Class Is In Session: A Breakdown of the Menstrual Cycle

Posted by on Jul 6, 2023

The Menstrual cycle is divided into two events and two phases: Menses (your “period”) Follicular phase (phase 1) Ovulation Luteal phase (phase 2) MENSES (“PERIOD”) This is DAY 1 of your new cycle. It is the shedding of the uterine lining (endometrium) that grew during your previous cycle. All hormone levels are low. FOLLICULAR PHASE Begins on day 1 of your new cycle (1st day of your period). Defines the first half of the cycle (roughly the first 14 days), from menses to ovulation. FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, triggers follicles in the ovaries to produce Estrogen. This phase is dominated by Estrogen. What does Estrogen do?  causes eggs to mature (so they’re ready for ovulation). builds uterine lining (for implantation of a fertilized egg). makes fertile quality cervical fluid (for sperm to travel through to fertilize the egg). Right before ovulation (theoretically day 13 in a 28-day cycle), cervical fluid quality and estrogen levels are at their peak, and the cervix is high and open. At the end of the follicular phase, high estrogen levels trigger a surge of LH (Luteinizing Hormone) from the pituitary gland which completes the growth of the follicle (containing the egg) and stimulates ovulation. OVULATION The egg is released from the follicle within the ovary and is transported to the Fallopian tube. The egg survives for 24 hours after ovulation. Date of ovulation determines your cycle length. Ovulation does not always occur on day 14. Ovulatory bleeding is normal, which looks like mid-cycle spotting. Ovulation is indicated by a subtle increase in basal body temperature (BBT). Multiple ovulation (2 eggs released in 24 hours) can occur, this is more common in older women. LUTEAL PHASE Defines the second half of the cycle, between ovulation and menses. Length stays fairly consistent each cycle, lasting between 12-16 days (average is 13, 14). Maximum is 16 days. This phase must last at least 10 days for embryo implantation into the uterine lining. The length of this phase is not affected by external factors (i.e-stress), therefore a late period is usually due to delayed ovulation. The follicle that housed the released egg turns into the “corpus luteum” and produces progesterone. This phase is dominated by Progesterone. What does Progesterone do? keeps the lining of the uterus thick in case an embryo implants. produces body heat (reason for increased Body Basal Temperature post-ovulation). causes changes in cervical fluid and position. prevents release of another egg during the same cycle. What happens if a sperm fertilizes the egg? If a sperm fertilizes the egg within 24 hours after ovulation, then 7 days later the “blastocyst” (the stage between fertilized egg and embryo)...

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The Health Impact of Plastics and How We Can Reduce Our Exposures

Posted by on Mar 22, 2023

Take a glance around the room you are in and see how many items are made from plastic. You may be surprised to learn that the clothing you are wearing and the surface you are sitting on likely contains plastic. We are living in the “Plasticine” a new historical epoch used by scientists to describe the ubiquity of plastics in our environment (and our bodies!). Microplastics are tiny plastics (some are 100 times smaller in diameter than a human hair), and they have been found in varying concentrations in marine and fresh water, soil, agroecosystems, air/atmosphere, food, drinking water, plants, animals, and even in polar regions! This is truly the definition of ubiquitous. Microplastics and nanoplastics introduce toxic chemicals into our ecosystems and our bodies, and as of now we don’t fully understand the health impact that this has on our planet and all living creatures, including humans. In general, there is lack of knowledge and regulation regarding many of substances used in the plastic industry. Many of the substances used to produce plastics are known to be harmful to humans especially the “additives” which give plastics their specific qualities. Types of additives include fillers, plasticizers, UV stabilizers, dyes, and flame-retardants, many of which are toxic and have high potential to contaminate our water, air and soil. (Examples of fillers include talc and asbestos; examples of plasticizers include cadmium, barium, lead salts, BPAs and phthalates; Dyes are often made from heavy metals.) One of the most concerning group of chemicals used in plastic production are called Endocrine Disruptor Compounds, or EDCs. EDCs are chemicals that are not naturally produced by the human body but effect human hormones, glands and organs involved in the hormonal system. EDCs can be ingested, inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Exposure to EDCs is associated with many health conditions, including  hormonal cancers (breast, prostate, testes), reproductive problems (genital malformations, infertility, PCOS), metabolic disorders (diabetes, obesity), asthma, and neurodevelopmental conditions (learning disorders, autism spectrum disorders). Some commonly used plastic additives have gotten a lot of press for being endocrine disruptors, including Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and brominated flame retardants. Many companies have advertised their plastic products as being “BPA free,” but we now know that the replacement chemicals (BPS, BPF, BPAF), are just as dangerous if not worse for human health. BPAs (and other Bisphenol replacements) are uses as plasticizers in food storage containers, water bottles, lining for cans and jar lids, and sales receipts. Bisphenols leech into foods or liquids when the plastic is exposed to microwaves, heat, cold or just wear-and-tear. Exposure to BPAs is associated with cardiovascular disease, obesity, breast cancer, and reproductive disorders. Phthalates, are another endocrine disrupting compound used as...

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Supplements for Preventing Viral Respiratory Infections

Posted by on Feb 22, 2023

It seems that cold and flu season has become more stressful for us all in recent years as we carry on in the shadow of a lingering pandemic. Contagious illness is difficult to avoid, especially in the colder months when we are spending more time indoors in close quarters with less fresh air and lower levels of vitamin D due to less sun exposure. A dry and cold environment challenges the immune system and helps some viruses to thrive. Also some viruses are seasonal and make their presence known in the winter, specifically Influenza virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). So what can we do to prevent getting sick? We know that there are general precautions we can take to decrease viral transmission like regular hand-washing, covering your face when coughing or sneezing, staying home when sick and vaccinations. And of course, getting adequate sleep and nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, which is our first-line defense against infectious disease. There are many botanical medicines, vitamins and minerals that have been used historically for illness prevention. We have decided to take a look at a few supplements that have good evidence to back up their use: Echinacea, Green Tea, Ginseng, Vitamin D, Zinc, and Vitamin C. Echinacea A meta-analysis that studied the effect of the herb Echinacea on preventing the common cold, found that different preparations made from the 3 most commonly used species of Echinacea (E. Angustifolia, E. Purpurea, E. Pallida) decreased the odds of contracting the common cold by 58%.1 Of those people who caught a cold, cold symptoms resolved quicker among those taking echinacea preventively. A recent study showed that taking 800 mg of Echinacea Purpurea extract three times a day significantly prevented corona-enveloped virus infections.2 In fact, this daily dose of echinacea reduced the risk of SARS-CoV-2 (“COVID-19”) infection by 63% when compared to placebo.2 Green Tea (Camellia sinesis) Several studies have shown that daily consumption of a standardized green tea extract lowers the risk of viral respiratory infections, and decreases the duration and severity of the illness if a person should become sick.3 Green tea extract contains catechins and L-theanine, two highly researched therapeutic components of green tea.3 Drinking green tea may decrease the risk of influenza in children and may dramatically lower a woman’s risk of dying from influenza.3 Ginsengs: Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) & American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has shown to decrease the risk of viral respiratory infections by almost half (at a dose of 1 gram three times a day).3 Supplementing with only 100 mg of Panax ginseng daily has shown to provide additional protection and increased antibodies against the flu in those who...

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Breathe Carefully

Posted by on Sep 13, 2020

Breathe Carefully; The impact of wildfire smoke exposure and strategies for maintaining health.   I’m writing today from Portland, Oregon, my home and the home of our clinic of course, A Woman’s Time.  As you all know, our forests and several towns and areas are burning dramatically.  The worst in our history.  Governor Brown had stated several days ago that 900,000 acres had burned in 3 days vs the previous maximum of 300,000 acres a year.  Those of us who are not suffering the trauma of lost homes, people, animals or land, are weathering the daunting smoke.  The air quality is rated at 446, the worst in the nation and rated hazardous to one’s health.  The highest rating of severity.  We are on day 3 of that rating as of Sunday, September 13, 2020.  You can check your air quality at   Many of our patients are struggling with their mood and their physical health during this time.  The anxiety can easily increase let alone panic and fear if you are in a level 3 red zone and evacuate now.  Then there is the depression of loss or fear of loss.  For all us though, this smoky air is the air we breathe when outside, and eventually inside, if you do not have a proper air filter.   Here is some good background information to get you thinking, from the CDC: Wildfire smoke can harm you in multiple ways. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. This fact sheet tells you how you can protect your health and be safe if you are exposed to wildfire smoke.   What is Wildfire Smoke and Can it Make Me Sick? Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, building materials, and other materials. Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick. Even someone who is healthy can get sick if there is enough smoke in the air. Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including: Coughing Trouble breathing normally Stinging eyes A scratchy throat Runny nose Irritated sinuses Wheezing and shortness of breath Chest pain Headaches An asthma attack Tiredness Fast heartbeat Older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke. Wildfire Smoke Can Affect High Risk Groups Eight Tips for Protecting Yourself from Breathing Wildfire Smoke If possible, limit your exposure to smoke. Here are eight tips to help you protect your health: Pay attention to local air quality reports and the US Air Quality IndexExternal. When a wildfire occurs in your area, watch for news or health warnings about...

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Insomnia 3- Investigating Insomnia: when treatments aren’t helping

Posted by on Mar 19, 2018

      The previous posts outlined lifestyle modifications for improving sleep, as well as various nutraceutical and botanical treatments for attaining better sleep. However, what if it’s been several weeks and none of these treatments seem to be helping? This is where the investigation begins. You doctor will perform a more detailed evaluation- often including lab testing and referrals- to help discern the cause of this hard-to-treat insomnia.   Laboratory Testing Lab workup may start by analyzing your thyroid function, ruling out hyperthyroidism as a cause and/or blood sugar testing to determine if highs or lows are involved. Another test, unique to alternative medicine, provides a salivary 4-part cortisol measurement. This will help to identify if the insomnia occurs because of abnormal cortisol secretion. Another valuable test measures neurotransmitter levels (including serotonin, histamine, GABA and others) to identify and treat deficiencies or excesses.   Physical Exam It is likely your doctor has already performed a full physical exam; however, they may choose to repeat it and pay special attention to heart function, neurological function, as well as oral and throat anatomy.   Other conditions that are important to rule out include restless leg syndrome and musculoskeletal pain or spasm.   Referrals If needed, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist to rule out sleep apnea. Physical therapy or orthopedic referrals can be useful to help treat chronic pain. Lastly, your doctor may choose to refer to a mental health practitioner for further evaluation; it is important to identify if sleep difficulties originate from mental or emotional causes.   Contact your doctor today if you suffer from sleep difficulties that do not respond to treatment. It is an important issue to address as poor sleep has negative health effects, both short and long term.     To a good night’s rest!     Image courtesy of...

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