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Integrative Family Health Clinic in Bolton and the Greater Caledon Area
4-22 Simona Drive
Bolton, ON

5 Reasons You Should Be Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle

Are you a 3-weeker or a 4-weeker? Tracking your menstrual cycle can yield a lot of benefits, not just for your laundry and vacation schedules, but also for your hormone health, fertility, and overall health. Read on to find out 5 reasons why you should be tracking your menstrual cycle, and how to do it. 

A “Normal” Cycle

Although the average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days, a menstrual cycle can be from 23 to 35 days and still be considered normal. The regularity of your cycle is more important than the length of your cycle because it indicates that your hormones are cycling properly. There are a few hormones that influence the regularity of your cycle:

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

This hormone, released by a gland in the brain, stimulates the development of follicles in the ovary, which become eggs that can become fertilized every cycle.

Luteinizing hormone (LH)

Like FSH, LH is made in the brain and has roles in ovulation and regulating cycle length. 

Estrogen

A hormone that is made throughout the body and has a variety of actions. In people who menstruate, it’s dominant during the first half of their cycle.

Progesterone

A hormone made throughout the body and is dominant during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Your cycle length may vary because of individual factors, but your cycle regularity can be impacted by factors like stress and other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). 

Why You Should Be Tracking Your Cycle

1. Helps to monitor your fertility

One of the primary reasons to track your cycle is to better understand your fertile window for family planning. Tracking the start and end to your cycle, along with cycle milestones like cervical mucous, can help you determine when—and when not to—time intercourse for your family planning goals.

2. Helps to monitor changes in your hormones 

Cycle regularity is determined by the interplay between the four major hormones: FSH, LH, estrogen, and progesterone. However, other hormones, such as thyroid hormone, can impact your menstrual cycle as well. Tracking your cycle can give clues to the changes in these hormones and how they interact with each other.

3. Understand how stress affects your cycle

Have you ever noticed a late period during a stressful time? Cortisol, your stress hormone, can also affect your cycle length and regularity. Track your cycle to better predict how stress can affect you. Moreover, you can track your cycle to understand if stress management techniques, like acupuncture, meditation, or other treatments, make an impact on your hormone health.

4. Understand how body fat affects your cycle

Body fat can impact your hormone production and how hormones interact with your reproductive organs. Too little body fat, as in the case of people struggling with eating disorders or extreme workout routines, can cause irregular menstrual cycles. In addition, people who have body mass indexes (BMI) of more than 30 kg/m2 can be predisposed to conditions like diabetes mellitus or PCOS, which can impact cycle length and regularity. Tracking your cycle can help you understand how body fat changes can affect your hormone health.

5. Helps your doctor monitor your other medical conditions

A primary care doctor or OB/GYN specialist typically asks about your cycle length and regularity during your visits. If your healthcare provider is working up a hormonal issue, such as menopause or infertility, they typically will ask for a blood draw on day 3 or day 21 of your cycle. 

Knowing your cycle can help your doctor diagnose hormonal conditions and monitor other conditions. As mentioned previously, conditions such as thyroid disorders, PCOS, and diabetes can often impact your menstrual cycle. 

Expert Cycle Tracking Tips From Dr. Salwan, ND

Tracking your cycle can be as simple as a paper calendar or it can be logged in a mobile app. Here are tips from naturopathic doctor Dr. Salwan:

    • Track when your cycle starts: Your cycle starts on the day you notice spotting or bleeding for your period.
    • Track when your period phase ends: Note the last day of your period to calculate your period length.
    • Track when your cycle ends: Your cycle ends the day before your period starts again.
    • You can track your cervical mucous, discharge you notice, cramps you experience, and other symptoms like mood changes, bloating, acne, or breast tenderness as well. 
    • There are many mobile apps that you can log your cycle details in addition to other symptoms you may experience throughout your cycle. 
    • If you’re concerned about your digital privacy on mobile apps, you can always use a physical diary, journal, or calendar to track your cycle.

Talking to a healthcare professional like your naturopathic doctor can help you decode your health through your cycle tracking.

5 Things You Should Know About Menopause

Menopause, a pivotal life transition, marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles and signifies the conclusion of her reproductive years. The menopausal shift gives rise to a spectrum of physical and emotional changes, ranging from hot flashes and night sweats to mood swings and changes in bone density. 

Beyond the physiological aspects, menopause also carries psychological and emotional dimensions, impacting a woman’s sense of identity and well-being. Navigating this transformative period involves understanding the diverse manifestations of menopausal symptoms, exploring available treatment options, and embracing lifestyle adjustments to promote overall health and resilience. 

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life that occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. 

There are a few phases to menopause, starting with perimenopause and ending in postmenopause: 

Perimenopause

Perimenopause refers to the transitional stage leading up to menopause, typically beginning in a woman's 40s but sometimes starting earlier.

During perimenopause, hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, begin to fluctuate, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and various symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, fatigue, and changes in libido.

Perimenopause can last for several years, and the duration varies from woman to woman. It ends when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, marking the onset of menopause.

Menopause

Menopause marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycles and fertility. It is defined as the absence of menstruation for 12 consecutive months.

The average age of natural menopause in women is around 51, but it can occur earlier or later. Factors such as genetics, smoking, and certain medical conditions can influence the timing of menopause.

Postmenopause

Postmenopause refers to the stage of life after menopause has been reached. It begins the day after a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period.

During postmenopause, hormone levels, particularly estrogen, remain at consistently low levels. As a result, women may continue to experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and mood changes.

Postmenopausal women are at increased risk of certain health conditions, including osteoporosis (due to decreased bone density), cardiovascular disease, and cognitive changes.

Understanding the stages of menopause can help women navigate the physical and emotional changes associated with menopause and make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Hormones in Menopause

The hormonal changes during menopause involve more than just a decrease in estrogen. The interplay of hormones from various glands, including the thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, and ovaries, is intricate and dynamic. It is crucial for your provider to understand how each hormone interacts and compensates for one another in order to help you achieve hormonal balance during menopause.

 

Here are some key hormonal glands that your healthcare provider may consider:

  1. Thyroid gland – Thyroid disorders can mimic peri/menopausal symptoms such as weight gain, mood changes, fatigue, hair loss and sleep disturbance.
  2. Ovaries – Ovaries are the primary reproductive organs responsible for producing estrogen, progesterone, and small amounts of testosterone. During menopause, ovarian function declines, leading to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone production.
  3. Pancreas – The pancreas produces insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and may influence weight management during menopause.
  4. Adrenals – Chronic stress during menopause can lead to dysregulation of adrenal function, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. The adrenals are responsible for the stress response and take over production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in menopause.

Five Things You Need To Know About Hormones in Menopause

Here are five ways that hormones can impact your health during the different phases of menopause: 

  1. Hormones Fluctuate During Perimenopause:
    Perimenopause is characterized by fluctuating hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone. These fluctuations can lead to irregular periods, hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms as the body adjusts to changing hormone levels. During this phase, testing for hormones can be a moving target. Collaborating with your healthcare professional can help avoid the trial-and-error approach when experimenting with various products and supplements.

  2. Low Hormone Levels in Postmenopause:
    After menopause, women experience a significant decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels, leading to various changes in the body. These changes can include decreased bone density, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and changes in cognitive function.
  3. Hormones Impact Bones, the Brain, and the Cardiovascular System:
    The decrease in hormone levels postmenopause can have profound effects on bone health, brain function, and cardiovascular health. Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining bone density, so low estrogen levels can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, estrogen has neuroprotective effects and helps regulate the cardiovascular system, so its decline can affect brain function and cardiovascular health.
  4. Menopause is More Than Just About Estrogen and Progesterone:
    Menopause involves a complex interplay of hormones beyond just estrogen. While estrogen levels decline, other hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, and hormones produced by the adrenal glands also play a role in menopausal symptoms and overall health. Understanding how these hormones interact and compensate for each other is essential for managing menopausal symptoms and promoting overall well-being.
  5. Balancing Hormones Isn’t A One-Size-Fits-All:
    Achieving hormone balance during menopause involves more than just replacing estrogen. It requires a comprehensive approach that considers the interactions between various hormones and addresses individual symptoms and health concerns. This may involve lifestyle changes, hormone therapy, nutritional support, and other interventions tailored to each woman’s needs.

By understanding the complexities of menopause and its impact on hormone levels, women can take proactive steps to manage symptoms, support their overall health, and navigate this important life transition more effectively.

How Naturopathic Doctors Help

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) take a holistic approach to assess and treat menopausal symptoms and related health concerns. They consider the interconnectedness of various bodily systems and focus on addressing the underlying causes of symptoms rather than merely managing them.

Menopause is a significant life transition that can bring physical, emotional, and psychological changes for women. Naturopathic medicine offers holistic approaches to assess and treat menopausal symptoms, emphasizing individualized care, lifestyle modifications, natural therapies, and mind-body interventions. If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms or approaching menopause, consult with a licensed naturopathic doctor to explore safe and effective treatment options tailored to your needs and goals.

Get started with Dr. Salwan, ND or one of our NDs at Wildflower Health and Wellness today.

How Naturopathic Doctors Support Your Hormones

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are like your hormone BFFs. Whether it’s for wonky periods, thyroid troubles, or feeling like you’ve been hit by a hormone hurricane during menopause, naturopathic doctors have your back. 

NDs help you navigate the rollercoaster of health by creating personalized treatment plans that incorporate nutrition, stress management, herbal supplements, and acupuncture to rebalance hormonal fluctuations. Through comprehensive assessments, naturopathic doctors seek to address the root causes of hormonal imbalances and promote sustainable health improvements.

If you’re ready to kick those hormone woes to the curb and reclaim your groove, grab your green smoothie and let’s dive into how naturopathic doctors work their magic on your hormones.

Common Conditions Affected by Hormones

When hormones are balanced, life just feels right. You’re in sync with your body, radiating vitality, and ready to take on whatever comes your way! On the other hand, when they are off, you wake up feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck, you are breaking out like a teenager again, and your mood swings are giving you emotional whiplash. 

We use the analogy of trying to navigate a stormy sea without a compass. But fear not, there’s always a way to find balance and ride out the hormonal waves!

Common conditions influenced by hormones include:

    • Thyroid disorders

    • PCOS

    • Menopause

    • Adrenal fatigue

    • Infertility

    • Insulin resistance 

The Naturopathic Medicine Approach to Hormones

Naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on using natural remedies and holistic approaches to promote healing and wellness. Licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) emphasize the body’s inherent ability to heal itself and strive to identify and address the root causes of illness.

It is key to note that naturopathic doctors often work in collaboration with other healthcare providers to provide integrative care for their patients.

Herbal medicine

Naturopaths employ herbal medicine (plant based extracts) to restore hormone balance, utilizing plants with properties to support the endocrine system. Herbs like black cohosh, chaste berry, and dong quai are known for easing menopausal symptoms and regulating menstrual cycles. Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and rhodiola help manage stress, while maca root may enhance fertility.

Herbs may seem safer, but it’s important to know that not all herbs are suitable for every individual. Naturopathic doctors tailor herbal remedies to individual needs for effective hormone balancing at your life stage. They also consider your whole health history, allergies, sensitivities, and other medications in order to maximize the benefit of your treatment.

Acupuncture

This isn’t your typical joint-pain-type acupuncture. Naturopathic doctors are trained in the Traditional Asian Medicine (also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM) style of acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a key tool used by naturopathic doctors for hormone balancing, which involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. In the context of hormonal balance, acupuncture is believed to influence the endocrine system, which regulates hormone production and cycling.

Targeted Nutrition

Do you need more healthy fats? Or more proteins? Maybe both!

Naturopathic doctors can use targeted nutrition to help you reach your goals faster but also sustainably. After a thorough assessment, your ND customizes dietary recommendations to support hormone balance and overall metabolism. This approach significantly influences hormone production, metabolism, and function within the body. Eating right for your body addresses the root causes of health issues and is paramount to maintaining hormonal freedom.

How Long Does Naturopathic Medicine Take?

The duration of naturopathic treatment varies depending on individual health concerns, baseline health status, and the body’s response to therapies. Typically, patients can expect to see improvements in their health over time, with some experiencing relief from symptoms within weeks, while others may require several months of consistent care to achieve optimal results.

For hormonal support, patients can expect a comprehensive assessment of their hormone levels, lifestyle factors, and overall health. Naturopathic doctors may recommend dietary adjustments, herbal supplements, stress management techniques, and other natural therapies tailored to rebalance hormones and alleviate symptoms such as irregular periods, fatigue, mood swings, and hot flashes. Treatment plans are individualized to address each patient’s unique needs and may require ongoing monitoring and adjustments to achieve long-term hormone balance and wellness.

Get started with Dr. Salwan, ND or one of our NDs at Wildflower Health and Wellness today.