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Skin and Menopause

The main reason why and how our skin shows signs of aging are due to

  • Sun exposure
  • Genetics
  • Depletion of hormones
  • Lifestyle

SKIN & Menopause,

Dry Skin: The loss of estrogen does cause a decrease in the amount of sebum that is produced, leading to drier skin.

Estrogen plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. For example, estrogen is responsible for stimulating the production of skin collagen, a fibrous protein that provides strength, resilience, and support to the skin and other tissues.

Itchy Skin:  Menopause can often trigger skin changes like itchy skin, also known as prurtis, can trigger disruption in your life especially if it causes significant discomfort or disrupts sleep.

The most underlying cause of itchy skin is hormonal changes.

Self Care of Skin :

  • Good diet ; increase intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
  • Increase of Vitamin B as its crucial to skin health
  • Increase Water Intake: Hydrate the skin
  • Moisturize  the skin, Mineral oil is great and a inexpensive skin moisturizer.
  • Use gentle natural soap products, which are non-irritating.
  • Use of a quality broad spectrum sunscreen
  • Avoid external irritants; smoke, excess sun exposure, stress and lack of sleep

Androgenic  Alopecia:  loss of scalp hair, this is due to the influence of the male hormone testosterone. It results in a receding hairline at the temples (aka widow’s peak) for most women as we age. In more extreme instances, women may thin in a diffuse generalized pattern across the entire scalp.

Fine Lines : Remember, you lose approximately 1% of collagen per year after the age of 40 as well as in response to the loss of estrogens, despite HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Start your products now and do not let up once you are happy with the results. It is far easier to prevent lines than eradicate them.

Unwanted Facial Hair:  Yup,  You too may  had to deal with plucking in areas you NEVER thought you would.

Ways to keep your skin glowing during Menopause!

Building collagen and eslastic fibers is the best way to keep skin youthful

  • Creams that build collagen
  • Exfoliate the skin with sea salts
  • Just add a little oil to your bath or shower water, ( avocado, sesame, jojoba, coconut, sea buckthorn )
  • Infrared saunas
  • An apple a day !
  • Eat more MUFA s! Like dark chocolate ! keeps the skin moisturized with monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Alternate the Humidity in your house
  • Keep your shower on the cooler side, to help prevent dry itchy skin
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Just One Cup of Green Tea Daily Halves Ovarian Cancer Risk

Green tea consumption may help prevent ovarian cancer in women.  In a recent study scientists elevated the relationship between caffeine-containing beverages and ovarian cancer risk by comparing 781 women diagnosed with a primary invasive or borderline epithelial ovarian cancer and 1,262 women without the disease.  Women who consumed one or more cups of green tea per day experienced a 54% reduction in ovarian cancer risk compared with those who did not drink green tea. Those who reported drinking an average of less than one cup per day experienced a smaller reduction.  Green tea, which is commonly consumed in countries with low ovarian cancer incidence, should be further investigated for its cancer-prevention properties.  Because the disease is difficult to detect in its early, treatable stages and a foolproof screening test is not widely available an effective means of preventing the disease remains the only feasible approach to reduce ovarian cancer mortality.  Green tea has been used as a medicine in China for least 4,000 years.  Today the scientific research is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea.  The National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly 60% .  The University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.  The secret of green tea lies in the fact that it is rich in catechin polyphenols , particularly epigallocatechin gallate ( EGCG ).  EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant, besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

 

Testosterone Levels

I am a woman; do I need to have my testosterone levels tested?

Women’s bodies produce testosterone but in small amounts. It is needed for hormonal balance and to help women’s bodies to function normally. If your body is producing too much testosterone, you may have more body hair than average, have abnormal or no menstrual periods, or be infertile. A testosterone test, in conjunction with measuring other hormone levels, can help your health care practitioner understand what is causing your symptoms. Low testosterone   in women symptoms are also related to hormone levels in the woman’s body. Testosterone production in a woman is about 10% of the amount typically made by a man. Testosterone is produced primarily in a woman’s ovaries and adrenal glands. Along with the two other vital hormones — progesterone and estrogen — testosterone production declines as a woman ages. Low testosterone women may experience certain symptoms, the most notable symptom being low libido. However, low testosterone in women can also contribute to depression and osteoporosis.

What is Total Testosterone? 

Testosterone (the blood test more commonly authorized) tells how much testosterone is in the bloodstream all together. Some of that testosterone is bound to molecules such as SHBG (sex hormone binding globuline). When it’s bound, it does not create a physiologic sense of sexual desire. So, we also want to know about the free testosterone.

What is Free Testosterone?

Free testosterone is just that — free. It is not bound and therefore does provide some of the momentum for sexual desire based on hormones. So, knowing the free testosterone can lead the way to assessing the possible benefit of supplementing with testosterone. A woman receiving testosterone supplementation should always monitor levels with follow-up blood tests.

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Vaginal Dryness – A Little Talked about Subject

I  remember a while ago when  I suggested to the host of a radio show I co hosted on that I wanted to talk about vaginal dryness ,he seemed quite uncomfortable about it . Unfortunately that is true for many health care practitioners. Many fail to ask their patient if they have any issues and so many women suffer in silence. Only 15% of health care practitioners ask their patients about atrophy, even though most women would like to be asked about their sexual health. An estimated 50% of post menopausal women are affected with vaginal atrophy and only 7%  are receiving prescription treatment.Vaginal dryness makes women feel old interferes ,with quality of life, and has a negative effect on a woman’s sex life.

So the facts it is not if but when you will experience vaginal dryness during menopause.

There are many causes of vaginal dryness,menopause,medications,contraceptives,antibiotics, vaginitis,atrophy and auto immune diseases and diabetes.. A large percentage of women will develop vaginal problems such as dryness and changes in acidityand a decrease in natural bacteria, yeast infections and a decrease in the natural protective enzyme action, and changes in vaginal fluid and lubrication as they age.

Symptoms of vaginal atrophy include dryness burning, itching, painful sex, bleeding with intercourse, recurrent urinary tract infections and urinary frequency. These issues worsen over time and are not limited to women that are sexually active.

Natural non hormonal remedies include natural coconut oil, sea buckthorn oil probiotics; most vegetable oils .various lubricants are available for use as needed with intercourse. Moisturisers are available for long term use of vaginal atrophy such as Replens,Pre-Meno,avoid products containing propylene glycol,and parabens.

Hormonal estrogen is also available from a practitioner on prescription.Despite concerns of cancer vaginal estrogen is very low dose and not systemically absorbed to any extent and is considered safe for most women. It is available in the form of creams,rings,and tablets. Estradiol and estrone is available in North America. However estriol which has been shown to be more effective for urinary issues is available from your compounding pharmacist.

Lifestyle modifications are smoking cessation and increased sexual activity. Sounds like a good recommendation!

So talk to your health care practitioner about your sexual health today.

The Power of Cherries

So it’s that time of year when fruit is in abundance, let’s talk about one of my favourites and how they benefit your health.

Cherries have traditionally been recommended and used for gout prevention, and the medical studies have shown that uric acid drops after eating Bing Cherries. (Journal of Nutrition June 2003). Elevated uric acid triggers the excruciating pain of a gout attack, so this finding supports the potential usefulness of cherries against gout. Another study at the University of Texas health Science found that tart Montmorency cherries contain significant amounts of melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain’s pineal gland that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, to help regulate sleep and wake patterns. In addition research has shown that melatonin may slow the aging process. In higher doses it has also been used for breast cancer treatment, and low melatonin has been linked to breast cancer risks. Shift workers often have issues with sleep and melatonin. Also certain sleeping medications effect melatonin production. This hormone also has  strong antioxidant properties that help reduce inflammation and support the immune system. Maintaining high antioxidant levels lowers a person’s risk for disease, stimulates the immune system which also protects the nervous system. Antioxidant strength is measured in Oxygen Radical Absorbance (ORAC) units. The higher the ORAC score, the better a food is at helping our bodies fight disease. Nutritionists estimate that we should consume 3,000 to 5,000 units a day to reach an antioxidant capacity in the blood that would have health benefits. Tart cherries are one of the riches sources of flavonoids called anthocyanins, the plant pigment responsible for the rich red colour of cherries. Anthocyanins appear to have the greatest antioxidant capacity of all the flavonoids and have been linked to a variety of health benefits, from protecting against heart disease and cancer to keeping the mind sharp. Tart cherries are rich in phenolic compounds such as the potent antioxidants egallic acid, kaempferol, and quercitin. Scientific studies have shown that egallic acid is a potent anticancer and anti atherosclerotic compound, and that phenolic compounds, enhance cancer cell death. Michigan State University found that tart cherries contained high concentrations of anthocyanins 1 and 2, which help block enzymes in the body known as COX-1 and COX -2 the same process whereby medications like aspirin and ibuprofen inhibit pain. We now have a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the remarkable health benefits of tart cherries for inflammation, gout, sleep and anti cancer and immune protecting benefits.

So add some of these sweet cherries to your daily fruit intake today.

 

Chronic Stress and a Woman’s Body

When a woman experiences prolonged stress, pregnenolone, a hormone essential for both coping with stress and producing female hormones, is diverted from the normal hormone pathway. As a result, the production of female hormones is compromised. This condition can cause a multitude of symptoms including irritability, mood swings, headaches, sleeplessness, and weight gain.

Female hormone imbalances can be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It does not address the probable root cause: stress. Before a woman begins hormone therapy, it is necessary to assess whether her hormones are reacting to factors that are internal or external.

Stress plays a big part is reducing our levels of progesterone which results in … too much estrogen.

Here’s how: Progesterone is the “mother of all hormones.” It is the precursor and essential raw material out of which the body created ALL THE OTHER HORMONES. As the precursor to all the other hormones in the body, the adrenal glands and adrenal hormones are no exception. If you encounter a mildly stressful situation your body draws on its progesterone to produce the hormones (adrenal corticosteroids) to counteract it. These are the hormones that protect against stress. BUT, if your body is in a constant or permanent state of stress it can’t provide enough progesterone to be converted into anti-stress hormones and the result is adrenal exhaustion and no left over progesterone for other normal body functions.

Both high and low cortisol levels impact body systems and related hormones, particularly thyroid and testosterone. In times of high stress the adrenals will also “steal”progesterone from its reproductive duties to make extra cortisol, thus the imbalance of estrogen/progesterone. Energy, mood, bone muscle and sex drive are the casualties making us feel old before our time.

You can restore health and energy by supporting adrenals glands in a daily way:

  • engage in non-competitive gentle exercise.
  • avoid caffeine pick-me-ups.
  • drink plenty of water
  • eat mostly organic hormone-free food.
  • take anti-stress multi vitamins ( B complex & C)
  • avoid chemicals and pollutants
  • get enough sleep and take naps when needed
  • be open to love & laughter

Candida

Candidiasis is an infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida fungi especially Candida albicans. These fungi are found almost anywhere in the environment, and some may live harmlessly alongside with the abundant native species of bacteria that normally colonize in the mouth, the gastrointestinal tract and vagina. In these situations the overgrowth of Candida is prevented by the presence of the native bacteria and by the body’s immune defenses. If the population of the native bacteria is decreased, Candida fungi can multiply enough to cause symptoms.

Conditions caused by Candida;

  • Oral
  • Intertrigo ( inflammatory skin disease involving body folds)
  • Vulvovaginitis
  • Diaper rahes
  • Paronychia
  • Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis

Some of the most frequent Candida symptoms:

  • Abdominal gas
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Anxiety
  • Vaginitis
  • Rectal itching
  • Cravings for sweets
  • Inability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • PMS
  • Ear aches
  • Thrush
  • Sore throat
  • Acid reflux
  • Athletes foot

There is a variety of causes of Candida but the two leading contributors are a diet high in refined foods and the overuse of antibiotics. Taking acidophilus on a daily basis is one of the best defenses against yeast overgrowth and a healthy colon. During any treatment people may experience a temporary worsening of symptoms as the fungi die off. This is a normal part of the healing process. Candia is a really an insidious tricky yeast and once you have overgrowth it can be extremely difficult to get under control. It takes a lot of patience education and persistence.

Is it Menopause?

Are you experiencing problems with insomnia, changes in mood, irritability,decreased sexual libido, hot flashes or night sweats that interfere with sleep  or daily functioning? Are there memory or other cognitive problems? Are there palpitations,or anxiety, worsening of depression,or premenstrual symptoms? Are you suffering with vaginal dryness , urinary incontinence or increased urinary tract infections? Do you have increased joint pain?

All of these can be signs of declining hormones.

Although menopause is not officially diagnosed till you have not had a period for one full year,these symptoms may happen up to ten years prior and this is referred to as the “change’ or peri-menopause.

Knowing what to expect allows you to be prepared and learn about options to deal with these issues.

Bio identical hormones

This term refers to any hormone that exactly matches those made in the body naturally.Some people may think of theses as natural, however all hormones need to be synthesized in the lab, and all of them in Canada need a prescription for use. Most hormones bio-identical or synthetic as in birth control pills are made from yams or soy so they could be all considered natural source. Bio-identical hormones are estriol, progesterone, testosterone, estradiol, DHEA, cortisol, some are available commercially i.e. all forms of the estrogen patch, and micronized oral progesterone. They do not have to be compounded by a compounding pharmacy, however some such as testosterone for women,progesterone cream, and DHEA, are not available from a pharmaceutical company and need to be specifically made for a patient with a physician’s prescription.

Compounding also allows for strengths and formats not available commercially, and for tailoring individual therapy.Hormones synthetic or otherwise may carry risks for certain patients, however bio identical hormones may have advantages over synthetic ones.

Hormone testing,saliva,blood,urine?What’s the best way to test, do you need to test?

This needs to be discussed with your practitioner. However if you are having symptoms related to hormonal imbalances it may be useful to get hormone levels, to assess which hormones need to be replaced.Testing may also be needed for dosing, monitoring of treatment, and  to avoid side effects.

Blood urine and saliva may all be appropriate in different patients, and the form of hormones used.

Blood tests measure the hormones carried in the blood that include free and bound hormones,this is not always correlated to levels of hormones available to the tissues.

Hormones measured could include estradiol, estrone, estriol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA-S-, cortisol, FSH, and LH.

Salivary testing is non invasive and may be more convenient especially for testing cortisol levels through the day but is not covered by OHIP.

For more information please feel free to contact me.

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Osteoporosis-Not an Old Person’s Issue – Optimizing Bone Health

Osteoporosis is one of the  most prevalent diseases in North America. Literally it means porous bones. This effects the bone structure which becomes fragile and fractures. As we age our risk of fracture increases. It is estimated we have a lifetime 1 in 2 risk of having a fracture.Osteoporosis has a prevalence of 4% in women aged 50-59 but by the age of 80 has increased to 52%.After 50 the risk of a fracture doubles every 7-8 years. Fractures are not an insignificant event. Within one year of a hip fracture there is  25%increased mortality and significant loss of mobility.

So now you know about the disease.What are your risks? what can you do about preventing a fracture?

So here are the risk factors :

  • Non-modifiable
  • Advanced age
  • History of fracture as
  • an adult
  • Family history of hip fracture
  • Celiac disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Menopausal status
  • Sex
  • Modifiable
  • Low body weight/BMI
  • Smoking
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • High risk for falls
  • Excess alcohol intake >. 2 drinks a day
  • Low physical Activity
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Optimizing diet,lifestyles,minerals ,vitamins and supplements are a natural approach to bone health.

Lifestyle issues that need to be addressed are:

Adding weight bearing exercise to your daily activities at least 30 minutes. Yoga  for 10 minutes a day was found to be beneficial for bone maintenance.

Caffeine in the diet > 450mg (3 large mugs of coffee) was found to decrease bone density but only if calcium intake was low.My advice optimise calcium intake and keep the coffee to max 2 cups a day.

Soft drinks such as cola have been found to decrease bone density at an intake of> 4 colas a week, this effect was only found in women. This is due to the phosphoric acid in cola products.

Ensure adequate protein intake as this can lead to poor bone health.

Eat plenty of alkalinising vegetables in the diet to preserve bone strength.

Natural supplements, vitamins and minerals that can be used are as follows

Calcium is the primary mineral that most women think of for bone health. You probably already know how important calcium is for strong bones and teeth.  Making sure you get the right amount of calcium will help slow the rate of bone loss as you get older.  Most of bone building occurs by the mid-thirties, but it never stops.  Your bones are continually being “remodeled,” that is broken down and built up again.  The need to get the right amount of calcium never stops.

Calcium is also important for muscle and nerve function.  Your need varies depending on your age and whether you are male or female.  The current recommendations for post menopausal women are for a total of 1200mg from diet and supplements. Calcium has been found to fortify bones, and slow the rate of bone loss, Dietary sources are preferred, which may include dairy products, green leafy  vegetables, cruciferous vegetables,bony fish, tofu,nuts and seeds,black strap molasses.

However even more important is Vitamin D.Without it you will not absorb calcium. Vitamin is critical for healthy bones.  It aids in the process of bone mineralization and helps absorb calcium.  Vitamin D functions more like a hormone than a vitamin, but it is considered essential because some people don’t produce enough.  Vitamin D is produced in the skin cells when exposed to sunlight.  In areas where the sun doesn’t shine for extended periods of time, or for those who are home bound or bedridden, this can be a problem.  That’s when taking a dietary supplement is necessary.The recommendations from most experts now is 1000iu for all adults and some may need even more. Many women may benefit from having their Vitamin D levels measured. In my practice over 90% of women are not getting enough! If in doubt take at least the minimum of 1000iu.

Other nutrients are needed for healthy bones. Including Magnesium, omega 3’s (fish oils),Zinc,Manganese,Vitamin C,boron,and B vitamins specifically B6,B12,and folic acid. These all boost bone health and decrease the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Vitamin K is now known to play a significant role in bone health at a dose of 1mg daily,and is included in the North American Menopause(NAMS) guidelines.

Strontium is a mineral that has been found to increase bone density.

Isoflavones are plant phytoestrogens found in soy products and red clover. They decrease bone loss.

Conclusion,bone health is not an old woman’s concern. To prevent fractures and keep healthy bones lifestyle,diet,and supplements all need to be addressed now. It is never too late to improve dem bones!

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Probiotics – Good for Your Gut

So you’ve seen the advertisement, grocery shelves are loaded with fortified yoghourts but what exactly are probiotics? Should you be taking them?

Pro=for life,biotics=bacteria, so essentially they are live bacteria that are good for life. The body has more bacteria in it than cells.In fact 10 x the amount. They are live non-toxic bacteria beneficial to human health and play a crucial role in  not only the gastro-intestinal system but overall health as well. There is research linking probiotics to improvements in digestion, nutrient absorption, intestinal repair, and immune health. They have also been linked to prevention of diseases and cancer, and increasing overall cardio vascular health.

Fermented foods are part of most cultures lifestyles; such as yoghourt,sauerkraut,miso,and tempeh.

Probiotics ferment dietary substances such as fiber that our bodies can’t normally digest. They act as a natural detoxification system for our bodies and can regulate and help with constipation..They stimulate and fortify the the body’s own natural defenses so are part of a good immune strengthening strategy. Hence they have been found to help reduce respiratory infections and treat and prevent travellers diarrhoea. They are useful in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis. Also many women will get yeast infections  or diarrhea when prescribed an antibiotic, taking a supplement of probiotics can help prevent or reduce symptoms of diarrhoea, or yeast infections.

So what can reduce our natural host bacteria? Antibiotics, many chronic diseases,constipation,oral contraceptives,travel,aging,diet and food poisoning.

So how can you add probiotics to your diet? What supplements are available? adding fermented foods such as yoghurt are a good idea ,use organic and non sweetened when possible, or make your own. Supplements commonly contain popular species such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.Make sure when buying supplements to look for guaranteed potency throughout the shelf life, human strains and exact species. Clinical research as well with that particular brand. There are now many strains available with different indications check with your health care provider for your specific concerns.

There are many benefits of probiotics and they play a crucial role in your health make sure you are getting enough.