Did you know that iron levels affect your mood? Not only can low iron cause fatigue because it’s responsible for transporting oxygen to your tissues, but it is also involved in the function and synthesis of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.Continue reading
Is it normal for your baby to cry? Well probably, and there is usually a good reason for it, like when your baby is hungry, has a dirty diaper, or is over tired. But, when you have tried fixing all of those things and the crying continues, then you might be dealing with something else…Continue reading
Given that heart disease affects millions of Canadians, it’s somewhat mystifying to me that we (health professionals) only seem to highlight the broad strokes of risk.
I think it’s fair to say that many people know that things like cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, diet, and exercise all have something to do with heart health. You may not understand what the relationship is, but you probably know it exists. It’s true; these factors are definitely important and improving them can make a huge difference.
But what about the other elements that can contribute to developing heart disease later on in life? We just don’t hear as much about them. Now, in all fairness, some of these things have only been recently identified. But that is not the case for all of them. Given that these circumstances aren’t rare, we should be doing a better job of getting the word out.
A quick note about risk factors
Remember that we’re talking about potential consequences, not definite ones. Having a risk factor for something means you are more likely to develop or experience that thing at some point. You may be a little more likely or a lot more likely. You may never experience it at all even if your chances were higher than someone else’s. I think of identifying and managing risk factors as better setting you up for success.
- Complications in Pregnancy
Pregnancy has been called a natural stress test. What the human body accomplishes and withstands during this time is simply amazing. But various complications aren’t that rare; it’s believed the issues below may occur in up to as many as 20% of pregnancies. If you’ve experienced these situations in any of your pregnancies, you’re at greater risk of developing heart disease later in life.1
- Preeclampsia or gestational hypertension
- Gestational diabetes
- Preterm delivery
- Delivering a small for gestational age (SGA) baby
- Early menarche (first period) and/or menopause
Hormones of all kinds are involved in heart health. Estrogen in particular plays an important role and both the timing, and lifetime exposure, seem to impact risk. Both starting *and* stopping your period early increase your chance of developing heart disease in the future.1
What does early mean?
- Premature menarche (< 10 years of age)
- Premature menopause (menopause < 40 years of age, due to premature ovarian failure or surgical/medical menopause)
- Early onset menopause (40-45 years of age)
- Inflammatory Disorders
Chronic inflammation increases cardiovascular disease risk. This seems to be particularly true in certain autoimmune conditions, termed immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs) such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.2
This risk relationship is actually fairly complicated and warrants in-depth discussion with your healthcare provider. Managing your condition by reducing inflammation is crucial, but certain anti-inflammatory drugs (such as NSAIDs and steroids) are problematic for heart health in other ways.
A particular note with rheumatoid arthritis is the presence of something called the “lipid paradox”. This paradox, observed during times of active disease (or flare up), consists of unexpectedly low cholesterol levels.3 Unfortunately this does not lead to lower risk and should not be mistaken for “good cholesterol levels”.
- Radiation Treatments
It is an unfortunate truth that some medical treatments create problems as they necessarily solve others. This can be particularly true in cancer care. Radiation therapy is used to treat a number of cancers including ones located in, and around, the chest such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer. In these cases, the proximity of the area being treated to the heart is problematic.4,5 Although the intensity of exposure has diminished over time as techniques have improved and safety measures better understood, that was not the case many years ago.
Although some radiotherapy side effects are obvious in the short term, it is the delayed effects I want to emphasize. Radiation-induced heart disease can manifest over time as damaged coronary arteries, valves, or the heart muscle itself. To complicate things, it isn’t uncommon for past cancer treatments to go unmentioned when discussing current health concerns, especially if the treatment was literally decades ago.
Where to Go from Here (aka wow, Alex, that was discouraging – what do I do now?)
As I often say, knowledge is power. If these situations are your situations, I hope you’re able to use that information to help put any pieces together you’ve been wondering about. I hope you feel more confident reaching out to your healthcare providers to discuss your circumstances. I hope that you feel motivated to be proactive in regards to the aspects of your cardiovascular health which can be supported. And there are so many!
You can “know your numbers”; staying on top of your cholesterol and blood pressure. You might feel extra incentive to work on those nutrition and exercise goals. You could decide this is the time to finally quit smoking.
The good news is that there are things you can do to head off your risk and improve your overall heart health. We may not be able to control all the things, but we sure can make a ton of difference overall.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Alexandra Verge, ND
1. Agarwala, A., Michos, E. D., Samad, Z., Ballantyne, C. M. & Virani, S. S. The Use of Sex-Specific Factors in the Assessment of Women’s Cardiovascular Risk. Circulation 141, 592–599 (2020).
2. Agca, R., Smulders, Y. & Nurmohamed, M. Cardiovascular disease risk in immune-mediated inflammatory diseases: recommendations for clinical practice. Heart 108, 73–79 (2022).
3. Myasoedova, E. et al. Lipid paradox in rheumatoid arthritis: the impact of serum lipid measures and systemic inflammation on the risk of cardiovascular disease. Ann Rheum Dis 70, 482 (2011).
4. Kirkham, A. A., Beaudry, R. I., Paterson, D. I., Mackey, J. R. & Haykowsky, M. J. Curing breast Cancer and killing the heart: A novel model to explain elevated cardiovascular disease and mortality risk among women with early stage breast Cancer. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 62, 116–126 (2019).
5. Nimwegen, F. A. van et al. Cardiovascular Disease After Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment: 40-Year Disease Risk. Jama Intern Med 175, 1007–1017 (2015).
Even before 2020, many of us were flirting with burnout. Pile on the five million ways the last two years have been extra challenging, and I suspect many of us are not just flirting with it, we’re full-on setting up house. Here’s a reflection on things that have resonated in my world, to soften burnout’s edges with the hope that you find them useful too.Continue reading
Growing numbers of people are dismayed to discover they didn’t leave acne behind when they finished high school. Yes, it might seem like a cruel joke, but it’s possible to have pimples and wrinkles at the same time. In fact, 54 percent of women over 25 experience some acne. And unfortunately, these numbers are expected to increase.
What’s behind the rise in problem pimples?
Although we tend to associate acne with the angst-ridden adolescent years, in actuality many of the factors that contribute to teenage acne are still at play as we age. In particular, stress and hormonal fluctuations can wreak havoc on our skin – and many of us these days do experience that magical combination of hormonal changes and lifestyle stress.
Stress and acne: a vicious cycle
The relationship between stress and breakouts can quickly become a vicious cycle. When our bodies feel stress, our adrenal glands respond by producing more of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as small amounts of testosterone. These cause the oil glands in the skin to produce more sebum, which can raise the risk of skin infections and pimples. Of course, when we notice pimples appearing, we feel more stress. Add to that the fact that many of us can’t resist the temptation to pick and spread any bacteria present, and you have the formula for ongoing acne outbreaks.
The emotional and financial burden of adult acne
Finding a solution for adult acne can feel like a quest for the impossible. Consider this: acne costs Americans an astounding $15 billion a year in related products and services. Perhaps ironically, we seem to be surrounded by skin care marketing that promises to clear up all skin issues and restore a flawless, youthful glow. But many of these products can actually worsen inflammation.
It all adds up to frustration. It’s no wonder that 95 percent of people with acne say the skin condition has affected their lives, with 63 percent citing lower self-confidence.
How can you treat adult acne?
The simple truth is that treatment has to start from within. Instead of seeking a “magic bullet” skin cream, it’s often best to start with a bit of self-reflection. For example, try tracking outbreaks to see if they coincide with your hormonal cycle, with other symptoms, with specific foods, or with stressful periods in your life.
Reduce stress to tackle breakouts
Think of ways you can reduce the stressors around you. Yoga and meditation have been proven to reduce stress, and ayurvedic tradition holds that many yoga poses may help with acne.
In addition, don’t forget one of the most essential parts of stress management: adequate sleep! (Just make sure your pillow cases are always clean.)
The food you eat affects your skin
Much research remains to be done on the impact of diet on acne, but it’s been confirmed that the quality of the food we eat is reflected in our skin. Ultimately, you’re the best test subject for which foods affect your complexion, since people can react differently to various foods. Keeping a food diary and reviewing it with your healthcare practitioner is a good starting point.
A sensible approach is to eat a healthy, whole-foods based diet, opting for antioxidant-rich foods whenever possible. (And yes, that can include dark chocolate for many!) Antioxidants can reduce inflammation and destroy harmful free radicals.
In addition, studies have shown the following nutrients may have a positive effect on the health of your skin:
- Zinc The anti-inflammatory and immune supporting properties of zinc can help relieve the irritation of acne. Some research shows that taking a zinc supplement may even reduce acne scars. When it comes to your diet, zinc rich foods include beef and shellfish, especially oysters, and vegetarian sources like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
- Omega-3 Fats Not only can omega-3 fats soothe red and irritated skin thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, they can also help regulate hormones. Omega-3 fats can be found in nuts, flax, hemp seeds, and many types of fish. Supplements containing fish oil or a vegan blend are also an excellent way to benefit from the acne-fighting powers of Omega-3. (It might seem as if oil will make acne worse, but remember that the goal is to tackle hormonal imbalance, and healthy fats are vital building blocks for hormones.)
- High Fibre Foods Eating food with a lot of fibre can help control your blood sugar by slowing down absorption and keeping you fuller longer. This helps to curb acne breakouts since healthy blood sugar levels can influence cortisol production. Aim for plenty of green veggies with each meal!
- Stay Hydrated You may have noticed that your skin loses some luster when you’re dehydrated – it’s important to drink plenty of water to keep your skin cells healthy and resilient.
- Green Tea In addition to water, don’t hesitate to pour yourself a cup of green tea. Studies show green tea can decrease sebum production. Plus, this delicious beverage is high in antioxidants!
Acne creams that work
A more natural approach to moisturizing and nourishing your skin may be helpful, as many people react to the chemicals, perfumes and preservatives in skin creams. Natural oils such as jojoba, which has similar properties to the sebum produced by your skin, may work better to keep your oiliness in check than the drying benzoate creams of your youth. However be cautious when adding essential oils to your regimen as some can be a little harsh on sensitive skin.
Talk to your healthcare provider for guidance if you are having difficulty finding the right skincare solution. A number of effective remedies are available, but you want to make sure to pick a treatment that works for your particular skin.
Hormonal Adult Acne
Treating adult acne at the root cause can help you deal with this often-frustrating issue in a more permanent way, and often the more stubborn cases come down to a hormonal imbalance. Whether you’re in your 20s or firmly in perimenopause, work with an naturopathic doctor to look at your full hormonal picture, and find the right plan to bring your hormones, and your skin, back in balance.
What worked in high school for clearing up your pimples might not be as effective as an adult, because as we get older the reasons for breakouts change. So if you see pimples developing, remain calm and take a focused look at the lifestyle factors that could be contributing.
If you have done what you can and are ready for professional guidance on skin-friendly treatments, come into the office! Together we can look at your diet, coping mechanisms, and other possible contributors. Adult acne doesn’t have to be frustrating.
Should you be concerned about your cognitive health? Consider these facts:
- Currently, dementia affects between five and eight percent of adults over 60. As the average age of the population rises, that could add up to an astounding 150 million people with dementia worldwide by 2050.
- Dementia is more complex than most people realize. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, it is certainly not the only one (vascular dementia is #2 for example).
- Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) happens when someone experiences enough impairment to be noticeable, but not enough for a dementia diagnosis. People with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease (but not necessarily)
Everyone experiences some moments of “brain fog” from time to time, whether they’re trying to find their keys or are struggling to remember a name. As we age, these little moments of forgetfulness can become more worrying. And in fact, the very earliest signs of dementia can start up many years before symptoms become troublesome. However, forgetfulness does not equal memory loss. Not only that, but stress, fatigue, and nutritional deficiencies can all contribute to cognitive issues, even without dementia.
The good news is that foggy thinking and poor memory aren’t necessarily a “normal” part of aging. Significant cognitive decline is not inevitable! And the steps to supporting our brain health can also help the rest of our bodies – further evidence that everything is connected when it comes to our optimum health!
So what can you do to maintain peak mental fitness? Check out these tips.
Get enough sleep
A great deal of research supports a link between brain health and adequate sleep. Scientists think the relationship may work both ways: not getting enough sleep can lead to cognitive decline, but cognitive decline can also cause sleep problems. Either way, the best approach is to be proactive. For example, avoid substances like caffeine or alcohol before bed. Practice good sleep hygiene by sleeping in a cool, quiet room and pay attention to when the body wants to sleep. Talk to a healthcare provider if sleep issues interfere with daily living. You may also find that following the other tips on this list help with sleep – didn’t I mention that it’s all connected?
Focus on a plant-rich whole foods diet with plenty of healthy fats
Good nutrition fuels our brain. Processed, low-nutrient foods can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress. The Mediterranean diet is considered a good example of a diet that covers the bases relating to brain health. And since up to 90 percent of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our gut, what we eat can have a profound impact on our emotions and the way we think. In addition, having adequate “good” bacteria in our gut can reduce the inflammation throughout our bodies, so it’s important to eat with this in mind as well.
Some important nutrients for brain health include:
- Vitamin K: To boost Vitamin K intake, focus on leafy greens, such as spinach or kale.
- Omega 3: Look for fatty fish and plant-based sources like flax seeds, hemp seeds, or walnuts.
- Flavonoids: These phytonutrients are found in many fruits and vegetables, particularly brightly coloured, flavourful foods like strawberries and blueberries.
Move to keep your brain active
Exercise is a must when it comes to brain health. Not only can cardio activities like swimming and walking ease stress, but physical activity can also increase the size of the hippocampus. That’s the part of our brain responsible for verbal memory, among other important functions.
Which exercise is best? The best activity is always the one you’re most likely to do, but experts say to strive for 75 minutes of intense activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. As an added bonus, exercise can help you sleep!
You’re never too old to learn something new. In fact, acquiring new knowledge can help keep your brain young. One study found that adults who learned a “complex skill” such as quilting or basic coding had improved memory function after only three months. And knowing a second language (even if you learn it late in life) can help slow memory loss.
You’ve probably noticed that when you’re stressed, your thought process isn’t as clear as it is when you’re relaxed. Scientists confirm that even short-term stress can affect the hippocampus. It’s important to note that most studies refer to a relationship between perceived stress and memory. We all have negative events in our lives and some of these can’t be avoided. But we can change how we react to them and how we deal with daily stress. It’s possible to reframe the stress of daily life and change how we perceive it. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, having fun, and cognitive therapy are all effective ways to reduce our feelings of stress.
It’s important to remember that there isn’t a “magic bullet” solution to protect your brain function. As with all elements of well-being, maximum health is the result of a holistic approach. By taking conscious steps to protect your brain health, you can minimize memory loss down the road.
Lastly, proper brain function is also linked to hormonal balance. Having an imbalance of your cortisol levels, estrogen, melatonin, pregnenolone, testosterone or thyroid can all contribute to memory loss, confusion, and issues concentrating. Testing and treatment for imbalances can help get your brain working at peak function again.
Please visit the office if you have questions about your brain health! And if you’ve noticed any symptoms that worry you, it’s important to check them out right away.
Are you enjoying the final stretch of 2018? For many this is a fantastic and fun time of the year. Unfortunately, it can also a difficult period for maintaining healthy habits (among other things). Check out our list of the top 10 ways to stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.
1. Reframe your holiday expectations. Consider this: If you think of the holidays as an exhausting test of your endurance, and holiday treats as evil temptations to be resisted with all available willpower, how will your body react? That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but many patients come into the office at this time of the year showing signs of anxiety and tension. In fact, one study found that 90 percent of adults feel stressed over the holidays. Isn’t this supposed to be a joyous time?
These high stress levels may be at least partly attributed to the fact that many of us simply have more to do at this time of the year. Because we have more tasks to keep track of (even if those tasks are going to parties, buying gifts, and other fun stuff), our brain’s prefrontal cortex is overtaxed. This can affect our memory and overall ability to cope. Add in the extra pressure of maintaining a ‘perfect’ diet and workout schedule, and you have a recipe for sleep problems, digestive difficulties, and tense muscles – all of which can add to our stress. And when we’re stressed, we tend to make choices we might not otherwise. You can see why holiday stress can create a vicious cycle of guilt.
Reframing our expectations that we need have a ‘perfect’ holiday while staying disciplined can end the frustration. So don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go as planned. In the long run, our happiest memories are sometimes the ones when things didn’t go as we’d pictured them, or the times we slowed down to take in the moment. Letting go of expectations of perfection (from ourselves and others) will ultimately help our health.
2. Play games. If you get together with family or friends in the next weeks, why not introduce a low-tech way to have some old-fashioned fun by playing board or card games? Board games can also offer cognitive benefits – not that you need an excuse to start rolling the dice.
3. Stay mindful. A mindfulness practice has obvious benefits when we’re extremely busy. Even if you’re not a regular meditator, just five minutes a day of meditation can help you cope with holiday stress. And why not share the love? Suggest a short meditation or prayer before holiday meals. It can set the tone for a peaceful celebration. Studies show that group meditation can have powerful results.
4. Get moving. Fitting in some exercise can be easier when you mix it up by with physical social activities with loved ones. Snowshoeing, making snowmen, skating for those in the cold climates: there are plenty of options. If you’re not a cold-weather person, try bowling or a trip to the pool. You may not end up with six-pack abs (and who cares), but you might start a new holiday tradition. Suggesting fun activities for social gatherings also helps take the focus off food.
5. Cook up some love. Looking for a unique gift idea? Want to stay away from the mall and its atmosphere of seemingly relentless consumerism? Try baking some holiday gifts. For example, put some homemade sweet and spicy holiday almonds into a fancy jar. Or wrap up a box of vegan hazelnut cups or even start making some natural soaps as gifts, it’s easy and fun.
6. Go green. When you’re thinking about ways to keep your body healthy over the holidays, don’t forget that the planet deserves love too. It’s easy to have a green holiday season (even if it’s snowing). Use recycled wrapping paper (or newspaper/flyers), serve food on real plates (not paper), and consider turning the heat down a degree or two for large gatherings (maybe you’ll encourage guests to bring out their tacky holiday sweaters). To conserve electricity, use LED lights only, and defrost your freezer before you load it up with holiday baking.
7. Learn to say no. This is a tough one! However sometimes refusing a social invitation or a request to do work is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. If you find it hard to turn down an invitation or request, remember that you don’t have to apologize. Decline right away and resist the urge to make up an elaborate excuse. Suggest an alternative activity or a later date – but only if you really want to.
8. Keep your gut healthy. Sugar laden holiday treats, cocktails, and parties galore can really put a damper on your gut health. The addition of extra sugar lowers both your immune system and can lead to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Keep up on your probiotics or enjoy more fermented foods during this time. Also remember to chew well and avoid eating on the run.
9. Start some healthy food traditions. The internet is bursting with healthy holiday recipes. Think about your loved ones’ food preferences and find some yummy dishes to bring to gatherings. Want to try some delicious vegan versions of some typical holiday foods? Check this out. Other guests might thank you for providing an alternative to Aunt Mary’s special salad! Try replacing carb heavy side dishes with healthy ones like Rutabaga and Carrot Mash or Creamy Butternut Squash and Thyme. And remember it’s always OK to say no.
10. Be grateful. The holidays don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we have to go to work instead of eating great meals. Sometimes we miss people who are no longer in our lives. It’s normal to experience sadness at this time of the year. Acknowledge your feelings and be gentle with yourself. Take some time to think of the good things (even if they’re not always picture-perfect). Grateful people experience better sleep, more optimism, and improved relationships. And we could all use a bit of that at this time of the year.
Happy New Year from all of us! We look forward to working with you to create a fulfilling and healthy start to 2019.
You’re careful about your health. You do your best to eat well, and you pay attention to the ways that your diet affects your energy levels. But something seems off. You’re experiencing annoying symptoms that you can’t explain. You’re often gassy and bloated, your skin may not be clear and glowing anymore, you may be ready for a nap after a meal, and you wish you could remember where you put your keys. Why does your memory feel so foggy?
These issues are frustrating (and often embarrassing). They’re also very common. Many patients come to see us with healthy lifestyles, but are baffled by continuing digestive issues, mysterious rashes, and low energy levels. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a good look at your diet. Even a healthy food can make you feel sick if your body is sensitive to it. For many, the mystery of what foods are potentially a problem becomes both frustrating and overwhelming.
But good news! You may not have to look very far to make changes that relieve your symptoms. With a bit of detective work, and a bit of help, you can map out a dietary plan that restores your wellbeing.
What are the Symptoms of Food Reactions?
Food reactions can be tricky to figure out. One reason is that there are multiple types of reactions to investigate. A partial list includes: true allergies (e.g. anaphylactic reaction to peanut), intolerances (e.g. lactose intolerance), chemical reactions (e.g. sulfite sensitivities), infections (food poisoning), auto-immune conditions (e.g. celiac) and sensitivities. In addition, there’s no one-size-fits-all description of the way our bodies react. Symptoms vary from person to person and can even be different depending on what else is happening in your body. For example, you might respond differently at different stages of your menstrual cycle or to varying quantities of the offending food.
Although we consider all potential reactions when investigating your issues with foods, sensitivities are tricky to identify since they are less obvious than some.
Food reactions (and particularly sensitivities) can cause/worsen:
- Bowel problems
- Sinus infections
- Autoimmune diseases
- Sore joints
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Brain fog
- Many other symptoms
Another reason why food sensitivities are often missed is that these symptoms can be delayed up to 24 hours after a meal, so many people don’t make the connection between what they ate and how they feel.
Similarly, it’s difficult to measure how many people suffer from food sensitivities because a lot of us don’t seek medical help, figuring that it’s normal to feel gassy and tired much of the time. In fact, some medical practitioners can be skeptical about food sensitivity symptoms, which can lead to frustration for patients. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What Contributes to Food Sensitivities?
What is the root cause of food sensitivities? And why are they becoming increasingly common?
We believe there are many potential reasons:
- Eating the same food over and over: The gut loves variety and is healthiest when many different foods are eaten regularly. Simply eating cheese, wheat and eggs all the time (for example) might increase the risk that you develop a sensitivity to one of them.
- Antibiotics and other drugs that alter gut health: Many medications can change the digestive environment and alter our ability to digest and absorb, leading to difficulties with certain foods over time. These may include antibiotics, acid reducers, and anti-inflammatories.
- Poor diet: A diet high in processed foods, sugar, chemicals, coffee, or alcohol can contribute (to varying degrees) to inflammation of the gut lining and the risk of developing a food sensitivity through altered digestibility.
- Dysbiosis: When you have low beneficial bacteria or an overgrowth of problematic fungal or bacterial species, digestion and food reactivity can take a hit.
- Poor eating habits: Eating too fast, eating on the run, not chewing properly, or regularly eating too much can stress the GI tract’s ability to properly process your foods – it can be as simple as this!
Which Foods Can Cause Food Sensitivities? (Answer: Pretty Much Any of Them.)
Uncovering food sensitivities can be tough. Among other things, research suggests that food sensitivities can be a trigger for disordered eating in some people. After all, if food is causing you pain, but you’re not sure which foods are to blame; it’s easy to associate your diet with negative experiences. In addition, at times what seems like a food reaction is something else altogether and unnecessarily eliminating foods challenges nutrition. As a result, seeing a medical professional is a good idea if you suspect your food may be making you feel unwell — medical supervision can also ensure your approach to food remains healthy and balanced.
How Can You Treat Food Sensitivities?
Food sensitivities are treated in this way:
- Testing – there are several techniques that can be used to identify problem foods including the gold standard: the elimination challenge diet.
- (Temporarily) remove all problem foods while:
- improving diet overall
- healing the irritated and inflamed gut
- Once symptoms are improved, we explore returning foods to the diet to uncover which one(s) continue to be a problem, and must be avoided (at this time), and which ones can be happily added back.
Uncovering food sensitivities is a truly valuable medical journey for many patients.
To your best health!
You love your partner(s), but your libido is low. Between late nights, early mornings, work stress, family obligations, and a million other balls in the air, there is little time and energy left for sex. But relationships change, and sex drive softens as we age… so, it’s perfectly normal, right?
It can be, but not necessarily. In fact, some reports suggest that our best love-making years are the ones that may lie ahead of us. A recent survey of 5,000 singles of all ages, ethnicities and income levels across the U.S. revealed that the best sex happens between the ages of 64 and 66. It is at this time that our youthful self-consciousness wears off, communication becomes more comfortable, and greater creativity is embraced. So, if others are having the best sex of their lives as they grow older and this is something that has changed for you (and you’re unhappy about it), perhaps it’s worth considering why?
There are a number of factors that impact libido. One of the biggest influences is hormonal. Hormones affect so many different parts of the body that when one aspect is out of sync, it can cause a complex brew of issues. Hormones that specifically have an impact on libido include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Estrogen & Progesterone
When our bodies slow down on progesterone production, the balance between progesterone and estrogen can change, potentially contributing to low libido. This can happen naturally during perimenopause, but it can also be brought on by stress.
Yes, stress can actually throw your hormonal balance out of whack. When we’re running top speed on life’s hamster wheel, we produce an excess of cortisol – our stress hormone. The spike in our cortisol levels can then end up blocking our progesterone receptors. The irony is that sex can actually be a huge stress buster for many.
Symptoms of a sub-optimal progesterone can include decreased clitoral sensitivity, vaginal dryness, loss of vaginal muscle tension, as well as more general mood killers like fatigue, headaches, and depression. Interestingly, a lack of estrogen can also cause similar symptoms. If any combination of these issues sounds familiar to you, it might be your hormones blocking your path to pleasure.
If you’ve always thought testosterone was only important for some, think again. Reduced testosterone levels can have an impact on libido for folks of all genders.
In women, testosterone is what gives orgasms their oomph, heightening the sexual experience. As you can imagine, low testosterone is going to have the opposite effect, reducing sexual desire and satisfaction. Low testosterone levels can also result in lethargy, depression, and muscle weakness. In post-menopausal years, reduced ovarian function and hormone imbalances can reduce the amount of testosterone that is produced.
Meanwhile, testosterone levels in men gradually decline with age. Testosterone deficiency not only diminishes libido and causes erectile dysfunction, but it can also result in a wide range of other symptoms including anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, poor memory, and reduced muscle and bone mass. And take note that low testosterone levels can be found at all ages.
One of the reasons people often associate a low libido with aging is due to the decrease in energy that comes with getting older. The same could be said about life after kids. For many reasons over time, our sleep patterns can be interrupted with more frequent awakenings. The libido-crushing effects of a poor-quality sleep and feeling sleepy and irritable can happen to any of us. Those who suffer from insomnia, irregular sleep patterns, or have sleep apnea may also relate.
In one study, sleep apnea was shown to have an impact on testosterone levels in men. And as mentioned before, fatigue and lethargy can also be a result of hormonal imbalances. You see, when it comes to our bodies, everything is connected, which is why it is so important to think of our health as a whole and not in separate parts. In order for us to get better, we need to identify and treat the cause, not just the symptoms.
Solutions for a Low Libido
1. Get Your Hormone Levels Checked
Our bodies are constantly changing, and the longer we ignore symptoms, the more out of balance we can get. When it comes to conditions brought on by our hormones, there is no reason why we have to “learn to live with it”. Start by getting your hormone levels tested properly in order to identify if an imbalance might be at play. Hormonal support options exist and can help get you back on track to feeling like yourself again.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Sure, “mindfulness” might sound like a cure-all buzzword, but there is a lot of truth to its power. Mindfulness, whether practiced through meditation, yoga or other means, helps us to reduce stress. When we reduce stress, we lower our cortisol levels. And as we already know, when our cortisol levels spike, it has a way of messing a lot of things up inside our bodies.
A moment of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By starting each morning with a few minutes alone in quiet reflection, we can set the stage for a better day, and more easily ground ourselves when life begins to get busy.
Let’s not forget that a more mindful day can also help lead to a more restful night. According to the Journal of Sex and Medicine, getting just one more hour of sleep per night could increase your libido by 14 percent.
3. Dietary Supplements
There are a lot of supplements out there that purport to help libido and “performance”. This is definitely a buyer-beware scenario, as many unregulated products (those without an NPN or licenced Natural Health Product Number) found in health food stores are often adulterated or simply not helpful.
That said, depending on the root cause, there are some potentially helpful tools. Things like maca, saffron, and even watermelon (!) have been studied in relation to libido and performance.
So. Do you feel that you’ve lost your mojo? Fear not. We can help you get it back. If you have been experiencing a low sex drive or suspect imbalanced hormones might be at play in other areas of your life, please do not hesitate to contact us at Kura. We can help rebalance your system naturally. Low libido can affect your enjoyment of life and your relationships – if you feel that’s the case, let’s talk.
What gives you a headache? I’m sure any number of factors come to mind. The most common type of headaches are tension headaches which are often brought on by stress. And who hasn’t felt the stuffy sting of sinus pain? Then there are those awful migraines, the angriest of the headaches, accompanied by a suite of symptoms including nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, and/or sensitivity to bright lights, loud noise and strong odours. Sometimes smells can even trigger a migraine!
Did you know there are 150 different types of headaches?
A headache is always a good indicator that something is off with your body. They can be triggered by a wide variety of factors that are usually easy to pinpoint by tuning in to your body and its needs.
Common Headache Triggers
Research shows that water-deprivation headaches are among the most common types of headaches people experience. Just think, how often do you fall short of the daily recommended eight glasses of water? Staying hydrated not only helps to keep headaches at bay, but it also improves concentration and helps prevent irritability.
Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced a stress or a tension headache. You’re barely treading water, with too much to do and not enough hours in the day. Your baby just won’t stop screaming, but you need to get the grocery shopping done. Your boss is in a foul mood — again. Your head begins to pound. Stress happens. It’s not always easy to avoid a tension headache, but taking a mindful approach to life, whether through yoga, meditation, or gratitude journaling, can help us to manage stress better when those tricky moments arise.
We all know how alcohol can trigger a headache – especially when combined with dehydration, resulting in the dreaded hangover. But have you ever been drinking diet pop and suddenly felt headache-y afterward? You wouldn’t be alone. Aspartame and caffeine can also act as dietary triggers that lead to headaches. Other food intolerances known for influencing headaches include monosodium glutamate (a.k.a. MSG), nitrates found in processed meats, tyramine (a natural chemical that’s also found in processed meats), as well as aged cheese; pickles and olives; snow peas, fava and broad beans; and nuts.
Other foods that can trigger migraines for some include bread and pastries, cultured dairy products and yes, even chocolate. Moderation is key, as well as taking note of what you were eating before a headache/migraine occurred, sometimes even days before.
Oh, those hormones sure have a way of impacting all areas of our bodies, don’t they? Is it any wonder that they could also be to blame for headaches too? Truth is, elevated estrogen levels can have an impact on the frequency and severity of headaches in both women and men. It is why women are three times more likely to experience a migraine than men. If you experience headaches or migraines on a regular basis, it is worth speaking to your healthcare practitioner about getting your hormone levels tested. Getting back into balance won’t only help your headaches, it can also change your life.
Natural Headache Treatments
Essential oils – A wide variety of essential oils can have a calming effect on headaches and also help to soothe migraines. Some good options include lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils.
Herbs – Butterbur extract Petadolex and feverfew are two herbal remedies that have long been used to help treat headache pain; however, like with most herbal supplements, it is important to consult the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure you are taking them safely and effectively.
Yoga – Yoga is proven to be among the most effective forms of self-care to help reduce headaches. In fact, one study actually demonstrated a significant reduction in migraine headache frequency when yoga was practiced regularly over a period of just three months.
Visit your Chiropractor or RMT – Sometimes the root of your issue starts well below the neck and you just need to get your body back in line, literally. Encouraging results have been seen in a variety of studies, suggesting that a visit to your chiropractor and/or RMT can help to reduce migraines. Participants in these studies have rated the results between good to excellent versus no treatment, mobilization, and ice.
Acupuncture – If you suffer from frequent headaches and want to avoid popping pills on a regular basis, you might wish to consider acupuncture. One study showed that after 3 to 4 months of treatment, patients receiving acupuncture had higher response rates and fewer headaches, with results that were possibly more effective than prophylactic drug treatment – and with fewer adverse side effects.
Headaches are common, but they don’t have to be. If you feel like you’re getting more than your fair share and are having trouble pinpointing the issue, please do not hesitate to contact us by calling (519) 766-9759 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work to identify your triggers and solutions together.
Dr. Alexandra Verge, ND