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

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.

 

 

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.

 

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

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