Seed cycling is a wellness practice which involves consuming specific seeds during the two main phases of your menstrual cycle (follicular and luteal) to help promote the healthy balance of sex hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone. Sex hormones require specific nutrients for their structure and function, and by alternating the type of seeds consumed according to the phases of the menstrual cycle, the body is provided with the vital nutrients it needs to synthesise the relevant sex hormones.
Seed cycling is a gentle, natural way to support the restoration or maintenance of a regular menstrual cycle, reduce PMS symptoms, improve fertility and alleviate other symptoms that arise because of hormone imbalance. Seed cycling can be used at any stage of a woman’s life (including post-menopause); however, it is particularly beneficial when coming off hormonal birth control or when struggling with post-birth-control symptoms including acne, irregular or missing periods and PMS.
To better understand the practice of seed cycling, you first need to understand the two main phases of your menstrual cycle. The first half of your menstrual cycle (menstruation to ovulation) makes up the follicular phase, while the second half of your cycle (ovulation to menstruation) makes up the luteal phase. The lengths of these two phases can vary between individuals. When your hormone levels are well-balanced, oestrogen levels rise during the follicular phase and slowly decline during the luteal phase, while progesterone rises during the luteal phase.
FOLLICULAR PHASE (MENSTRUATION TO OVULATION)
Flax seeds – ground, 1–2 tbsp/day
Flax seeds are a great source of phytoestrogens and lignans which help to regulate oestrogen levels by increasing oestrogen activity where deficient (phytoestrogens) and competing with oestrogen activity where there is an excess (lignans).
Pumpkin seeds – ground 1–2 tbsp/day
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc which is required for the formation of the corpus luteum, responsible for the synthesis and secretion of progesterone as we move towards the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Zinc is also important for regulating androgen levels, including testosterone.
LUTEAL PHASE (OVULATION TO MENSTRUATION)
Sunflower seeds – ground, 1–2 tbsp/day
Sunflower seeds are high in the trace mineral selenium which supports the detoxification and elimination of oestrogen via the liver. This helps to reduce excess oestrogen during the luteal phase, while progesterone rises.
Sesame seeds – ground, 1–2 tbsp/day
Sesame seeds are another rich source of zinc which helps increase the synthesis and secretion of progesterone. However, they also contain lignans which help to block excess oestrogen while progesterone rises.
Additionally, flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are all very rich sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids which combat the inflammation that can be associated with pain and cramping during ovulation and menstruation.
SEED CYCLING TIPS AND TRICKS
It is recommended that you consume 1–2 tbsp/day of the specific seed in a ground form.
Raw organic ground seeds really are best. Buy organic, whole seeds rather than pre-ground seeds and grind them yourself using a coffee or spice grinder as this helps your body to digest them better. Being raw organic seeds, they are more likely to have retained their nutrients and haven’t been exposed to chemicals and pesticides which can be disruptive to hormone levels.
If you are unable to grind the seeds, incorporate them whole. Whole seeds are better than no seeds, with the exception of flax seeds which cannot be broken down or absorbed if consumed whole.
Once ground, store any excess in an air-tight glass container in the fridge to preserve the omega-3 essential fatty acids and prevent them from becoming oxidised.
Track your cycle. It is best to rotate seed consumption with your unique menstrual cycle and to do this you need to track your cycle.
Some creative ways to incorporate seeds into your diet include:
adding seeds to smoothies, yogurt, oats/porridge, muesli, granola etc
making your own muesli or granola with seeds
sprinkling seeds on top of toast, nourish bowls, salads or soups
making your own seed butter
adding seeds to homemade dips.
Balancing hormones can be a lengthy process. You need to allow a minimum of 3–4 cycles of consistent seed cycling before expecting changes to occur. Hormone balance is also a delicate and complex process. While seed cycling is very effective, it can often be beneficial to work with a naturopath, who can determine exact hormone imbalances and prescribe additional treatment to further optimise hormonal balance.
Would you like help balancing your hormones? Get in touch with us by making a booking with one of our naturopaths today!
“Did you know that being more ‘fertile’ can actually improve your health and wellbeing?” —Dr Nat Kringoudis
Ovulation is a sign of health. It is how we make oestrogen and progesterone, both of which have amazing health benefits. Let’s dive right in and see what all the fuss is about!
Oestrogen is needed to stimulate luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), both of which work together to trigger ovulation and stimulate the production of fertile mucous.
We need sufficient oestrogen to ovulate, and we need to ovulate to make oestrogen.
Oestrogen is your ‘get up and go’ hormone as it boosts neurotransmitters including serotonin (important for wellbeing and happiness) and dopamine (important for motivation and pleasure). If your libido has exited the building, you might have an issue with oestrogen.
For those of you who like to look good (and who doesn’t?), oestrogen has beautifying effects too, including softening our skin, mucous membranes and blood vessels. It also keeps our bones nice and strong. If you struggle with vaginal dryness, recurrent UTIs, skin issues or weight gain, there is a chance you may have a relative oestrogen deficiency. These symptoms are common in perimenopause and menopause, but you might be surprised to learn they are also quite common in younger women, especially those who are on the pill (more on this below).
One of oestrogen’s best-known roles is thickening the endometrium, which is why women with excess oestrogen levels experience heavy bleeding and women with relative oestrogen deficiency have light bleeding or spotting only.
As you can see, oestrogen is important for our health. It is all about the balance.
Progesterone is the yin to oestrogen’s yang. I love progesterone and want every woman to have it in their life for as long as possible. Here’s why.
Progesterone thins your uterine lining and balances prostaglandins (involved with pain sensitivity), resulting in lighter and less painful periods. It stimulates your thyroid, promotes hair growth and stimulates your metabolism, supporting weight management. It reduces inflammation, builds muscle and promotes sleep.
Need more? Here is one of my favourite reasons to love it.
Progesterone converts to allopregnanalone (a calming neurotransmitter similar to GABA) in the brain which soothes the nervous system and reduces anxiety. It also improves brain health and cognitive function.
Remember: we only make progesterone when we ovulate.
Do you need some more progesterone in your life?
Hormonal contraception and ovulation
I don’t know about you, but I find that ovulation and fertility are rarely spoken in a positive way (unless you are trying to have a baby, of course). For many teenage girls and women, if there are any issues with their period or skin, or if they are looking to prevent a pregnancy, then what is the first thing that is offered by GPs? The oral contraceptive pill. And what does the pill do? It shuts down your ovaries and puts you into what is essentially chemical menopause.
I want you to stop and think about that for a moment. In fact, go back and re-read it. And now re-read the benefits of making your own oestrogen and progesterone through ovulating. How does that make you feel? It makes me angry, and sad. But it also drives me to educate YOU so you can be informed and make better choices for your body and your health, and for the health of our daughters.
Remember, everything is fixable. If you have hormone imbalance or want to prevent a pregnancy, there are other (better) ways than going on the pill.
So let’s get you ovulating!
How to know if you are ovulating
Blood tests are available but you must get the timing right for them to be useful. There are also testing kits you can buy from the chemist. However, there are some really simple ways that don’t cost any money that are equally as effective.
Some women experience ovulation pain called mittelschmerz around 14 days before their period. I am one of those women so I know I ovulate. The severity of the pain can vary from a dull ache to a cramp to a sharp and sudden pain and can last from a few minutes to a day or two. Every woman is different.
If you don’t experience ovulation pain, then you can look for fertile mucous. This is clear and slippery and can be stretched between your fingers. It is not a guarantee that you are ovulating, as many women with high oestrogen levels can produce mucous throughout their cycle, but for most it is a good indicator.
Temperature tracking is another great way to see if you are ovulating. You will need a basal thermometer and to take your temperature at the same time every morning before you get out of bed. Your temperature increases with progesterone (remember you only make progesterone when you ovulate), so if you can see a noticeable increase mid-cycle, you are probably ovulating.
Ovulation is good for our health. Period.
When you are healthy, your menstrual cycle should be regular and essentially symptom-free. If this is not you, then your period is trying to tell you something.
Written by Denise Berry BHSc Naturopath
FREE WOMEN’S HEALTH WEEK EVENT
Denise Berry is hosting a webinar all about menopause! She will discuss hormone changes during your 40s, 50s and beyond, the cause of common symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause, how HRT works + more. Join us!
Wednesday, 9 September 2020
7.30 pm, duration 1 hr
Online via Zoom BOOK HERE!
Mastitis is the common infection many women suffer from during their breastfeeding journey. Symptoms of mastitis include breast tenderness, malaise, redness on the breast skin, breast pain, breast rash and a fever.
Mastitis is something I have helped many new mums with in clinic. Many people don’t know how a naturopath can help them with their mastitis, often resorting to the recurrent use of antibiotics.
While antibiotics will work in some cases and might be needed, there is a range of natural options to not only help with the prevention of mastitis but also its treatment. The huge benefit with natural alternatives is that there are no consequences on your gut health which, interestingly, could be contributing to you getting mastitis in the first place (hello gut-immune connection). As an integrative naturopath, I believe strongly in the balance between health care systems/choices so if you have been taking antibiotics or are taking them currently, I would suggest also seeking naturopathic care to help support your gut health and immunity at the same time.
Our little William is now 10 weeks old and I have been taking Qiara probiotic throughout my pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. I believe it has helped my gut and immunity immensely. I have not yet suffered from any blocked ducts or mastitis and believe taking this probiotic has been part of the reason for that. Like everything I promote in my clinical practice, prevention is better than cure. The good thing is that Qiara can also be used if you do get mastitis or breast pain – simply take Qiara at the first signs of mastitis or pain!
Clinical research conducted using the single probiotic strain found in the Qiara probitoic, shows that it may:
reduce discomfort associated with breast pain and mastitis
reduce the recurrence of mastitis.
Qiara achieves this by aggressively targeting and outcompeting the pathogenic bacteria in breast milk that may be causing the pain and infection. It also helps to restore and maintain a healthy balance of protective flora in the breast milk microbiome to help prevent recurrence.
We stock Qiara probiotic in our clinic and in our online shop. You can purchase it here!
Other things you can do if you get mastitis include:
keep feeding your baby as this will help to drain the breast
apply a cold compress. Chilled cabbage leaves are suggested.
take probiotics (Qiara Pregnancy and Breastfeeding)
rest your body
drink water and stay hydrated
take herbal medicines. Always seek individual and qualified support on this, however, one of my favourite go-to herbs is echinacea. We make custom blends with a combination of herbs in our clinic which are available via an acute mastitis appointment. Book here.
I hope you have found these suggestions beneficial. Remember, a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle will also contribute to helping prevent infections through a healthy immune system.
More and more women are presenting with endometriosis in clinic. Statistically, endometriosis is thought to affect 1 in 10 women, however many of those women remain undiagnosed (refer recent blog on Living With an Invisible Illness).
Diagnosing endometriosis can be challenging, firstly because doctors don’t always understand the degree of pain that women experience. Sadly, many of my patients have been dismissed from the doctor’s office, leaving them feeling deflated, misunderstood and unheard. A diagnosis can only be made by a gynaecologist via laparoscopy so, if these words resonate with you, please persist with your general practitioner—or find another one who will listen to you and get a referral.
Historically, the condition was never recognised. It is now thought that women diagnosed with ‘hysteria’ may have actually had endometriosis due to their chronic unexplained pain. Treatment at the time was confinement to a dark room until the hysteria passed. I’m pleased to report there is a lot more that can be done to support women with endometriosis today!
So, what is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition involving the abnormal growth of uterine endothelial tissue outside of the uterus. For many women, this abnormal tissue growth occurs in other areas of the pelvic cavity such as the ovary, rectum, outside the uterus and the bladder, but it is possible for it to occur in other areas of the body. I have read of women with tissue growth in the brain and have seen women in clinic with it outside of the pelvic cavity that has resulted in referred pain into their back and shoulders.
Stage 1 is minimal tissue growth, stage 2 is mild, stage 3 moderate and stage 4 is severe and where the endometrial tissue has become fibrotic and fused to organs such as the ovary.
Some women with endometriosis go on to develop adenomyosis, where the uterine endothelial tissue grows into the uterine muscle. Often women are told they have a ‘bulky’ uterus when, in fact, they have endometriosis/adenomyosis.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of endometriosis is PAIN. The site of pain can vary and so can the timing – it is not always associated with period onset.
Interestingly though, the degree of tissue growth isn’t always related to the pain severity. Often those with the most extensive tissue growth have less pain than those with less abnormal tissue growth.
Other symptoms include:
bladder and/or bowel issues
nausea and vomiting
bleeding/spotting between periods
heavy, long and painful periods
infertility or recurrent miscarriage
pain during sex.
Did you know that 70% of teens reporting chronic pelvic pain will eventually go on to be diagnosed with endometriosis?
What causes endometriosis?
Sadly, there hasn’t been much research into endometriosis so less is known about it compared to other conditions. However, with the fantastic work of scientists and naturopaths such as Leah Hechtman, more information is being discovered, with some really exciting research coming out in the last few years.
Historically, there were three theories regarding the cause of endometriosis. These are:
Metaplastic theory – similar to cancer, it was thought that the abnormal tissue in distal sites developed from local stem cells
Retrograde menstruation – this actually occurs in most women, but it was theorised that this, combined with metaplastic theory, led to tissue growth outside of the uterus
Relative oestrogen excess – perhaps the most popular theory, this is thought to promote proliferation of endometrial tissue.
I believe that all three theories play a role, but this does not complete the entire picture. For example, high levels of oestrogen are common, but there are many women with high oestrogen who don’t have endometriosis. There is definitely more to the story.
More recent evidence from clinical research suggests a significant immune involvement, which makes sense because we know that endometriosis is a whole body inflammatory disorder. Some researchers have theorised that it may be an autoimmune disease however, to date, no specific antibodies have been identified. What we do know is that there is a notable immune derangement resulting in systemic inflammation.
Furthermore, 80 per cent of women with endometriosis also have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Having had the opportunity to use functional gut testing with endometriosis patients has enabled us to identify specific bacteria and triggers and understand the impact gut integrity and function, as well as the microbiota, are having on overall health. There are numerous strains of pathogenic bacteria that produce lipopolysaccharides that are known to create massive amounts of inflammation, so addressing this is a key component of treatment.
Addressing and correcting the gut-immune interface is key in treating women with endometriosis.
If you have endometriosis, or you suspect you do, there are so many more options available to you today in terms of treatment. Standard medical care usually involves contraceptives and medication for pain, then a dilation and curette, followed by a recommendation for a full hysterectomy. These should all be a last resort in my opinion. As we learn more about the underlying drivers and pathophysiology of this condition, we increase the specificity and success of natural treatment options available to you.
If you would like to explore your options regarding treatment for endometriosis, we’d love to work with you. Book an appointment with one of our naturopaths and together we will find the most suitable treatment for you.
Most women won’t even really know they are going into perimenopause—the stage roughly 2–10 years leading up to menopause, with menopause said to have occurred 12 months after your period stops. For many women though, the symptoms are significant.
Common symptoms of perimenopause include:
Low libido, vaginal dryness
Reduced ability to cope with stress.
Most people assume that oestrogen is to blame for these symptoms however, during the perimenopausal years, it is actually more likely to be the declining levels of progesterone. Oestrogen definitely plays a role (especially in night sweats but they tend to come later), but progesterone is really the hormone we struggle to adjust to living without. Remember, progesterone is your anti-anxiety, feel-good hormone! It also helps to lighten periods and improve all symptoms of perimenopause.
When we start to come to the end of our perimenopausal years and progesterone is low, oestrogen starts to go on a roller-coaster. At times, oestrogen can actually be up to three times higher than what it was in your younger years, resulting in symptoms such as worsening anxiety and migraines. But, as oestrogen drops significantly, symptoms such as vaginal dryness, weight gain, hot flushes and depression can really start to kick in. You might get irregular periods and some of the other symptoms you experienced in the previous years may intensify.
As your body stops ovulating, your ovaries stop making oestradiol (our loveliest form of oestrogen) and your adrenals take over production. Why is this important? Women who typically struggle with chronic stress, are always ‘busy’ and whose adrenals are already depleted, will experience more symptoms during this transition.
We have only touched the surface here of what women experience during menopause. I will be talking in more detail about these hormonal shifts in my upcoming workshop ‘Menopause – Is it hot in here’ and providing advice on how best to deal with the transition to make it as symptom-free and painless as possible. I will also discuss the role of hormone replacement therapy and how diet, lifestyle and herbal and nutritional medicine can help you. I’d love to see you there!
Written by Denise Berry BHSc Naturopath
Menopause Workshop – Is it hot in here: Be educated and empowered to take charge of your hormones and your health. You will leave with a clear understanding of what happens during menopause, why these changes occur and, most importantly, information on what you can do to be in control your body. We will also have special offers on the night for guests! Book your place at Menopause Workshop – Is it hot in here.
To come in and discuss your specific situation, book an appointment with Denise. She specialises and is experienced in women’s health and brings an individual, patient-focused approach.
Issues with fertility and conception are increasing in Australia, as are the number of couples utilising IVF and assisted fertility treatments. Sadly, IVF isn’t always successful because it isn’t just fertilisation and implantation that are the issue. For many couples, the quality of the sperm and ovum isn’t always optimal and issues with blood supply and nutrient delivery to the growing foetus may be impaired. This could help to clarify why some women experience unexplained recurrent miscarriage.
Nutrition is often the missing link
Nutrigenomics profiling can help couples identify potential issues and provide powerful, individualised nutritional support to improve their chances of having a healthy pregnancy, birth and, most importantly, a healthy baby at the end.
What does the test cover?
It is recommended that individuals complete a full genomic profile that includes the following:
Nutrigenomics (individual nutrient requirements e.g. Vitamin D, B12, etc.)
Methylation (e.g. MTHFR) and liver detoxification
Hormones and fertility.
It’s not just all about MTHFR
The MTHFR (the gene that provides instructions for making the methyl enzyme) genetic variant has received a lot of attention and exposure in the last few years. The reality is it’s only one gene (yes, an important one) in a pathway involving many genes. For example, we find that many women require more choline to support their methylation pathway (and hence fertility and conception) yet this important nutrient is rarely considered.
DNA testing is just one small part of the picture
Nutrigenomics (or DNA) testing is important, however it is essential to consider these results alongside any pathology testing, presenting symptoms and your full case history.
Vaginal thrush or yeast infection is the common name for an infection of the vagina and vulva most commonly caused by the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. Thrush is an opportunistic infection, meaning it takes advantage of the body’s weakened defence mechanisms including a weakened immune system, alterations in the microbiota and permeability of the epithelial cell wall barrier of the vagina.
Approximately 75 per cent of women will experience vulvovaginal candidiasis during some stage of their lives. Thrush is also more common throughout pregnancy, affecting up to 40 per cent of pregnant women, in post-menopausal women, with uncontrolled diabetes and with use of oral contraceptive pill and antibiotics.
Pathogenic Candida albicans are able to destroy cells within the vagina leading to inflammation, immune responses and, as a result, the symptoms associated with this condition.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of vulvovaginal candidiasis are specific to the vagina or vulva regions of the body and can include:
Inflammation (redness) Intense itching Thick, white vaginal discharge, usually resembling cottage cheese Pain during intercourse or urination.
The body’s own defence against candidiasis
The pH of the vagina should ideally be between 3.5–4.2, which provides an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of pathogenic microorganisms including Candida albicans.
One of the body’s defence mechanisms against Candida albicans is the microbiota that live within the vagina. Certain strains of bacteria within the vagina produce antimicrobial substances as well as lactic acid, which promote a more acidic environment and which pathogenic microorganisms are unable to survive in. Studies have shown that women with a microbiota that is Lactobacillus-dominant have a reduced risk of reproductive tract infections.
Epithelial cell barriers
The epithelial cells of the vagina are part of the innate immune system and contain receptors that respond to various pathogens by triggering immune responses and the release of antimicrobial and antifungal substances. These cells also trigger the release of substances that function in repairing and remodeling the epithelial cells following damage caused by pathogens such as Candida albicans.
Recurrent thrush is the presence of four to six vulvovaginal candidiasis infections a year. Research suggests that a contributing factor to the recurrence of thrush is the result of biofilm. A biofilm is a structure that may be formed on the surface of vaginal epithelial cells, which certain microorganisms may embed in. This structure provides protection of the embedded microorganisms against external unfavourable environments or threats such as antibiotics and the body’s own immune defences. Biofilms allow microorganisms to persist for longer periods of time and re-emerge when conditions within the vagina are more favourable, providing an explanation as to why infection may re-emerge even after treatment. Certain Candida albicans have also demonstrated the ability to neutralise the acidic environment of the vagina created by lactobacilli as well as alter immune responses, which allow these microorganisms to persist against the body’s natural defence mechanisms.
Naturopathic treatment of thrush
As with all naturopathic medicine, the focus on the treatment of thrush is to aid the body’s own healing mechanisms. In the case of thrush, this treatment aims to support the body’s mechanisms to efficiently fight off infection and prevent further infection and susceptibility. But how do we do this? First, we need to remove risk factors which may be contributing to changes in the environment of the vagina and that promote the overgrowth of Candida albicans.
Creating changes in the microbiota diversity of the vagina with probiotics
We currently stock a practitioner-only probiotic supplement specifically for the treatment of female reproductive tract infections, including candidiasis. This supplement contains two probiotic strains – Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14, both of which have been shown in clinical trials to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 have also been shown to disrupt genito-urinary biofilms which may assist in the prevention of recurrent thrush.
What other factors disrupt the stability of vaginal microbial communities?
The presence of glycogen within the epithelial cells of the vagina positively influences the presence of probiotic Lactobacillus spp. Lactobcillus spp. use glycogen as a source of energy and, throughfermentation of glycogen breakdown products glucose and maltose, produce lactic acid.Oestrogen promotes the availability of glycogen to the epithelial cells. Therefore, throughout various stages of the cycle when oestrogen levels are low, glycogen becomes less available and numbers of lactobacilli decrease. Progesterone and oestrogen also play a role in the regulation of the pH of the vagina, therefore an imbalance of these hormones may create a more alkaline environment which is favourable for the overgrowth of Candida albicans. This is particularly important in individuals who are experiencing hormonal imbalances or women who are going through menopause, as oestrogen levels are naturally declining, resulting in a heightened susceptibility to infection.
Alterations to bacterial colonies within the vagina have been shown throughout the different stages of a woman’s cycle. During menses, a decrease in the number of beneficial lactobacilli, as well as disruption to remaining lactobacilli, has been shown in a number of longitudinal studies. Low levels of lactobacilli have also been reported in the phase immediately following menses. This means susceptibility to infection may be heightened at this time.
Disruption to the numbers of lactobacilli has also been reported immediately following sexual intercourse, again increasing the opportunity for an overgrowth of pathogenic yeast. Other factors to take into consideration are the type of lubrication and contraception methods used. The majority of personal lubrication products on the market have a pH that is higher than the ideal range of the vagina and which can create changes to the vaginal environment. Furthermore, it is also important to take into consideration the osmolality of personal lubricant. The osmolality of a lubricant being too high or too low can cause damage to the epithelial cells of the vagina by causing them to either rupture or dehydrate. Damaged cells increase the risk of vaginal infection. It is recommended that the osmolality of personal lubrication should not exceed 380 mOsm/kg to prevent epithelial damage.
In clinic, we also see a number of preconception clients with vaginal infections such as thrush. Sexual practices, particularly when trying to conceive, can also impact on the pH of the vagina due to semen having an average pH of between 6–7, creating a less acidic vaginal environment which may promote thrush infection. This places emphasis on the importance of education when trying to conceive and knowing when you are most fertile to avoid disrupting the pH of the vagina during less fertile times in the cycle. Avoidance of sexual practices during infection is also recommended.
Vaginal hygiene practices
The use of vaginal douches and intimate hygiene products has been shown to create alterations in the pH of the vagina, favouring conditions for the overgrowth of Candida albicans. Prolonged damp conditions have also been shown to contribute to the overgrowth of Candida albicans. Ensuring the external vaginal area is completely dry, through the avoidance of prolonged wearing of a wet bathing suit or damp or wet underwear, reduces the risk of infection. Ensuring that you wipe front to back after voiding the bladder or bowel is also important in preventing the translocation of microorganisms from the bowel to the reproductive tract.
It is also recommended that cotton underwear should be worn, that tight clothing is avoided and personal clothing should be washed in hot water and ideally separated from others.
There are also a number of dietary factors that impact on the growth of pathogenic yeasts within the body. Naturopathic consultation for the treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis involves an extensive assessment of both dietary and lifestyle factors which may be contributing to a thrush infection, individual to each client.
If you would like more information on the dietary and lifestyle factors that contribute to thrush or other female reproductive infections, or you would like assistance in treating thrush naturally, book an appointment with our naturopath, Karly, by clicking here.
Brooks, J. P., Edwards, D. J., Blithe, D. L., Fettweis, J. M., Serrano, M. G., Sheth, N. U., … Jefferson, K. K. (2017). Effects of combined oral contraceptives, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate and the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system on the vaginal microbiome. Contraception, 95(4), 405–413. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2016.11.006
Cassone, A. (2015). Vulvovaginal Candida albicans infections: Pathogenesis, immunity and vaccine prospects. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 122(6), 785–794. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12994
Crucitti, T. (2017). Eve’s garden: myths, legends and secrets unmasked. Research in Microbiology, 168(9–10), 773–781. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resmic.2017.07.004
Martins, N., Ferreira, I. C. F. R., Barros, L., Silva, S., & Henriques, M. (2014). Candidiasis: Predisposing Factors, Prevention, Diagnosis and Alternative Treatment. Mycopathologia, 177(5–6), 223–240. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11046-014-9749-1
O’Hanlon, D. E., Moench, T. R., & Cone, R. A. (2013). Vaginal pH and microbicidal lactic acid when lactobacilli dominate the microbiota. PLoS ONE, 8(11), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080074
Tachedjian, G., Aldunate, M., Bradshaw, C. S., & Cone, R. A. (2017). The role of lactic acid production by probiotic Lactobacillus species in vaginal health. Research in Microbiology, 168(9–10), 782–792. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resmic.2017.04.001
Did you know that using the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) could cause nutritional deficiencies? This is relevant as it can contribute to, or cause/worsen, many health issues that naturopaths often see in their patients.
Signs of nutritional deficiencies include:
acne, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin
depression and anxiety
muscle cramps, eye twitching, muscle aches and pains
poor nail health – brittle nails which break easily
hair thinning or hair loss
poor immune health and recurrent infections
fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and weakness
numbness and tingling or burning sensations
irritability and loss of memory or concentration
cracks or sores in corner of mouth
stomach/intestinal inflammation – nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
What evidence is there to support this?
There is a range of evidence which suggests the use of the oral contraceptive pill can cause nutritional depletion in the female body. Some of the major vitamins and minerals that are affected by the use of the pill include B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12, vitamin C, selenium and zinc (1, 2). Additionally, evidence exists which suggests the OCP can increase serum vitamin A and copper levels. As such, patient monitoring is advised (3, 2).
One of the most recent forms of evidence comes from a case-control study on the B12 and folate status of 71 healthy females using ‘low dose’ OCP for greater than or equal to three months and 170 controls. It was found that OCP-users showed significantly lower concentrations of cobalamin than the controls (4). This study concluded that vitamin supplementation or different contraceptive methods should be considered in women with pre-existing cobalamin deficiency or restrictive dietary habits (4). Furthermore, another recent review stated that the OCP has been shown to impair folate metabolism and create some folate deficiency but is unlikely to cause anaemia in patients who have a good dietary intake and are absorbing folate efficiently (5). The main concern is when patients are not consuming adequate amounts of nutrients, or have gastrointestinal malabsorption which is affecting absorption, in combination with taking the OCP (5). The review further demonstrated the effects of OCP on B vitamins and concluded that supplementation may be necessary to consider for patients taking the OCP (5).
There are similar findings on vitamin C. In the same review they found that, in OCP-users, vitamin C levels in platelets and leukocytes are lowered, specifically those containing estrogen which is thought to increase the metabolism rate of vitamin C (5). However, similar to folic acid, when patients consume adequate dietary intake of ascorbic acid, there is no threat to the ascorbic acid status as a result of using OCs for periods of six months to seven years (5). Conversely, the situation may be different for patients who have a poor diet, unhealthy habits or pathology of malabsorption (5).
When to see your naturopath
You may benefit from seeking advice from a naturopath if you:
are on hormonal birth control (OCP, IUD, vaginal ring, progestin injections, hormonal implant)
have any nutritional deficiencies as outlined above
have gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, IBS, IBD
experience frequent colds, flu or infections
would like to try natural conceptive methods which do not cause nutritional deficiencies.
For professional advice on management of nutritional deficiencies and non-hormonal forms of contraception, click here to book an appointment with our naturopath, Karly Fisher.
(1) Stargrove, M., Treasure, J., & McKee, D. (2008). Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions. USA: Elsevier.
(2) Sarris, J., & Wardle, J. (2010). Clinical naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice. Chatswood, NSW Australia; Elsevier.
(3) Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs & natural supplements: An evidence-based guide. Sydney: Elsevier Australia.
(4) Sütterlin, M. W., Bussen, S. S., Rieger, L., Dietl, J., & Steck, T. (2003). Serum folate and Vitamin B12 levels in women using modern oral contraceptives (OC) containing 20 μg ethinyl estradiol. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 107(1), 57-61.
(5) Palmery, M., Saraceno, A., Vaiarelli, A., & Carlomagno, G. (2013). Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 17(13), 1804-13.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects 6–10 per cent of reproductive-aged women and is the most common cause of anovulatory infertility (1).
What is PCOS
PCOS is a complex hormonal condition that involves two or all of the following:
Oligo-anovulation (irregular, infrequent or absent ovulation)
Hyperandrogenism (excessive secretion and activity of androgen hormones)
Polycystic ovaries (multiple partially formed follicles on the ovaries)
This means there is excess secretion and activity of the androgen hormone which causes abnormalities in ovarian function (1). Failure of the ovaries to regularly ovulate causes disruption to a host of hormones including lowered progesterone and oestradiol as well as elevated testosterone (2). These abnormal hormone levels, among others, cause a number of the symptoms associated with PCOS (2).
PCOS is also associated with various metabolic syndromes such as obesity, abnormal insulin activity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease (3, 4). Alongside these associated conditions is the prevalence of psychological issues including mood disorders and eating disorders (3). Another huge contributing factor for PCOS patients is high stress and cortisol production.
Menstrual abnormalities (irregular, infrequent, heavy or absent menstruation)
Hirsutism (excess body and facial hair)
Acanthosis nigricans (dark colouring on the back of the neck and underarms)
Alopecia (hair loss on the scalp)
Polycystic appearing ovaries (numerous cysts on the ovaries and enlarged ovaries)
Obesity, particularly central adiposity
Abnormal hormone levels
Key nutrients that can help with PCOS
Nutritional supplementation can aid many aspects of this syndrome including stabilisation of female hormones, reducing the formation of ovarian cysts, regulating the timing of ovulation, supporting and preventing associated metabolic syndrome, improving and managing weight balance, stabilising blood sugar levels, reducing insulin resistance and supporting adrenal function (4). Below are just a few of the many nutrients that can assist with the management of PCOS. Please be aware that correct dosages and time frames are essential when treating PCOS. Discussing your health with a qualified naturopath is vital to achieving improvements.
Due to their important role as cofactors in metabolising carbohydrates and fats, B vitamins may be beneficial to improving insulin sensitivity in women with metabolic syndrome associated with PCOS. They may also be helpful in decreasing risk factors of cardiovascular disease for women with PCOS who take some forms of diabetic medication (4).
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in a number of ways for women with PCOS. Not only do they have anti-inflammatory properties, important in reducing cardiovascular disease risk, they also improve insulin sensitivity and have been shown to have a positive effect on liver fat content and other cardiovascular risk factors in women with PCOS (4).
A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the effects of zinc supplementation on a number of endocrine outcomes in women with PCOS over an eight week time period, showed a number of significant results. Zinc supplementation on this group of women demonstrated beneficial effects on symptoms associated with PCOS such as decreasing alopecia, hirsutism and plasma Malondialdehyde—a biomarker of oxidative stress (5). Alongside these benefits, zinc also plays a key role in modulating insulin and may also help with acne associated with PCOS (4).
Adequate iodine concentration in the ovaries promotes healthy ovulation, reduces ovulation pain and prevents ovarian cysts (6). Iodine affects the reproductive hormones oestrogen and progesterone through promoting oestrogen detoxification and desensitising oestrogen receptor cells, as well as elevating progesterone through ovulation (6).
Inositol has had beneficial results for women with PCOS in increasing fertility rates and improving embryo quality (7, 8). These benefits were demonstrated in two studies: a randomised control trial with PCOS patients who underwent IVF-ET and were treated with a combination of different forms of inositol (7), and a randomised placebo control group study with PCOS patients undergoing IVF treatments and using a combination of inositol and folic acid (8). Both studies resulted in improved oocyte and embryo quality as well as improved rates of fertilisation (7, 8). Alongside this, a further study on the presence of ovulation in women with PCOS with inositol supplementation in comparison to a placebo group demonstrated successful ovulation in 19 out of 22 women as compared with 6 out of 22 women in the placebo group (9).
Key herbal medicine that can help with PCOS
There are a range of herbal medicines that can be used to help women who have PCOS. Two of the main herbs which are commonly used in combination are Glycyrrhiza glabra and Paeonia lactiflora. Trials have demonstrated that these herbs in combination can reduce follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone (FSH:LH) ratio and ovarian testosterone production, and improve ovulation. Glycyrrhiza glabra can also play a significant role in PCOS patients who are highly stressed with elevated cortisol production. This is due to the cortisol lowering actions this herb also exerts. Naturopaths will also assess the individual and create herbal mixtures with additional herbs based on their symptoms and contributing factors.
How diet can assist with the management of PCOS
As women with PCOS are at a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, diet has a massive impact on prevention of these associated conditions (4). There are a number of dietary changes that aid in the management of PCOS. These are targeted around improving weight balance, healthy weight management, reducing insulin resistance, stabilising blood sugar levels and supporting and preventing metabolic syndrome associated with PCOS (4).
If you would like to discuss how we can help in the management of PCOS or if you would like to know more about the condition, click here to make an appointment with Karly.
Kismet Health Clinic can help you create and achieve a preconception plan that allows you to improve your health and lifestyle and potentially increase your chances on conception and the future health of your baby. We are passionate about creating a healthy you, so that we can create healthy children in North East Victoria and regional NSW.
Preconception care is all about getting both parents to be as healthy as possible, because healthy people make healthy babies. A healthy you will mean, healthy cells, eggs and sperm all of which will create your baby and determine the health of your baby.
Evidence now demonstrates that the health of both parents before and during pregnancy is strongly associated with healthy development and general health in adulthood. This is especially true in relation to obesity, cardiovascular disease, mental health, risk of cancer, gut health and immune functioning.
Now men, the health of your baby also comes down to you, I love it when the male partner turns up to the appointment when couples are trying to have babies, it literally does take two to tango. The health and quality of your sperm is important for successful conception and also the health of your baby. Evidence shows that men who have poor diet, high stress, smoke and drink large amounts of alcohol have lower sperm count, can experience difficulties when it comes to conception and are also at an increased risk of miscarriage. This means that when both partners get on board you are likely to have increased success.
The best thing about preconception care is that it’s an overall health change, kind of like a health kick. It will give both of you achievable changes to both your diet and lifestyle which you’ll both be able to maintain long-term. All advise is practical, realistic and easy to achieve. Plus it’s nice to know that you have someone to help you through one of the most important stages of your life and to get professional advice along the way.
So what does getting healthy and pregnant involve?
Approximately 100 days (3 months) is the ideal time frame for preconception care, however we have also worked with couples for longer then this depending on their current health status, the time frame is determined in your initial consultation. This amount of time is required because sperm and eggs take this long to develop or mature. It means that while they are developing/maturing they get the benefit of all the changes you are making to improve your overall health.
Some of the things that may be involved in your preconception plan are listed below – these are however tailored specifically to what you need as a couple as not everyone is the same.
An in depth and thorough health screen including nutritional deficiencies, gut health, hormonal health, genitourinary and other infections.
Referrals to other health professionals, such as acupuncture for proven support.
Who would it benefit?
Couples, single women or same sex couples who want to give their baby the best possible start to life.
Couples or single women who have general infertility with or without known cause, including problems with sperm quality, anovulation, PCOS, endometriosis etc.
Couples who have experienced one or more miscarriages
Couples who have experienced previous complications such as prematurity, low birth weight, stillbirth or sudden infant death syndrome.
Couples or single women currently doing IVF
A note of IVF
If you are already doing IVF, you may not feel like there is time to take a break, or alternatively you may feel like some time off is what you need. Either way we are able to work with you to create a plan that will work for you no matter where you are in your fertility journey. It is possible to continue trying to conceive or doing IVF and incorporate some preconception principals as you go.
If you would like to create a healthy you so that you can create a healthy baby you can book and appointment HERE to start your preconception plan!