7 Guaranteed Steps To A Good Night’s Sleep

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels  

You’re exhausted. And you’re counting the minutes until you can just collapse into bed. But when you finally lay down your mind races and you can’t relax enough to go to sleep. 

Why is falling asleep so hard for many of us?

Heightened levels of stress and anxiety can make getting to sleep (and staying asleep) a challenge. But it’s not always about stress. You could just have a lot on your mind left over from the day or already prepping your to-do list for tomorrow. Your room is too warm or there’s too much noise. 

So many factors can play into having disrupted sleep. But there are simple steps you can take to transition into deep sleep quicker and easier. 

Here are seven guaranteed tactics to bridge the gap between you and a solid night’s sleep. 

1. Your Bedroom Should Feel Delicious. 

If you’ve had trouble sleeping a problem could be that your bedroom isn’t cutting it. For maximum somniferous effect you want to create a sleep cave of sorts full of linens and things (pun fully intended) that lull you to sleep. 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine the three things you want your bedroom to be are “quiet, dark, and a little bit cool.” 

The reason for the cooler temperature is that our body temperature naturally decreases during the night. “When you go to sleep,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, “your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down.”

So you want to create as cool of an atmosphere as makes you comfortable and helps you stay asleep. 

What’s comfortable for each person differs – thus the never ending battle of the sexes for setting the thermostat—but you want to shoot for a room temperature that hovers around 65 degrees

Along with adjusting your thermostat you’ll also want to choose linens, pillows, and a mattress that draw heat away from you. Because, even if you get the room temperature right, your linens and clothes can make you too warm, causing you to overheat during the night. If you naturally run hot, this can spell disaster for a sound sleep.

That means, as much as you may love your memory foam because of how it contours to you, it holds heat. So, buh-bye. Toss ‘em. And replace them with natural fibers that don’t trap heat. 

You’ll want to check out switching your mattress for a cooling model. And for natural sheets—a fantastic and little known natural option is bamboo. Bamboo sheets are deliciously soft and durable. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more luxurious, check out the cotton percale sheets that, because of their tight weave (percale describes the type of weave and not the type of cotton), are so luxuriously soft they earned a spot on our The Best list, which is the definitive repository for the greatest of the great. 

There’s also a new all-natural pillow made from organic cotton and buckwheat that will make giving up that memory foam pillow a painless transaction. Unlike foam or down filling, buckwheat doesn’t collapse under your weight. And you won’t have awake pulling your sweat soaked shirt away from you—the pillow stays cool. 

2: Filter Your Phone Light

We’ve all heard it dozens of times—the light from our phone is bad news as far as sleep is concerned. And we’re like ‘Yeah, uh-huh, scroll, scroll.’ But seriously, when it comes to falling asleep, the light from our phones is doing us more harm than good. 

The problem is that our screens emit short-wavelength blue light that sends signals to our brain that it’s still daylight. A study has shown that this blue light “damages the duration” and “quality of our sleep”. Could be a reason you find it hard to wind down enough to sleep. Just sayin. 

Lisa Ostrin, an assistant professor of Optometry at the University of Houston College, explains, “that blue light prevents special photoreceptor cells in the eye from triggering the release of a sleep hormone.” The hormone she’s talking about is melatonin. Without sufficient melatonin our bodies don’t know to become sleepy.  

Ostrin and a team of researchers conducted a study where they provided participants with special blue-blocking glasses to wear after sun-down. Two weeks after the study began, participants experienced an increase in melatonin production of 58 percent. Not surprisingly, they reported sleeping better. 

But if you can’t really see yourself sporting blue-blocking glasses around your house, then the next best thing is a blue-light filter for your screen.  

3. Be Picky With Screen Time 

Seeing as we’re all on our phones 24/7 telling people not to use their devices before bed is just impractical, lame, and unlikely.

If you’ve done your homework and dimmed your devices with a blue-light filter then the next important thing you can do is choose things to do or watch that you find calming, soothing, or mindless. 

Reason being, according to the National Sleep Foundation, “Using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep.” To mitigate the stimulation, choose things that are super chill. 

If playing Candy Crush or Pokémon Go are your wind down go-tos, so be it. Or if watching Brooklyn 99 or Parks and Recreation on repeat chills you out, do it. Just hold off on binging Ozark or Breaking Bad until the next day. And skip scrolling through your newsfeed, Facebook, or Twitter feeds which are gloom-and-doom anxiety-inducing mines waiting to explode right before you’re ready to go to sleep. 

Although experts say that watching TV before bed “makes it more difficult to fall asleep”, in my experience, falling asleep while watching a movie is like a no-brainer, it just happens and  it’s a deep sleep. So you do what works for you. 

4. Try Essential Oils. Seriously, They Are (Sometimes) Legit

Essential oils are fantastic for relaxation. Trouble is, certain purveyors of essential oils have been caught making totally unsubstantiated claims about the curative properties of essential oils, telling people to ingest them (please don’t) and claiming they can cure fatal disease (they don’t). DoTERRA, a huge purveyor of essential oils and a multi-level marketing company, was the biggest offender of this and since the crackdown by the FDA has backpedaled and is now training their sales reps not to tell customers that ingesting essential oils will cure their cancer (that’s progress, I guess?). 

Barring the bad name with which quackery sales gimmicks have smeared essential oils, there is ample evidence that scent affects our brains and that essential oils have proven psychological and physiological benefits, as has been shown in numerous studies. One study focused on Intensive Care Unit patients who weren’t sleeping well. After fifteen days of receiving lavender oil through an inhalator the intervention group reported significant improvement in sleep, whereas the control group didn’t.   

Northern California based dermatologist, Cynthia Bailey, MD  explains, “There is definitely credible science behind certain benefits for certain essential oils. But you have to choose wisely, and you cannot use them indiscriminately.”

So bring out all the smell goods—your yummiest candles and your essential oil diffusers—to help you relax into sleep. 

5. Choose The Right Sounds To Unwind 

Remember when people started listening to whale songs, falling rain, or chirping toads to fall asleep? Maybe you even still have that Sharper Image sound maker you got as a gift stored away somewhere, forever buried.  

The effect of sound on our sleep has led to the distinction of various color-coded noises. Stay with me. We all know of white noise—radio or TV static—an unobtrusive continuous hum. But there’s also pink noise, which is akin to those nature sounds mentioned earlier; brown noise—think waterfalls, roaring rivers, or thunder; and black noise—which, weirdly enough is just another word for silence. “Silence” wasn’t a good enough word, apparently. 

White and pink noise have both been shown to help you sleep better. It’s still too soon to say which is better, more research is needed. In the meantime there are plenty of sleep sound machines and apps to help you explore the spectrum of soothing noises. 

Those looking for new ways to wind down are discovering the soothing sounds of binaural beats. The music described as an “auditory illusion” is achieved by layering two different sound frequencies that are allegedly picked up separately through each ear (thus the bi- in binaural). 

Technical stuff aside, listening to binaural beats is utterly calming. There’s nothing there to distract or rile the mind. It’s just chill.  

Another wildly popular option is watching/listening to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos—those softly spoken words or actions, like hair brushing) are great for falling asleep. The effect is quasi-hypnotic. Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Maybe a playlist of ASMR, wind rustling through leaves, and binaural beats will be your magic sleep cocktail. 

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention meditation apps that are also great for getting to sleep. We like Insight Timer—a meditation app perfect for those who aren’t really into meditation. They offer guided meditations of varying lengths. There’s also the Calm app for meditation and sleep. Fun thing about this app, if you’re not feeling meditation, and you’re of the opinion that you’re never too old for “bedtime stories ” or Sleep Stories, as they call them, and I will shamelessly profess that I am of that ilk, then Calm has gently narrated stories to lull you to sleep.  

6. Have Relaxing Night-Time Rituals

A big part of falling asleep easily is tricking the brain into slowing down and readying itself for sleep. Simple night time rituals—things that you probably already do—can flip the switch in your head so that your body detects sleep being near. 

Perhaps the most obvious night-time routine to cultivate is your skincare routine because, unless we’ve just given up completely, we will still wash our faces before bed. Long, tiring days that end in, “I can’t even” notwithstanding. Think of this as time to look forward to, where you get to pamper yourself with all your favorite skin care products like this, and this, and definitely this, and decompress. 

Once you’re all dewy and dulcetly scented drop deeper into relaxation with some gentle stretches. As little as ten minutes spent stretching before bed will ease tense muscles exponentially. 

7. Get The Feels From Sex Or Self-Pleasure

We can’t really do justice to talking about relaxing night time rituals without talking about sex and self-pleasure, the penultimate of relaxation rituals. Much has been written on the topic of how sex improves overall wellbeing. And you don’t need me telling you that reaching orgasm releases a cascade of feel-good hormones, like oxytocin.

But interestingly enough, there is another hormone responsible for that post-coital crash that many slip into and that’s prolactin. You can probably guess by the “lact” that it has to do with producing breastmilk. According to psychiatrist, Sheenie Ambardar, MD, “After orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness”

Because prolactin is released after orgasm, any orgasm, you can feel the soporific effects with self-pleasure as well. So, keep your favorite toys nearby, ladies. 

This has been substantiated by a study out of the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science in Australia, reported that while “orgasms with a partner appear to have the most benefit in terms of sleep outcomes, orgasms achieved through self-stimulation can also aid sleep quality and latency.” 

And, as if you needed more reason to pounce on your partner, another study showed that prolactin production after an orgasm reached with a partner was 400% greater than from self-pleasuring. 400%! Numbers don’t lie. 

So if sound sleep has been eluding you, by taking an intentional approach to ending your day and cultivating habits that will promote better sleep, you create an atmosphere of rest all around you. Sounds dreamy, right? Now go try out that whole prolactin business. 

~~~~

Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

What Exactly Does Ingesting Collagen Do For Me?

collagen

There’s been a lot of hype around the benefits of ingesting collagen over the last year or so, which has led to a boom in the collagen supplement market. You can now find collagen in tablets and capsules and protein powders and chews and gummies. To name a few.

You’ve probably read articles claiming that collagen supplements are good for gut health. You’ve also probably read that collagen is the literal fountain of youth, gives women clearer skin, stronger hair, and nails, and alleviates joint pain. Who wouldn’t sign up for that? But with the shiny patina of collagen’s miracle benefits, you might feel that this all sounds too good to be true.

So, what’s real? Does this stuff really work? And should you be putting it in your body?

Long story short, recent studies have shown that collagen, a protein the body naturally produces and requires throughout life, may improve aging skin, increase skin elasticity, and hydration when taken orally over the long term.

Top 5 (Suggested) Benefits of Collagen Supplements:

  • May ease joint pain

  • May make skin look younger

  • May help build muscle and burn fat

  • May reduce cellulite (and this is the biggest MAY of all)

  • May strengthen digestive tract lining

I’m repeating “May” because, as of now, studies are limited, and most have only had short trial periods of 4 to 24 weeks. We still don’t have much in the way of longitudinal studies showing how ingesting collagen over years affects the body. Instead, we mostly have a lot of anecdotes from consumers sharing how they use collagen.

So what’s the big deal about collagen anyway?

Well, for starters, it’s a protein, and proteins are crucial to the overall healthy functioning of our cells. They carry out a slew of functions within each cell, such as bringing in nutrients, carrying out waste, and most importantly (for the purposes of this conversation)—building muscle and connective tissues.

That’s where collagen comes in. It creates fibers for muscle, cartilage, tendons, connective tissue, and digestive lining.

The problem with ingestible collagen is that most people believe that by adding it to their daily smoothies, they’ll immediately have great skin. As if collagen, when it enters the bloodstream, knows exactly where to go: “Kelly’s skin isn’t dewy today; I’m going there!’”

But that’s not how it works.

Ingesting collagen will impact more areas than just your skin. It’s a protein and will go where it is needed—skin, hair, bones, etc. Assuming it’s properly absorbed into the bloodstream at all.

When collagen gets broken down in the digestive system, only a minuscule amount actually makes it into our blood and is used by our cells. In other words, you’re just not going to get a big bang for your buck. And those powders are not cheap. So, dosage and absorption are issues to keep in mind when ingesting collagen.

Just like all supplements, collagen pills, powders, and chews are not regulated by the FDA, which means their purity and efficacy haven’t been fully guaranteed by the government. However, there are other organizations that provide third-party testing, quality control, and labeling.

Even studies with promising results, like one that was done on the efficacy of the collagen protein powder VERISOL (which demonstrated improved skin elasticity), have limited applications. Since the study was conducted on the skin of the forearm, not the face, drawing concrete conclusions on collagen’s effect on crow’s feet is a challenge.

To make matters more confusing, many skin care professionals believe that ingesting collagen doesn’t work at all.

Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, who has a high-end line of skincare products, promotes topical treatments and injectables to encourage collagen production, arguing that these are superior to supplements.

“When you eat collagen,” Dr. Gross said recently in an Instagram post “it’s broken down by the acids in your stomach into what’s called amino acids.” Because collagen is a large protein molecule, once broken down, it just doesn’t work the same.

Dr. Gross recommends if you want more collagen in your skin, “use ingredients applied topically that stimulate your skin to make more of its own collagen.”

Of course, any doctor performing elective procedures probably has their own agenda when it comes to disbelieving ingestible collagen; if collagen supplements really work, then who needs Botox?

But who can say? What we know for sure is that, so far, there have been few trials studying the effects of ingestible collagen.

So, are there proven and safe ways to ingest collagen?

If you’re concerned about collagen loss because of aging and want safe ways to get more of it in your diet, then ingesting collagen through the foods you eat is a healthy alternative to non-regulated collagen supplements.

Here’s a quick run-down of effective, healthy ways to promote collagen production.

Bone Broth

1. BONE BROTH                                                                                                                               This seems to be the winner among nutrition experts. According to L.A.-based fitness nutrition specialist and healthy chef, Marcia Whitfield, since there is so little evidence on collagen, “I wouldn’t waste my money. If people are looking for more protein, which is collagen, I’d suggest making homemade bone broth from chicken, beef, and turkey bones.” She’s not alone in this perspective.

2. AVOID TOO MUCH SUN EXPOSURE AND SMOKING                                                             Just doing these two things alone will help your skin tremendously. Because if you take collagen supplements and smoke a pack a day or love to sunbathe, you will see very little improvement.

 

Balanced Diet

3. EAT A BALANCED DIET

Unsurprisingly, people who respond best to collagen supplements were also the people who had the least amount of protein in their diets. So eat a healthy balance of animal protein, eggs, and dairy, and for the vegans—load up on legumes and green leafy vegetables.

 

Exercise

4. EXERCISE

To get (or keep) those strong muscles of yours, get a moderate amount of exercise with a bit of resistance training thrown in there and you will be well on your way to a stronger you.

 

Like so many trends that come and go, ingestible collagen is new and hot. Although preliminary results look promising, it’s still too soon to claim definitively that the hype is real. So before you hand over that credit card, think about if you really need it.

Chances are, if you just up your intake of healthy proteins and take a few precautions, you’ll see the same benefits that ingesting collagen supplements may or may not give you.

And for those of you who have been ordering bone marrow and saying it was for your skin, feel free to finally admit you just love bone marrow (and if your skin looks radiant afterward, all the better).

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

~~~~

Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

The Endless Confusion About Estrogen, Explained

Estrogen+Root+of+Your+Health+Issues

(Article first published on The Candidly.)

Let’s discuss one of the most universal facts of womanhood; we all feel, at the very least, mildly shitty on a near-daily basis. Some of us feel very shitty all the time, and the lucky ones feel “meh” some of the time. Our doctors usually just chalk it up to “aging,” but is that really an adequate explanation for half the population feeling tired, bloated, and lethargic?

Another popular explanation for women feeling like total crap is simply “women are hormonal!” As much as this statement can be incredibly frustrating, dismissive, and…let’s be honest…sexist, it, unfortunately, holds a nugget of truth.

And the truth is that women have a delicate balance of hormones—specifically, estrogen–that can get out of whack, causing a whole host of health issues.

Most of us think of estrogen as one simple, defined chemical that comes in 3 quantities: too little, too much, or just enough. But shockingly, “estrogen” is actually group of sex hormones that promotes our sexual development, and includes estradiol, estriol, estetrol, and estrone. Estradiol, the strongest and most common form of estrogen, guides the functioning of everything from our skin, bones, and muscles to our liver and brain.

It’s normal for hormones to fluctuate throughout our lives (or even in the course of a menstrual cycle), but when the various forms of estrogen become imbalanced, we can experience irritability, depression, weight gain, painful periods and a slew of other conditions.

Let’s break down the most common health conditions associated with estrogen imbalances, what causes them, and what you can do to get your system back on track.

But first, we need to address an elephant in the room: hormone testing.

What Is Up With Hormone Testing?

In our research for this article, we were hoping to develop a clear picture of hormone tests; which ones to get, what they do, and what can they tell us. Instead, we learned that hormone testing for women in the U.S. still has a long way to go, scientifically, before the medical community can fully understand how to better test and treat women with hormonal imbalances.

To start, we all know that the medical community has been traditionally skeptical and dismissive of women’s pain and illnesses. According to Dr. Sara Gottfried, author of “The Hormone Reset Diet,” “millions of women around the world suffer from hormone imbalance. Many doctors say, ‘You’re just getting older. This is normal!’ and offer prescriptions for anxiety, sleep, and depression…Ignoring the root cause is not the path to total health.”

While the medical community might be finally acknowledging this tendency to overlook women’s hormonal imbalances, it’s still struggling to understand how to actually test for them. So even when we can convince our doctors to willingly prescribe a blood test with a full hormone panel, the results can be inaccurate.

According to the CDC, everyone from researchers to laboratory clinicians to endocrinologists have expressed concerns about the unreliability of hormone tests and measurement, prompting many organizations to reject certain hormone tests. Essentially, many of these tests are widely considered inaccurate by the professionals who use them, which is a problem, as variabilities in tests can lead to “different clinical interpretations of test results on the same patient, misdiagnoses, delayed diagnoses, or suboptimal patient care.”

According to Dr. Sarah Oreck, a reproductive psychiatrist, hormone testing is still a relatively unstudied science. And even test results that come back “normal” don’t tell the whole story. As Dr. Oreck told The Candidly, “we aren’t where we wish we were in terms of hormone testing, regarding the technology and research. With the limited evidence we have, we might think that someone’s test results are in a ‘normal’ range, but it certainly might not be the case for that person.”

She believes that it’s not always the raw numbers on a test that are important, but instead, it’s the changing balance of hormones over time that can indicate an imbalance. She explains, “I can’t just test your estrogen and say ‘at this level, it’s causing these issues.’ Because we actually think the problem might be the changes of these levels over a period of time, not sort of any kind of number that we get on a lab test.”

However, even in calling for standardized hormonal testing, it seems like the medical community still focuses more on testosterone than estrogen. According to Dr. Oreck, this tendency to study male hormones has created a huge gap in medical knowledge when it comes to women’s hormones. In fact, she said, “I’ve found that most [hormone] studies are done on healthy males.”

And aside from a lack of reliability in diagnoses, this massive scientific gap can lead women to seek out harmful, unnecessary, or unproven treatments. “A lot of things are being sold to women that don’t have the amount of evidence that we typically use in employing treatments. You’ll find saliva tests, at-home saliva kits, and untested, over the counter estrogen treatments, and I don’t endorse any of those. People think because it’s ‘natural’ or sold over the counter, that it’s safe. But there’s a huge lack of regulation,” said Dr. Oreck.

Great! So what we do?

Dr. Oreck still recommends seeking out a reproductive endocrinologist for estrogen testing and estrogen treatment, instead of turning to at-home tests or physicians who don’t specialize in hormonal issues. A reproductive endocrinologist might still be able to spot any glaring hormonal imbalances, or can test your estrogen levels overtime to get a fuller picture of your changing hormones.

Now, if you’re wondering why the inaccuracy of hormone testing is even a problem for you, then you might want to keep reading. Because estrogen and estrogen imbalance can be at the root of some of your most frustrating health concerns.

Weight Gain and Weight Loss Resistance:

If you’ve ever wondered why you just started gaining weight inexplicably, and no amount of dieting or exercise seemed to make a difference, we have good and bad news; you might have an estrogen imbalance. Estrogen levels that are too high or too low are linked to weight gain.

On one hand, low estrogen may affect insulin levels, leading to insulin resistance, which can cause fatigue, hunger, and—you guessed it—weight gain. But, when estrogen levels are too high, estrogen dominance can make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.

Unfortunately, the medical world’s understanding of these hormones is still evolving, meaning that plenty of women are simply directed to try more extreme diets and exercise regimens, never making weight loss progress because they’re solely focused on calories, and not their hormone levels.

As Dr. Gottfried explains, “most diets don’t work for women, because they fail to address the hormonal root causes that are the most common reasons for weight loss resistance, like excess cortisol, insulin and/or leptin blockage, estrogen dominance, a sluggish thyroid, low testosterone, and problems with HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) control system.”

Menstrual, Perimenopausal, and Menopausal Problems:

Even the most basic understanding of hormones includes the notion that estrogen impacts our reproductive health for our entire lives. And we know that our estrogen levels will change with big life events—like the onset of menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause, just to name a few. But generally, reproductive health issues at certain stages of life typically reflect age-related hormonal imbalances.

For example, reproductive health issues faced by women who haven’t gone through perimenopause or menopause often include irregular periods, spotting between periods, heavy bleeding, severe PMS, and intense cramps. These issues can usually be traced to higher levels of estrogen in young women.

And as estrogen levels fall with age, women over 40 or those entering menopause might experience more cramping, vaginal dryness, painful sex (due to low lubrication), and lowered libido.

Additionally, when women enter menopause, their estrogen levels drop significantly, which can potentially lead to an increase in bad cholesterol that can create fat build up in the arteries, contributing to the potential for heart disease.

But not all hormonal changes are bad! One serious benefit of a post-menopausal life is that, in the absence of estrogen fluctuations and frustrating mood swings, women ages 50-70 have actually reported feeling happier.

Mood Swings and Emotional Imbalances:

Let’s revisit those *super* fun mood swings for just a sec. We all experience mood shifts on occasion. Ok, some of us have even possibly experienced an emotional range consisting of happiness, sadness, anxiety, elation, love, disgust, and rage over the course of a few minutes. It’s called being married.

But when our estrogen production is particularly off-kilter, our daily activities might produce an abnormally heightened emotional state. Have you ever just burst into tears one morning while dropping your kid off at kindergarten? You can thank estrogen.

We hate to play into stereotypes about women as overly emotional, hormonal, or erratic, but estrogen does play a serious part in mood regulation by acting on specific chemicals in the brain. For example, it helps boost serotonin and endorphins, which are associated with positive emotions that make you feel good.

Though it’s still virtually impossible to predict how your changing estrogen hormones will impact your mood, the point is that hormonal imbalances can make you feel great, but they can also impact depression, irritability, anxiety, and emotional reactivity.

Other Health Issues:

If you have an estrogen imbalance, you may have experienced any of the following conditions:

  • Low libido

  • Sleep difficulties

  • Fatigue

  • Hair loss/thinning

  • Noncancerous breast lumps and uterine fibroids

  • Heavy or irregular periods

  • Acne

  • Vaginal dryness or pain during sex

Basically, an estrogen imbalance could be at the root of anything and everything making you feel shitty.

Causes of Estrogen Imbalances:

Great. Estrogen is wreaking havoc on your body. But why have your own hormones turned against you?

Unfortunately, the list of potential causes for hormonal imbalances is almost as long as the symptoms. Hormonal contraceptives, antibiotics, genetics, and stress are just a few. Recently though, the medical community has started to explore environmental and dietary factors as well.

Some endocrinologists have begun pointing to exposure to certain chemicals found in everything from the environment to food to personal care products as potential hormone disruptors. Meanwhile, phytoestrogens, pesticides, and growth hormones found in our food could also be contributing to estrogen imbalances.

Some more traditional causes for estrogen imbalances include:

  • Turner syndrome (a chromosomal condition that affects development in girls)

  • Heredity

  • Medication

  • Obesity

  • Tumors affecting endocrine or pituitary glands

  • Diabetes

  • An overactive OR underactive thyroid

How To Get Your Estrogen Levels in Balance:

Since every single person reading this is currently nodding their head, thinking (or maybe even screaming) “this is me!” let’s discuss how to get your estrogen levels in balance.

The process of balancing your hormones can seem costly, time-consuming, and opaque. Treatments can range from switching up your diet to hormone replacement therapy, which includes consistently taking medication to replace the hormones that our bodies are struggling to produce.

But let’s start with the “easy” method: diet. According to Dr. Gottfried, one of the simplest ways to counteract the effects of hormonal imbalance is through the foods you eat, and so she suggests that you “eat in a way that optimizes your hormones.”

If you tend towards estrogen dominance, then a hormone-balancing diet might entail plenty of leafy green vegetables such as kale, collard, and mustard greens, along with broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, which all lower estrogen levels and can “improve your…estrogen ratio by 30 percent.” Side note: wouldn’t it be amazing if, just this once, science proved that the best food to balance hormones included coffee, chocolate, and pasta? Anyways, mushrooms, red grapes, flax seeds, and whole grains are also great for lowering estrogen.

Dr. Gottfried also recommends eliminating processed foods, refined flours, sugars, and sugar substitutes, because of course. Dr. Gottfried encourages the elimination of alcohol a few weeks out of the year because alcohol might change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen.

Brocolli.jpg

RedGrapes.jpg

Mushroom.jpg

Some practitioners may recommend a course of supplements to even out your hormones, such as those that aid estrogen metabolism, but it’s important to dive into the research of these supplements, as some have yet to be proven safe and effective. Similarly, if you are on medication that can affect estrogen levels–like hormonal contraceptives– talk to your doctor about the dosage, and if it could be affecting your estrogen balance.

When it comes to glaringly obvious hormone imbalances, like those in perimenopausal and menopausal women, some practitioners will recommend hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Oreck believes hormone replacement can be great for some women, but recommends approaching these methods with caution, as hormone replacement therapy been associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer, blood clots, stroke, and dementia. She explains, “sometimes estrogen replacement and hormone replacement for perimenopause can be helpful for some women, sometimes it can be harmful. Women with a history of breast cancer or endometrial cancer in their family should not be doing hormone replacement therapy—they should really talk to a physician about the chance of potentially increasing the risks of those cancers.”

We know it sounds like estrogen, whether it’s too high or low, is at the root cause of every one of your health frustrations. Maybe it is. But don’t let the challenging, opaque nightmare of trying to navigate hormonal changes deter you from finding a great doctor who will listen, believe you, and thoroughly and accurately test and treat your hormones for an imbalance. Because you should not have to feel crappy all the time. That shouldn’t be your life or a burden you constantly shoulder. And hopefully, more doctors and researchers will continue to realize the importance of understanding and properly managing estrogen, so hormonal imbalances become as minor and treatable as a small headache.

A Natural Remedy for Your Menstrual Migraines that ACTUALLY Works!

porcelain-mortar-pestle-o

(Article previously published on the women’s wellness site Blood + Milk.)

How much time have you lost because you’re on your period and stuck lying in bed with a cold towel over your eyes, wondering how long before this head-splitting migraine will go away?

Half a day?

A whole day?

Or maybe even days?

You’re not alone.

Sixty percent of women who get migraines suffer from what’s called menstrual migraines. These migraines are brought on by a drop in our estrogen and progesterone levels just before the start of our periods.

HOW PERIOD MIGRAINES ARE TRADITIONALLY TREATED

Once a month, I could look forward to losing an afternoon or even a full day to my period migraine. And even though my doctor told me that being on the Pill would lessen the severity of the migraines, that wasn’t the case. In fact, sometimes they would worsen while I was using the Pill.

It would have been great if my doctor had told me that each woman’s body is different and that the levels of estrogen within birth control pills vary. So while a woman like me might find that being on the Pill made my menstrual migraines worse, another woman might find that they helped her migraines diminish.

The lesson: listen to and know your own body and what works for you.

A visit to a traditional western doctor about your menstrual migraines may result in one of these three approaches:

  1. An immediate dosage of triptan (a medication used to treat migraines) in combination with an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen; or you can inject triptan with a needle or a needle-free syringe (which works faster than swallowing a pill but sounds horrifying); or you can use a nasal inhaler. This option, although less terrifying than injection and faster than a pill, is still not fast enough if you are nauseated and vomiting as a result of your migraine.
  2. A preventative approach of taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), triptans, hormones, or magnesium a week before and after your period.
  3. Or a long-term treatment in which you are treated with hormones via the Pill or vaginal ring.

Not a fan of prescription meds, injections, or any of the remedies mentioned and seeing that over-the-counter painkillers did nothing for the pain I was in,  I wondered about natural alternatives for bringing my hormones back into balance and, hopefully, getting rid of my migraines.

After reading up on herbal remedies, I came across two herbs that were said to be particularly beneficial for women: Black Cohosh and Angelica.

WHY BLACK COHOSH IS A GREAT NATURAL REMEDY FOR YOUR MENSTRUAL MIGRAINES

black-cohosh
Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh has an ancient history of use among Native American women for menstruation and menopausal health issues. Western research has yet to conclude if Black Cohosh is effective in the use of treating symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. But there is evidence that black cohosh is effective in treating issues related to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

It is the root of Black Cohosh that is used medicinally and it has been reported to regulate estrogen. At times, estrogen can overstimulate the tissue of the uterus, leading to pain and swelling. Black Cohosh counteracts this overstimulation by acting as an anti-inflammatory and an antispasmodic reducing pain, swelling, and cramping.

Because of its ability to even out estrogen levels, it can mitigate the drop in estrogen that triggers period migraines.

ANGELICA, BLACK COHOSH’S WONDER TWIN IN TREATING PMS AND PERIOD MIGRAINES

Angelica
Angelica

Angelica is another herb with an ancient history. There are several varieties; however, the type that is good for women’s health is the specimen used largely by doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) called Dong Quai. It is a flowering plant whose roots can be used as remedies for soothing muscle spasms and other symptoms that coincide with menstruation. Like Black Cohosh, Angelica is used for a slew of reproductive issues from painful menstruation to infrequent or irregular periods to PMS.

The active ingredients in Angelica/Dong Quai, coumarins, are said to increase blood flow, dilate blood vessels, and stimulate the nervous system. Also, the plant produces phytoestrogens that can bind to estrogen sites on human cells, which means that it functions as an estrogen replacement, although a weaker version.

Taken together, Angelica and Black Cohosh balance estrogen levels and decrease migraines associated with drops in hormone levels.

USING THESE HERBAL REMEDIES DURING YOUR PERIOD

Both Black Cohosh and Angelica/Dong Quai are available as supplements. Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, impurities and inconsistencies can occur. So do some research to ensure you are buying a high-quality product.

At the time that I was using angelica, I picked it fresh from a friend’s garden. In TCM, the root is prescribed. I used the leaves, which I dried then ground along with the black cohosh using a mortar and pestle then prepared as a tea. The black cohosh I ordered online from a trusted herbal supplier.

I’d start drinking the tea on the first day of my period.

You’ll want to talk to your primary care provider about whether these herbs are right for you and how much you should use.

What I know for sure is that these herbs helped get rid of my period migraines, and I recommend it repeatedly to women who tell me how much migraine pain they experience during their periods.

Our cycle is a given but debilitating pain doesn’t have to be.

Join the Celebration! Grand Opening for Long Beach’s 1st Bodywork & Healing Arts College This Saturday!

 

 

Part of the joy in writing this monthly feature on wellness businesses is discovering the little gems around my city. For the month of September, I am featuring Sacred Roots Holistic Healing and its offshoot, Panacea Holistic Institute.

Recently, I met a woman who told me of a healing center on Broadway called Sacred Roots. The name was vaguely familiar—probably having driven past it countless times while never consciously registering it.

The exterior, like the center itself, is understated. There is something about minimalism that soothes the mind.

When you walk into Sacred Roots, you are immediately put at ease. The space is bright with lots of natural light, uncluttered, and calm. Voices are hushed as sessions are underway within any one of the five treatment rooms, with each room dedicated to its own element. Even if sessions weren’t underway, something about the space makes you want to whisper. It’s something you feel as you walk through it, a movement inward, to be in silence and stillness.

Sacred Roots is a women-founded community wellness hub that hosts daily, weekly, and monthly offerings of impressive and diverse holistic modalities. Along with therapeutic massage, they offer yoga classes, sound healing, Dharma talks followed by meditation class, and moon circles at the new and full moon.

The whole person is catered to at Sacred Roots not just with bodywork but through sessions with counselors, Reiki practitioners, and doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine providing acupuncture and cupping. What’s more, you can book chiropractic services or an Ayurveda session. It is a beautiful coupling of Eastern and Western holistic healing practices.

Of the offerings that I was excited to see, their Momma-to-be care team just won me over. They refer to it as “Womb Services” and they offer natural fertility help, birthing consultations, and pre/postpartum doula services.

Additionally, mommas can take care of themselves and their newborns with pre and post-natal massage, infant massage, and the utterly charming offering of a henna belly blessings. You can just feel the sweetness and nurturant holding that is created to welcome your baby into the world.

It almost makes me wish I was pregnant … almost. If you’re expecting or know someone who is, please, let them know about these gorgeous services!

There is also an educational component to Sacred Roots – as if it needed more cool things.

For those interested in proactive steps to optimizing your health and wellbeing, they offer a 6-week course in Sacred Self Care. The course covers self-care practices like yoga, mind/body awareness, Ayurveda, mindfulness, and self-massage just to name a few.

Interested in teaching meditation?

You’re in luck! They have a Meditation Instructor Course. Held on the first Saturday of the month, this 6-month course just started in August and will run through January 2020.

Just to tack on other awesomeness, Sacred Roots also provides gallery space for local artists. They do a quarterly showcase that is “curated to fit the four seasons.”  AND they have partnered up with other wellness businesses that will give a discount to those who are proud Wellness Card caring members of Sacred Roots. It’s like come on already, we get it, you’re awesome. But seriously, check out the conscious companies on this roster; You got everything from juice shops to vegetarian restaurants to yoga to essential oils.

But the most exciting new development for the healing space is the upcoming opening of a new teaching wing. Panacea Holistic Institute will be Long Beach’s first holistic health college. Cue applause!

Panacea will provide an accredited 555-hour certification training in Bodywork & Healing Arts. A student clinic will be operated on the premises to provide pupils with supervised practicum hours and give the public access to discounted bodywork sessions.  Yes to affordable massage therapy!

The grand opening celebration will be held this Saturday, September 14, 2019, from 11 to 5 pm, at 2841 East Broadway, right here in Long Beach.

During the festivities, the owners will honor individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the community. The day will include a food drive, giveaways, and bodywork sessions.

Sacred Roots and Panacea are truly something worth celebrating!

If you can make it to the grand opening, Go! Support this local business that is doing so many great things and fully living up to its name as a community wellness center.

 

Sacred Roots Holistic Healing

Panacea Holistic Institute

2841 East Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90803

info@sacredrootsholistichealing.com
562.265.1810

connectwithpanacea@gmail.com
442.444.2515