If you’ve ever taken birth control pills and discontinued, you may have experiencedsomething known as post-birth control syndrome. It generally arises within the first 6 months of discontinuing, affects women of all ages, and has a wide array of symptoms. The severity is based on several factors, including how long you took the pill, the type of pill (dosage and hormone combination), your age, liver health, bowel regularity, and overall wellbeing.
Some of the more common symptoms one might experience after stopping the pill include acne and losing hair, and for some women it results in an absence of menses returning, known as amenorrhea. Other less common symptoms women may experience include:
Do some of these symptoms sound familiar? If you have recently stopped the pill or are considering discontinuing it soon, speak to your Naturopath, as you need to understand the impacts the pill had on your reproductive system, and the ways you can support the restoration of proper bodily function to prevent the onset of these unwanted symptoms.
Why Are You On the Pill?
Some women start the pill to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which is what it was originally designed to do. However, for other women, doctors might prescribe the pill to help manage their acne, to control hair loss, or to mitigate heavy, irregular, or painful periods.
Now don't get me wrong – in some cases the birth control pill may be your best option. However, one must recognize that managing imbalances with hormonal replacement fails to address the underlying root to the issue, for which conventional medicine has few alternative options.Instead, birth control pills“band-aide” the problem, leaving women toonce again deal with the issues should they decide to discontinue the pill or become pregnant. The pill has not resolved the imbalances. Rather, it has merely suppressed the symptoms, while the underlying issues remain unmanaged.
Instead, consider natural options to manage things like acne, heavy or painful periods, or hair loss. If you’re on, or considering using, the birth control pill for soul contraceptive purposes, weigh your options first. If you reference this chart released by the CDC, you’ll note that oral contraceptives, which contain combination hormones, have a 9% failure rate, meaning 9 in 100 women using the pill will becoming pregnant during use. However, intrauterine devices have been used globally with great success, have a less than 1% failure rate, and contain a low dose of the single hormone progesterone, or no hormones at all (if you choose the copper IUD). Side effects include cramping, heavier periods, expulsion, and a slightly increased risk of ectopic pregnancies should the IUD fail.
Post-Birth Control Syndrome Detox
Focusing on key body areas are essential for an effective post-birth control syndrome detox.
The first step is to support the body’s ability to rid of the synthetic hormones that are suppressing its natural ovulatory rhythm. Both synthetic and natural hormones are processed through the liver in phase I and II conjugation, which require many cofactors to convert steroid hormones into water-soluble metabolites for excretion.I place my patients on a comprehensive micro/macronutrient and botanical regime that provide phase I and II conjugation inducers to speed the removal of residual synthetic hormones that may be creating symptoms in post-birth control syndrome. This involves a revamp of the diet to ensure the nutrient rich foods we desire for healthy liver detox is the center of every meal, as well as gentle lifestyle adjustments to upregulate the liver enzymes of desire. Aggressive liver detoxes are unnecessary, and sometimes harmful.
Secondly, rebalancing your own hormones is essential. Years of exogenous, or synthetic hormonal exposure lead to low levels of endogenous, or natural estrogen production, and as a result, when the synthetic hormones are removed, the body sometimes struggles to catch back up.I’ll sometimes use ingredients like Vitex and Inositol that help support healthy ovulation, as well as a diet high in healthy fatty acidsto get patients cycles back on track. Because your body depends on your gut to remove excess hormones, gut health should also be assessed and supported to ensure excretion and balancing of the return of your own hormones is maintained. IBS, bacterial imbalances, and delayed transit times can be some of the primary reasons women experience some of the unwanted symptoms of hormonal imbalances.
Lastly, castor oil packs are a must! Castor oil applied to the liver and lower abdomen helps draw circulation and restore organ function in an incredible way!
If after a few months of support my patients periods are not returning, or symptoms of discontinuation syndrome are still present, further assessments for underlying conditions like PCOS are conducted, and comprehensive hormone testing may be necessary to aid in the proper diagnosis of underlying conditions.
To learn more about post-birth control syndrome and how to detox hormones naturally, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at 647-351-7282 today!
Believe it or not, the foods we eat play an important role in helping our bodies manage our stress levels. During periods of time in which we feel overwhelmed with stress, it is easy to turn to “comfort foods” like ice cream, sugary sweets, chocolate, deep fried foods, pizza, and others that make us feel good.
Why do we crave these things, you might ask?
Well interesting enough, the foods we consume have a direct impact on the neurotransmitters our bodies eat. For example, eating dietary sugars and starches raise serotonin levels, giving you the temporary sensation of feeling calm and relaxed. Furthermore, the pleasure in doing so promotes dopamine release, which stimulates our reward system, and explains why the more sugar you have, the more your body will continue to crave it.
However, the problem with “comfort foods” is while they initially bring a brief moment of relief, they do not last.
Instead of reducing the stress, these foods can make us feel tired and lethargic by spiking or insulin and cortisol levels, which ultimately directly impact the levels of stress we are experiencing. Furthermore, consuming large quantities of “comfort foods” during high levels of stress can cause a drastic increase in “bad” cholesterol levels, increase our blood pressure, and create long-term risks associated with heart disease and heart attacks.
So when you are feeling overly stressed, rather than consuming your favourite “comfort foods”, its best to turn your attention to stress-reducing foods that are good for the body. Choosing the right foods can help increase the levels of serotonin, without spiking cortisol. You should also include foods that boost your immune system response, as increased stress for prolonged periods weakens immune responses, resulting in more frequent periods of illnesses.
The Dos and Don’ts
You should avoid simple carbohydrates, like sugar, because it is quickly digested by the body and only provides short-term calming effect. Stay away for sugary sodas, candy bars, and other foods that are packed full of sugar, corn syrup or other such sugar-based sweeteners.
Instead, choose complex carbohydrates because these foods provide the same calming effects as sugar, but last longer because they take longer to digest. Some of the foods considered complex carbohydrates include:
For sweet treats, consider citrus fruits, like oranges and grape fruits, that are high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C not only helps the adrenal glands to reduce stress levels, but also has added benefits for the immune system.
If you feel lethargic or are experiencing an increase in the frequency and duration of headaches, along with elevated stress levels, this often indicates you are not getting a sufficient amount of magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is found in green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach. You will also find magnesium in salmon and soybeans, so you have several options.
Additionally, salmon (and other darker meat fish) are considered a good source of Omega-3s, which are great for controlling spikes in the hormones that cause stress and at the same time, help reduces risks of heart attack, heart disease, pain syndromes, depression and PMS. Remember to always source wild fish, or use supplements.
Bonus tip: Sugar cravings can sometimes mean you’re not getting enough fat in the meal prior. Up your fat intake to offset these cravings.
Increasing the amount of vegetables in your daily diet can help combat energy crashes throughout the day. To get the most benefits from veggies, try to sauté them lightly or steam them vs boiling or frying them.
Lastly, stay away from high sugar fruits, like bananas and tropical fruits. While the sugar is natural, it still spikes insulin (and ultimately cortisol) the same way refined sugar will. Always aim to eat fruits with a high fiber food like oat bran or flax, as it helps to offset this effect.
For natural health tips for fighting increased stress levels, please feel free to contact Toronto Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Courtney Holmberg, at 647-351-7282 to schedule a full health assessment today!
As we age, our bodies often remind us we are getting older. While other parts of our body may start to show signs if aging, our digestive systems are not always affected as much by aging as we may believe. However, there may be certain foods you once enjoyed with ease that are now causing stomach upset if you over indulge. And while food intolerances are always a possibility, these new symptoms do not necessarily mean we have developed intolerances for certain foods.
Certain changes to digestion do occur as we age. These include:
1. Slowed digestive response. As digestion response slows it requires more time to break down the food in our stomachs. As a result, we can feel full for a much longer period of time after consuming a large meal, which may also make us feel bloated.
2. Less elasticity of the stomach. The stomach also becomes less elastic, meaning rather than being able to consume an entire pizza, like we could when we were teenagers, we are only able to eat a few slices before we start to feel full.
3. Lactase production decreases. As we age, the body slows how much lactase (the enzyme that breaks down the sugar, lactose, in milk) is produced, which can cause some of us to become lactose intolerant or start to feel the effects of consuming too many dairy products, like gas and intestinal cramping. Contrary to popular belief, lactose intolerance is not a “condition”. It's a normal process of aging, and your body’s attempt to preserve resource (since milk is for babies, not adults).
4. Bacteria growth expands into the small intestine. While normal “gut” bacteria is essential to proper digestion, as we age, it is not uncommon for the bacteria to extend beyond the large intestine and into the small intestine and can make it seem like we have food intolerances (commonly termed SIBO).
5. Contractions weaken or slow in the large intestine. Feeling of constipation are not uncommon as we get older and is caused by this age-related factor.
6. Illnesses – Age-related reduced immune responses can affect the digestive system.
7. Medications – Certain medications can affect the digestive system and could have side effects similar to symptoms of food intolerances.
8. Failing to Change Eating/Dietary Habits – As we get older, what we eat, how much, and when are directly related to digestive problems sometimes mistaken as intolerances to food.
Going back to our original question, the primary type of food intolerance we may develop as we get older is an enzymatic intolerance to certain foods, such as dairy products. This type of food intolerance is where the body no longer produces the right amount of enzymes needed to properly digest the food.
In conclusion, if you are experiencing digestive problems related to specific foods, it does not necessarily always mean you have developed an intolerance to a food or food group. It may in fact mean your body has developed an inability to properly digest it. As a result, it may be time for some dietary changes to maintain a healthy digestive system.
If some of the above points are effecting you, it is best to speak with naturopathic doctor to determine the underlying to your concerns. You can book an appointment for a full health assessment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at her naturopathic clinic in Toronto by calling 647.351.7282 today!
Gluten is a grain protein found in wheat, spelt, barley, and rye. Its also added as a filler to many dressings and sauces, such as soya sauce. Individuals with intolerances to gluten may experience a number of symptoms, including but not limited to gas, bloating, diarrhea/constipation, joint pain and/or swelling, fatigue, brain fog, mood issues such as anxiety or depression, headaches, mouth ulcers, and dermatitis herptiformis (unique to celiac disease). And while gluten intolerances exist, the list of associated symptoms is very broad and non-specific, meaning the same symptoms can also be seen in a number of other medical conditions such as food intolerances, anemias, dysbiosis, hypochlorhydria, and so on. Its always best to talk to your Naturopath or Family Doctor before deciding to sustain a gluten free diet.
The most important fact I want to highlight here is this...
A product labelled "gluten free" does NOT mean it's a healthier alternative.
Now let me be clear... following a gluten free lifestyle lays some important groundwork for a less refined, more whole foods, and overall healthier diet.
However, the mistake is made when, instead of limiting refined foods like breads, crackers, and pastas altogether, people reach for their gluten-free alternatives. To shed evidence on the situation, new and interesting research coming out of Harvard University found after reviewing 30 years worth of medical data that individuals limiting or completely avoiding gluten had a 13% increased risk of type 2 diabetes . Now does that mean gluten prevents diabetes? Unlikely. But what it does suggest is that gluten free foods often contain less fibre and other macronutrients helpful in preventing metabolic disorders. Secondly, the most common ingredients found in gluten free alternative products are rice and corn. Most of the corn in these pastas are genetically modified, and because corn flour doesnt stay together as well as wheat, a number of chemical binding agents get added to the mix to create a wheat like texture. A cup of brown rice pasta has a glycemic index (GI) of 92 and a glycemic load (GL) of 52 !!! (I call it diabetes in a box), vs a cup whole wheat pasta with a GI of 37 and a GL of 17 . Also, if you didn't know, rice is loaded in arsenic, with brown rice being the highest source of it. Without going into too much detail on this topic, I'll direct you to the Environmental Working Group's website, who has a great resource here highlighting the problems with arsenic, how it's getting into our rice, and ways to limit/avoid it .
So yes, this Naturopath enjoys the occasional slice of toasted whole grain bread with brunch, and the occasional hoppy brewed beverage on a summer patio. I'm fortunate to not experience a gluten intolerance, which means I don't limit it completely, but I also dont consume it often. My diet tends to limit refined carbohydrates in general, gluten and gluten-free all the same.
Remember, the foods that were always gluten free (ie popcorn) are now re-branding with gluten free labels in hopes of catching a few more consumers who are getting in on the action. We must act as educated consumers, or else it becomes very easy to fall victim to the next biggest health trend, and miss the mark completely.
Moral of the story, if you're going gluten free, part ways with refined carbohydrates instead of reaching for the chemically altered, less nutritious gluten free substitutes. And for goodness sakes, eat your veggies.
 Low gluten diets may be associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes. American Heart Association Meeting Report Presentation 11. March 09, 2017. http://newsroom.heart.org/news/low-gluten-diets-may-be-associated-with-higher-risk-of-type-2-diabetes?preview=076d
 The University of Sydney Glycemic Index Database. http://www.glycemicindex.com/www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice
 Arsenic is in rice - should you worry? Evironmental Working Group Food Database. http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice
Medical science misguidedly suggests that we are victims of our genetics, but this statement is not entirely true. While our genes help determine how certain disease onset and develop over time, our lifestyle choices can actually manipulate how, or even if, these genes are expressed. Take celiac disease, for example. The National Institute of Health determined that roughly 30-40% of the population in the US have one or both genetic markers for celiac disease, but only about 3% of that population actually actives them, developing celiac disease.
What is MTHFR, and Why is it Important?
Properly referred to as Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase, the MTHFR gene codes for a rate limiting enzyme used in the methylation process of our body’s elimination of waste, toxins, heavy metals, and more. There are two main mutations, referred to as polymorphisms, which researchers focus primarily on. Both of these mutations can be inherited and occur on different locations of the MTHFR genes.
MTHFR is responsible for the conversion of homocysteine into methionine, which supports the body’s natural antioxidant pathways, as well as the activation of folic acid into folate (required for cellular development, pregnancy, and so on). Methionine gets converted into SAMe, a chemical that metabolizes dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin, and therefore deficiencies are correlated to impaired cognition and mood disorders. Research shows that MTHFR gene mutations have been linked to mental disorders like bipolar, schizophrenia, and depression, as well as migraine headaches . Furthermore, high levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream have been correlated to high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, and cardiovascular disease like atherosclerosis .
Effects on the Body
As a result, MTHFR mutations can affect the way in which our bodies metabolize various nutrients from foods, beverages, vitamins, and supplements we consume and how they are converted into active minerals, proteins, and vitamins our bodies use to give us energy, fight off infections, and so on.
These mutations further affect how hormone levels and neurotransmitters function within the body, as well as, in certain cases, affect the function of enzymes that influence brain function, cholesterol levels, endocrine functions, digestion, and may even contribute to the development of certain cancers .
To determine whether you could have a MTHFR mutation, the first thing you should do is get a detailed examination conducted by a naturopathic doctor. One tell-tale sign of this mutation is severe nausea that onsets after taking vitamins, particularly B-vitamins.
There are several underlying symptoms and medical conditions which could contribute to MTHFR mutations, including:
Treating MTHFR Mutations Naturally
There are several natural treatments available to address MTHFR mutations. Your naturopath will work with you to determine which ones would be of the most benefit for your health and well-being. Possible treatment options may include:
Most people have no idea they have a MTHFR mutation that could be contributing to other health-related issues.
For testing and diagnosis, or for further information about MTHFR, please feel free to schedule an initial consultation appointment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND by booking online or calling 647-351-7282 today!
If you and your loved one have been trying to conceive a child, but have unfortunately had little success, stress levels are often on the rise for both of you. But for some couples, the stress resulting from the inability to conceive may actually be part of the reason they’re having difficulty getting pregnant. Anew condition called “Pregnancy Stress Syndrome”not only can prevent you from getting pregnant, but also can create problems and complications during the pregnancy, most notably, miscarriages.
What Is Going on Inside My Body When I’m Under Stress?
When faced with excessive stress levels, the brain signals the adrenal glands to start producing and releasing more stress hormones, especially adrenalin and cortisol. In other words, your body is initiating your “fight or flight” response in the sympathetic nervous system. Since all hormones talk to each other (that is their job, after all), increased levels of stress hormones within your body often cause an imbalance to other hormone systems.
Together, the adrenal glands, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus of the brain, evaluate the level of stress and perceived stressors on your present state, and increase the production of stress hormones to enhance our “survival instincts” during heightened levels of stress. While this can be beneficial occasionally in certain situations, it is when we are in a constant state of “fight or flight,” it is counterproductive to the reproductive system and being able to conceive a child.
How Does Stress Prevent Pregnancy?
Increased, prolonged levels of stress results in the body’s continual release adrenalin and cortisol, and elevated levels affect the body as follows:
What Can I Do?
The first thing you need to do is address and deal with your stress in a healthy manner.
First and foremost, a change in dietary eating patterns and developing a daily exercise routine helps immensely. Far too often, our “go-to” foods when overly stressed are those we consider “comfort” foods, which are full of unhealthy fats and contain large amounts of sugar and sodium. Eliminating refined sugar and a processed food reduces the insulin burden on the hormone system, and the livers need to detoxify chemicals. Instead, reach for whole foods, healthy fats like avocado and nuts, and be sure to reach your required daily caloric intake healty fat making up at least 40% of it.
Others benefit from learning new techniques and methods to reduce stress and relax, like getting regular message therapy, joining a yoga class, or trying acupuncture. I’ve personally seen acupuncture lower FSH levels (a sign of ovarian failure) from 19 down to 9 in a the course of a month.
Lastly, DON”TGoogle things! The Internet is a never-ending black hole of information, some good, some bad, and some terrible. You’re wasting precious energy adding potentially incorrect information to your already stressed state. This is what your Naturopath is for. Unsure to build a well rounded health team to not only help you manage stressors, but to look at every factor involved that may be reducing your chances of conception, all the while optimizing your chances of success (there’s a LOT you can do to improve sperm & egg quality, ovulation patterns, etc.)
As an additional resource, consider a well-rounded book that will provide insight and empowerment, like Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler MPH.
To determine whether your inability to conceive is due to heightened stress levels, I encourage you to consult with a qualified and experienced Naturopathic Doctor who has a focus in hormones and infertility for a detailed and comprehensive examination.
To schedule a consultation appointment today, please feel free to contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg at 647-351-7282, or visit www.courtneyholmbergnd.ca for more information.
We have all been there, had a nervous sensation before speaking in front of a large group of people, or a “pit” in the bottom of our stomachs as we started a new job with a new employer. These “gut feelings” actually have a connection to our brains. It is believed there is a second brain within the gut to handle digestion and other functions. Scientists are continuing to discover how this “second brain” and the microbiome affects our emotions, state of mind, and relation to a variety of illnesses, diseases, and conditions.
Our Feelings and Our Gut
Have you ever felt so stressed out you sought comfort in a pint of ice cream or some other sugary, salty, or deep fried food or snack? If so, this is just one aspect of our guts and brains talking to each other. When we become overly stressed, it leads to anxiety. This triggers the body’s natural “flight or fight” response and releases adrenaline into our systems. Along with the adrenaline, another hormone, called cortisol is released.
Cortisol tricks the gut into thinking it is hungry, even though you are not. Until the stress is reduced and brought back down to more manageable levels, the body continues to release cortisol. For someone, who is highly stressed, this can result in overeating, or what many of us refer to as “stress eating,” as a means to address the stress.
Our Mood and Our Gut
Besides stress, other emotions and moods we experience have a direct link to our guts. For instance, if we are overly excited, we are full of energy as the gut works to release energy and burn calories. On the other hand, if we are feeling sad or depressed, our gut functions can slow down or could cause the gut to become upset where we have a “sour” or “burning” feeling in our gut, or experience nausea.
Conditions of the Gut
Many types of gastrointestinal medical conditions, like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, and food sensitivitiesare believed to directly related to various types of disorders some people suffer from including anxiety, autism, depression, and ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
In people suffering from these conditions, the make-up of their gut’s microbiome is different, compared to people without these disorders. Fortunately, there are natural remedies available to help change how the microbiome functions and restore order to the gut and improve its connection with your brain.
To start, you also want to aim to incorporate these three power foods to rebalance gut function and microbiome.
Of course, the best place to learn how to address concerns over your own brain-gut connection, is to schedule a visit with a qualified health professional.
Schedule a consult with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND to learn how naturopathic medicine can rebalance your gut for good. Book online or call 647-351-7282 today!
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes significant imbalances to the hormonal system in many women today. One of the biggest concerns with PCOS is that it is widely under-diagnosed. Just in the United States alone, there are approximately 7 million women experiencing symptoms of this condition, yet around half of these women have no idea they have PCOS!
For a long time, the root cause to PCOS was believed to be a result of an overproduction of male hormones, called androgens. In more recent years, research has confirmed PCOS is in fact a condition resulting from desensitization to insulin production within the body, which in turn leads to increased production of these androgenic hormones.
In addition, studies on PCOS have revealed those with the condition are at a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes (type 2). Heart disease is the leading killer in women. Even in cases where women were young and fit, yet had PCOS, it was five times more likely they would still develop these risks if they did not seek treatment for their conditions.
If left untreated, it can make you feel quite unwell. There are several telltale signs you might have PCOS. If you notice any one or several of these, it is important you seek medical advice from a qualified Naturopathic Doctor.
1. Problems getting pregnant. There are all sorts of reasons why a woman might not be able to conceive. Having PCOS is one such reason. PCOS affects ovulatory cycles, and the number of viable eggs released during the cycle. However, it is possible to still conceive, but could take some time and requires the proper treatment.
2. Skin problems. PCOS can cause acne, skin tags, dandruff, and acanthosis nigricans. The acne caused by PCOS is typically found along the jaw line, is resistant to acne treatments and often returns after stopping treatment.
3. Excess hair growth or hair loss. With increased production in male hormones within the body, it can cause hair to start growing in areas where you do not want it to grow, like on the face, chest, back, and around the nipples and navel. PCOS can also cause DHT levels to increase, which is another male hormone that causes hair loss.
4. Feel tired and unrested even after a full night’s sleep. PCOS has been linked to sleep apnea. This medical condition is where a person snores loudly and their breathing patterns will stop and restart several times throughout the resting period. Sleep apnea also increases risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
5. Weight gain around the belly.PCOS can cause women to gain extra pounds, particularly around the belly. This is due to problems with insulin resistance, and the resulting improper management of sugar. Women with PCOS may find weight gain is rapid, and resistant to weight loss efforts. Furthermore, PCOS causes leptin resistance, which is the hormone that tells your body when you are hungry, and those with PCOS can feel hungry all of the time, even after eating a full meal.
The good news is, there’s hope. The true root to managing PCOS doesn't actually lie in the suppression of androgens (which conventional therapies often target), but in the proper support of insulin sensitivity to every cell in the body. Insulin’s role is to unlock the cell and drive sugar inwards to be broken down or stored as energy. In individuals with insulin resistance, the body has learnt to ignore this hormone, and the above-mentioned symptoms are the result.
A properly formulated diet with foods that not only balance sugar intake, but also support insulin reception can make a huge impact. Believe it or not, the timing of food is also just as important as the food quality. Other goals of therapy include balancing the enzymes that drive male hormone production forward, and supporting regular ovulation to balance female sex hormones.
While PCOS is a common condition, and many women will move in and out of symptomatic states throughout their life, it isn’t one that you have to continue to suffer from. For more information about PCOS, or if you suspect you might have PCOS and need a professional diagnosis, please feel free to contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at 647-351-7282 today to arrange a consultation.