Men and women both encounter hormonal fluctuations, but women experience them twice as much and have at least twice as many hormone related conditions as men. Men experience imbalances in testosterone at puberty and as they age. Women experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone in puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Additionally, women can experience changes in their level of testosterone. High levels of testosterone are related to polycystic ovary syndrome as well as other symptoms. As we age, we also produce less testosterone which is responsible for a low libido, among other symptoms.
Today, I’m looking at female hormone and reproductive issues. At puberty and beyond we can experience PMS, menstrual cramping and bloating, irregular menstruation, mood swings, and painful swollen breasts. In pregnancy we can experience swelling, constipation, nausea, heartburn, back pain, stress, stretchmarks and finally labour pains. But it doesn’t end there. There’s also post-partum depression and balancing breast milk production. Or there’s infertility. Throughout life we may experience yeast infections, ovarian cysts, high libido, sexual tension, heavy or no menstruation and endometriosis. As we age, we can experience irregular menstruation, uterine prolapse, low libido and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. And that my friends, is not an exhaustive list.
We can try to manage our hormone levels using the birth control pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Is there a difference between the two? Yes, there is. HRT is a supplement to the hormones your body is producing, while the birth control pill is much stronger and takes over hormone production. Additionally, HRT isn’t a type of birth control.
The birth control pill is helpful for hormone imbalances and is generally safe. Side effects can include spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, migraines, weight gain, mood changes, missed periods, decreased libido and vaginal discharge. Risks include blood clots, stroke, heart attack, increase in blood pressure, benign liver tumours and some types of cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy side effects include monthly bleeding, irregular spotting, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, skin discolouration and increased breast density. Risks include increased chance of breast and endometrial cancer, blood clots and stroke, gallbladder/gallstone problems and increased risk of dementia.
There are external factors which may also affect our hormone levels such as plastics (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/), genetically modified food, phthalates (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5391940/ and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0917504017301120), hormones in meat and dairy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524299/), sugar (as insulin levels affect hormones), phytoestrogens, or plant “estrogens” found in soy for example, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/) and pesticides (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1524969/).
By the way, labeling is not required in Canada or the US for genetically modified foods but you can check the produce codes (those five-digit numbers on the stickers). Numbers starting with an eight indicate GMO and numbers starting with a nine indicate organic. Other numbers indicate that they were conventionally grown.
We can also try to balance our hormone levels with supplements and essential oils. A study on menopause shows that after 8 weeks of aromatherapy massage (using lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine), symptoms decreased compared to the control group (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2529395/). Another study on perimenopause shows that inhalation of geranium and rose otto essential oils increased estrogen secretion (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28326753).
Essential oils can help with more than menopause and perimenopause. All those hormonal and reproductive issues that I mentioned earlier can be helped by essential oils. Let’s have a look at some common issues and what oils can help.
PMS can be helped by using bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender and rose to balance hormones, ease headaches and cramping and help with acne.
Hot flashes can be helped by clary sage, grapefruit, lemon, geranium, lavender, peppermint and patchouli which help by balancing hormones, improving circulation, constricting blood vessels and cooling.
Yeast infections can be helped with cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tea tree which have powerful antifungal properties.
Clary sage, grapefruit, lavender and rose are great for helping balance hormones.
Cinnamon, clary sage, geranium, patchouli and ylang ylang have aphrodisiac properties.
Not sure which oils to use or how to use them? Make an appointment with an aromatherapist today.
I’m not usually into fads and gimmicks, which is why it took me so long to try a facial roller. It was finally too pretty to resist....and I got it on sale!
The packaging claimed this:
I was surprised it didn’t cook and clean too. With a list that long, I became more skeptical. I wanted to know what actual benefits I might see so I popped on over to Google. Here’s what the experts say:
I pull it out of the box and read the directions, which basically says how to hold it and that you don’t have to apply much pressure. On my first use, it feels calming like a face massage. And the cold stone feels nice on my sleepy, puffy eyes first thing in the morning.
The experts also recommend that you roll from the centre of your face outward, towards your lymph glands. Some also say that you must start with your neck to clear any lymph build up. I tried this and it doesn’t feel pampering anymore. I’m concentrating on how to roll it instead of using it where it feels good. After a few days I decide to roll like I did on my first day and finish in the direction of lymph glands.
You can use it daily or up to three times a week for a few minutes at the most. You can also use it to apply serums and lotions.
Finally, facial rollers come in different materials. Jade protects against negative energy and balances your chi. Rose quartz promotes love and healing, is calming, dispels negativity energy and protects from environmental pollution. Obsidian shields and protects our skin and our minds against negative energy. Or just pick your favourite colour!
After using it for a month, I don’t really notice any other benefits. It’s a quick little pamper to start your day and feels great when you have a headache. Going forward, I will probably use it for the occasional headache and its cooling effect on my eyes rather than for daily use.
Have you tried a facial roller? What did you think?
We all know alcohol is bad for us but what about for our skin? Isn’t it drying?
It all depends upon the alcohol. Alcohol is a molecule that contains carbon atoms and an oxygen and hydrogen atom (a hydroxyl group), and their names end in ‘ol’. The one we know best, ethanol (or ethyl alcohol), is a product of fermentation and is drying. Denatured alcohol (where something is added to ethanol to make it undrinkable) is also drying and is used in window cleaner, camp stove fuel, paint removal, etc. Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol or rubbing alcohol) is created using petroleum-based ingredients or from reducing acetone (TOXNET Toxicology Data Network) and is drying.
Now for the good alcohols. Cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol are fatty alcohols derived from coconut and nuts. These alcohols are emollient, leave your skin soft and smooth and are used as thickeners and co-emulsifiers.
Witch hazel is often obtained from solvent extraction with alcohol and some of it remains in the witch hazel. Store bought witch hazel can contain 15-30% alcohol. Our Facial Toner & Cleanser contains witch hazel and the alcohol content is about 8%. We have recently found some alcohol-free witch hazel which we’ll be using in the future.
Benzyl alcohol is another ingredient you’ll find on many of our labels. It’s an aromatic alcohol and is an ingredient in the natural preservative we use. It is found naturally in plants and essential oils and is safe.
If you’re concerned about dry skin, check the labels of your toners, hand sanitizers, mouthwashes and oily skin care products.
Essential oil safety is probably the most talked about subject in aromatherapy. And probably the most confusing too. Although essential oils have been used for hundreds of years, there’s not a lot of scientific evidence to refer to. Since essential oils cannot be trademarked, big companies don’t want to invest in it and small companies can’t afford it. Which leaves whatever information you can find online, in books, in classes or from suppliers. And it’s difficult to tell if the author is an expert or an amateur. Sometimes even the experts don’t agree, but it’s usually to do with the amount of caution they’re comfortable with. Now I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert, but here are some guidelines most experts will agree on:
It’s helpful to remember that essential oils are highly concentrated, and their properties need to be respected.
For more information see Robert Tisserand’s site (a highly respected expert) at https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/safety-guidelines.
Was this blog helpful? Do you have any questions? Comment below!
I’ve taken courses on skincare and nutrition and have researched natural medicine and healthy foods. It’s fascinating how our diet affects our body’s health. There are some nutrients you can both ingest and apply topically, some that can only be ingested (or produced by the body) and some that can only be applied topically. Today we’re going to look at how our diet affects our skin, what nutrients the skin needs, what benefits they provide and what foods you can eat.
To maintain healthy skin, you need water, vitamins A, B, C and E, zinc, essential fatty acids and proteins:
Collagen cannot be applied topically as the molecules are too big to absorb through the skin. Collagen doesn’t exist in any food other than homemade bone broth and is instead produced in the body (The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen, Cleveland Clinic). As we get older our body produces less collagen. Here’s what to eat to help boost collagen production:
Zinc can be found in:
These foods contain antioxidants:
Eat many of these different foods and make your skin happy. It will reward you with beautiful, healthy looking skin!
Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids
The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-way-you-can-get-more-collagen/
Here are some of the aromatherapy myths that I hear most often.
1. You can ingest essential oils.
Oral use of essential oils has not been approved in North America. The only country that allows the administration of essential oils orally is France, and even then, you have to be under the close supervision of a licensed medical practitioner. Generally, it’s safe to add a couple of drops to food or to swish around a dilution in your mouth before spitting it out, but even then, some essential oils can irritate mucus membranes. Make sure to do your research before using any oil orally.
There is a company out there that will completely disregard this and advise you it’s safe to use essential oils orally. At a market I was at, a rep from this same company advised a customer to put a drop of peppermint oil in her eye. This should never be done because it burns!
2. You can apply them directly to your skin.
Almost all essential oils should be diluted before applying them to your skin neat. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and can cause irritation, burns and rashes. Don’t take chances – dilute them in lotion, carrier oil, shower gel, bubble bath, liquid soap, massage oil, etc. If you’re going to use one neat, do a patch test and don’t use it for a prolonged period.
3. Essential oils labelled pure and therapeutic are of better quality.
Essential oils, by their nature, are pure and therapeutic, whether it’s on the label or not. An essential oil labelled “pure” means only that it hasn’t been diluted. Using “therapeutic” on a label is only a marketing strategy. There is no such thing as a non-therapeutic version of an essential oil!
4. Essential oils are safe because they’re natural.
While essential oils are indeed natural, they still need to be used with caution. Just think of poison ivy, some types of mushrooms, stinging nettle, poinsettia. You get the picture. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and many have contraindications (specific situations where they may be harmful), for example in pregnancy, with medications or in other medical conditions.
5. Major brands sell superior quality essential oils.
If you’re comparing apples to apples, this is simply not true. If an essential oil is pure, then an essential oil is an essential oil is an essential oil. An organic essential oil may be regarded as a better-quality oil but that’s because of the lack of pesticides and herbicides, the oil isn’t any different. And the essential oil’s chemical constituents (affected by country of origin, soil conditions, weather, time of harvest, etc.) may cause one oil to be safer, sweeter or better for a certain condition than another. But again, if you compare an organic lavender oil from Bulgaria from one company to another they would be the same. When you shop at a major brand you’re not paying for superior quality, you’re paying for their name.
Bonus myth: There’s a company out there who claims that you can only use their essential oils in their diffusers. Great marketing ploy! I went in to one of these stores to “shop” for a diffuser. As soon as I questioned this, the employee quickly backed down.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that results from uranium breaking down underground. It gives off radiation and is odourless, colourless and tasteless. Remember your table of elements? Its symbol is Rn.
It’s found in homes across Canada and gets in through cracks in foundation walls, floor drains, or anywhere the house contacts the soil.
It’s the second highest cause of lung cancer behind smoking and the number one cause in nonsmokers. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in the basement, specifically in winter, as our homes are more air tight with all our windows closed.
You can buy a do-it-yourself test kit for about $30 and then ship it to a lab to analyze the results. Or you can hire a professional to test it for you (some even do free testing). You can also purchase a radon detector for about $200-300 and monitor it on an ongoing basis. See https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/radon.html for more information and links to where you can find a test kit or professional near you. Regardless of the method you choose, the test should last three months.
The Canadian guideline is 200bq/m3. If it’s over this amount, you should take steps to remediate it. This can be done by venting the gas from under the basement floor to the outside.
For a more comprehensive guide check out Radon - A Guide For Canadian Homeowners.
Health Canada has Cosmetic Regulations that state what ingredient information needs to be on a cosmetic label and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act & Regulations describes other mandatory information.
Labels must include:
All essential oils have multiple beneficial properties but geranium, German chamomile, lavender, lemon and peppermint are five of the most versatile must-have oils. Remember that all oils should be diluted for topical use and can be diluted in lotion, body wash, liquid soap, carrier oils, etc. They can be used for inhalation with a diffuser, lava bead bracelet or a couple of drops on a tissue.
Geranium is a strong but lovely floral scent.
German Chamomile is a sweet, expensive and very strong essential oil. It is often available diluted in jojoba oil at 3% or 10%, which is still enough to give it a good scent and retain its beneficial properties.
Lavender has a fresh floral scent.
Lemon has a fresh and sharp citrus scent.
Peppermint has a sharp but minty sweetness.
“There is no single disease which causes more psychic trauma and more maladjustment between parents and children, more general insecurity and feelings of inferiority and greater sums of psychic assessment than does acne vulgaris” (Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine 3rd Edition, 2012).
Wow! Even 20 years after my acne it still reminds me of those feelings. My acne was something I never talked about, but I’m ready to share my story with you now.
My acne started in junior high school and my doctor started me with soaps and cleansers (Neutrogena, pHisoderm and Sea Breeze) and then topicals. No improvement, just acne and drier skin. Then I tried courses of antibiotics (tetracycline, minocycline, erythromycin, etc.). Nada. Finally I tried Accutane in high school. If you’re not familiar with it, it has a long rap sheet of side effects and can cause severe birth defects and liver damage. I was required to be on birth control pills and have my blood and urine tested every month. But it was a miracle, it worked! And back then I didn’t care about the side effects, I just wanted to look normal. I experienced night blindness (which meant I couldn’t drive at night) and dry cracked, bleeding lips. I was on it for a few months and my clear skin lasted for about a year. But it came back, and I was back on it for another round.
Worse than the side effects was the embarrassment, low self-esteem and social stigma. I remember working my cashier job and having customers giving me unsolicited advice. I was told to try sugar paste, baking soda paste and toothpaste. I know they all meant well but it embarrassed me further and each comment was a constant reminder of my acne.
I was told not to eat sweets. I cut sugar out of my diet but it seemed to make no difference.
In a teen magazine, I read an interview with Catherine Bach (who played Daisy Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard - loved that show!) and she talked about how she was an ugly kid. She advised readers that ‘every ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan’. I held onto that hope for years. I’m certainly no swan but my looks definitely improved.
The school photographers were able to touch up my photos, which made me look better but they felt fake. I threw away any photo of me with acne except a single untouched high school graduation photo, pictured here (complete with bushy eyebrows and permed and back-combed hair!).
My acne problems weren’t over however. Well into my late-twenties I used ProActiv and stayed on the birth control pill which helped keep things in check. These days I still get whiteheads if I’ve had too much sugar or have lost weight (the toxins stored in your fat are released into your bloodstream). As a matter of fact, as I write this I’m experiencing two cysts which I rarely get unless I’ve been eating poorly (I’ve been eating fast food for a couple of days!).
I guess you can say I was left feeling scarred for life. All this time I’ve been covering my face with foundation or a tan, looking but not seeing the marks on my skin. I’m finally ready to face it, to look in the mirror and see my scars and my broken capillaries for what they are.
But enough about me, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned so far, from experience, research and by reading Clear Skin by Nicholas Perricone, MD.
Let’s start with how acne forms as its important in understanding how to prevent or reduce acne. When there’s an increase in inflammatory chemicals in the cell, proinflammatory cytokines (proteins) are produced by your immune system. Cytokines make the skin cells sticky and trap dead skin cells, clogging the pore (Perricone, N., MD, The Clear Skin Prescription, 2004). This causes sebum and bacteria to build up resulting in a comedo (whitehead or blackhead). A comedo can develop into a papule or pustule, better known as a pimple. These can develop into nodules or cysts.
When we’re stressed, lacking sleep or eating inflammatory foods (not just sugar but high glycemic foods such as juices, white bread, potatoes, white rice, etc.), the hormone cortisol is released, increasing our blood sugar and leading to inflammation (Perricone, N., MD, The Clear Skin Prescription, 2004). Additionally, the hormone androgen exacerbates the condition by increasing sebum production.
In order to reduce inflammation, we need to drink plenty of water, sleep well, reduce stress and consume an anti-inflammatory diet. This diet means low glycemic index foods, moderate amounts of lean protein and unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, salmon, nuts and seeds) and plenty of vegetables. Here are some resources to check the glycemic index of foods:
Topical anti-inflammatories can also be used in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory diet. Look for products with alpha lipoic acid, dimethylaminoethanol and glutathione (Perricone, N., MD, The Clear Skin Prescription, 2004).
Another alternative is to look at a face map, especially if your acne occurs in one spot. This is based on Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Think of it like reflexology, where problems with a specific part of your body are a window to an internal problem. This helped me clear up the acne on the tip of my nose. The face map says it may be related to circulation, heart issues or gastrointestinal problems; and as soon as I resumed regular exercise, it cleared up. Here’s a comprehensive face map for you to explore: https://www.muktiorganics.com/blog/face-mapping-how-to-read-your-skin-from-within.
Hopefully one of these more natural ways to deal with your acne works for you. And there’s a bonus. The side effects of eating an anti-inflammatory diet are disease prevention and looking younger!
Loves living a healthy lifestyle and sharing what she learns along the way.