Natural solutions for PMS

Angry Women

Angry Women

If you are a female from age 13 to 55, there’s a good chance you may have experienced PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) at some point in your life. PMS is a collection of symptoms, the hallmarks of which are:

-Bloating and other digestive woes

-Water retention

-Food cravings (like starch and sweets–chocolate being a favorite!)

-Headaches

-Fatigue

-Irritability

-Mood swings

If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, we have dedicated this post to help you find PMS relief, naturally. At Balanced Care, we are committed to helping you work with your body’s own innate intelligence to return to a place of balance and ease when one or more of your body systems have taken a health “detour.”

Read on for several natural PMS solutions, or give us a call today to speak with one of our naturopathic professionals about a customized treatment plan for you.

When Does PMS Start?

Our female bodies are designed to run on a well-choreographed cascade of hormones during our child-bearing years. Even if you never become pregnant, this hormone cascade is what gives a general rhythm to each month as a woman. If our inner hormone dance derails, PMS symptoms are more likely to occur.

Here’s how the female hormone dance works:

-Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released by the pituitary gland in the brain, telling a follicle in the ovary to mature. A follicle is a tiny sac in your ovary that contains an egg.

-Luteinizing hormone (LH) is also released from the pituitary gland, sending a message to the mature follicle to burst from the ovary, sending an egg into the adjacent fallopian tube, this is called “ovulation.”

-During follicle maturation, estrogen produced in fat tissue, adrenal glands, and ovaries works to thicken the lining in the uterus in preparation for a fertilized egg traveling down the fallopian tube

-Another hormone called progesterone acts as a control to balance the effects of estrogen and ensure the uterine lining does not get too thick. Progesterone levels drop if the egg remains unfertilized by sperm. When progesterone drops, the lining of uterus the sheds, and this is a period.

PMS symptoms can begin after ovulation and before a period. PMS symptoms may be stronger a few years after menstruation starts at puberty and again during perimenopause, as early as age 35.

What to do When Your period Begins with an Exclamation Point

pms

PMS symptoms are a message from your body. If your PMS symptoms are intense, this can indicate that your body needs something it doesn’t have, like more or less of a particular hormone, or even a nutrient or mineral that can be easily added to your chemistry and may bring your body back to ease and balance.

Ideally, a period should “sneak up” on you gently, be with you for a couple of days, and then leave as quietly as it came on. Here are a few ways to begin decoding the messages your body is sending with PMS:

-Track your period manually or with a period tracker app

-Knowledge is power, and if you know when (or if) you are ovulating, it’s easier for us to help with solutions if your hormones are not dancing well together.

-See your doctor. To rule out severe conditions, it’s always a great idea to ask your doctor for a precise diagnosis before exploring treatment.

-Get a blood test. Hitting the lab for iron, magnesium, iodine, thyroid hormone, and female hormone panel are also necessary before beginning a treatment protocol.

(Psst.  At Balanced Care, we are happy to schedule a blood test as part of your  initial appointment with us.)

Managing PMS–Naturally

There are a variety of ways to minimize PMS symptoms while working to bring our period hormones into graceful collaboration. Try the following methods on your own while working with your health care team on long-term relief:

Exercise.

Exercise elevates mood and can alleviate pain by releasing endorphins in the body, our natural pain killers. Work out at a pace that feels good for you. A walk, a stretch, or an easy yoga class a few times during your premenstrual week may do the trick to calm your irritability, lesson headache pain, or decrease cramps.

Eat a balanced diet.

Even though food cravings can sometimes get the best of us before and during a period, do your best to eat  the following:

-Fruits

-Veggies (Especially green, leafy ones)

-Lean protein

-Healthy fats (Omega 3s as a priority)

-Whole grains


Also, try limiting these foods to help PMS symptoms:

-Caffeine

-Alcohol

Inflammatory foods,  like cow’s dairy and gluten

We know, this particular wellness step seems to be part of the treatment for just about every condition out there.  Even though the advice “eat a balanced diet” may sound cliche, supporting your whole system with nutrient-dense, whole foods is the foundation for living in balance and ease.

Once you have blood work done to find out if you have any nutrient deficiencies that could be worsening your PMS symptoms, you can add those nutrients in via food or supplements, with your doctor’s recommendation.

Some supplements that are proven to help with PMS symptoms are:

Magnesium ( for bloating and breast pain)

Vitamin D (can help improve mood)

Zinc (to control acne and improve immune function)

Iron (improves fatigue and can lighten heavy bleeding)

Calcium (may improve mood swings)

Periods are Natural, and Managing PMS can be Natural Too

Herbs

Remember that periods are a natural part of being female. Fluctuating hormones and the PMS symptoms that can accompany them are not necessarily a disease to be treated. Instead, they are the start of a conversation.

Your PMS symptoms should alert you to a hormone dance that could be out of balance.  The goal of naturopathic treatment at Balanced Care is to decode the language of your body into words and signals that you can readily understand and respond to.

At Balanced Care, we strive to make all your inner “arguments” into beautiful collaborations between your body and your mind. We pair this internal collaboration together with real-world tools and treatment protocols so you can live your best life–with or without chocolate cravings! Visit our website to get started on your PMS natural healing path.

Healing Pain and Inflammation–Naturally!

body massage

body massage

When you’re ready for natural pain relief

When you think about all the conditions and injuries out there, causing pain on the daily, you may wonder what your treatment options are. If you are like most adults, you probably already have a bottle of ibuprofen (Advil ®), acetaminophen (Tylenol ®), or naproxen (Aleve ®) just an arm’s reach away in your cabinet.

If you suffer from chronic pain, menstrual pain, or even the occasional “ouch”-worthy injury, you may be wondering if there are other options for pain relief beside NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), steroids, or opiates. At Balanced Care, we’re here to help. A natural approach to pain relief may be just what the holistic doctor ordered.

In this article, we’ve curated eight natural pain relief options for you to consider. If you’re curious about our services and how we can customize a treatment plan for you, be sure to schedule a consult with us, and together we can begin to help you find the relief you need.

What is natural pain relief?

A natural approach to pain relief means leveraging your body’s innate desire to be pain-free. Pain is a great teacher. Pain alerts us to injury, or that one or more of our body systems is not working optimally. Several natural pain relief modalities utilize our internal chemistry. Other methods use physical movement or other muscle manipulation to reduce inflammation and pain.

Remember, testing before treatment is best

When you notice pain in your body that is long-lasting, severe, new, or alarming in some way for you, it’s best to see your doctor first. If your pain accompanies a known or recent injury, it is essential to have proper diagnostic testing like x-rays, MRI scans, movement evaluations, blood work, or other diagnostics performed. Once you have a precise diagnosis, adequate treatment options rise for examination as well.

Prevent or reduce Inflammation

back pain

You’ve seen your doctor and got the tests to rule out severe conditions, and have acquired the recommended supports and resting protocol after injury. Now, what can you do to manage your pain and discomfort? Take steps to reduce systemic inflammation.  

Inflammation is our body’s natural response to an irritant or injury. The chemicals released by the body during an inflammatory response allows more blood to flow to the affected area, which can make the area hot, red, and swollen. Hormones released during the inflammatory response also irritate surrounding nerve tissue, which may cause pain. Taking natural measures to calm inflammation can reduce the pain you feel.

Stop Eating Inflammatory Foods

Several ubiquitous food sources can cause low-grade systemic inflammation. The biggest offenders are gluten and cow’s dairy. Watch out for these products that contain gluten:

Wheat, Barley, Spelt, and Oats, (unless the package says “gluten-free”, it may include some gluten particles).

Cow’s dairy is our most common form of dairy in the U.S. Dairy products (yogurt, cheese, or milk) are made from cow’s dairy unless the label says otherwise. Goat and sheep’s dairy are comparatively less inflammatory than cow’s dairy because they contain a different type of protein than cow’s dairy.

Choosing foods consistent with an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce the severity of your pain.

Exercise Gently

Consistently moving your body has been shown to help nearly every significant health condition. For example, in people with arthritis, a gentle and consistent movement like walking, biking, stretching, swimming, or even light dancing can help preserve or improve range of motion, reduce stiffness and swelling, and reduce pain symptoms.

People living with fibromyalgia may also relieve pain with exercise. A gentle walk or stretch can mitigate menstrual pain. Exercising (within healing protocols as suggested by your health care team) is required for re-gaining pre-injury levels of fitness and range of motion. These are just a few examples of how body movement can reduce pain.

Consider a Natural Herbal Pain Relief Supplement

Turmeric

There are a host of herbal remedies that reduce pain and inflammation. Here are a few of the most common anti-inflammatory supplements and topical products.

Capsaicin: The “spicy” compound found in peppers, capsaicin can be effective as a topical pain relief remedy.  This compound interrupts “substance P” (the neurochemical that transmits pain messages to the brain) transmission in our nervous system.

MSM: This sulfur-containing compound exists in humans, animals, and plants, and is sold extensively in pill form. The proof is in the science–taking this supplement can reduce pain and inflammation, as well as helping curb allergy symptoms and boosting immune function.

Turmeric: The curcumin in turmeric is touted as a potent anti-inflammatory.  Though the science is still unclear, taking supplement-grade turmeric may improve the following conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Heartburn
  • Arthritis
  • Joint pain
  • Kidney problems
  • High Cholesterol

Turmeric as a supplement is best for adults who are not pregnant or nursing. Using turmeric as a cooking spice is generally considered harmless for most people. As always, check with your primary care physician or schedule an appointment with us for proper dosing suggestions.

Make Friends with Needles

Yes, it’s a thing. Commonly called acupuncture, getting “needled” can have some tremendous pain-relieving benefits. Here’s how acupuncture can help reduce pain:

  1. A needle is inserted just below the skin, along several key “meridian”, or energy points in the body.
  2. Once the needles are inserted, they remain in the patient for 10-30 minutes, while the patient relaxes in a chair or on a massage table.
  3. The going hypothesis is that the needles stimulate the surrounding nerves to send a hormonal message to the brain.
  4. The brain releases our natural pain-relieving chemicals (like endorphins), and we feel happier, and we may feel less pain.
  5. Try several treatments for best results.

Try a Relaxing “Mass-ahhhhhh-ge.”

See what we did there?  Now that you are picturing yourself breathing profoundly and sinking blissfully into the care of a licensed massage therapist’s experienced hands, perhaps you are feeling less pain already! Massage helps to:

  • Loosen tight muscles
  • Improve range of motion
  • Free up the adhesions that can build up between muscle layers (Myofascial release)
  • Quiet muscular “trigger” points–irritated bands of muscle commonly seen in the neck, shoulders, and other places where we tend to hold stress.

Next time you find yourself reaching for a bottle of your favorite pain relief drug, remember that there are a plethora of natural pain relief options that use your body’s own intelligence to come back into pain-free balance. Pain relief is best approached as a mosaic–a combination of tools will bring the best results. Contact Balanced Care today for an appointment. Together, we will find the best pathway to your well being–naturally!

Iron deficiency and You: A Natural Way Back to Health

Blood red sell

red sell

How are you feeling lately? Are you always tired? Do your nails chip and split all year round?  Maybe you are feeling a little weak lately, and you have noticed some occasional heart palpitations. Perhaps you are getting short of breath a lot more than you used to on your daily walk with the dog. If this sounds like you, it might be time to have your iron checked.

We do that here at Balanced Care. A quick blood test can be the first step back to health, naturally. Call or email us today to schedule an appointment.

Why is iron essential in our bodies?

Iron helps us produce an oxygen-carrying compound called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in our red blood cells and serves as a “suitcase” of sorts for oxygen molecules on the way to our body tissues. When we don’t take in and absorb enough iron, we don’t synthesize hemoglobin in the right quantity.

Fewer of these hemoglobin “oxygen suitcases” in our red blood cells means that oxygen cannot be transported and utilized in our bodies to fuel our physical functions, primarily in our muscles.  That explains the symptoms of muscle weakness, fatigue, and heart rhythm fluctuations that can occur with iron deficiency.

Frequent Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia

We can experience iron deficiency for several every-day reasons. Women are the most susceptible to iron deficiency because of blood-loss during periods. If you are female and have especially heavy periods, a periodic blood test for iron level is a good idea, especially if you are noticing any of the symptoms listed above.

Pregnancy can also be a time of fluctuating iron levels.  A woman’s body has to absorb enough iron for her own needs as well as the needs of her growing baby. Many health care providers will suggest iron supplementation for pregnant women to keep both mom and baby healthy and thriving throughout gestation.

More serious conditions like peptic ulcers, colo-rectal cancer, and colon polyps can also cause significant blood loss and may be the cause of iron deficiency as well. Intestinal disorders like celiac disease can affect your iron absorption and so can bypass surgery on your small intestine. Some types of pain relievers, like aspirin, can also cause intestinal bleeding and may influence your iron levels.

Testing Your Iron Levels

Blood test

When diving into testing for iron deficiency, it is essential to have a holistic approach to treatment, as iron deficiency can be an indication of a more severe condition. Here at Balanced Care, we are an integral part of your wellness team. We may recommend comprehensive lab testing either with our qualified staff or with your MD to get a detailed picture of all the factors that are producing your iron deficiency symptoms.

Trying to troubleshoot your iron levels on your own could result in liver damage from too much iron. We cannot easily clear excess iron from the body.  We store extra iron in the liver and other major organs, where it can build up and cause a host of problems. Proper testing for iron deficiency and accurate guidance for dietary changes and supplementation from us at Balanced Care are paramount for bringing your body to a healthy balance with this essential micronutrient.

There are many natural ways to increase your iron levels over several months gently. Here at Balanced Care, our goal is to evaluate your blood tests, performed by our qualified staff or your MD, for optimal iron levels and to create a customized treatment plan that works for you.

Natural Ways to Increase Your Iron Levels

There are many natural ways to increase your iron levels over several months gently. Here at Balanced Care,our goal is to evaluate your blood tests, performed by our qualified staff or your MD, for optimal iron levels and to create a customized treatment plan that works for you.

You can elevate your iron levels with improved nutrition. Red meat, poultry, pork, and seafood are all rich in iron and best absorbed by your body. Be sure to choose meat sources that are as chemical-free as you can, with organic and grass-fed meat options being the best, or wild-caught and responsibly sourced seafood options.

Studies show that choosing organic meats when possible increases the amount of nutrients you DO want in your food, like iron, protein, and vitamins, while decreasing the amounts of stuff you DON’T want, such as other antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and more.

Healthy Food

If eating meat is just not your thing, you can work to increase your iron by consuming more green leafy veggies, dried fruit, beans, or fortified bread, pasta, and cereal. Try to consume non-meat iron sources with vitamin C, found in citrus fruit or juice, as the combination will help your body to more effectively absorb non-meat sources of iron.

Folate and vitamin B6 are also essential components of iron absorption in your body.

You can find plenty of folate in many whole food sources like fish, poultry, green leafy veggies, fruit, and fortified cereals and other grains. Good sources of vitamin B6 exist in many of the same food sources as Folate, with a particular emphasis on dark leafy greens, papayas, and cantaloupe.

We can evaluate your current dietary choices to be sure you are getting all of the nutrients required to keep your iron at optimal levels. Again, vegetarians and vegans may need a little extra boost to achieve the correct balance of Folate and vitamin B6. It may be necessary to supplement Folate and Vitamin B6 if you are not consuming enough on your own.

We have a convenient online dispensary at Balanced Care. Once we establish your treatment protocol, you can purchase your supplements online and have them delivered to your door.

If changing your diet alone does not optimize your iron levels, we may recommend an iron supplement.  If we find that you need an iron supplement in your treatment plan, it is essential to have us at Balanced Care prescribe one for you.

Let the Professionals at Balanced Care Help You

Here at Balanced Care, we hope to provide you with the best education and treatment options for your body’s best balance-naturally. Know that our primary goal is to support your body in its natural tendency toward good health and proper functioning.

There are so many options for a natural path to wellness, and we at Balanced Care look forward to illuminating the way that is right for you. Call us today to set up your initial appointment. We look forward to serving you in health–naturally.

Healing with Botanicals

heal

heal

The pace of development and production of chemically synthesized drugs has transformed health care in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. However, vast swaths of the developing world still rely on traditional, herbal medicines for their primary care. In India, Japan, Korea, and countries across Africa, hundreds of millions of people depend on traditional medicine for their health care needs.

One of the goals of the Naturopathic doctors at Balanced Care is to convey that using herbs is a safe, effective way to alleviate a variety of health conditions or to maintain your health. As with any medication, though, you should make sure that you understand the effects of using herbal medicine by getting information from reliable sources. Further, take the time to make your health care provider aware of any herbal medicines you’re considering or taking.

Use of Herbs in History

Barbara Griggs writes in her seminal work, the well-received Green Pharmacy: The History and Evolution of Western Herbal Medicine, a plethora of evidence points out that humans have, since prehistoric times, been using herbal medicine to treat and manage an array of ailments. One example comes from a 60,000-year-old grave of a Neanderthal man buried in what is now Iraq, where a series of pollen analyses of the plants found in the grave with the corpse indicated that they all possessed medicinal value.

Blurring the Lines between Food and Medicine

spices

Herbal medicine, known alternatively as herbalism or botanical medicine, is not a licensed medical profession in the U.S., yet it is a revered and closely followed medical system based on the ingestion or topical applications of plants or plant extracts.

Although herbal remedies do not have licenses in the U.S., healthcare practitioners of all persuasions and disciplines recommend healing with botanicals such as concentrated extracts, tinctures, tablets, capsules, teas, and more as practical ways to manage a vast array of medical conditions.

People all around the world use herbal medicine to treat illnesses, address mental conditions, and assist in bodily functions. Unlike here in the U.S., many cultures believe that there is no distinction between natural foods and medicines, and they use herbs and spices as natural ways to prevent diseases by taking advantage of the curative powers within.

For instance, it’s believed that one reason elderly Indians have one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world is due to the everyday use of the yellow spice turmeric in their ubiquitous curry dishes.

What Types of Conditions Do Herbal Medicines Address?

You may be surprised to know that herbal medicine has been used to treat or correct a host of medical conditions. Here is a small list of common herbs and the conditions they address:

Topical Applications

  • Aloe – minor burns, sunburns, skin irritation/inflammation
  • Arnica – bruises, sprained/sore muscles, and joints
  • Tea tree oil – Athlete’s foot, fungal infections of toenails and fingernails
  • Comfrey – bedsores, diabetic ulcers, some spider bites, and staph infections
  • Ingested Applications
  • Chamomile – ase a tea for upset stomach, heartburn, and indigestion
  • Ginseng – for overall health and stamina
  • Echinacea – for colds, flu, and sore throats
  • Garlic – for blood pressure, treat fungal infections, and colds
  • Ginger – for inflammation, nausea, and motion sickness
  • Peppermint – for indigestion, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive or intestinal ailments
  • Turmeric – for protecting against inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Coca leaf – general gastrointestinal problems, including both constipation and diarrhea

The Benefits of Herbal Medicine

lemon tea

People all over the world continue to use herbal medicine due to its variety of benefits, which include:

  • Affordability (especially compared to prescription medicine)
  • Ability to stabilize hormones and metabolism
  • Capacity to strengthen the immune system
  • Natural, versatile healing powers
  • Ease of access (especially compared to prescription medicine)
  • An array of chemical compounds with therapeutic effects
  • Fewer side effects

A significant number of medicinal plants contain myriad chemical compounds that have versatile therapeutic powers. The whole coca leaf is the most prominent medicinal plant for Andean Indians, who use it to treat the opposite conditions diarrhea and constipation.

This treatment of opposite maladies is possible coca contains 14 bioactive alkaloids; some restrict gut activity, while others help stimulate it. When ingested, coca naturally biosynthesizes with the body to naturally address the problem via receptors in intestinal tissues that bind to the alkaloids necessary for the body to regain its balance.

Final Thoughts on Herbal Medicine

As with any medication your health practitioner recommends or prescribes, you should make sure you be careful. Be careful not to mix herbs that have similar actions or to combine herbs with other medicines.

For example, if you’re taking an anticoagulant, you should avoid ginkgo, which is a natural blood thinner. Valerian, an herb used as a sedative, should not be mixed with prescription sleeping pills.

For pregnant women, it’s advised that you avoid nearly all herbs, particular in the first trimester, unless one recommended by your healthcare provider; nursing mothers should do the same for the first 4-6 months of your baby’s life. Finally, be careful about which herbal medications you’re thinking about giving your kids, as what’s safe for you as an adult may not be so for a child.

If you’re ever in doubt, check with your practitioner or pharmacist about the interactions of herbs with herbs and herbs with drugs.

To Learn More about Herbal Medicine, Contact the Professionals at Balanced Care

At Balanced Care, we know that health and wellness is your primary concern. As experts in holistic health, it’s ours, too. That’s why we strive to provide you with a comfortable, informative experience that helps you naturally address your medical condition or concerns and reach your health goals.

It’s important to note that herbal medicine is at its most effective when implemented as part of a natural treatment program that includes regular exercise, dietary modification, and stress reduction, all directed toward your health and healing.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled specialists, who can help you develop a plan consisting of diet, herbal medications, and more to help improve your health and reach your wellness goals.

When you focus on the principles of healthy living, disease prevention, and leveraging your body’s natural healing powers, you’ll have a healthier, more satisfying life!