Sep 19

Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

understanding-polycystic-ovarian-syndrome

Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects 1 out of every 10 women. Each woman with PCOS will manifest the hormonal imbalances and symptoms differently. Only through understanding the underlying imbalances unique to each woman can we hope to overcome polycystic ovarian syndrome and achieve balanced, vibrant health.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a “syndrome” – in medical language that means it is a condition characterized by a group of symptoms, not all of which are necessary for diagnosis. To be diagnosed with PCOS you must have two of the following:

  1. Infrequent or no ovulation (irregular or long menstrual cycles or no menstrual periods)
  2. Signs or symptoms (or laboratory testing) showing high androgens (testosterone or dihydrotestosterone) – these include acne, abnormal hair growth, hair loss, darkening skin at skin folds
  3. Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound

As you see it is possible to have PCOS and not have polycystic ovaries!

Causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

What causes the hormone imbalance that leads to the symptoms associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome? We don’t have a clear answer to that for every woman. There are some risk factors associated with developing PCOS, but women with no risk factors can still develop this syndrome.

Risk Factors for PCOS

  • Genetics
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood sugar
  • Low blood sugar
  • Use of seizure medication (valproate)

Hormones and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

There are a vast number of hormonal imbalances that are intricately intertwined in PCOS. A brief summary is given below:

Testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – levels of free and total testosterone are often elevated. Production of androgens (male hormones) in the ovaries is increased in PCOS. The increased levels of testosterone and DHT lead to the characteristic acne associated with PCOS.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) – increased LH is characteristic of PCOS. The diagnosis of PCOS is often identified when the LH:FSH ratio is greater than 2:1.

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) – can be low or normal. The lack of ovulation that occurs in PCOS is partially due to the lack of follicle response to FSH.

Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) – levels are decreased. SHBG binds to testosterone and DHT, rendering them biologically unavailable. With low levels of SHBG, increased action of testosterone is seen in tissues (resulting in hair loss, abnormal hair growth, and acne).

Insulin – high levels of insulin, or resistance to insulin in the tissues, is thought to be a primary cause of PCOS. Many doctors think that insulin imbalances are the first step in the cascade of hormone imbalances that occur in PCOS.

Symptoms of PCOS

The symptoms of PCOS occur as a result of the hormonal imbalances at the root of this condition. Your symptoms can help guide an experienced clinician to identify the dominant imbalances resulting in your PCOS.

Common symptoms of PCOS:

  • Obesity and weight management issues (only in 40-50% of PCOS sufferers)
  • Acne (typically along the chin and around the mouth)
  • Oily skin
  • Polycystic or enlarged ovaries (found on ultrasound)
  • Blood sugar imbalances (“hangry”, dizziness, lightheadedness)
  • Darkening of skin at skin folds (acanthosis nigricans)
  • Long or irregular menstrual cycles (due to lack of ovulation)

Naturopathic Management of PCOS

Naturopathic medicine has great potential in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome because it focuses on individualized care. There is no “standard” protocol for PCOS, your ND will need to discuss your symptoms and recognize your state of hormonal imbalance to develop an effective treatment plan.

Your naturopath may order additional laboratory testing if the underlying hormonal imbalances are not clear. Testing may include salivary or blood tests, depending on which hormone is being assessed. You may be asked to keep a record of your Basal Body Temperature, a simple means of tracking the hormonal ebb and flow of your monthly cycle.

The cornerstone of treatment for PCOS is improving response of the body to insulin. This often involves exercise and consuming a whole foods diet that is low in refined and processed sugars. Botanical medicines and nutritional supplements may also be used to address specific hormone imbalances such as elevated testosterone or decreased sex hormone binding globulin.

There are many different treatment options available. Your Naturopathic Doctor is your partner in determining the best approach for you. If you are ready to start working on achieving your healthy balance, Dr. Watson is currently accepting new patients at the Integrative Health Institute. Contact her for a complimentary meet and greet appointment, or book your initial appointment today.

 

Lwatson

Dr. Lisa Watson delivers health care that supports balanced and attainable health at all ages and stages of life. Of primary importance is health care that nurtures the body, mind, spirit, family and community.  As a Naturopathic Doctor and mother, Lisa believes that health care and a healthy lifestyle are intrinsically linked and that each serves to support the other. Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

Follow Dr. Watson on Twitter
Check out Dr Watson’s blog: www.drlisawatson.com

 

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Sep 12

The Pelvic Floor: Finding Empowerment in Vulnerability

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By Shannon Stoby

There is a sense of vulnerability that comes with injury and illness. The sense of invincibility is gone and, as we put our recovery in the hands of health care professionals, it may feel like we’ve lost control of our lives.

This can be the case in any health-related scenario, but there are few issues that embody that feeling of lacking control more than a pelvic floor issue, and few forms of therapy that have more vulnerability implications than having it treated.

Typically, every message we’ve ever gotten about this area of our bodies is that we are supposed to keep it under wraps. Right down to calling them our ‘private parts’ we are taught to not talk about what goes on down there. So when issues arise, we don’t know what’s going on or where to turn for help. For the most part, conventional medicine has taught us that whatever pain or dysfunction you have going on, it is simply a part of the aging process and there is nothing much to be done.

As a physiotherapist trained to assess and treat the pelvic floor, it has been a struggle to change that mindset and to find an avenue through which people feel that they can talk about a topic which is generally regarded as ‘uncomfortable’. I have been told that as someone that has this training, it is easier for me to talk about it—but that was not always the case.

I came to this work first as a patient and came to quickly realize it’s importance to treat not only issues which are obviously related, but also with regards to treating the whole person. I know what it is to have to face that fear and unknown and entrust my body and my story to another in a very private matter; as the therapist, I do not take that lightly. But, I have come to appreciate that part of addressing the pelvic floor is looking at the ideas we have about our bodies and the ways we have been programmed about what is ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’. It may sound cliché, but being able to admit the problem and having the courage to seek treatment is actually the first step to healing.

Obviously, that is not where it ends! Being willing to then follow through with the assessment and treatment is key. However, there is empowerment in the knowledge that there is help, and also in taking that vulnerable step toward greater control over your health and well-being. Find a qualified pelvic floor physiotherapist to help guide the way.

By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT
Physiotherapist
DSC00358
Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.

Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.

Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.

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Sep 6

Get Back on the Horse

GET BACK ON THE HOURSE

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Perhaps this is why most of my clients say that dating makes them crazy! They go out with a suitor, eat a meal, try to get to know each other, get their hopes up, and soon find themselves with a broken heart for one reason or another. And then they do it all over again with another person. Insane? Not really. When looking for companionship and romance, the act of dating is typically part of the package. You don’t meet The One by hiding under your covers and streaming YouTube videos alone. How does a person carry on with dating after being disappointed time and time again? I’ve noticed that after a while, people start to put walls up. This is a natural reaction to protect ourselves, however it does not do us many favours. It leads to a hardness, a closemindedness, that is often readable on our faces, in our body language, and in our verbal communication. This is typically not described as a particularly attractive quality, but more importantly it makes us feel depressed and anxious… To put it plainly, it’s downright lousy. How can we keep putting ourselves through the act of dating without feeling like we’re insane? It’s important to maintain a sense of resilience (getting back on the proverbial horse when we fall off) and vulnerability (meeting each new mate with an open heart instead of a brick wall). After what may be years of dating, maintaining these two qualities can seem like a challenge. How do you keep putting yourself out there after multiple disappointments? #LaurensTopTips are here to guide you in the right direction:

  • We’ve all been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Pretty much anyone who has found their life partner has gone through a lot of dating to meet that right person. It’s incredibly rare to marry the first person you set your googly eyes on. If this was typical, we’d all be in committed relationships from the age of 14 (which was the age of both Romeo and Juliet… and we all know how that turned out). Knowing that you’re not alone can be very helpful in maintaining your resilience. It’s not “just you.” We all struggle through the dating game, get discouraged along the way, and suffer a bit of heartache. There is nothing wrong with you. Look at all the relationships around you that you respect. Ask those people if they had to kiss a few frogs before they met. I bet they did. Don’t worry; we’re all in the same boat. Hop aboard.
  • Store that data! The bonus to going on many dates, having many relationships (long or short), and yes even the occasional one-night-stand is that you are getting so much valuable information at each encounter. If you’ve ever had a session with me and we’ve chatted about dating, you know my mantra: Every dating-esque encounter gives you data on what you like, what you don’t like, and what to look for/avoid the next time around. Bonus: you also learn something about yourself. This stuff is like pure relationship gold. If you listen to yourself and make the mental notes, you will be far less likely to repeat mistakes and will be more likely to seek out the awesome qualities you love. This leads you to become a more confident dater and will help you spend more time with the people that stand a chance. See ya, time-wasters!
  • Go on, have some fun. When did dating become a terrible chore rather than a fun night out with a cutie? It’s time to bring back the excitement factor! If your dates are feeling like grueling job interviews, it’s time to revisit the thought process behind your dating. Companionship, romance, and (when ready) great sex are just a few of the benefits of dating. Perhaps it’s a chance to get creative or test the limits of your comfort zone by going on adventurous dates. Having experiences with a new person is a fantastic way to feel close; you often feel like you’ve shared something special. Chuck your checklist and find something cool to explore. When you remove the expectations, the fun returns and you can truly see if you click.

Letting yourself go in the vulnerable world of dating is a real challenge, but if you can do it, you’ll find yourself more open to opportunities and have a lot more enjoyment along the way. If a relationship doesn’t work out, you need to dust yourself off and get back on the horse. You’re more resilient than you think you are. You can hang out with Ben and Jerry if you really want to, but I’d suggest taking a chance on a Ben or Jerry that doesn’t fit in a bowl – far more satisfying in the long run.

 

LaurenB

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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Aug 29

Beauty Sleep: Bedtime Beauty Hacks for Glowing Skin

 

Beauty Sleep Blog Title

Waking up with a natural glow seems pretty unattainable some days, especially if you enjoy the occasional late night Netflix binge every once in a while. That being said, there are a few nighttime beauty hacks you can try, which can definitely make morning beauty routines easier.

#5: Breakup the Makeup

Put your right hand over your heart…ok, now repeat after me:

“I solemnly swear to remove my makeup every night before going to bed no matter how tired, drunk, comfortable or lazy I am. I swear that I will NEVER put my head on my pillow without first thoroughly taking off my mascara, lipstick, concealer or whatever makeup I happen to be wearing.”

Alright, now that your oath is out of the way, you are probably wondering why I am so adamant about this. The first reason is the growth of bacteria that occur due to the makeup particles present on the pillow. If you sleep with foundation for instance some of it sticks to the pillow. Later on it will allow the growth of bacteria and cause skin problems like linings, acne and dark circles. Secondly, during the night your skin renews and refreshes itself. Makeup blocks oxygen delivery to the skin leading to a dull complexion that is prone to dryness, acne, premature lines and wrinkles; and hyperpigmentation, etc.

#4: Calm Cleansing

Avoid aggressive, abrasive or irritating cleansers at night; they can overstrip the skin of its natural oils leaving it red, inflamed and dry. A gentle cleanser can be a tough sell for consumers familiar with strong formulas that can make skin feel tight and squeaky-clean. Many people take that feeling as a sign of effectiveness, when actually it signals overdrying and possible damage. And most people still assume that any skin problem—whether dull skin, acne or age spots—can be solved by scrubbing just a little bit harder. Most cleansing products have a surfactant, a chemical or natural compound that helps break through the surface tension of the skin. The cleanser absorbs dirt and oil and removes them during rinsing. While removing dirt and oil, the surfactant interacts with the stratum corneum, the skin’s outermost layer and protective barrier—and that is where problems begin. The surfactant can remove the good oils the skin produces, resulting in overdrying. And it also can remain in the stratum corneum, exacerbating irritation. A compromised skin barrier also makes a person more susceptible to infection and environmental harms, such as pollution. A gentle cleanser will remove dirt, oils and pollution but leave the skin soothed, moisturized and clear.

My favourite gentle cleansers are:

FitGlow Beauty Calm Cleansing Milk

Odacité Gentle Rejuvenating Cleanser

The Body Deli Rose Geranium Cleanser

Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser

#3: Embrace Enzymes

While there are many types of enzymes, they have two primary uses in skin care– for exfoliation and as anti-inflammatories. Certain enzymes are effective exfoliants and can be gentler than other methods like scrubs and microdermabrasion. The upper layer of your skin is mostly made of dead skin cells containing keratin protein. The enzymes work by specifically breaking down the keratin protein, resulting in smoother skin. Other enzymes (some found naturally in skin) can function as a scavenger of free radicals and protect skin against oxidative damage. Simply put, enzymes can protect against damage from sun, environmental pollutants and even acne.

My favourite enzymes enhance cellular renewal overnight and helps to clear pores, even skin tone (bye bye annoying dark spots) and leaves the skin bright and refreshed in the morning. Check out Kypris Moonlight Catalyst and Odacité Pa+G Serum Concentrate.

#2: Hydrate to Radiate

So, you’ve cleansed your face (gently!) and applied some amazing enzymes to both exfoliate and renew the skin, now you are ready to nourish your skin with some amazing moisturize so you wake up plump, soft and fresh! Your skin needs hydration, especially overnight. Your skin is in its reparative state at night because, while you sleep, your skin is at rest and not being exposed to the environmental stressors that age the skin. Performing your nighttime routine with the use of moisturizer can really help repair your skin and help to control how quickly your skin ages.

My favourite moisturizers for night:

FitGlow Beauty Renew Cream

Kahina Giving Beauty Night Cream

Graydon Clinical Luxury Berry Rich Cream

#1: Bright Eye Boosters

You are just about to wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed, just one final step…eye cream! Yes, eye cream is as important as people preach which is why I am going to perpetuate the preaching here. The skin around the eye is the thinnest, most delicate area of the face, making it vulnerable to the first signs of aging and fatigue. During the drier, winter months, I apply eye cream both morning and evening but when the weather is warmer and more humid I reserve it for nighttime. Apply it gentle around the eyes to wake up with fewer lines, dark circles and puffiness. If you tend to dark circles or puffiness, use an eye cream that contains caffeine (check out 100% Pure Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream).

Follow the steps above and your skin will be glowing, refreshed and smooth when you wake up!

For more beauty tips, make sure you join The Natural Skin Doctor Facebook Group.

 

Have a beautiful day!

 

Signature-Jen-Newell

 

 

Jen NewellDr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.

Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

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Aug 22

Trust and Fear in an Uncertain World

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By Shannon Stoby

I don’t know if we are generally a distrustful species or if we have just taught each other to be that way. Certainly, there is a survival instinct that may promote distrust. Our long history of feuding on this planet in the name who knows what may also be a contributing factor. Yet this general feeling of unease that we seem to feel toward our fellow man, this fear-based culture that we have created, is only breeding more of that which we fear.

Once again, I feel that some of this is partially an outward projection of our internal environments. While the accessibility of information can be wonderful, it is teaching us that we don’t know. That we have to rely on external sources to tell us what is ‘right’. What follows is a self-doubt and an assumption that these external sources are experts who have our best interests at heart. While this may sound like I am breeding some distrust of my own, at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I think the intent of those spreading information is always worth questioning.

Intuition seems to be a bit of a lost art. That innate trust of our bodies and minds that we know what is right for us. ‘Trust your gut’, ‘follow your heart’—these are common sayings, but less common practices as we research what the best answer is, filling our heads with so many possibilities that our bodies can’t be heard.

I’m not saying to reject all external information. Certainly, we can’t each be experts about everything and there is something wonderful and valuable about being willing to learn from one another. To reject everything outside of yourself is just another brand of paranoia. But, at the same time, to disregard that internal knowing in favour of external opinion is a personal disservice.

Like most everything in life, I suppose it is a balance. Perhaps the best you can do is to trust yourself to know where to place your trust, otherwise you end up fearing everything.

By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT
Physiotherapist
DSC00358
Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.

Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.

Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.

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Aug 15

Take the Plunge

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By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

You trust your doctor. You trust your accountant. You trust your drycleaner. Heck, you even trust your coffeehouse barista with your precious caffeine fix. We trust all kinds of people with the things that are important to us. So, why is it often so hard to trust ourselves? There are many reasons why, but there is typically one common denominator: fear. If things don’t go right, it seems to take the sting out of it if we have someone to blame. I’m a zombie today because they gave me decaf by accident! We blew that project because Joe was slacking again! When the onus is on you and you alone to meet your goal, you may notice yourself shrinking away. The problem with this is that you’ll likely miss out on something that is important to you, and you may notice this goal reemerge at different points in your life if it goes unfulfilled. How many times have you wanted to ditch your career in favour of something that truly excites you? Ask out that special person, but you’re afraid to ruin a friendship? Try a new lifestyle change, but you’re afraid of feeling humiliated if it doesn’t work out?

All of this fear is probably leading to ongoing disappointment. You wish you could do something, but don’t out of fear, and keep returning to the thought of “What if I just go for it?” Ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen? Can I pick myself up if it doesn’t work out? Does the reward not outweigh the risk? Chances are that the answers to these questions suggest that you should go for it, but that bit of fear seeps back in.

You trust so many people with the things that are important to you. No one knows you better than yourself – the time has come to trust yourself. Affirmations can be a big help in alleviating your fears and building that trust. Go to your bathroom mirror and look yourself in the eye. Encourage yourself like you would encourage your best friend. Remind yourself of how capable you are, all the things you’ve already accomplished, and all the tools you have in place to help yourself achieve this goal.

You may be your own worst enemy, but you have the power to be your own best friend. Take advantage of that and go for it! The popular adage may be old but it is usually very true: You have nothing to fear but fear itself.

 

LaurenB

 

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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Aug 2

Trust and Fear: Finding Your Comfort Zone in the Therapeutic Relationship

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 1.56.31 PM

By Shannon Stoby

There can be a lot of fear associated with illness or injury. Fear of pain. Fear of the prognosis. Fear of the recovery process. Mostly a fear of the unknown. And when faced with a health issue it may feel like your own body has become the unknown.

At this point we seek medical advise. We look to the experts to tell us what is wrong with us and what we should do about it. Someone who can make the unknown known again and provide us with the answers to our problems.

It is important to be able to trust your health care practitioner; to have faith that they know what they’re doing and can guide you through. But, there are a couple of things that it is not reasonable to expect anyone to be able to tell you:

1. What this ‘should’ feel like. Whether it be physically or emotionally, no one can tell you how to feel. What you actually feel is what is important, and being able to honestly communicate that with your practitioner is part of building that relationship and helping your health care team help you the best they can.
2. How long until you are better. I understand that we all want to be able to plan our lives, and certainly we don’t want to be strung along. But, no one actually has the capacity to accurately predict how long it will take you to feel better. No matter what research or statistics we apply to understanding your health, every person is unique. I have had clients get better much sooner than expected and some that take longer than anticipated.

Everyone’s healing journey is different. Each person brings their own medical history, attitudes, traumas, fears, and expectations to the rehabilitation process. All of these things factor into what their recovery may look like. People with the ‘same’ ailments, even when they occur under similar conditions, can have very different processes and outcomes. There may be guidelines, but there is no ‘one-size fits all’ protocol or script that works in the same way for everyone, and learning to trust your own body is part of the process.

There is a saying that applies to healing as well as to so many other things in life: Expectation is the thief of joy. Celebrate the days that you feel better, have faith that there are more of those days coming, and recognize that temporarily feeling worse does not always equate to actually being worse—sometimes it’s just part of the healing.

My goal as a clinician is not to be able to map out exactly what your journey will look like. Despite the fact that we would all like those reassurances, I’m afraid it’s not possible. My goal is to be able to apply individualized care to my clients and to find out together what works best for each one. My fondest wish for each person I treat is that my expertise and experiences on both sides of a healing journey can help them to become more aware of themselves and to become their own expert. The healing and mastery of self is, after all, part of why we’re here.

By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT
Physiotherapist
DSC00358
Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.

Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.

Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.

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Jul 25

The Endometriosis Diet

The Endometriosis Diet

By Lisa Watson

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I believe that health is built on a foundation of a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle. As an expert in women’s health I see this to be true in most women’s health concerns, from uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, premenstrual syndrome to endometriosis.

The purpose of the Endometriosis Diet is multiple:

  • Balance the immune system
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Support hormone regulation
  • Improve detoxification

You can start the Endometriosis Diet soon after diagnosis, or at any time. This diet can help control the growth of endometriosis that has already appeared, decrease pain and other symptoms and in some cases prevent endometriosis from occurring at all.

Endometriosis Diet: Foods to Avoid

  1. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol depletes B vitamins that are necessary for hormone detoxification. It also has estrogen-like effects on the body and can worsen endometriosis symptoms.

  1. Avoid refined sugar

Sugar is another culprit that can increase estrogen levels. It is also known to negatively impact immune function. Fruit is fine, but avoid all sources of refined sugars.

  1. Avoid caffeine

Women consuming two cups of coffee per day have twice the risk of developing endometriosis.

  1. Avoid red meat, especially grain-fed

Red meat is a rich source of arachidonic acid – which promotes production of inflammatory prostaglandins and increases inflammation and pain. Additionally, cattle and pigs fed grains treated with pesticides tend to concentrate these hormone-disrupting chemicals in their fat and muscle tissues. Consumption of these meats is a leading source of human exposure to organochlorines.

  1. Avoid dairy products

Dairy products are another potential source of hormone-disrupting chemicals, like the organochlorines. Organochlorines also impact the function of the immune system, weakening natural killer (NK) cell activity. Additionally, high fat dairy products may promote estrogen dominance, accelerating the growth of endometriosis.

  1. Avoid gluten

A 2012 study started 200 women with endometriosis on a gluten-free diet. 75% of the women reported an improvement in pain and none reported an increase in pain. All patients reported improved vitality and general health as well.

  1. Avoid refined and hydrogenated oils

Refined and hydrogenated vegetable oils contain omega 6 fatty acids that compete for absorption with anti-inflammatory omega 3s. Avoid canola, safflower, sunflower and so-called “vegetable” oils.

  1. Limit eggs

Eggs are a source of arachidonic acid and their consumption should be minimized.

  1. Limit peanuts

Another rich source of arachidonic acid. Healthier nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts and cashews.

     10. Avoid food sensitivities

Food sensitivities can contribute to inflammation, intestinal permeability and immune system disturbances. Food sensitivities are very individual – blood testing is generally recommended to identify what foods may causing negative effects in your body.

Endometriosis Diet: Foods to Enjoy

  1. Organic fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide fiber that support healthy digestive function as well as nutrients to support immune function, detoxification and decrease inflammation. Women who consume two servings of fruit per day have a 20% decreased risk of endometriosis. Selecting organic fruits and vegetables will minimize intake of pesticides that disrupt hormone function.

  1. Vegetarian proteins

Women who eat a vegetarian diet excrete 2-3 times more estrogen in their feces and have half as much estrogen in their blood as meat-eaters. Focusing on eating soy, almonds and other nuts and nut butters, beans, lentils and legumes.

  1. Fish

Fish, especially cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel, are a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Two servings per week is the ideal recommendation – more than this can result in undesirable exposure to PCBs and other environmental contaminants.

  1. Flax seeds

Another rich source of omega 3s, ground flax seeds also contain lignans that provide an ideal source of fiber to support digestion and healthy bacteria balance.

  1. Cabbage family vegetables

The Brassica (cabbage) family of vegetables support detoxification and encourage a healthy estrogen balance by favouring production of the less active form of estrogen. Consume broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kohl rabi and cauliflower regularly to reap these benefits.

  1. Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables provide key minerals for detoxification and support liver function. Frequent consumption of leafy greens (two servings per day) has been shown to significantly decrease the incidence of endometriosis.

  1. Onions, garlic and leeks

These vegetables contain organosulfur compounds that enhance immune function and induce enzymes that detoxify the liver. They are also rich sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that stimulates the immune system and decreases inflammation.

  1. High fiber foods

High fiber foods are incredibly important for endometriosis because they support the optimal balance of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract. Friendly bacteria support the elimination of estrogen in the feces. Focus on fiber in the form of vegetables, fruits and whole grains such as barley, quinoa, millet, brown and wild rice.

  1. Fermented foods

Fermented foods support estrogen balance by providing a food source of friendly bacteria. Olives, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and kombucha are excellent, delicious options.

      10. Spices

Spices such as ginger and turmeric are powerful anti-inflammatories and also support liver detoxification. Use them liberally throughout the day.

The endometriosis diet can be an important part of regaining your health and decreasing the pain and discomfort of this condition. For a more comprehensive approach, book an appointment with your Naturopathic Doctor today.

 

 

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Jul 21

Bodily Connections and the Patterns of Pain

 

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By: Shannon Stoby

Nothing that happens in the body happens in isolation. Any injury, illness, or event creates a chain of reactions. Despite the fact that there is a specialist for every organ, system, and body part these days, it is ultimately all connected.

Ever sprained your ankle and wound up with a knee problem? A hip problem? A back problem? As your gait and weight-bearing change to compensate, things go out of whack up the chain. If you dislocate your shoulder, the protective posturing and disuse of the arm can cause other issues. Or maybe an initial posture or prior injury made you more prone to the dislocation in the first place. We develop all kinds of movement patterns and postures over time to compensate for our injuries and avoid pain. Once the immediate threat of the injury is gone, however, those patterns can remain and make us more predisposed to other pain. And have you ever noticed those old injuries that seem to have healed—except for the nagging pain that resurfaces when you get sick or stressed?

When you consider the fascial system, any number of ‘random’ symptoms become connected. The fascia is a type of connective tissue that runs continuously throughout the body from head to toe in a three-dimensional web, and it covers every system. When healthy, the fascia is fluid and dynamic, yet through injuries, surgeries, traumas, inflammation, or stressors restrictions form in the tissue. These restrictions cause pressure on the delicate structures that lie beneath and tension throughout the system, causing pain that goes unseen in diagnostic imaging. Aside from the pain, structural malalignments and compensatory movement patterns are perpetuated through the restrictions as well.

We become very focused on specific symptoms as the ‘problem’ or a specific event as the ’cause’, but it is not always that simple. Pain is often more about patterns than isolated incidents. Holding patterns or postures. Movement patterns. Behavioural patterns. Thought patterns. So looking at the totality of your body and how your patterns are affecting it is an important aspect to healing.

Even the emotional and the physical go together. Ever had an injury or illness that you were completely ambivalent about? Maybe you were scared by the incident, the pain, or the prognosis. Or maybe frustrated by the disruption to your life, or the fact that your recovery didn’t seem to be going as quickly or smoothly as your friend who had the ‘same’ injury. Maybe you blamed yourself for being so careless, or were angry at someone else for having caused you pain. These are all perfectly normal reactions and dealing with the emotional aspect becomes part of the process.

Pay attention to all the patterns of your life. Sometimes they are so subtle they are hard to notice, or so ingrained they are difficult to navigate on your own. Your own awareness is key to healing, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to be isolated to manage your pain—connect with a health care practitioner that can help you through.

By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT
Physiotherapist
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Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.

Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.

Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.

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Jul 18

Top 5 Reasons to get Acupuncture while Pregnant

pregnant_girl_standingBy Jonathan Handel

Acupuncture is a proven tool that can help mothers navigate their various pregnancy-related health issues, and maintain a high quality of life from conception to the birth, and beyond!

Here are the TOP 5 reasons to come in for acupuncture when pregnant:

1) Nausea

Nausea is experienced in approximately half of all pregnancies. It is usually felt in the first trimester, but sometimes continues well past then. Nausea can lead to vomiting, as well as food and smell sensitivity. This is very disruptive as it can not only lead to unpleasant trips to the bathroom throughout the day, but can also wake nauseous mothers up at night, leading to disturbed sleep, fatigue and irritability.

Western medicine understands nausea in pregnancy to be due to hormonal shifts. High stress and fatigue are also considered to be contributing factors. Chinese Medicine is well suited to help mothers manage these symptoms by regulating hormones and keeping the stress and energy levels in check.

A 2002 study by Smith et al, looked at the effectiveness and safety of using acupuncture in early pregnancy to treat nausea. They found that compared to the control groups, the women that received traditional acupuncture had the fastest results. Furthermore, the women who received traditional acupuncture reported better overall feelings of health.

2) Body pain or discomfort

Musculoskeletal issues are something that all people deal with. In pregnancy, however, there are some added factors that can lead to discomfort for the mother. In early pregnancy, the body releases progesterone, which acts on the ligaments of the body to prepare them to shift as needed to accommodate the growing fetus. As the pregnancy continues, this will be compounded by the added weight load, and the change in centre of gravity. The most common body pain complaints of expectant mothers are pelvic, back, shoulder and neck pain. Much like nausea, these pains can be disruptive to daily life, affecting sleep, energy and mood. Acupuncture is a proven and safe treatment for pregnant women seeking to manage their pain.

A 2005 study by Elden et al, compared acupuncture treatment to other standard physiotherapy treatments of stability exercises for pelvic pain during pregnancy. The study found that acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercisers in managing the pain.

3) Breech Position

Breech presentation is when the baby is still positioned with its head upwards later the 34th to 36th week. The ideal position for labour is with the baby’s head down, chin tucked in, and the body positioned to face away from the mother’s abdomen. While delivery is possible in other positions, it does make a natural delivery more tricky, and can lead to other complications.

Acupuncture with moxibustion (herbal heat therapy) has a great success rate at encouraging the baby to turn on their own. This can also be combined with exercise and other manual therapies with great success.

Cardini et al in 1998 performed a study of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment for breech position. They found that after two weeks of treatment 75.4% of the acupuncture/moxibustion group were correctly positioned (compared to only 47.7% in the control group).

4) Labour Induction

While the due date is usually considered at 40 weeks, full term pregnancy can be anywhere from 38-42 weeks. This range is still considered healthy if there are no extenuating health factors. However, there are some cases where there is a medically imposed limit by OBGYNs to limit potential risks. Also, in some cases pregnancies can last beyond 42 weeks. When this is the case, doctors will often try to medically induce labour. This is done by using prostaglandins and oxytocin to stimulate the cervix to ripen and induce contractions. While this is very effective, it can also lead to other complications and does increase the possibility of needing a c-section delivery if the labour progresses too slowly.

The mechanisms at play when using acupuncture to induce labour, however, while having similar goals in mind, works with the body to encourage labour to begin, rather than imposing labour upon it. This means that the acupuncture points used will help the cervix ripen and begin contractions through encouraging the movement of energy and blood flow to the uterus and cervix. Furthermore, as the end of term arrives, often mothers experience added stress. Sometimes this is due to worries about the delivery, or pressure from balancing the pregnancy and the rest of her life. This stress decreases the natural release of oxytocin and can therefore cause labour to be delayed. Acupuncture can, along with the strategies discussed above, help the mother manage the stress and emotions in a healthy way, allowing the body to be open and ready.

5) Pre-Birth treatments

Being proactive is truly a mother’s best reason to use acupuncture. As she reaches the end of her pregnancy, regular acupuncture treatments can help encourage the natural progression and greatly diminish the potential need for other interventions. As I mentioned in my previous blog about this topic, acupuncture has been shown in studies to to promote a natural birth and even reduce labour times. In 1974, a study by researchers Kubista and Kucera calculated that women who had acupuncture starting in the final weeks of pregnancy on average took 4 hours and 57 minutes between when they were 3-4 cm dilated to when they delivered. This is compared to 5 hours and 54 minutes in the control (non-acupuncture) group. They also measured the time between the onset of 10-15 minute contraction and delivery, and by that measure the acupuncture group averaged 6 hours 36 minutes, versus 8 hours and 2 minutes in the control group. In 2004, acupuncturist Debra Betts and midwife Sue Lennox conducted an observational study of 169 women who received pre-birth acupuncture and compared their births statistics to those of the local population. They found that there was a 35% reduction in medical inductions (up to 44% for women having their first baby) for the women that received pre-birth acupuncture. Comparing to regular midwife care, they found a 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery and a 9% increase in normal vaginal births. Those are pretty amazing results!

These are five great reasons why mothers should consider acupuncture as they navigate their pregnancy.

And, the list above is by no means complete. Other pregnancy-related conditions acupuncture can help manage include:

  • Threatened miscarriage,
  • heartburn,
  • constipation,
  • UTI,
  • varicose veins and other vinous issues,
  • fatigue and exhaustion,
  • insomnia,
  • anxiety and depression,
  • itching,
  • sinusitis,
  • hypertension,
  • edema, and
  • much more!

If you would like to learn more about acupuncture and pregnancy, come join me for a free seminar on July 21st, 6:30pm at IHI. Click here to register

Jonathan Handel, R.Ac R.TCMP

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Jonathan is a acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. He values a holistic approach, and seeks to treat the root causes of illness and provide symptomatic relief for people seeking to better their health and quality of life. As a practitioner, Jonathan seeks to create a positive healing environment, where patients can step away from their daily stresses. Through creating a safe and comfortable space, patients can look forward to coming in for treatment as an opportunity to seek relief and get the support they need.

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