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Absense of Periods – Amenorrhea

There are a couple of reasons your cycle may be irregular such as stress, dietary deficiencies, low body weight, getting off of birth control pills, hormonal imbalance, perimenopause or other underlying issues.

Since the lining of the uterus is not being shed, it is very important to clear out the old blood and establish a healthy cycle again. This can be done naturally and effectively by qualified medical practitioners.

Absence of Periods is medically known as Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea is divided into two distinct groups: primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea. Secondary amenorrhea being the most common.Note: Absent menstrual cycles due to perimenopause and menopause are not considered amenorrhea.

Primary Amenorrhea
Defined as the absence of menstruation by the age of 14 with no secondary sexual characteristics, or the absence of menstruation by the age of 16 regardless of secondary sexual characteristics. Examples of secondary sexual characteristics in women are enlargement of breasts, widening of hips, armpit, pubic and leg hair and body odor. Primary amenorrhea is uncommon, happening in about only 0.3% of women.

Natural therapies do not often work as well for women with primary amenorrhea and that is because there is usually an underlying developmental issue for those women. In the case of primary amenorrhea, it may be best to find a reproductive endocrinologist to work with. We are not saying natural therapies and herbs will not work for primary amenorrhea, just that this condition is more difficult to work with. It is still very beneficial to eat well and choose healthy lifestyle practices.

Secondary amenorrhea
Defined as the absence of menstruation for the total of at least 3 previous menstrual cycle lengths, or at least 6 months in a woman who previously had a menstrual cycle and is still in her reproductive years. Reproductive years are defined as menarche, when a woman begins her menstrual cycle in puberty until menopause around the ages of 40-55. Secondary amenorrhea is more common than primary amenorrhea.

Causes of Absent Period

A menstrual cycle that has stopped is not a disease, it may be a sign that there is an underlying imbalance in the body. A regular menstrual cycle is regulated by a complex system of messages and actions orchestrated by the endocrine system. The endocrine glands work together to send messages via hormones. This is called the feedback loop.

In very simple terms the hypothalamus produces GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormones) which signals to the pituitary to produce LH (luteinising hormones and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) to signal to the ovaries that it is their turn to release estrogen and progesterone which is recognized by the pituitary gland.

Simple right? Not so. As you can see a healthy cycle is dependent on each part of the feedback loop functioning properly. Think of it as an orchestra, if just one part of the cycle is off, it will throw the entire cycle off, causing imbalances that can affect regular menstrual cycles.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Sometimes the body is not getting enough nutrition daily to be able to sustain normal functions, including the menstrual cycle. There are many very important nutrients the body requires to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle. Nutritional deficiencies can actually cause menstrual cycle irregularities and eventually may cause the entire cycle to stop.

What you eat daily makes up every part of your body. You are what you eat!

Harvard performed a recent study that showed an 80% decrease in infertility with the lifestyle changes made by switching to a fertility diet. Women who followed a combination of five or more lifestyle factors, including changing specific aspects of their diets, experienced more than 80 percent less relative risk of infertility due to ovulatory disorders compared to women who engaged in none of the factors, according to a paper published in the Nov. 1 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 

Eating a wide variety of whole foods is vital to a healthy menstrual cycle. The body relies on the foods we consume daily to function at its best. There are key nutrients and foods that support a healthy menstrual cycle, if any of these are lacking there may be a deficiency that may be contributing to an absent period. Be sure you are getting enough of the following…

Iron: “In a study women who were having ovulation problems, 40% became fertile after supplementing with iron.”

Vitamin C: Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women. The body requires food sources of vitamin C for proper iron absorption, so be sure to eat a food high in vitamin C when consuming a food high in iron. Great food sources of vitamin C are red bell peppers, oranges strawberries and hibiscus flower tea.

B Vitamins: Green vegetables are rich in B vitamins which are necessary for proper hormonal balance. Think of Swiss chard, kale, watercress, seaweed, spirulina, collard greens, nettles, parsley and basil!

Essential fatty acids: EFA’s are important for hormone production. Many women are low in EFA’s, specifically omega 3. Some foods rich in EFA’s are Flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper, scallops, chia seeds and cod liver oil.

Cholesterol: Cholesterol is necessary for hormone production. Avoid eating a ‘low-fat’ diet and makes sure to eat a diet that includes whole fat sourced from grass-fed animal products. Foods rich in clean cholesterol: grass-fed beef, raw milk from grass-fed cows or goats, whole milk yogurt and kefir, free-range/pastured eggs, butter from grass-fed milk (Kerry Gold is a common one) and coconut oil.

Fiber: Fiber helps to remove excess hormones from the body which may be causing hormonal imbalance. Fiber also helps to regulate the blood sugar levels which helps to reduce fertility issues such as PCOS, immunological issues, and promotes healthy hormonal balance. Some examples of high fiber foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and beans.

Zinc: This is just one of the minerals that the body uses to keep hormone levels (like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) levels stable throughout the entire menstrual cycle. It is especially important during stage 2 and 4 of a woman’s cycle. A woman’s body needs a certain amount of zinc to produce mature eggs that are ripe for fertilization. The richest source of Zinc are oysters, but some easy to find sources are raw pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds and tahini sesame seed butter.

  • Being Overweight or Underweight

There is a direct link between anovulation and obesity and those women who are. Body fat cells, called adipocytes produce estrogen. Obese women may have too much estrogen due to too much body fat. Women who are underweight may also have anovulation due to lack of body fat. There may not be enough estrogen or adequate cholesterol levels being maintained to support the menstrual cycle. Studies have shown that women with extreme exercise habits have significantly lower levels of estradiol due to low levels of body fat in key areas of the body, leading to anovulation.

Estrogen is essential for healthy bone formation, healthy gene expression, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and is vital for a healthy menstrual cycle. Too much estrogen, or too little in the body may cause the feedback loop to not function properly and the menstrual cycle may cease. Now you can see why it is so important to have adequate amounts of body fat; not too much and not too little!

PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, sometimes also called polycystic ovarian dysfunction is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. There are two distinct and consistent features of PCOS: absent period or inconsistent menstrual cycles and hyperandrogenism (the body is producing too many androgens, the most common one being testosterone).

Stress

Stress may cause the body to stop the menstrual cycle. Stress causes the body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin that prevent our fertility hormones from being released at the correct times in the menstrual cycle. This can cause a disruption in the menstrual cycle by affecting how the adrenal glands function. Reducing stress and supporting adrenal health is essential to a healthy menstrual cycle and is a relatively easy fix for healthy fertility. The adrenal glands also directly impact thyroid health.

Thyroid issues

Poor thyroid function may cause the menstrual cycle to stop. An overactive thyroid that produces too many thyroid hormones is called Hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough thyroid hormones. An absent menstrual cycle is a sign of hyperthyroidism, where irregular or heavy cycles may be a sign of hypothyroidism. 

Pituitary tumor

A pituitary tumor may cause disruption of the release of and manufacturing of certain hormones which may cause the menstrual cycle to stop.

Premature Ovarian Failure

POF, also known as Ovarian Hypofunction, is defined as a loss of normal ovarian function before the age of 40. The menstrual cycle may cease before the age of 40, or become sporadic.

Perimenopause and Menopause

Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause. As perimenopause progresses toward menopause, it is normal for menstrual cycles to become irregular and for hormone levels to fluctuate. The menstrual cycle may become absent for many cycles and then suddenly come back for a couple cycles, and then come back again, becoming sporadic for a some years. As ovarian reserve diminishes and egg health declines, FSH levels rise, the menstrual cycle will become more and more irregular, until eventually it stops.

Menopause is defined as absent menstruation for a year or longer. Menopause may also be confirmed by elevated FSH levels between 60 to 100mL/L on two tests done at least 1 month apart, and/or LH level greater than 50mIU/L and estradiol less than 50pg/mL.Natural therapies cannot reverse the aging process, or bring back the menstrual cycles in a woman who has already gone through, or is going through menopause.

When to see a doctor!

If you have not had a menstrual period for 3 consecutive cycles or more, it is time to make an appointment with your healthcare practitioner. They can help you to determine what the causes may be. Most medical doctors will often prescribe oral contraceptives (birth control pill) to get the menstrual cycle to regulate. It is important to realize that this method will force the body to have a cycle and prevent pregnancy. Oral contraceptives do not solve the problem of why the menstrual cycle is absent to begin with. Luckily there are natural therapies such as herbs, specific massage techniques, supplements, stress reduction techniques and dietary changes than can help support the body in regulating the menstrual cycle in most cases.

Summary

Overall it is is extremely important to begin by nourishing the body through good nutrition. Your dietary habits are your foundation, without that it place first, the body is not going to respond to herbs for amenorrhea as well. Second, be sure to include a good whole food multivitamin, reduces stress and exercise regularly. Third consider an herbal program for getting the menstrual cycle back on track. Last, but not least, practice fertility massage regularly. This combination is a great plan for working to promote a healthy menstrual cycle long-term! Be patient, the body needs time to establish a cycle. Be gentle with yourself and your body will come back into balance.

(Adapted from Hethir Rodriguez C.H., C.M.T.)

References:
1. http://drtorihudson.com/general/endocrine-health/pcos/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos/
2. Aviva Romm, 2010: Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, Churchill Livingstone

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Falling Pregnant – What are your Choices?

A study conducted by the University of Surrey showed that couples with a previous history of infertility who made changes in their lifestyle, diet and took nutritional supplementshad an 80 percent success rate.  Given that the success rate for IVF is around 25 per cent, it’s worth considering these options.

Natural treatment plans are, by their nature, extensive and really do need to be adjusted to suit your individual needs.

Remember that it takes at least three months for immature eggs (oocytes) to mature enough to be released during ovulation. It also takes at least three months for sperm cells to develop, ready to be ejaculated. This means that when you are trying to improve your fertility, you need to have a three-month period before conceiving. This is called ‘pre-conception care’ and it’s as important to take as much care during this period as it is during a pregnancy itself.

If you are going for IVF treatment or another assisted conception procedure, you should follow the recommendations listed below in order to increase the chances that the procedure will work.

Diet

Both you and your partner should follow the dietary recommendations explained in the Nutrition Section (The Foundation of Health) Although it goes without saying that a healthy diet is crucial to a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby, many people are unaware of the fact that diet can help to correct hormone imbalances that may affect your ability to conceive. There are also certain foods and drinks that are known to lower fertility.

Alcohol

Alcohol will affect both you and your partner. In fact, drinking any alcohol at all can reduce your fertility by half – and the more you drink, the less likely you are to conceive. One study showed that women who drank less than 5 units of alcohol a week (equal to five glasses of wine) were twice as likely to get pregnant within six-months compared with those who drank more.

Research has also shown that drinking alcohol causes a decrease in sperm count, an increase in abnormal sperm and a lower proportion of motile sperm. Alcohol also inhibits the body’s absorption of nutrients such as zinc, which is one of the most important minerals for male fertility.

As difficult as it may seem, you should eliminate alcohol from your diets for at least three months in order to give yourself the best possible chance of conceiving.

Caffeine

There is plenty of evidence to show that caffeine, particularly in the form of coffee, decreases fertility. Drinking as little as one cup of coffee a day can halve your chances of conceiving and just two cups a day increases the risk of a miscarriage. One study showed that problems with sperm: sperm count, motility and abnormalities, increase with the number of cups of coffee consumed each day. Once again, it’s important to eliminate all caffeine-containing food and drinks for at least three months before trying to conceive. That includes colas, chocolate, black teas and coffee, among other things.

Xenoestrogens

Xenoestrogens are essentially environmental oestrogens, coming from pesticides and the plastic industry. When you are trying to conceive, one of the most important things you need to do is to balance your hormones. It is extremely important to avoid anything that might cause an imbalance, and one of the main culprits is the xenoestrogens. One of the best ways to eliminate an excess intake of xenoestrogens is to eat as much organic produce as possible for the pre-conceptual period. For more information on how to control xenoestrogens see my book Getting Pregnant Faster.

Smoking

Smoking has definitely been linked with infertility in women. It can even bring on an early menopause, which is a particularly important consideration for older women who may be trying to beat the clock. Smoking can decrease sperm count in men, making the sperm more sluggish, and it can increase the number of abnormal sperm. With men, the effects on fertility are increased with the number of cigarettes.

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Increase Fertility with the Right Nutrition

 

Getting pregnant isn’t always aquick, easy processand many women (as well as men) only realize they are having fertility issues after a few months of trying to conceive.

Regardless of whether you’ve been trying to conceive for a few months or a few years,there aresome key things you need to remember:

  • You need tokeep yourself healthy
  • This includes everything fromweight and alcohol consumption to smokingandlifestyle choicescan affect your chances of falling pregnant.
  • You need theright fertility supplements.
  • Certain nutrients and vitamins can increase your fertility.
  • Supplementing your body with theright nutrients and vitamins can create the ideal condition for your body to conceive a child.

The role of Essentials Ovacare and Essentials Oligocare is exactly that. It assists with the right nutrition that is essentials for the ovulation and conception process.

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Supplements and Pre-Conception

 

As you will see, these supplements can be very effective in re-balancing your hormones, as well as improving you and your partner’s overall health, which are so vital for successful conception.

Scientific research has shown that certain vitamins and minerals can increase your chances of getting  and staying pregnant. In order to maximise your chances of conceiving it is very important that you and your partner are in optimum health.

By eliminating nutritional deficiencies and improving sperm production and mobility you candramatically increase your chances of getting pregnant. In order to do this it is essential that you are obtaining the right nutrients and in the right quantities to enhance your success.

Supplements are necessary because even the best diet in the world mayl not contain all the nutrients you need to give you the best chance of conceiving.

Folic Acid

It is now known that folic acid can prevent spina bifida in your baby, and it is essential that you get plenty both before and during pregnancy. And that’s not all: folic acid is undoubtedly important, but it is just part of the very important B-complex family of vitamins that are necessary to produce the genetic materials DNA and RNA, not only of the egg but also the sperm. Together with vitamin B12, folic acid works to ensure that your baby’s genetic codes are intact. Remember: it’s not enough to take folic acid alone when you are trying to become pregnant. All of the B vitamins are essential during the pre-conceptual period. Research has shown that giving B6 to women who have trouble conceiving increases fertility and vitamin B12 has been found to improve low sperm counts.

Zinc

Zinc is the most widely studied nutrient in terms of fertility for both men and women. It is an essential component of genetic material and a zinc deficiency can cause chromosome changes in either you or our partner, leading to reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. Zinc is necessary for your body to ‘attract and hold’ (utilise efficiently) the reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.

And it’s equally important for your partner: zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm. Zinc is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm and is, therefore, essential for the health of your partner’s sperm and, subsequently, your baby. Interestingly, several studies have also shown that reducing zinc in a man’s diet will also reduce his sperm count.

Selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect your body from highly reactive chemical fragments called free radicals. For this reason, selenium can prevent chromosome breakage, which is known to be a cause of birth defects and miscarriages. Good levels of selenium are also essential to maximise sperm formation. Blood selenium levels have been found to be lower in men with low sperm counts.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

These essential fats have a profound effect on every system of the body, including the reproductive system and they are crucial for healthy hormone functioning. Omega 3 fatty acids also control inflammation which may interfere with getting and staying pregnant. For men essential fatty acid supplementation is crucial because the semen is rich in prostaglandins which are produced from these fats. Men with poor sperm quality, abnormal sperm, poor motility or low count, have inadequate levels of these beneficial prostaglandins.

Many of the women I see in the clinic have been taking evening primrose oil supplements – an Omega 6 fatty acid – for years and have not been eating enough Omega 3 oils, or taking them in supplement form, to counterbalance this. Some women are also taking combinations such as Omega 3, 6, and 9 in supplement form because they have heard that we need a good balance of all the Omega fatty acids. This is true, but you have to take into account what your own levels may be in the first place. It is no good adding in more Omega 6 if you have already got enough or in fact too much in your body.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant and has been shown to increase fertility when given to both men and women. Men going for IVF treatment with their partners have been given vitamin E, and fertilisation rates have, as a result, increased from 19 to 29 percent. It has been suggested that the antioxidant activity of vitamin E might make the sperm more fertile.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and studies show that vitamin C enhances sperm quality, protecting sperm and the DNA within it from damage. Some research has indicated that certain types of DNA damage in the sperm can make it difficult to conceive in the first place, or it can cause an increased risk of miscarriage if conception does take place. If DNA is damaged, there may be a chromosomal problem in the baby, should the pregnancy proceed. Whether or not DNA damage does have these effects has not been conclusively proven, but it’s worth taking vitamin C and the other antioxidants as a precautionary measure.

Vitamin C also appears to keep the sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.
One study has shown that women taking the drug clomiphene to stimulate ovulation will have a better chance of ovulating if vitamin C is taken alongside the drug. Clomiphene does not always work in every woman, but the chances are often increased when vitamin C is supplemented.

Beta-Carotene

This is the vegetable precursor to Vitamin A and is completely safe during pregnancy. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant which helps to protect egg and sperm DNA from damage by harmful free radicals which can affect the quality of both the egg and sperm. Free radicals are highly unstable and set off a process called oxidation which can have harmful effects on the every cell in the body. Beta- carotene will be contained in your multivitamin and mineral.

L-Arginine

This is an amino acid found in many foods and the head of the sperm contains an exceptional amount of this nutrient, which is essential for sperm production. Supplementing with L-arginine can help to increase both the sperm count and quality.
Note: People who have herpes attacks (either cold sores or genital herpes) should not supplement with L-arginine because it stimulates the virus.

L-Carnitine

This amino acid is essential for normal functioning of sperm cells. According to research, it appears that the higher the levels of L-Carnitine in the sperm cells, the better the sperm count and motility.

Furthermore, by adopting a healthier lifestyle you will be more likely to prevent infertility problems.