How to Use The Fertility Awareness Method as Your Form of Birth Control

The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) has a 99.4% efficacy rate, and a 99.6% efficacy rate if you abstain from sex on the 6-8 days (that’s right, as women we are only fertile a 24-48 hours each month, but men are fertile 365 days a year) a month you are in your fertile window.

These percentages are the same as hormonal birth control options!

If you are currently taking a form of hormonal birth control, I encourage you to look into your other options; The Fertility Awareness Method and the Daysy Thermometer being a few of them.

By exploring your options you are empowered with the ability to make the best decisions for your body.

Charting with Period Apps

The best period apps are the ones that ask you for your waking body temperature. Apps that do not ask for this are simply predicting when you ovulate, which is impossible because there is no way to predict when you will ovulate.

If you are relying on ovulation prediction this is using the Rhythm Method, NOT Fertility Awareness Method.

While the luteal phase (post ovulatory) in women tends to stay consistent for each woman, the follicular phase (pre-ovulatory) can change due to factors like stress, illness, and travel. These variables can throw off your ovulation by days or weeks! So ditch the apps that “predict” your cycle, and instead download one that uses your daily temperature recording to pin-point when you ovulated. My favorite is app is Kindara.

3 Fertility Indicators:

1. Cervical Fluid
2. Temperature
3. Cervical Position (optional)

1.Temperature

When taking temperature make sure to do first thing in the morning before getting out of bed or drinking water. If your temperature is taken later in the day, or if it is unusually high, mark it as “questionable”.

Ovulation– after ovulation your temperature will spike by at least 2/10 of a degree than the highest of the previous six recorded temperatures and WILL REMAIN ELEVETED until you menstruate. Ex: on your temperature spike day, count back six temperature recordings and draw your coverline over the highest of the six.

Coverline– the line drawn over the highest of the six temperature recordings before ovulation. All of your post-ovulation (luteal phase) temperature recordings will be above this line. Within 16 days of ovulating you will start your period. If you have 18 consecutive high temperatures, you are pregnant.

Wait to have unprotected sex until you have at least 3-4 high temperature recordings to make sure you actually did ovulate. It’s better to play it safe.

Example Graph:

2. Cervical Fluid

Your cervical fluid will increase leading up to ovulation. This is due to increased ovulation levels. When you have fertile cervical fluid have protected sex. Over time you will find your cervical fluid pattern.

Raw egg white that stretches between fingers means you are fertile. Avoid sex or use a condom.

Cervical fluid tends to increase as you get closer to ovulation and dries up after ovulation.

Peak Day- the last day of fertile cervical fluid. You will ovulate the day of or within 2 days of your Peak Day. Peak Day is only known by hindsight.

3. Cervical Position (optional)

The opening of your cervix is hard like the tip of the nose, but leading up to ovulation it drops and gets softer as it opens.

You are fertile on the days leading up to ovulation. Once you start getting fertile cervical fluid, assume you are fertile. This can be anywhere from 8-10 days for you. After ovulation you can not get pregnant for that particular cycle.

FAM is 99.4%-99.6% effective which is the same as hormonal birth control options.

Further Resources:

Daysy Fertility Monitor

“Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler

“Fertility Friday” Podcast

“The 5th Vital Sign” by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack

Seed Cycling Pudding

chia seed pudding

Seed cycling is one of the simplest and most effective holistic remedies for balancing hormones.

This ancient technique helps restore the balance of  the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone by rotating certain seeds into your diet during the two different phases of your menstrual cycle (follicular and luteal phase).

Added bonus is the lignans in the seed hulls bind to your excess hormones, and the seed oils contain essential fatty acids that are building blocks to hormones.

So you’re essentially getting two for one in benefits!

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I’ve created this Seed Cycling Pudding because not only is it the perfect meal for creating healthy hormones as it’s full of healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, and protein, but it also is a way to incorporate seed cycling into your diet.

Seed Cycling Pudding

(Serving Size 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 BPA free can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 8 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 6 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 packets Sweet Leaf stevia
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (this depends on where you are in your cycle)

Method:

  • Mix ingredients into bowl
  • Pour evenly in 4 mason jars
  • Put in fridge overnight
  • When ready to eat top with pumpkin seeds (when in follicular phase/ first 14 days of cycle) or sunflower seeds (luteal phase/last 14 days)
  • Optional toppings, berries, Lily’s chocolate chips, and/or almond butter. Sometimes I do all three! YUM!

Why Your Period is Not the Most Important Part of Your Menstrual Cycle

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Don’t get me wrong, periods are amazing. As a women’s health coach specializing in hormonal health, I’m a huge fan. But sometimes, we get so caught up with our monthly bleed that we forget about the most important aspect of our cycle.

Ovulation.

We only experience a true menstrual cycle after ovulation, and this is only possible when our endocrine and reproductive systems are working properly. This is why anovulatory cycles (a bleed that occurs without ovulation) are an early warning sign of an underlying health problem.

Ovulation usually happens mid-cycle, except for ladies on hormonal birth control. Women on birth control do not ovulate nor have a period; instead they experience what is called a “withdrawal bleed.” The exception to this is sometimes the Mirena IUD, as 85% of women using the Mirena will ovulate by the second year.

Some women who do not take hormonal birth control can still experience anovulatory cycles due to various hormone imbalances caused by factors such as diet, lifestyle, and stress.

Side Note: If your cycle is longer than 36 days, you likely either experienced delayed ovulation, or did not ovulate at all.


3 Reasons Why Ovulation is Critical

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1. Fertility:

You can’t get pregnant if you don’t ovulate, so if pregnancy is on your agenda, ovulation microis a necessity! Even if you aren’t planning for a family now (or maybe ever), you should still want to be fertile because it’s an indicator of good health.

Side Note: I recommend the Fertility Awareness Method (no it’s not the Rhythm Method!) for both pregnancy planning or avoidance. The Daysy thermometer is an excellent device for women not yet fully confident in their charting skills. If you’d like to learn more about charting, then pick up Lisa Hendrickson-Jack’s new book “The Fifth Vital Sign.”

2. Healthy Periods

Each month when you ovulate, a corpus luteum is created and it grows on the surface of your ovary. This is where all of your progesterone is produced.

Cool, huh?!

Progesterone is responsible for lightening your periods, as it counteracts the effects of estrogen. If you are not ovulating, you won’t experience this surge in progesterone, and will most likely be in a state of estrogen dominance, which is a big culprit of heavy and painful periods.

Adequate levels of progesterone are also needed for a healthy luteal phase, and low levels can result in a Luteal Phase Defect (a luteal phase of 10 days or less). Oftentimes, this phenomenon is caused by stress and/or nutrient deficiencies. Stay tuned for some ways to boost progesterone later in the article!

3Healthy Body and Mind

Progesterone is the calming hormone that helps us stay resilient against stress and also healthy1helps us sleep well. This is why women who don’t ovulate (especially women with PCOS) can often suffer from anxiety.

Progesterone is literally nature’s chill pill, so trust me, you want this!

Calming you down is not all that this super hormone can do! Progesterone nourishes our hair and nails by reducing androgens (male hormones), as well as boosts energy by stimulating the thyroid and the metabolism. And recent research has found that women who don’t ovulate experience bone loss at a faster rate than women who do ovulate, so progesterone is also a crucial component of preventing osteoporosis.

Signs of a Progesterone Deficiency

  • PCOS
  • Infertility
  • Endometriosis
  • PMS
  • Hair loss
  • Premenstrual migraines
  • Heavy periods
  • Fibroids
  • Acne
  • Osteoporosis

So how can we boost progesterone?

First of all, by ovulating! But in the meantime, read on for some effective strategies to boost progesterone naturally.

5 Tips to Boost Progesterone

1. Vitamin C

I usually recommend 1,000 mg a day to my clients. Not only has Vitamin C been shown to increase progesterone levels, but it has also been shown to reduce stress, which lowers cortisol. High cortisol will rob the body’s ability to make progesterone, so we really want to keep cortisol and stress levels balanced.

2. Healthy Fats

We need adequate amounts of healthy fats in our diets because all steroid hormones are formed from pregnenolone, which is made from cholesterol. Ideal sources are pasturedavo eggs, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, wild caught salmon, and grass-fed animal protein.

Healthy fats also decrease inflammation, which in turn decreases the release of harmful chemicals in our bodies which can increase cortisol levels and inhibit ovulation.

Bonus: Healthy fats will make your hair and skin glow!

3. Eat Your Greens

We need B-complex vitamins as they are essential for hormone regulation. Leafy greens are high in these B-complex vitamins, so aim to get 2-4 cups of cooked and raw greens into your diet daily. Great options include spinach, watercress, broccoli sprouts, kale, dandelion greens, bok choy and arugula.

4. Vitex (Chasteberry)

Vitex is an herb that promotes ovulation by protecting your hypothalamus gland from stress and preventing your pituitary gland from making too much prolactin. Basically, it increases your levels of dopamine, which lowers your levels of prolactin. This ultimately makes your luteinizing hormone go up, which then makes you ovulate and produce progesterone!

A note of caution about Vitex: Please do not use vitex until you’ve been off of hormonal birth control for at least three months. I recommend 1,000mg a day as a single dose first thing in the morning before breakfast. Stop taking it on days 1-5 of your cycle, and then start again. Discontinue use after six months.

5. Seed Syncing (Seed Cycling)

Seed syncing is an ancient technique that can be used to bring back the balance of estrogen and progesterone. This method of seed rotation works by boosting estrogen levels in the first part of the cycle and progesterone levels in the second part.

The high contents of zinc in sesame seeds and vitamin E in sunflower seeds have been shown to stimulate progesterone production. By adding two tablespoons of sesame and sunflower seeds per day  in the luteal phase, we can naturally support our body’s ability to produce more progesterone.


 

 

3 Diet Tips for Managing PCOS

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition of insulin resistance and ovulatory dysfunction. This is why diet is the most crucial component of putting PCOS into remission.

Women with PCOS must balance their blood sugar in order to heal, which is why many women find success (at a cost) with diabetic medications such as Metformin. However, Metformin depletes B vitamins and has unpleasant gastrointestinal effects so it’s not the ideal option.

Instead, it’s best to adapt our diets first, and most times (in addition to certain supplements) this is all it takes.

3 Diet Tips for PCOS

1. Balance Blood Sugar Levels

It all starts with blood sugar.

It’s crucial for women with PCOS to keep their blood sugar levels balanced, because high blood sugar leads to insulin resistance, which then prompts the body to pump out more insulin which signals our ovaries to produce excess testosterone. Once we have elevated androgens, the light switch for PCOS is then turned on.

We can flip off this switch by ditching the dairy, gluten, and eating low glycemic foods. 

Women with PCOS must avoid dairy because the protein in dairy spikes our insulin- especially whey protein! Exceptions to this are butter from pasture raised cows, and ghee, but in small amounts.

Gluten should also be avoided 100% of the time, as it not only spikes blood sugar, but it’s inflammatory and provides no benefit to the body.

Everyone should avoid artificial sweeteners that contain either saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. Studies have linked these to depression and cancer. Studies have also proven them to alter gut bacteria by killing off the good guys and promoting the growth of bad bacteria. This leads to inflammation, which is the root of all disease.

Women with PCOS need to use sweeteners with reservations. Stevia, monk fruit, and xylitol are my preferred sweeteners and can be used daily. Raw honey and maple syrup are okay on occasion.

Chromium has been shown to reduce sugar cravings, and spearmint tea is also a great option. Mint is also great for lowering testosterone so it’s a win win all around. Also, the less sugar you eat the less you’ll crave. So going on a detox from all sugar for a few weeks will help reset your taste buds. My 20-Day Hormone Reboot Detox is a great option to reset and reboot.

Another great option for balancing blood sugar is with Intermittment Fasting

2. Lower Inflammation with Healthy Fats

It’s important to keep our inflammation down because staying in an inflammatory response will trigger the symptoms of PCOS by releasing harmful chemicals such as cytokines in the body.  This is why you should eat as many omega 3 fatty acid fats (the Good Guys)  as possible and stay away from the processed, junk oils (the Bad Guys).

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The Good Guys:

  • Unprocessed organic oils like coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil,
  • Organic butter from grass-fed cows, clarified butter, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Raw nuts and seeds like chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
  • Egg yolks from pastured hens.
  • Lean meat from animals that are free range and/or grass fed.
  • Coconut oil, which has special medium-chain fatty acids that promote a healthy metabolism, immune system, skin and thyroid.

The Bad Guys:

  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil
  • Soy oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats
  • Margarine and shortening

3. Clean Your Protein 

It’s best to avoid all factory farmed meat because you are what you eat, eats. If you are eating beef from a cow that was fed GMO corn, pumped with hormone and antibiotics, you are not eating steak, you are eating glyphosate ridden corn that looks like steak- it’s an inflammatory cocktail that is best to be avoided.

The same goes for farm-raised fish as well. It’s just corn that looks like fish.  This is why it’s crucial to make sure your protein is coming from a clean and humane source.

Factory farmed meat is high in xenoestrogens, which means they mimic your hormones and cause your estrogen levels to skyrocket. This is not good! Estrogen dominance is already something women with PCOS struggle with, so we mustn’t add fuel to the fire!

Signs of estrogen dominance include moodiness, bloating, breast tenderness, acne, annovulation, painful periods, and anxiety.

Game plan: Stick to humanely raised and organic meats to avoid the added hormones, antibiotics, and the inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids. When eating fish opt for Alaskan Salmon.

Remember, PCOS is not a curse. No it can’t be cured, but with the right diet and lifestyle hacks, along with the correct supplements, you can be symptom free and be a #PCOSTHRIVER just like me!

I encourage you to sign up for your 30 minute consultation with me today if you’d like more support.

xxxx

Health Coach Jenna

Is the Keto Diet Right for PCOS?

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Diet is the most crucial component of putting PCOS into remission.

That’s right- having PCOS does not mean you’re doomed!

PCOS is a metabolic syndrome, so women with PCOS must balance their blood sugar in order to put their symptoms into remission, this is why many women find success (at a cost) with diabetic medications such as Metformin. However, Metformin depletes B vitamins and has unpleasant gastrointestinal effects so it’s not the ideal option. It’s best to adapt our diets first, and most times (in addition to certain supplements) this is all it takes.

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PCOS and the Keto Diet

For women with PCOS, I’m a huge fan of the Keto diet, but only as a therapeutic diet observed for about 4-12 weeks.  This is because the Keto diet can be harmful if practiced too long.

There was a small study in 2005 that tested the ability of the keto diet to help manage PCOS and even put it in remission, and it showed promising results. However, the trial groups only practiced the keto diet for 12 weeks.

You see, although the keto diet is excellent for reversing PCOS, diabetes, and balancing blood sugar, if practiced over a long period of time, women can stop menstruating.

This is because women need a certain amount of carbohydrates (somewhere around 150 grams daily) to ovulate and have a period. The keto diet calls for less than 50 grams a day, so women who practice this diet very often stop having periods a few months later.

My solution?

Keto for 4-12 weeks (in tandem with working with a health practitioner) and then practice intermittent fasting while observing a “ketoish” diet that includes healthy carbs like a serving of white rice or sweet potatoes once a day, ideally taken in the evening. As women we need to aim at about 150 grams daily. This number could be 100 grams for some, or higher or lower for others.

Intermittent Fasting

A great form of Intermittent Fasting for women with PCOS is what’s called “Time Restricted Eating”. This means one goes 12-16 hours without eating, and eats all of their food for the day within a certain window. Starting at 12 hours is best (for example stopping eating at 8PM and then having breakfast at 8AM) and then working up to 14 or 16.

It’s best to limit your extended fasts of 14-16 hours to 3-4 times a week, but 12 hours should be your daily baseline.

It’s very important to note that you must listen to your body and let it tell you how long of a fast is right for you. Personally, I find that 14-16 hours is my magic spot! But it took some trial and error.

Intermittent fasting is an excellent tool to balance blood sugar levels, increase mental clarity, boost energy levels, repair our DNA, and reset our digestive system. Basically, the more time you let pass between your dinner and your first meal of the next day, the more of an advantage you are giving your body to regenerate and replenish.

This is all due to ketones.

When you go 12 hours or more without eating, our body switches from using glycogen for fuel to fat. When the fat is burned for fuel it produces ketones. Ketones are a more efficient source of fuel for the body, as they promote weight loss as well as lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and insulin resistance.

An example schedule of how you can practice IF:

-8PM Dinner

-Wake Up: Bulletproof Matcha or Coffee

-8AM Breakfast (12 hours fasting)

or

-10AM Breakfast (14 hours fasting)

Remember, PCOS is not a curse. No it can’t be cured, but with the right diet and lifestyle hacks, along with the correct supplements, you can be symptom free and be a #PCOSTHRIVER just like me!

With Gratitude,

Health Coach Jenna

5 Tips For Balancing Your Blood Sugar (and Why This is Crucial for Women with PCOS)

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Let’s talk PCOS and blood sugar.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition of insulin resistance and ovulatory dysfunction. This is why keeping  blood sugar balanced is CRUCIAL for managing PCOS and putting it into remission.

For women with PCOS (and everyone else as well!) it’s imperative to design meals with the number one goal of making sure they will balance your blood sugar and give you the nutrients you need.

Your meal should keep you full for at least 3-6 hours, and if you’re hungry 1-2 hours after eating, then this is an indicator that your meal did not promote balanced blood sugar levels.

The link between high blood sugar and PCOS is due to the hormone called insulin.

When the insulin level is elevated due to high blood sugar levels, it will block the receptors on the ovaries that are designed to receive ovarian hormones, and this can stop ovulation. Also, when excess insulin attaches to the receptors, it stimulates the ovaries to produce excess androgens (male hormones). So the overall effect of eating lots of sugar and processed carbs is progression towards infertility and hormonal imbalance (such as manifests with PCOS).

This is why the journey to hormonal balance (not just for women with PCOS but for ALL women) starts with balancing blood sugar levels.

5 Tips for Balancing Blood Sugar: 

  1. Eat healthy fats with every meal (you can read more about these in chapter 3 of “7 Steps to a Healthier You
  2. Stay away from sugar, processed carbs, and high glycemic index fruits (you can find the list in chapter 7 of “7 Steps to a Healthier You”.
  3. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables
  4. Include a lean protein from a clean source.
  5. Avoid snacking. The advice to eat five small meals throughout the day is simply bad advice (the only scenario where this is acceptable is for someone with severe blood sugar instability, but it’s not a permanent solution). Research is now showing that snacking is not the best advice because every time you eat, insulin is released, and insulin is a fat storage hormone! So when you are snacking every two hours you will not lose weight because you are inhibiting the growth hormone that promotes lean muscle mass. This is why you shouldn’t eat right after you exercise! Wait at least an hour.

Signs of blood sugar instability:

  1. Hungry all the time-If you are hungry 1-2 hours after eating your blood sugar has crashed
  2. Food coma- If you get very tired after eating your blood sugar has crashed.
  3. Hangry- if you get “hangry” this means your blood sugar has crashed. You should never get hangry. This is a sign the food you ate spiked you blood sugar and then it crashed.

If you need more support then I encourage you to sign up for a consultation with me!

xxxx

Health Coach Jenna

5 Foods That DESTROY Your Hormones

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I’m a firm believer that with the right diet and lifestyle, any hormonal condition can be put into remission, and I’m living proof!

I was born with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), but with the right diet and lifestyle changes its been in remission for 2 years now! Isn’t the power of food as medicine incredible?!

I’m usually a fan of using positives instead of negatives, but I feel like these 5 foods are so detrimental to your health that they really need to be put on your “no-no” list ASAP if you are currently experiencing PCOS, Endometriosis, adrenal issues, thyroid problems, or painful and irregular periods.

5 Foods To Ditch For Hormonal Health:

1. Gluten

Many people have a gluten sensitivity. And if they don’t, I still don’t think it is the best food for hormonal balance. Gluten contains inflammatory proteins that cause intestinal permeability, which causes food particles to enter into your blood stream, causing chronic inflammation. This leads to weight gain, mood disorders, painful periods, and can lead to auto-immune disorders.

Alternative-whole grains such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and sweet potatoes. If you decide to eat gluten, then opt for spelt or sourdough bread, or Ezekiel sprouted grain bread.

2. Sugar

I feel like I’m a broken record with this one, but it’s the truth. You just can’t obtain balanced hormones if you are eating sugar. That’s because stabilizing your blood sugar is the #1 thing you must do for balanced hormones. And if you eat lots of sugar then your blood sugar levels will most likely resemble that of a roller coaster. Insulin is a hormone, and if you have too much, then it raises your cortisol, which throws everything else out of whack.

And for women with PCOS, this is a biggie, because eating too much sugar causes insulin resistance, and too much insulin causes ovaries to make excess testosterone.

3. Most Dairy

Most cow dairy contains A1 casein which is extremely inflammatory to humans. And all cow dairy contains lactose, which most of us can’t even break down anyways. This leads to leaky gut, digestive issues like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

If you must have dairy then make it from organic Jersey or Guernsey cows that contain A2 casein, which is not as inflammatory.

Alternative: The only exception to dairy is grass-fed butter or ghee, and cheese from goats, sheep or buffalo. Goat, sheep and buffalo products are lactose free, so they are easy on your digestion. Another great alternative to cow’s milk is camel’s milk. I have not tried it yet, but I hear good things.

4. Alcohol

Sorry ladies. We should really limit our alcohol intake to 4 drinks a week. This is due to the fact that alcohol is high in sugar so it increase insulin, but it also depletes an important anti-inflammation molecule called glutathione. We need glutathione to detox, and if your detox pathways are not being supported then your body can’t flush out excess hormones, namely estrogen.  Alcohol also damages gut bacteria.

Alternatives: If you drink, stick to dry wines and beer, and take activated charcoal and vitamin C with each drink.

5. Vegetable oils

Vegetable oils are cheap and have long shelf lives, which is why you will find them in most restaurants. Vegetable oil in my opinion is the worst thing you can put in your body, and when you combine it with sugar it is like an inflammatory bomb. The omega 6’s in vegetable oils not only cause inflammation all over the body, but they create inflammatory prostaglandins, which you DON’T WANT.  Prostaglandins are hormone like substances that are responsible for your period cramps. So vegetable oils, as well as any oxidized fat, will promote painful periods.

Alternative: Omega 3’s promote anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. So opt for omega 3 rich oils like coconut, avocado, flax, olive, and grass-fed butter and ghee instead.

If you want to heal, you can’t cut corners. You must let these 5 foods go.  Of course, once you are healed, you can reintroduce some in moderation as life is all about balance. But for the most part you should opt for the food alternatives I recommended.

Okay folks! I hope you find this helpful. Also, if you haven’t already, join me on my Hormone Community Facebook page. This is a group for women on their healing journey to support one another and share their success. You’ll also catch me there  posting with articles, helpful insights and of course, live videos!

With Gratitude,
Health Coach Jenna

 

Your Guide to Hormone Testing Kits

IMG_0838Testing your hormones is a great tool to have under your belt to help you gain invaluable insight into the underlying cause of your hormonal health issues. If you are suffering from painful periods, heavy periods, fibroids, ovarian cysts, or fertility issues, I encourage you to order a test. A good place to start is with a comprehensive hormone profile test that tests your progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA-S, and cortisol levels. This information can help point you and your health care practitioner in the right direction.

Good news is with the technology today we can test our hormones in our own home!

There are many options for at home tests. My prefered is the Dutch (Dried Urine Test For Comprehensive Hormones) as it is the gold standard in hormone testing.

The Dutch test uses dried urine samples to measure your sex hormones, cortisol (some of them test the cortisol with saliva), and metabolites. The Dutch test is extremely precise, and the most advanced version of this test maps your cycle to show your true cycle variation in time.

A runner up would be an at home kit from Verisana LabsThis saliva at home collection test is a more affordable option for those of you just curious about your basic sex hormone profile. Saliva collection, like blood, is a single point collection, so it will not give you the precise cycle variation or precision like the DUTCH, but although not as comprehensive as DUTCH, it still provides very useful information that can let your practitioner know if further testing is required.

So which one is best for you?

If money is not an issue I’d go with the DUTCH. I’d also splurge on the DUTCH if you are experiencing hormonal imbalances that are causing severe pain, infertility, or other health issues that are getting in the way of your daily life. I’d also go for the DUTCH if you’ve tried diet and lifestyle changes yet are still suffering.

However, if you are for the most part healthy and only experiencing minor issues, or if you are simply curious about your hormone levels, the saliva test is definitely the place to begin because it is affordable.

What Day Should You Take Your Test?

Now that you know what test to order, make sure that you take it at the right time! For an accurate progesterone reading you must take it hallway through your luteal phase. I like to stick to the rule of thumb of 7 days before our period is expected. Not everyone has a 28-day text book cycle (a normal period is anywhere from 25-36 days long), so day 21 is not the right testing day for everyone.

For example, if your cycle is 28 days, you would test on day 21, but if it is 31 days you’d test on 24, and if you have a 35-day cycle you’d test as late as day 28!

If you have irregular cycles, that’s where it gets a bit tricky. Your options are to either do an ovulation test or track ovulation signs, and then test 5-7 days after that. If you are not ovulating, it will be very difficult to get an accurate progesterone level, but since you are not ovulating you know you will be progesterone deficient anyways, so I’d just test on  day 21.

Today I sent off my Verisana Lab test and am looking forward to getting my results back soon. I like to test my hormones a few times a year to touch base and make sure all keeps running smoothly! And I’m also a nerd so this thing just really fascinates me! If you’d like to order your own test, Verisana is offering a 15% discount on all of their hormone tests – just type in “JENNA15” at check out.

Happy Testing!

Health Coach Jenna

 

Holistic Remedies for Ovarian Cysts

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If you are a woman, chances are you have had at least one ovarian cyst in your life. Perhaps you weren’t even aware of it, or perhaps it caused you a bit (or a lot!) of discomfort.

I’ve had my share of ovarian cysts in the past, and because I didn’t know what I know now, they caused me an exponential amount of unnecessary grief.

I first started suffering from cysts when I was a teenager because of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is why the doctors put me on the birth control pill at the age of 15. It did prevent me from getting cysts for the time I was on it (but at the price of weight gain and depression), but because the pill doesn’t get to the root of the problem, my PCOS was at a raging full force when I got off the pill at 21.

When I was 29 I experienced the worst ovarian cyst of my life. While on honeymoon in Thailand, a 5 x 5cm cyst grew on my left ovary and twisted around it, causing hemorrhaging. I had to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency laparotomy to remove the cyst. Luckily my ovary was saved. In this very rare case, surgery was necessary. But as you will learn later in this article, surgery is rarely the best option, and is best to be avoided.

When I was 30, I had yet another cyst. This one on my one-year wedding anniversary while in Vietnam! Seriously, can a girl catch a break?!  Because I was so petrified that this one would twist like the previous one, I had my husband take me to the hospital immediately, even though I was not in as much pain as the one from the previous year. Trust me, you will know if your cyst is in torsion, because it is extremely painful.

The ultrasound indeed showed another 5×5 cm cyst on my left ovary. I was gutted. The doctors insisted on surgery, and because I didn’t know what I know now, I agreed. This time a less invasive procedure called a laparoscopy was performed.

A year later at 31 I had yet another cyst. This time I was in the U.S. so I decided to go to a gynecologist. The ultrasound showed another 5×5 cm cyst on my left ovary. He suggested we watch and wait, and in the meantime I should take the birth control pill to shrink it.

I respectfully declined the birth control pill, and he was not very pleased.

I turned down the pill with confidence because I had done quite a bit of research since my previous ovarian cyst ( in the past year I literally made it my mission to learn EVERYTHING I could about them).  So I now had the knowledge to make better decisions, and I rejected the birth control pill therapy, and instead took the holistic route. I knew the signs to look out for if the cyst did go into torsion, and if this did happen I knew I would need to get an ultrasound immediately in case I did need surgical intervention.

However, surgery was obsolete, as with my holistic treatment the cyst dissolved with my period two weeks after it formed.

 No surgery required. No birth control pills.

Today, I’m ovarian cyst free, and even if I do get another one, I wouldn’t be worried at all because I now have the knowledge of how to get rid of it on my own. And I would like for you to be empowered with this knowledge as well.

If you’re suffering from ovarian cysts, chances are you are so confused about all of the conflicting advice out there, due to the fact there is no consensus among physicians on how to treat them. It’s overwhelming I know. This article should hopefully shed some light on the situation for you.

Ovarian Cyst:

Enlarged fluid-filled sacs on the ovary, typically categorized by when they occur in relation to ovulation. (1)

For the sake of time, we will only discuss the most common type of ovarian cyst called a Functional Ovarian Cyst. There are three types of Functional Ovarian Cysts which we will cover today.

Functional Cysts:

These cysts are called “functional” because they develop as a result of normal functioning of the menstrual cycle. Their cause is always hormonal. They can occur once in your life, or recur frequently.

3 Types of Functional Ovarian Cysts:

1. Follicular Cyst

This is the most common type of ovarian cyst. With this cyst, the follicle around the egg continues to grow as you approach ovulation, but instead of rupturing to release the egg as it should, it instead grows into a cyst that encases the egg inside, preventing ovulation.

Cause: There are many hormonal imbalances that can cause this. PCOS being one of them, as well as hypothyroidism.

Treatment: These will usually always resolve on their own by day five of your next period, although in the mean time they can cause quite a bit of discomfort such as pelvic pain and nausea. The only case in which surgical intervention needs to take place is if the cyst twists around the ovary. If you are in a lot of discomfort and do not want to wait a few weeks for your period to dissolve the cyst, you can get a progesterone injection to disrupt estrogen dominance and instigate an earlier period. Surgery can be performed, but it should always be considered a last resort, since it can compromise fertility by causing scarring.

2. Luteinized Unruptured Follicle (LUF)

This cyst occurs when the maturing egg prepares to be released at ovulation, and the follicle that encases the egg goes through the sequence of normal ovulation, however the egg remains stuck in the follicle, so ovulation does not actually occur, even though it seems as if it did because a corpus luteum that produces progesterone is still formed.

Cause: A hormonal imbalance is at play and this type of cyst is believed to occur in 15% of women dealing with infertility.

Treatment: Just like the Follicular Cyst, this cyst will most likely go away on its own by day five of bleeding. A progesterone injection can be used if pain is overbearing. The injection will instigate a period within three-five days.

3. Corpus Luteum Cyst

In this type of cyst, the egg is released and normal ovulation takes place. However, the opening where the egg was released is sealed off and excess fluid fills it forming a cyst.

Cause: Fertility drugs raise the risk of this type of cyst.

Treatment: These cysts are the most innocuous in nature and almost always go away on their own within a few weeks to months. You can get pregnant with this type of cyst, and if you do, the cyst will usually resolve within the first three months of pregnancy.

Holistic Methods to Encourage Ovarian Cysts to Dissolve

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If you have found yourself with one of these cysts, you might find yourself in a bit of discomfort. It is common to get bloated in the abdomen, and to feel tenderness, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, and discomfort in doing daily activities. From my personally experience I found that the pain came in waves. Sometimes lasting a few hours at a time, or maybe even minutes. If I stayed away from exercising I felt much better, so on the days I had the cyst I stuck to light yoga.I also find some holistic treatments to help ease the pain, and speed up the dissolution of the cyst.

However, if you at any point feel such severe pain that you can’t stand up, or use the bathroom, or if you get a high fever or start vomiting, you must go to the hospital immediately. It is very rare, but ovarian cysts can go into torsion and cause infection. In this case surgical intervention is most likely required.

1. Castor Oil Pack:

Place a castor oil pack on your lower abdomen for 30-minutes to an hour each day. The castor oil can help break down the cyst, and increases blood circulation.

2. Herbal Tea Tonic:

Drink Yogi Moon Cycle tea 2-3 times a day. Add 1 teaspoon black strap molasses, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, and a pinch of black pepper.  The potassium in the black strap molasses will help dissolve the cyst, as well as the apple cider vinegar. The turmeric will lower inflammation which will help ease the pain. This is more of an old wise woman remedy, and is not backed by medical research or the FDA. But many women have found this tonic to work, myself being one of them.

3. Epsom Salt Baths with Clary Sage:

Epsom salt baths will help soothe and relax, and it will help ease pelvic pain. Added bonus is the Epsom salt draws out toxins which will help with future hormonal balance. Make sure to get Epsom salts with no added fragrances or chemicals. Place five drops of clary sage essential oil into the bath, as clary sage is a well known oil for promoting hormonal balance.

4. Zinc

Your ovaries need zinc to function optimally, yet sadly, many of us are deficient in this crucial mineral. I recommend supplementing with zinc as well as eating plenty of zinc rich foods such as egg yolks, pumpkin seeds, and oysters. Selenium, iodine, and magnesium are also very important.

A Note on Recovery:

While you are in recovery stay away from strenuous activity and exercise. Focus on self care and slowing down. Treat your self with love and kindness. Use this time to focus on the patterns in your life that aren’t serving you so you can get to the root of the hormonal imbalance causing these cysts in the first place. I encourage you to team up with a holistic practitioner who will help you investigate and find out what is causing these cysts, and who can help you formulate a lifestyle and diet change that will promote hormonal balance.

If you have any more questions, please write them in the comments section below, and I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

With Gratitude

Health Coach Jenna

Sources:

  1. Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility: the Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins, 2015.

What the Color of Your Period Blood Means For Your Health

Your period is an invaluable indicator of the overall health of your body. Think of it like a monthly report card providing a brutally honest evaluation of your diet, lifestyle, and environment. If you are suffering from painful periods, horrible mood swings, or perhaps not having periods at all, these are all indicators that something is wrong.

Your period is your 5th vital sign.

Your period is so important that the American College of Obstetricians and Gyenecologists (ACOG) recommends that menstrual history be used as a vital sign when evaluating the health of girls and adolescents.

The ACOG states, “by including an evaluation of the menstrual cycle as an additional vital sign, clinicians reinforce its importance in assessing overall health status for patients and caretakers.”

Observing your period blood is the easiest way to get a report on how things are going down there. There is nothing to be squeamish about, ladies. Every woman bleeds; it’s a normal bodily function.

The appearance, frequency, and consistency of your menstrual blood provides a window into your overall health, and if you want to have a balanced mood, clear skin, a healthy weight, and pain-free periods, it’s time you get up close and personal with it.

Ready to get started? Check the guide below to know what category your period blood belongs to.

The color: Bright, cranberry-red

The consistency: Like jello mix that hasn’t set (medium viscosity: not too thin, not too thick)

The length: 5-7 days

What it means: This is what’s considered a normal, healthy period. Continue to eat healthy fats and lots of plant based foods, and to get appropriate exercise.

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The color: Brown

The consistency: Thin/streaky

What it means: Low progesterone. That brown stuff is old oxidized blood that didn’t make it out of your uterus last cycle and it’s caused by low progesterone levels. These low levels may be at the root of your period symptoms and may also cause you to struggle with regular ovulation.

The color: Dark, purple/blue

The consistency: Thick with clots

The length: Longer than a week

What it means: This blueberry color is a sign of too much estrogen. Estrogen dominance causes a lot of the typical symptoms associated with problematic periods, and potentially lead to endometriosis, cysts, or fibroids. Over the long term, excess estrogen can lead to more serious health consequences.

The color: Barely-there pink

The consistency: Too light to tell

The length: 3 days or less

What it means: A super-short period and extra light bleeding may indicate low estrogen levels. Your hormones are made from the food you eat, so your low estrogen is likely due to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies from improper and extreme dieting as well as from HPA Axis Dysfunction.

If you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for on your period report card, then I encourage you to schedule a 30- minute consultation with me today so we can get you that A+ pronto!

xxxx

Health Coach Jenna