Blog

Understanding Secondary Amenorrhea

November 23, 2016
secondary amenorrhea, naturopathic doctor toronto, toronto naturopath, menstrual cycle

Fertility is a hot topic nowadays, especially as infertility is becoming increasingly common (especially among men). Women are now choosing to have children later in life to satisfy career and personal goals. They are also likely taking birth control whether it be the pill or an IUD to as a form of contraception, to postpone their family plans. Oftentimes, when a woman comes off her birth control her period may not return to normal, or it may not return at all. This is is known as secondary amenorrhea.

Secondary Amenorrhea

Secondary amenorrhea is defined as the absence of menstrual bleeding in a woman who has previously menstruated. It needs to occur for more than 3 months in the absence of pregnancy, lactation, hormonal contraception or menopause.

It may be influenced by toxins, estrogen deficiency, or premature aging. While the latter two may require more investigating by a licensed healthcare professional, there is a lot we can do to decrease our toxic exposure.

Decreasing Toxic Load

Women use at least 9 personal care products each day, and are therefore exposed to more than 120 chemicals! Some of them safe, but most of them likely not. Most of our food is packaged in plastic or cans containing BPA (even if it says BPA free!), and what we’re breathing in is not always high-quality air (especially in urban areas).

How to decrease your toxic exposure

  1. Assess your cosmetics: I love the Environmental Working Group’s website SkinDeep. While some Canadian products are not on the database, it will give you a good idea of bad cosmetic ingredients to look out for and avoid.

  2. Ditch your plastics: If they don’t contain BPA, they may contain the alternative BPS or even phthalates! These are known endocrine disruptors and have no redeemable qualities. Stick to glass or stainless steel when it comes to food and beverage storage.

  3. Avoid the Dirty Dozen: I get it, going organic can be pricey. That’s why I’ve started growing my own fruit and vegetables. But when I’m unable to do so (thank you Canadian winter!), I shop organic when for produce on the Dirty Dozen list.

  4. Add a plant: I live in Toronto, so it can be tough avoiding pollution. However, you can clean up your airspace by adding a couple of air-purifying plants in your home. I currently have a giant aloe plant to help get the job done.

Next Steps

You don’t need to go through secondary amenorrhea alone! It’s time to start talking about our hormonal health so not only we can normalize the conversation, but we can take action and get the help we need! If you have yet to experience a period since coming off hormonal birth control or are noticing irregular periods, be sure to implement these tips and book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor to learn about how Naturopathic Medicine can help! And the next time you’re on Instagram, proudly snap a picture of that vibrant aloe plant or organic lipstick!

PS. Now that you have a solid plan, please sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for more informative and useful content like this! I want to make sure that you have a good flow!

Fertility Smoothies: 5 Best Ingredients

fertility smoothie, fertility naturopath, toronto naturopath, period naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto

You should know 3 things about me: (1) My Vitamix is my favourite kitchen appliance (2) I prefer smoothies over juices and (3) Chinese medicine (TCM) is my favourite naturopathic modality. Certain foods that we incorporate in our diet can actually help optimize our fertility. Let’s talk about some TCM problem areas when it comes to fertility and how to correct them with ingredients to blend in our fertility smoothies!

YIN

Yin acts to cool, nourish, and moisten. When it becomes deficient, we tend to become warm and dry. This usually happens when we’re overworked, our diet isn’t nourishing our cells, sleep and exercise are low priority. Doesn’t this sound like every busy woman that we know?

SIGNS OF YIN DEFICIENCY:

  • Unusually warm body temperature

  • Little to no vaginal or cervical mucus (yes, you should be paying attention to this)

  • Scanty periods

  • Increased sex drive

Blueberries are great yin boosters because they are dark in colour, chock full of nutrients, and don’t stimulate your body. Add a handful of blueberries to a base of leafy greens and water and you got yourself the perfect yin boosting smoothie. Check out another one of my yin boosting smoothies!

YANG

Yang is the opposite to yin, it’s warm and active. When it becomes deficient we start to become cold, and it usually happens when we’re eating too much cold food, we live or work in a cold environment, and we’re not getting enough sleep (notice a theme?). When we’re too cold, our energy tends to stay still and it can’t move throughout the body to warm us up!

SIGNS OF YANG DEFICIENCY:

  • Miscarriages

  • Infertility

  • Pale menstrual blood

  • Watery period

  • Decreased sex drive

Ginger is warm, spicy, not to mention yellow – making it a fantastic yang food. To make the perfect yang smoothie, use fruit that is stored at room temperature because if your smoothie is too cold, you’re not going to achieve that yang boosting action.

QI

This is the energy that circulates throughout our body, and keeps us going! When it comes to fertility we need the qi to move the egg from the ovary all the way to the uterus. When our energy can’t move and becomes stagnated it’s usually due to stress.

SIGNS OF QI STAGNATION:

  • Painful periods

  • Irregular periods

  • Painful breasts

  • Abdominal cramps

Lemon juice is the sour little kick that we need to get everything moving! Stagnation can be kicked to the curb with a little sweet and a little sour. Pairing the lemon with pineapple and mango can lead to the best qi boosting smoothie.

BLOOD

Blood nourishes the uterus, something that we want because it creates the best environment for your baby to grow. Deficiency can happen when we’re not eating enough protein (specifically animal protein), our periods are too heavy, and we’re incredibly stressed and experience feelings of anger and frustration.

SIGNS OF BLOOD DEFICIENCY:

  • Scanty periods or no period

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Brittle nails

Beets are deep red, which helps build the blood. When it comes to nourishing our blood we want foods rich in phytonutrients. Adding carrots and spinach will help create the best blood deficiency smoothie (without having to blend a steak).

ESSENCE

Essence is directly related to our ability to reproduce. The lower our essence is, the harder it is to get pregnant. It becomes lowered through our monthly periods, the number of children we’re already had, as well as life’s general stressors!

SIGNS OF ESSENCE DEFICIENCY:

  • Delayed or late puberty

  • Irregular periods

  • Amenorrhea

  • Under developed secondary sexual characteristics (ex: breasts, body hair, hips)

  • Poor response to fertility drugs

Almond butter is terrific because nuts contain all the nutrition needed to grow a plant. Foods that nourish us will help build essence – so if you’re making a smoothie with high quality and whole ingredients, it’s going to do a lot of good in your body.

Next steps

Did you notice that you were deficient in any of these 5 areas? These area-specific fertility smoothies are great to add to your daily routine! When you’re ready to take it to the next step and correct these deficiencies, book an acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture can effectively target these areas and optimize your fertility so that your journey is happy and simple as possible.

PS. Now that you have a semi-solid plan, please sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for more informative and useful content like this! I want to make sure that you have a good flow! (PS. You also get 4 free smoothie recipes to support your cycle! How sweet is that?)

Source: Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine by Jane Lyttleton

Female Friday

October 7, 2016

fertility friday, fertility, bloor west, toronto, naturopathic doctor, naturopathic medicine, alexsia prioloThis time last year I was in Europe on my honeymoon. I wish I was exploring Lisbon’s hidden gems, driving between Berlin and Munich and counting all the windmills on the way, or eating another lemon sorbet in Monterosso – but alas, I am studying for yet another exam. A few years ago I started up Friday Five, a curation of different links I enjoyed over the week. This reboot called Female Friday, is going to specifically focus on women’s health because I want you to be well informed with everything involving you and your lady parts.

Figuring out when you’re fertile / Check out my latest video to figure out when you’re ovulating during your cycle.

Menstrual Cups Revival / I’m not the only one who listens to podcasts during my commute, right? Why I didn’t do this during my 10+ years of riding the TTC I’ll never know, but now is better than never. Stuff Mom Never Told You is one of my favourite podcasts, and I was so happy that they discussed menstrual cups. What I found most interesting was that the cups has to be marketed to the midwife/vegan/alt med practitioner first because other women weren’t likely to try it. Which is true in my personal experience! When I was at York, the sexual health team (of HealthEd) was giving away TONS of these and at that point in my life – I was 100% NOT interested. Even during Naturopathic Medical school I went back and forth on the decision to try. I caved last year, bought one, and never looked back!

Does the birth control pill cause depression? / It’s true, hormones can affect your mood. I’ve read the study which was in JAMA Psychiatry and it seems pretty robust. The authors did note that the women not taking any form of contraceptive, were also at risk for being diagnosed with depression or prescribed an antidepressant. The most concerning part was that teenage girls were more sensitive to depression than women aged 20-34. I’m interested in knowing how many teenagers are going on the pill to prevent pregnancy, versus going on the pill for other reasons such as painful periods, heavy periods, acne, etc. Because if we can treat these underlying period problems, what effect will that have on women and depression.

What men need to know / I remember teaching my husband about periods when we were in high school. I’m not sure how many men retain that information, but it is important for them to know. While they may or may not want to know about the follicular phase or luteal phase, it is important to both of you to know about ovulation.

Clue / After learning that my favourite period tracker was sharing my information with 3rd parties, I’ve decided to test out another period tracker app. Clue interested me the most because it has a great website with tons of information and it was created by a woman (which I’m always happy to support!). It’s much less pink and flowery and more minimalist (which I love!). I wish I could import over 2 years worth of period info, but c’est la vie. Let’s see how this one flows (get it?).

Naming your period / Does your period have a name? Or should I say, does it bother you enough to warrant a name?