the things I always educate my patients on is the importance of presence over prediction. While most often, the cycle tracking apps we have on our phones, or when we are planning ahead as to when we can expect our next period – it is usually based on past cycles and using that old data to predict what will happen and when, during this upcoming cycle.

Your whole menstrual cycle, and especially ovulation and your period, is a report card of the last few weeks, or months, of your life. There are many factors that may change the duration of one or more of the phases of your menstrual cycle, and tuning into that is more important than what date you ovulated last cycle.

Disruptors of healthy ovulation

Things that may disrupt regular cycle patterning are:

  • Travelling
  • Changing time zones
  • Daylight savings
  • Stress (this includes good stress like planning a wedding or going on vacation)
  • Lack of nutrition / change in diet
  • Illness

Observing ovulation during your cycle is important for understanding your body and your overall health.

It is an easy way to keep track of how your hormones, your physical and emotional body are doing.

 

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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importance of ovulation

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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