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What does your Stomach have to do with Immune Health?

Believe it or not, the stomach is the seat of our immune system in the physical body.  Probiotics and immune health go hand in hand.  When we are sick with the infection, we receive anti-biotics from the doctor.  Anti-biotics fight invasive bacteria systemically, but also in the collateral damage they kill the good bacteria we need for immune health.  Also our lifestyle choices stress can negatively impact gut health.  Taking probiotics daily is a preventative way to promote good bacteria, or flora, in ‘the gut’. Everything starts there. Ill-health in the digestive track leads to dis-ease in the body. You’ve maybe heard of ‘leaky gut sydrome’ which is the stomach bacteria out of balance and the results seen over time in the rest of the body.

Probiotics are meant to be taken in capsule form. My dentist said to never take it in the form which touches the teeth (ie a drink or a chewable tablet) as the good bacteria does create excess plaque in the mouth.  Traditionally probiotics require refrigeration as they are a living organism, but a very reputable brand ReNew Life has a ‘shelf stable’ version which is awesome, especially for travel.

Digestive health is the path to overall and long term well-being.

Digestive Health is the Path to Overall Wellbeing

When comparing probiotic labels, choose one that has:

1. A minimum of 15 billion active.  Choose more if you are in ‘critical care’ as in post surgical, or taking may synthetic medications.

2. A statement of ‘potency at time of expiration’ on the label.  This is important as these bacteria are living things and slowly die off over time.  You still want a good content even at the time of taking the last capsule!  Some brands do not make this declaration.  So you definitely want one that does!

3. Multiple strains (10 is good) EACH of bacteria names starting with L’s and B’s.  So that’s 10 strains of L bacteria, and 10 strains of B bacteria.  If you can’t find that many, simply choose as many strains as possible.  More strains means more avenues of protection.

If you want to educate yourself a bit, the best resource I’ve found is Brenda Watson. She’s been a longtime advocate of probiotics and a PBS educational regular. Just go to YouTube and search ‘Brenda Watson probiotics’ and pick a video that suits your interest level. And of course have a chat with your naturopath. Interesting stuff!

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Stress and Hormone Function

Stress is an unavoidable part of our world and our life. As individuals, we are starting to understand more and more that when we experience stress it has an impact on our physical body and our health.

Some of the hormones in our bodies are designed to help us deal with stress. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline. Most of us are familiar with the term adrenaline rush, which is the fight-or-flight response when we are in an emergency situation.

Adrenaline can also serve us for a long period of time when we are feeling under stress, such as a period of pressure at a job. For example, tax season for accountants or young mothers trying to balance a newborn and a toddler.

Have you ever wondered why you can put in a huge effort at work to get ready for your annual vacation, working overtime and skipping your lunch break, all the while staying healthy. Finally your vacation arrives, and within the first two or three days of your time off you come down with a cold or flu. This is because, while under stress, adrenaline protects our immune system. This protection is one of the functions of adrenaline. Then, when you change your environment and start to relax, this protection falls away and any latent virus which has been waiting in the wings has a chance to pounce. Also, our alcohol consumption tends to rise on while we are on vacaion which also suppresses your immune system.

This is why, when you go on holiday, it is a good idea to plan some activities in the first few days. Keep your body somewhat busy and wind down slowly instead of just arriving at your destination and sitting in a deck chair.

While researching the effects of stress on hormones, the advice is usually “avoid stressful situations”. I can’t help but chuckle at this because really, we have to live in the real world. How do we avoid stressful situations when we have kids to pick up from school and ferry to various other activities, we have jobs, the house is a mess, and we still have to get groceries. Stress is with us. The only way we can manage our stress is to…manage it.

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You and Your Doctor

It is so important to have clear communication with your family doctor. The patient needs to do their best to explain their symptoms or concerns to their family doctor.  And, ideally, the family doctor will take time to explain things in terms which the patient can understand.

This is the ideal situation, but it is sometimes far from what actually happens. It is stressful going to see our doctor when we are not feeling well. We can be forgetful or feel intimidated. Add to this having to wear a paper dress in a freezing-cold examination room, and we have a recipe for a disappointing experience.

Here are some things you can do to take responsibility for your side of your patient-doctor relationship:

1.         Make a list of what you want to discuss before you come to the appointment. Most doctors welcome this, some do not. If your doctor does not like lists, make one anyway. This list is for you and your comprehensive care. And, whether your doctor appreciates it or not, it is a way to respect her time as well, by efficiently addressing your concerns.

2.         Take someone you trust with you to make notes and help ask questions. Two sets of ears will pick up more than one. Having another person there who present in your best interest may have different questions or perspective which will bring more information to light.

3.         Be honest. Tell your doctor about everything you are doing with regard to your health – good or bad. She needs to know if you are under the care of an alternative practitioner, such as a naturopath or acupuncturist. Your doctor also needs to know how much alcohol you consume, and if you take over-the-counter non-prescription medication on a regular basis.  This is not the time to be coy or try to paint a better picture of your practices.

3.         If you have frustration or disappointment in dealing with your doctor, talk to her about it. We may feel tempted to just find another doctor and start over again, but this can be a trying experience especially if you are in the throes of an existing medical condition. Instead, tell your doctor how you are feeling about how she interacts with you, and be honest. This may be an opportunity to come to a better understanding of each other. And, if your honest comments are met with an unsatisfactory response, then you can feel certain that it is best to move on and find another doctor.

4.         Trust yourself. If you have questions about your health which remain unanswered, ask to have a second opinion or to see a specialist in the field of our concern.

We are a generation of women who recognize that we have responsibility to take part in our health care. Gone are the days of accepting our physician’s diagnosis or treatment without question. Asking questions and doing a little research on our own is the best way to ensure that we are taking the treatment path that best works for us.

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Scheduling Exercise Time

How on earth am I supposed to fit exercise into my life? I have no time and even less energy.

The first fact to consider is that our bodies need some kind of exercise. We are designed to move. When we exercise, our muscles flex and squeeze toxins out of our tissues, we drink more water which helps to hydrate the cells of our bodies, and chemicals which make us feel good and happy are released in our brains, making us feel just a little better about life. Exercise is not only good, it is critical to our recovery from hormone health issues.

Here are the first steps to incorporating exercise into your already busy life:

1.         Stop feeling guilty about not exercising. Just stop it right now.

2.         Talk to a friend who you know will be sympathetic and supportive. Just talking about your intention to exercise and saying it out loud will help you get started. Maybe your friend will even exercise with you.

3.         Look at your life realistically and decide how much time and energy you can commit at this moment. Not everyone’s life allows them to hit the gym five days a week for two hours. If your life does allow this, stop reading this article and grab your gym pass!

4.         Whatever you decide you can do, however small, just do something. Get off the elevator one or two flights before your floor at work. Park at the far side of the parking lot when you go to the mall.

5.         As you become more active you may want to schedule some dedicated exercise time. This scheduling can be very challenging in our hectic work-a-day world. The best way I have found is to take out my weekly planner where I track all of my appointments and commitments during the week. I plot my exercise times into my schedule.   Once written down, it feels like an appointment with myself. With this method, I do still miss some of my exercise times, but I do manage to keep most of my appointments with myself.

Once you start exercising more regularly, you may still have times where you just feel too exhausted or time-squeezed to get your exercise in. Here are two little tricks I play on myself to get through:

1.         I make a deal with myself that I will start my exercise, let’s say the treadmill.  I tell myself I will do it for 10 minutes and then permit myself to quit.  At the end of 10 minutes, I almost always feel more inspired and I continue on for the full time.

2.         If your heart really isn’t into your workout, just go through some of the motions and do a little bit. If you normally walk the dog all the way to the dog park, just go around the block instead. Doing these pared-down sessions may not raise your heart rate, but it will keep the momentum of your exercise plan going and you will feel so much better about yourself tomorrow.

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How to Manage Stress

Real Life Suggestions on How to Manage Stress

My personal opinion is that, in life, we just can’t do it all…and be well. If something comes along which we cannot control, something else has to give.

Here are some suggestions on how to get a handle on stress:

1.         Stop. Just stop…and take a breath. Sit down with a pen, paper and your calendar of commitments, and be determined to make a change.

2.         Control the number of activities you and your family are involved in.  Until your kids can drive themselves to their activities, do they really need to belong to two sports teams, take piano lessons and ballet? Many times we feel guilty if we don’t provide them every opportunity to explore their interests, but sacrificing one or two activities in exchange for a parent who feels less stressed is a valuable trade off.

3.         Break it down. Decide what is “your stuff” and what isn’t. We can’t control other people or events ( as much as we wish we could!). All we have control over is ourselves and our actions and re-actions. We can be honest and take responsibility for our feelings and our needs. We also can’t control others’ response to our efforts at change. Communicate as honestly as you can, and stick to the plan which best works for finding balance in your life.

4.         Carve some time into your calendar for everyone in the family to just “be”. This time doesn’t have to happen all together, it can happen differently for everyone. Create some breathing room. The best tonic for keeping our hormones balanced is to get rest; to just “drop out” for an hour, an afternoon, a weekend. Whatever you can manage.

5.         Exercise. Just take a walk. When our bodies and hormones are stressed, it puts stress on our system to try to go to the gym and crank out 100 reps. Walking doesn’t take a lot of energy, but it gets the blood circulating to your cells and your brain and fresh air in your lungs. Plus, after seeing a change of scenery while walking around the block, it is amazing the new perspective we can have upon arriving home. Also, take Fido with you. He picks up on the stress in the household and could use the benefit of exercise too!

6.          Talk to your doctor.  Sometimes we need a little chemical help to endure a prolonged period of sadness or stress.  Having experienced depression myself, I do understand that there is a place for anti-depressants.  It doesn’t mean that you’ve “failed” or you are “too weak to tough it out”.  These thoughts are actually the depression talking.  Use of anti-depressants must be initiated and closely monitored by your physician.  The purpose of an anti-depressant is not a “happy pill” to make your troubles disappear.  Depression is a chemical gap in the communication of cells in your brain.  Medication can bridge this gap to get you back to where you can function in your daily life.  Often times, it is only a very small dose that is required for a specified period of time.  Whatever happens do not take yourself off of your medication early or reduce your dose without your doctor’s supervision.  A depression relapse can be worse than the initial bout.  You and your doctor can determine together when you can start reducing your dose to get off of the medication.

7.           Talk to a counsellor.  If you have an extended health plan at work, often counselling is included in the list of services which are covered by your plan.  Ask your plan administrator at work.  Speaking to a qualified counsellor can be beneficial, if not critical to our recovery from, and ability to manage, stress.

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Reiki Testimonials – Brenda Thompson

“I’ve never achieved such a complete sense of relaxation”
Terry, Los Cabos, BCS Mexico

“As a Reiki Master myself, I am adept at conducting and reading the energy flow through the body.  Experiencing this session was a truly heightened experience beyond what I expected.”
Anne S., Las Vegas, NV USA

“For the first time in 50 years, my life makes sense.”
Cheryl A.,  Los Cabos, BCS Mexico

“I had a session while visiting Mexico on vacation.  I have a new sense of peace that stays connected to me, even in everyday activities”
Selma M., Vancouver, B.C. Canada

“I’m very familiar with breath work and yoga.  However the peace I find during a yoga session, doesn’t seem to translate into the rest of my life.  Through this therapy I have found a profound sense of connectedness with myself.”
Mary T., Calgary, AB Canada

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Environment and your Hormones

What does our Environment have to do with hormones? The answer is — Everything! For this article, the term “environment” means anything that impacts you in your life, for instance:

House and Home: Do you feel comfortable and peaceful at home? Happy even? Do you like your surroundings and feel safe in your neighbourhood?

Our Work: Whether inside the home or outside the home, do you feel fulfilled? If you don’t feel fulfilled and your work is simply a means to an end — you have to support your family — is this okay with you? There has been a major thrust in past years telling us all “let what you love be what you do”. We “should” be in a job or profession that is our passion.   This is, perhaps, something to strive for, but I feel it is a cruel expectation in some ways. Sometimes we are simply in a job that we must do and it’s okay to be okay with that! I know a lady from my hometown who loved scrapbooking. She loved it so much that she opened a scrapbook studio in town as her business. I ran into her a year after she opened, and asked her how it was going. The business was doing well, she told me, but the unfortunate thing was that now she hated scrapbooking. Her hobby had become her work, and having to work at it had ruined the pleasure for her.

Social Life: Do you have friends who add to your experience in life, or do you have friends who bring you down? It’s an easy distinction to make — after being with a particular friend, how do you feel about yourself?

Diet: A diet which doesn’t nourish our bodies properly causes a great deal of stress to the system and can lead to hormone upset. Does your diet include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; lean proteins, and whole grains, while avoiding over-refined and processed foods?

Water: Do you have access to purified drinking water? There is more and more press about the chemicals and pharmaceuticals which are present in our water — even our processed city water. Many of these chemicals are disrupting to our hormones. We need water for our health and having the best quality water you can is a gift to your hormone health.

Time: Do you have enough “down time”? Do you have time to rest…just rest? When we try to recover from a hormone upset, or we try to keep our balanced hormones balanced, rest is not just important — it’s critical. If you find you are craving some time alone with small fantasies of what you would do, this is something to heed. One of my girlfriends with small children had a small fantasy of having a cup of tea and reading a magazine cover to cover. Once she examined this in her life, she realized the only thing that was keeping her from doing it was guilt. She felt guilty taking some time to herself during the day, even though her job as “mom” went from early morning to late at night. She put her guilt away, and decided that she was worth the effort, and a better-rested and re-charged mom would be a better mom.

The above list is meant as food for thought. Any of the above aspects of life, if unbalanced and in control of us instead of us being in control, will create some kind of stress response in us and our hormones. If something stood out to you as your read this list, maybe this is something to examine in your life. If you feel afraid to make a change for yourself ask a simple question: “what’s the down side of me doing this?” I find when I ask myself this question, it suddenly clarifies for me what I need to do.

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Exercise is Essential

Exercise is is not just a suggestion or recommendation when attempting to balance your body’s hormone function. Exercise is a necessity!

Don’t we all just want a quick fix for our health?  If there were a magic pill out there, we would all give our kingdoms for that pill!  When it comes to diets, and diet pills and exercise programs, I always think that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  We may try fad items, but I think we all know in our hearts that the only solution to maintaining or regaining our health is old-fashioned exercise and watching our diet.

Our bodies are made to move and many of our internal systems are designed to run with exercise.  Balanced health is only accomplished by having activity as part of your life.  This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym, but if you can that’s great!  Take your kids to the park or walk around the block after supper.  Our bodies are so amazing that even a small amount of exercise is going to improve your health and your outlook!

There is no “secret” to exercise.  The infomercials show a myriad of different exercise equipment and programs to follow.  The great news is there is no right or wrong plan.  You are not going to miss the “magic solution” if you don’t think a particular method appeals to you.  Choose something that works for you.  I always say it’s so great that there are so many forms of exercise, because there are so many people with different tastes and budgets.  Everyone has a chance to do something that appeals to them.  I have a girlfriend who loves to go for a run — on the pavement out in the city.  She loves it.  This would be my own personal torture.  I can hear my ankle tendons snap just thinking about it!  My favourite activity is a 30 minute brisk walk on the treadmill and some yoga stretches.  Another friend of mine loves golf.  She opts out of the golf cart and wheels your golf bag across the links.

The key…the absolutely key to exercise, is regularity.  Whatever activity you choose, be faithful to yourself and do it several times a week.  Two, three or even four times a week.

Things to consider when choosing an activity:

1.  What is your goal?  What are you trying to accomplish through exercise?  There is a big difference between wanting to improve your general well-being and wanting to join the ladies’ weightlifting team.  Be honest with yourself about your goal and be realistic.  If you set too high of an expectation, you will not stick with your program.

2.  What is your health condition at the moment and what may be some physical limitations to keep in mind?  This is the time to talk to your doctor about wanting to begin an exercise plan.  Your doctor and your health history will dictate the type of activity and the intensity.  You must see your doctor before implementing any change in diet or exercise to your life.

3.  Consider your budget.  In these trying economic times, we don’t need to add extra pressure on ourselves by thinking that if we can’t join a costly gym, or attend yoga classes then there’s no use in trying to get in shape.  If you have a bicycle, get on it or go for a walk.  Plain old push ups, sit ups and jumping jacks are effective exercises that the military still uses to this day.  But don’t forget to check with your doctor before attempting anything new.

The great thing about exercise is that it’s never too late to start.  It is an investment in your future health!

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Meet the Author – Brenda Thompson

Meet the Author

Hi, my name is Brenda Thompson and I have been dealing with hormone issues my whole life.  It is my desire to share with you both my experience and what I have learned as a result of my journey.  It is my hope that the information I share in this Website may benefit you and that with the help and supervision of your health-care professional(s), you can find your own unique solution for your optimal hormone health.  It is my goal to continually build and update this Website as a free support forum for both you and me.   Facing my hormone issues through my life has been a lonely road.  You don’t have to feel the same way.

This Website is written out of my experience with debilitating hormonal issues. My body of knowledge is…my body’s knowledge.  Welcome to my Website and I hope you enjoy your visit here.  I always enjoy hearing from my visitors, so please feel free to send me a note through the email link using “Contact Info” on the top menu bar.  If there is a topic of interest for you which you do not see here, please email me and I will research and compile the information for you to the best of my ability.

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Briefly then, I will share 40 years of hormone history in a few paragraphs!  At the ripe old age of 9 years, I had my first ovary removed.  This seemed to have little impact on my life at the time, other than being an omen of things to come.  At age 21, I was diagnosed with a major over-active thyroid problem.  My thyroid condition was so severe that my specialist told me he didn’t know exactly how over-active my thyroid actually was.  My test scored off their charts.  It is also unknown for how many years my over-active thyroid had raged.  At each annual doctor appointment I would share my symptoms:  extreme sweating throughout the day; tremors and shakiness; migraines; my hair fell out by the handful; a completely compromised immune system — I had severe allergies and came down with every bug that was going around from the stomach flu to larangitis and pleurisy (a very painful type of pneumonia).   In spite of these symptoms, my thyroid was never tested.

Finally treating my thyroid brought on a too-low-thyroid response which had to be corrected through medication.  This severe swing in my condition brought on a lengthy depression, as well a battle to re-build my immune system and general health.  This is when I started reading everything I could find on the thyroid.  It is interesting to note, that during these years, which would be the mid-80’s, thyroid problems were not investigated readily by doctors.  I have many friends who, based on my experience, would ask their family doctor to test their thyroid and were flatly told that it was not necessary.  There was an article in the Readers’ Digest magazine in 1988 which brought awareness to this condition to their readership.  I rejoiced when I saw this issue.  I took it around to everyone I knew and said “see, see…I wasn’t crazy!”  From this point on, I noticed that more and more mainstream magazines were picking up on this subject.  Now, thank goodness, the thyroid test is usually included in a general battery of blood work.

In 1997, at age 33, the surgical removal of my last existing ovary plunged me into what is called “surgical menopause”. My entry to this phase of life was termed by my doctor as “violent”, due to my young age and unnatural method.   I began another battle of symptoms such as I had never experienced:  hot flashes; night sweats; forgetfulness; weight loss and weight gain;  complete emotional instability.  I literally turned into a person I did not recognize.  Immediately after my surgery, and before I even knew what was happening, I was on synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy to try to control the menopausal symptoms I was having.  I knew in my heart that this was the wrong treatment for me.  This was reinforced to me years later  when the Women’s Health Initiative abandoned their study on HRT due to unfavourable results.

I had to get off of HRT.  In the face of unsupportive doctors I began what was to become a lifelong quest to find the most natural therapies and support in order to regain my health.  Shortly after my surgery, I went to my local library and checked out every book I could find on the subject of menopause and hormones.  I came home with 5 books.  One was a highly technical medical journal, one was a woman’s rant about her menopause, and the other three offered no more than the odd tidbit of moderately-helpful information.  Over a decade later, the information which is now available to us on the Internet and in print is profound.

During my research, I began to challenge my doctors about the dangers of synthetic HRT, the risk of not balancing progesterone and estrogen, and other related issues.  These and other arguments were met with either a dismissive pat on the head, or an inference that I knew not of which I spoke.   Now, over a decade later, mainstream medical doctors are writing articles proving the positions I had held for myself on these topics.   So, mainstream medicine is opening their minds; we have so much available to us in terms of natural remedies and therapies; we can visit Naturopathic Doctors and other alternative health-care providers and use their support in concert with that of our mainstream Medical Doctor.  Let’s make the most of the beginning of this enlightened time and find our path to optimal hormone health!