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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.

Physiotherapy for pregnancy and postpartum Wildflower health and wellness clinic

Supporting Changing Bodies: Physiotherapy for Pregnancy and Postpartum

Pregnancy is an exciting period of time that comes with lots of changes to your body. As your baby grows, there are so many noticeable changes that connect you to your growing baby. Your baby bump starts to pop and grow, and eventually, you’ll start to feel your baby kick. With these changes, however, you may also be experiencing some not-so-exciting symptoms.

What body changes happen with pregnancy?

As your baby bump grows beyond your natural frame, your abdominal muscles elongate and your rib cage allows for more room to accommodate. These changes shift the dynamics of how you breathe and how your core muscles — such as your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles — function.

Your pelvic organs and digestive organs accommodate a growing baby by changing positions, which affects how these organs function.

Changes in the abdominal and pelvic organs can lead to a host of unexpected symptoms, for example:

  • low back pain
  • pelvic girdle pain
  • hip pain
  • rib pain
  • shortness of breath
  • constipation
  • increased frequency of urination
  • incontinence (leaking urine) on the way to the bathroom; or when coughing, sneezing, squatting, jumping, or running
  • vaginal heaviness
  • pain during intercourse
  • “lightning” crotch pain
organ changes during pregnancy
Source: Pearson Education

What is prenatal physiotherapy?

Prenatal physiotherapy supports a pregnant person’s body during pregnancy, before baby’s birth. The focus of prenatal physiotherapy is:

1. To maintain a strong core and normal breathing mechanics

Strong core muscles and normal breathing mechanics are supported when physiotherapists assess:

  • how you are holding your rib cage and pelvic when you stand, sit, and move
  • what your breathing pattern is
  • how you activate your core muscles for stability

Together, you and your physiotherapist will work together on rib and hip mobility in addition to abdominal muscle mobility and strength. We will optimize your breathing pattern and ensure you know how to activate your core muscles.

2. To prepare your pelvic floor for labour and delivery

Kegels aren’t appropriate for everyone. Pelvic health physiotherapists can assess your pelvic floor to learn whether your pelvic floor muscles are in a state of tension, whether you are able to relax them, and whether or not you need to be practicing Kegels.

Relaxing and lengthening your pelvic floor muscles is a key function for labour and delivery. Your pelvic health physiotherapist should work on your ability to consciously relax and lengthen your pelvic floor, in addition to treating any tension that exists in the area. Finally, prenatal physiotherapy involves improving the mobility of your perineal membrane, another layer of tissue in the area, which also needs to lengthen and open during labour and delivery.

3. To teach you positions, pain management, and pushing strategies for labour and delivery

Finally, prenatal physiotherapy involves preparing you, not just your muscles, for labour and delivery. Guided by your physiotherapist, you will learn certain positions that support pain management in addition to learning how to push during labour and delivery.

What is postpartum physiotherapy?

Postpartum physiotherapy supports an individual’s body after pregnancy, or after giving birth. During the postpartum period, many of the symptoms experienced during pregnancy may still persist. In addition, the postpartum body may also experience:

  • painful perineal scar
  • painful and immobile C-section scar
  • pelvic organ prolapse (vaginal, uterine, or rectal prolapse)
  • diastasis recti, also known as “mommy pooch” or “mommy tummy”

The focus of postpartum physiotherapy is:

1. To regain a strong core and normal breathing mechanics

In the postpartum phase, your physiotherapist will work with you to ensure that the position of your rib cage and pelvic return to neutral, that your breathing mechanics return to a normal pattern, and that you are able to activate your core muscles in a balanced and coordinated way, without overcompensating muscles that might cause further pain or dysfunction.

2. To regain a strong pelvic floor

Pelvic health physiotherapists will also re-assess how your pelvic floor muscles have responded to labour and delivery and ensure that you regain the full strength and function of y our pelvic floor muscles.

3. To support C-section and perineal scar healing

Births may result in either a C-section scar, perineal tearing or scarring, or pelvic trauma in general. There are many techniques that your pelvic health physiotherapist can use to support healing and improve the mobility of C-section and perineal scars, to prevent future pain and restrictions in the tissue.

Summary

Overall, the goal of prenatal and postpartum physiotherapy is to ensure that you have:

  • a healthy and strong pregnancy
  • a smooth labour and delivery; and
  • a full recovery

in order to return to all the daily activities that you love, pain- and restriction-free, with your new baby.

If you’re ready to get started, our pelvic health physiotherapist accepts patients in the Bolton, Caledon, and Peel regions.

Pelvic Physiotherapy 101

Have you ever wondered what pelvic physiotherapy actually is and how it helps? Our pelvic physiotherapist explains.

What are pelvic floor muscles?

The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles found along the base of our pelvis that create the foundation of our trunk and core. They form a hammock and should have the perfect balance of tension and relaxation to be strong and support our body.

The pelvic floor muscles support our low back and hip joints, they are an important member of our core system (you can’t have a strong core without a strong pelvic floor), they support our urinary function, bowel function and sexual function, and they are closely connected to our breathing, our resting state (calm or anxious) and our emotions. 

Because the pelvic floor muscles have many different functions, pelvic floor muscle dysfunction can present in many different ways and affect many different systems. 

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction is when the pelvic floor muscles cause or contribute to symptoms such as:

  • Leaking on your way to the bathroom
  • Leaking when you sneeze, cough, or laugh
  • Leaking when you run or jump or suddenly change position
  • A feeling of fullness or heaviness in the vaginal area
  • Prolapse/bulging at the vaginal opening
  • Difficulty strengthening your core muscles
  • Diastasis Recti
  • Painful intercourse
  • Constipation
  • A sudden/intense urge to pee and/or difficulty making it to the bathroom
  • Needing to pee often/planning your day around where the bathrooms are.
  • Pelvic pain
  • Tailbone pain

How does pelvic health physiotherapy help?

A pelvic health physiotherapist does a full history and physical assessment to piece together the factors that are contributing to your symptoms. The history will give a clear picture of what your symptoms are and which systems are affected.

The physical assessment will look at all the surrounding factors that impact how your pelvic floor works: from breathing, posture, movement patterns, to core and hip muscle strength and conditioning. It will also include an internal evaluation (based on your consent) to assess the specific function and mobility of your pelvic floor muscles including: pelvic floor muscle strength, tension levels (under-active/hypotonic muscles or over-active/hypertonic muscles), quality of contraction and relaxation,  scar tissue restrictions and fascial restrictions. 

This will enable the physiotherapist to develop a treatment plan with specific mobility and strengthening treatments and exercises to improve your pelvic floor function and relieve your symptoms.

What happens to the pelvic floor during pregnancy and postpartum?

You may experience many of the symptoms above during pregnancy or postpartum as your core and pelvic floor adapt to a changing body.  

For an overview of how pelvic health physiotherapy supports you to have healthy and fit pregnancy, prepares you for labour and delivery and guides your postpartum recovery, click here for our guide: