Is Stress Shutting Down Your Sex Drive?

One of the most frequent complaints that I hear from women in my office is that they have no sex drive. Like zero. Nada. Nothing. It’s as if that part of their brain has turned off and doesn’t seem to want to turn back on anytime soon.

There are many reasons why women experience a low sex drive including side effects from birth control pills, low estrogen and low testosterone. But, in my experience, the number one cause of low libido is STRESS.

The reality is that our sex drive is turned down as a PROTECTIVE MECHANISM. What you need to understand is that stress shuts down our sex drive for good reason.

When the body is under stress, it activates the sympathetic nervous system which is also known as our “fight or flight” response. When this response is activated, our body engages in a variety of activities that help us to survive and cope with that stress. We send lots of blood to our brain (so we can respond quickly and appropriately) and lungs and muscles (so we can run away). We may not be fighting off saber tooth tigers anymore but our body still responds in the same way. And let’s face it ladies, between family, work, and social obligations, we’re under low-grade stress all the time.

Another side-effect of this stress response is a reduction of blood flow to your reproductive organs and putting a major damper on your sex drive. WHY? The last thing your body needs when it’s under stress is another human being to take care off (aka a baby). You see, when you are under stress, your body shuts down your sex drive to limit the chances you’ll become pregnant in an effort to try to help you.

Even if you’re post-menopausal or on birth control and technically can’t get pregnant, your body will still shut down your libido because it doesn’t know any better. It’s a automatic response that is hard wired into us that actually helped keep our ancestors alive.

So, if you want that part of your brain to wake up and re-activate, you need to practice getting out of that sympathetic “fight or flight” response and start hanging out in a more relaxed parasympathetic “rest and digest” state. This is when the body is relaxed, feels safe and can start to warm that fire in your loins. (PS. men also need to be in this state to achieve and maintain an erection).

My best strategies for tapping into “rest and digest”:

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night (this is the ultimate relaxed state)
  • Take 10 deep abdominal breaths before each meal
  • Learn to say “no” (and not feel guilty about it!)
  • Start a daily meditation practice such as the HeadSpace App (and come try our new service: MUSE Biofeedback Meditation)
  • Cultivate mindfulness (try to enjoy the present moment.) Start with simple activities such as mindfully brushing your teeth. Keep your mind focused by paying attention to the smell and taste of your toothpaste, the feeling of the brush against your teeth, the sounds it’s making. It’s simple but it works!

Wondering if stress is really affecting your sex drive and overall health?

Get your stress hormone levels test with our Adrenal Function Panel. It’s a simple at home saliva test that maps out your cortisol and DHEAS. You can learn more about it here. Test Cost = $220.

Common Causes of Hair Loss

hair lossBackground: Hair’s Natural Growth Cycle

Hair grows in three different cycles: anagen, catagen, and telogen. About 90% of the hair on the head is in the anagen, or growth phase, which lasts anywhere from 2 to 8 years. The catagen, or transition phase, typically lasts 2 to 3 weeks, during which the hair follicle shrinks. During the telogen cycle, which lasts around 2 to 4 months, the hair rests.

Most people normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. This usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair is growing in at the same time. Hair loss occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

The exact cause of hair loss may not be fully understood, but it is usually related to one or more of the following factors:

  • Genetics (e.g. family history)
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances (e.g. pregnancy, menopause, birth control pills)
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Stress (including after surgery)
  • Improper nutrition (vitamin and/or mineral deficiency)

Although hair loss may seem like a more prominent problem in men, women are nearly as likely to lose or have thinning hair.

Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women

1. High Cortisol:

Hair loss is often caused by an imbalance in hormone levels. One of the hormones closely connected with hair loss is cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is normally released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress. In its normal function, cortisol regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body including metabolism and immune response. It also has an important role in helping the body respond to stress (i.e. the body’s fight-or-flight response).

However, at sustained high levels, cortisol can be damaging over time. Extended stress leads to extended periods of high cortisol levels. While the adrenal glands are busy making extra cortisol, they make less of the hormones that support healthy hair growth.

2. Low Protein Intake:

Hair loss may occasionally be caused by lack of protein in the diet. When this happens, the body will help save protein by shifting growing hairs into the resting phase. Increased hair shedding can occur two to three months later.

3Elevated Male Hormones:

  • Testosterone: High levels of testosterone has been commonly associated with hair loss. Although women have much lower levels of testosterone than men do, there is enough to potentially cause hair loss, particularly during periods of hormonal change.  However, researchers now believe that it is not only amount of circulating testosterone that leads to hair loss, but more significantly the level of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) binding to receptors in scalp follicles.
  • Dihydrotestosterone (DHT): Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is held in a hair follicle’s oil glands. In high levels, DHT shrinks hair follicles, decreasing hair’s natural growth cycle and ability to replace itself.

4. Thyroid Issues:

Hair loss may be a sign that thyroid hormones are out of balance. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair to shed. Because hair growth depends on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, abnormal levels of thyroid hormones can result in hair changes if left untreated. When the thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroidism), the hair on your head can become fine, with thinning hair all over the scalp. When the thyroid gland is underactive (hypothyroidism), there can be hair loss, not just on the scalp, but also anywhere on the body. In most cases, the hair will grow back once the thyroid disorder is treated.

5. Low Progesterone:

From the time menses begins until menopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone in women ebb and flow to promote reproduction. At about age 35 to 40, women reach the time of perimenopause. This is when their levels of progesterone and estrogen begin to reduce. Progesterone helps to counterbalance the negative effects of estrogen. When there is not enough progesterone to counterbalance estrogen, one may begin to have symptoms of estrogen dominance, such as hair loss.

6. Iron Deficiency:

Iron deficiency hair loss is caused when the body lacks enough iron to produce hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin carries oxygen for the growth and repair of all body cells including the cells that make up hair follicles.

Temporary hair loss such as iron deficiency hair loss is called telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is an abnormality of the hair growth cycle that causes hair that would normally be in the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle to be prematurely pushed into the telogen (rest) phase, causing hair to shed. Because hair is non-essential, hair growth is one of the first processes to be affected when iron or other nutrient deficiencies occur.

7. Zinc Deficiency:

Zinc is a trace mineral that is needed for many important bodily functions in the body such as building healthy cells, regulating hormones, and aiding in the absorption of other nutrients.

Zinc is available through foods such as beef, pork, shellfish, peanuts, and legumes. Zinc deficiency (or hypozincemia) is a nutrient deficiency precipitated by malnutrition or malabsorption of the element. Deficiency may cause weak, brittle nails, diarrhea, slow healing, and hair loss.

Resources:

  • Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/basics/definition/con-20027666
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zinc/background/hrb-20060638
  • You & Your Hormones: http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Cortisol.aspx
  • Today’s Dietician: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
  • WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/hair-loss-causes-women

The Super Secret Weapon to Surviving Menopause? Your adrenal glands!

Women are all too familiar with the symptoms that signal the impending doom of menopause- hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue and mood changes! These symptoms occur because the ovaries start producing less estrogen as they prepare for retirement. Rapidly declining estrogen levels can cause intense and severe symptoms that can really affect a woman’s quality of life. But menopause need not be a dreaded time in a woman’s life- for our bodies have a secret weapon that can help make the transition through menopause much smoother….our ADRENAL GLANDS!

What are Adrenal Glands?
The adrenals are two small glands that sit above the kidney (hence their name!). These glands are well known for making stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, but what most of us don’t know is that our adrenal glands also produce sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone!

Why are they important?
During the menopausal years, as our ovaries start producing less female hormones, our adrenals are called into action to be our main producers of these hormones. The problem is that most of us enter menopause with adrenal glands that are already tired and overworked due to years of living in our stress-filled modern world. When the adrenal glands are already exhausted when a woman enters menopause, they have a harder time producing these much needed female hormones.

It is therefore imperative that all women support their adrenal glands during the menopausal years (and ideally before!) so that they can produce estrogen and progesterone which will help to make the transition much smoother.

Here are my top 5 tips for supporting your adrenal glands:

1. Make sleep a priority

Our adrenal glands need a good night’s sleep in order to regenerate and recover from daily stresses. Aim to get 8-10 hours of quality sleep each night and be in bed no later than 11 pm.

2. Increase your intake of foods rich in magnesium and vitamins B5 and C.

Magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B5 are most concentrated in the adrenal glands where they provide the nutrient needed for healthy adrenal function.  Increase foods that are rich in these nutrients.

Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, halibut, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds

Vitamin C: Papaya, Bell Peppers, Strawberries, Broccoli, Pineapple, Brussel Sprouts, Kiwifruit, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Kale

Vitamin B5: Cremini and shiitake mushrooms, avocado, yogurt, corn sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, grapefruit, bell peppers, and asparagus.

3. Indulge in a cup of licorice tea

Licorice is one of my favorite herbs for supporting the adrenal glands. It helps to nourish and relax the body…and it’s caffeine-free so you can have it anytime! Caution: do not use if you have high blood pressure.

4. Relax….you deserve it!

Our adrenal glands get fired up every time we perceive stress. Did you know that on average, we experience 50 brief stress response episodes per day? This means that for many of us, our adrenal glands are constantly being drawn on to help us adapt and resist life’s daily stresses. Counteract these effects by making relaxation a priority every day…whether it’s a yoga class, a hot bath, or 5 minutes of deep breathing.

5. Limit your caffeine intake

Caffeine not only gives your mind a jolt – but your adrenals too. Limit this daily assault by eliminating caffeine if possible or limiting your intake of caffeinated beverages to no more than 2 per day. In fact, caffeine itself can trigger hot flashes.

I hope you find these tips helpful and they can make your menopausal years more enjoyable. If you are interested in receiving additional support for your menopausal symptoms, book your free consultation to learn how I can help create a personalized plan for you including salivary hormone testing, nutrition guidelines, herbal support, and acupuncture.

 

 

Natural Medicine for Public Servants

Are you a public servant?

Did you know that your health insurance plan covers Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Doctors are experts in natural and complementary medicine. We offer natural solutions to common health concerns such as fatigue, insomnia, hypothyroid, digestive issues like IBS, and many more!  By using safe and effective natural therapies such as nutrition, nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbal medicines), acupuncture, and lifestyle counselling, Naturopathic Doctors help you feel better and optimize your health.  

To learn more about how Naturopathic Medicine can help you
book your FREE 15-minute  Meet & Greet consultation with Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur

3 Essential Strategies for Aging Gracefully

Look good, feel great!

 

1. Hydrate your skin from the inside out

You’ve heard it a million times….you need to drink more water! Most of us are ready and willing to open our wallets to purchase the latest anti-aging creams and potions but we often neglect to hydrate our skin from the inside out. Drinking an insufficient amount of water will dehydrate your cells including those in the skin making fine lines and wrinkles more visible.

I always get asked “How much water do I need”? It all depends on a variety of factors such as your weight, your activity levels, and your levels of perspiration. I generally suggest that most adults need between eight to ten 8 ounce glasses daily with a couple extra glasses if you’re a coffee drinker or like to have a glass of wine with dinner. If you’re having trouble fitting in all that water, try having 500mL of water with some fresh lemon first thing in the morning.

Another easy way to hydrate your skin from the inside out is to increase your intake of healthy oils and fats. These include raw olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, avocadoes, organic butter, and raw nuts and seeds. Each cell in the body is surrounded by a layer of fat. By including healthy fats in your daily diet you make your cells more fluid and plump thereby improving the appearance of your skin. Want glowing skin? Include at least 2 Tbsp of healthy oils in your daily diet.

2. Boost Your Glutathione Levels

Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant. It works to help neutralize damaging free radicals and is a key nutrient needed for detoxification.  The good news is that your body makes its own glutathione. The bad news is that toxins for a poor diet, medications, stress, infections, and aging all deplete glutathione. Boosting up your levels is key for aging well. While you can’t get glutathione through your diet or supplements, you can consume glutathione supporting nutrients to help your body make more glutathione. These foods include whey protein isolate (caution if you have a dairy sensitivity), resveratrol found in red wine, and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. Glutathione can also be given through IV to help replenish levels more quickly.

3. Give your face a lift with Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture

Facial rejuvenation acupuncture, sometimes called the “acupuncture facelift” is a safe, effective and natural treatment to reduce the signs of aging and improve the overall appearance of the skin. Facial rejuvenation acupuncture helps to promote a more youthful, glowing appearance by supporting overall health and wellbeing. Its benefits include: reducing the appearance of pores, fine lines, and wrinkles; increasing skin tightness and collagen production; reducing oil production and balancing hormonal skin.

How does it work?

By inserting fine needles into the skin, we create a micro (aka teeny tiny) injury which triggers the healing process in the same way your body heals itself after a cut. Part of the healing process involves increasing blood flow to the area which provides fresh oxygen and healing nutrients.

How many sessions do I need?

Some individuals will notice the appearance of their skin improves after one treatment. However, significant lasting results usually occur after 6 or 8 treatments. A full treatment series includes 12 weekly treatments. The effects can last several years will regular maintenance treatments.

Fertility Awareness: An Alternative to the Pill

Looking for a hormone-free form of birth control?

What are the risks of taking the birth control pill?

  • Increased risk of developing blood clots (especially with pills such as Yaz and Yasmin)
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased breast cancer risk

While the pill may be an effective and suitable option for some women, many are seeking natural and safer alternatives to contraception and family planning, such as fertility awareness based (FAB) methods. FAB methods rely of looking at several indicators of fertility that change throughout the menstrual cycle in response to changing levels of estrogen and progesterone. Three of the most commonly observed indicators of fertility are basal body temperature, cervical secretions, and cervical positioning.

1. Basal Body Temperature

Basal body temperature is the body temperature measured immediately after awakening and before any physical activity has been undertaken.  During the phase before ovulation, waking temperatures range from 97.0 ̊ F to 97.7 ̊ F (36.1̊ C – 36.5̊ C); postovulatory waking temperatures tend to rise about 0.4 ̊ F or higher and they usually stay elevated until the next period. Temperatures rise within a day or so of ovulation and are associated with the surge in progesterone, a heat releasing hormone, which occurs at the time of ovulation. When interpreting temperatures, it is important to look at the big picture and not to focus too much on the day to day changes. The key is to look for a pattern of highs and lows: temperatures before ovulation will go up and down in a low range while the temperatures after ovulation will go up and down in a high range.

There are certain factors that can increase your waking temperature, including: having a fever, drinking alcohol the night before, getting less than three consecutive hours sleep before taking it, taking it at a substantially different time than usual and using an electric blanket or heating pad that you don’t normally use.

2. Vaginal Secretions

The quality and quantity of vaginal secretions are influenced by estrogen and progesterone. The different types of secretions either impede or facilitate sperm motility and this determines the state of fertility. When estrogen levels are low, cervical secretions may be minimal, thick, white, and sticky. The acidic environment of the vagina rapidly destroys sperm. Rising levels of estrogen alter the cervical secretions from white and sticky gradually becoming more transparent, stretchy, and wetter (due to increased water content), similar to the consistency of egg whites. Immediately after ovulation, the rise of progesterone causes the secretions to thicken to form a sticky plug which is antagonistic to sperm penetration.

3. Cervical Positioning

Estrogen and progesterone also cause subtle changes in the muscle and connective tissue of the cervix. Women can learn to recognize these changes by gently palpating the cervix at about the same time each day. As ovulation approaches, the cervix tends to rise, soften, and open. It progresses from feeling like the tip of the nose to feeling soft like lips as ovulation approaches. The cervix will drop abruptly into the vagina when estrogen levels fall, and progesterone becomes dominant after ovulation. The fertile time starts at the first sign of the cervix becoming high, soft or open and ends after the cervix has been low, firm and closed for 3 days. These subtle changes can be detected by simply inserting a clean middle finger into the vagina and assessing the following conditions: softness, height, opening, and wetness.

How effective is it?

Studies have found that when using temperature as a single indicator of fertility, the overall failure rate was 5.4% compared with a method failure rate of 1% (this refers to perfect use). This illustrates that using this method alone is only effective if used by highly motivated couples who are able to tolerate lengthy time of abstinence or are willing to use a barrier method during the fertile time. Cervical secretions were found to have a failure rate of around 3% if couples were given good fertility awareness teaching and followed the instructions correctly. However, with imperfect use the failure rate rose to nearly 20%. There are no effectiveness studies using the cervical positioning indicator alone.

These studies find that the failure rate tends to be lower when combining indicators. The most common combination is cervical secretions and temperature which has been found to have a failure rate between 0.43% (perfect use) and 2.2% (overall pregnancy rate). Perfect use refers to using abstinence during the fertile time and therefore is a measure of true effectiveness. Interestingly, one study found that there was no difference in failure rates between the learning phase (first 3 months) and subsequent months of use.  For a contraceptive method to be rated as effective as the hormonal pill, it requires a failure rate of less than 1%. The studies mentioned above found FAB to be as effective as the birth control pill when used perfectly.

What are the benefits?

Despite the limited scientific evidence, there are several advantages to FAB methods. It does not involve the use of chemical agents or physical devices and had no side effects. Educating patients on this method is empowering and fosters a sense of shared responsibility and increased communication for the couple. Also, it is not dependant on medical intervention after the initial visit, thus keeping costs low.

What are the limitations?

There are also some limitations to FAB methods. It can take time to learn and some women find charting difficult. Both partners must be committed to the practice and some couples find abstinence difficult. Times of stress or hormone changes can make charting more difficult and may affect efficacy.

If you are interested in learning more about fertility awareness methods
please contact Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur.

3 Unhealthy Habits of 30-Something Women That Keep Them Feeling Tired All Day Long (Part 2)

Unhealthy Habit #2: SLEEP SHORTAGE

A shortage of sleep means getting anything less than 7 hours of deep, restful sleep EVERY NIGHT! Most busy women that I know don’t get enough sleep. They’re too busy climbing the corporate ladder, raising their kids, caring for their partner, whipping together healthy meals, and trying to squeeze in a workout here and there. The point is, sleep is far from being a priority and is often seen as a luxury.

Why a sleep shortage will sabotage your energy

You don’t need a medical degree to figure out that not getting enough sleep will make you feel tired! But there’s more….a sleep shortage can increase your hunger and cravings for sugar and carbs. Did you know that getting less than 6 hours of sleep for 1 night will increase your sugar cravings the next day? One night of sleep!?! Imagine how that might affect you after years of sleep deprivation. So, a sleep shortage will have you reaching for sweet treats which will leave you feeling even more tired. Have I convinced you yet to start sleeping more?

But I don’t have time to sleep…

You’re probably wondering how you’re going to find more time for sleep. I’ll let you in on a little secret ….you’ll never “find time” for sleep or any other activity for that matter! You have to “make time” which means making sleep a priority. Chose a reasonable bedtime (preferably no later than 11pm) and set an alarm for 1 hour before that time. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to start your bedtime routine. Just like when you were a kid. Our bodies need time to transition from go-go-go to zzzzzzzz. During that hour, turn off the TV, put away your cell phone and iPad and take some time to do something relaxing like reading a book, taking a hot bath or shower, or just lying in bed and doing some deep breathing. Creating a healthy bedtime routine will help you sleep better and wake up feeling more rested. Believe me; you’ll thank me in the morning!

Read About Unhealthy Habit #1

5 Reasons Every Woman Should See a Naturopathic Doctor

Wondering why you would go see a Naturopathic Doctor?

Check out this article which outlines 5 reasons to see an ND. The benefits you can enjoy include:

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Improved digestion
  • Clear, glowing skin
  • PMS relief & hormone balance

Have a specific condition that you want help with? Book your FREE 15-minute consultation with me to learn how Naturopathic Medicine can help you achieve optimal health.

Yours in health,

Sarah

Superfoods to Boost your Sex Life

Try adding these superfoods into your diet to help boost your energy levels, help with relaxation, and improve circulation – all of which are key to enjoying a happy and healthy sex life!

Oysters

  • High in zinc- important for testosterone production and sperm quality
  • Raise dopamine levels which increases your libido
  • If oysters aren’t your thing….Pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc!

Maca powder

  • Known as Peru’s natural Viagra
  • Helps to boost libido, strength, stamina, energy, and fertility
  • Acts as an “adaptogen” – helps body cope with stress & ward off disease

Foods rich in Arginine

  • Arginine helps open up blood vessels to promote circulation of blood
  • Foods high in arginine include -Watermelon, pomegranate, cucumber, soy protein, nuts and seeds

Eggs - a symbol of fertility!

  • High in B vitamins- needed to produce serotonin (your feel good brain chemical)
  • Low serotonin can cause premature ejaculation
  • Egg yolks contain choline- needed for acetylcholine production

Cocoa/chocolate

  • Contains more antioxidants than red wine or green tea
  • Contains phenylethlamine- stimulates your sense of excitement and well-being
  • Be sure to choose dark chocolate, pure cocoa powder, or raw cocoa nibs
  • Try grinding raw cocoa nibs with your coffee beans for an added antioxidant boost!

Cayenne pepper

  • Helps increase circulation- including to sexual organs
  • Helps warm the body and ignite your inner fire!

Licorice Tea

  • A favorite for supporting the adrenal glands – produce stress hormones & sex hormones
  • Provides a natural energy boost
  • Avoid this if you have high blood pressure

Nutmeg

  • Increases blood flow and relaxes muscles
  • Increases frequency of erections, intercourse,  and stamina & less recovery time

Greens supplements

  • Boosts energy levels
  • May help with sexual satisfaction and erection quality

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Helps lower the hormone leptin – Premature ejaculation associated with high leptin levels
  • Helps to achieve adequate lubrication

Super Sexy Smoothie

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond or rice milk
  • 1 banana
  • 3/4 cups mixed berries (ideally including pomegranate)
  • 2 Tbsp raw cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp Maca powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients in a blender and enjoy! Serves 2.