Virtual Clinic for Women's Hormonal Health & Digestion in Ontario

A NATUROPATHIC APPROACH TO

Women's Hormonal Health

Have hormonal issues? Get to the root cause and get well.

Hormones out of whack? We can help.

Women’s hormonal health; dietary and environmental factors can disrupt the balance of women’s cycle causing unpleasant and sometimes painful symptoms.

PMS | Heavy, painful or irregular periods | Menopause | PCOS | Vaginitis and vaginal pain

What is “common” for women’s hormonal health is not normal or healthy. Bandaid-ing all hormonal concerns with hormonal contraceptives is short-sighted, unhealthy, and over simplistic. Besides, many women experience side effects of oral contraceptive pills (link to future blog post).

So often we hear from our patients “I wish I had done this sooner”, because so many women suffer with symptoms that have been dismissed by their peers and doctors, and yet the concerns have been resolvable this whole time.

For example, PMS is considered a normal female hysteria, but actually it’s a sign from the body that there is an underlying hormonal or nutritional imbalance that we can correct.

Women’s hormonal imbalance doesn’t happen by accident. Women’s bodies and women’s lives are very complex. And often, a woman is caring more for others than for herself, and the strain on her system is too much. When so much is given and pushed, and not enough is going in to replenish, deficiencies and imbalances can develop. You can’t just push through, that math just doesn’t work out. You need the proper assessment and plan to enable proper functioning of your body, even in the most challenging of circumstances. Let’s advocate for holistic approaches that prioritize women’s hormonal health, ensuring they receive the support and care they deserve.

Factors that Influence Women’s Harmonal Health

Diet is HUGE.

In many circumstances, if a woman is willing to commit to a change in diet, many symptoms of women’s hormonal imbalance can completely disappear. It is very common to see estrogen dominance in women in this corner of the world, so altering the diet to reduce circulating estrogen as well as reducing the intake of estrogen-promoting foods can really make a huge impact on symptoms.

In other circumstances of hormonal imbalance we have to work to re-establish the cyclical balance of estrogen and progesterone. In this scenario we will often have two separate diets each month: one diet for the first half of the month to support estrogen and endometrial growth, and a different diet for the second half of the cycle that works on clearing estrogen and boosting progesterone (often done in conjunction with herbs). Each woman is different, and so is her diet, so for each case we work together (patient and naturopathic doctor) to create a plan that is achievable and that creates wellness.

Stress is POWERFUL.

Stress is meant to be a short response to an intense stimuli. For instance, if a bear were chasing us we would require a good shot of our stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, to get our heart to pump more blood to our muscles so that we could fight or flee. Without that healthy stress response we would be toast. However, either we will escape, overcome or be defeated by the bear in a short amount of time. This is not a marathon. This is what our stress system was designed for.

In contrast, the most common type of stress for women in our community is a chronic lower intensity stress. We are not built for this type of response, and it can frequently lead to women’s hormonal imbalance. So what happens overtime is that we deplete our resources to form cortisol. When we run out of ingredients our adrenal glands seek out other substances that look similar. Interestingly progesterone and cortisol are a close match! So we poach our female hormone to make stress hormone. This contributes to a relative progesterone deficiency, and often leads to premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Reducing or ideally eliminating sources of stress has an enormous impact on the female cycle.

Beyond diet and stress reduction, there are many other tools a naturopath can use to specifically address hormone-based symptoms. Some are gentle simple therapies (like herbs and supplements), and some are more powerful and precise (like bioidentical hormones), and require supervision by a licensed regulated practitioner to be prescribed for safe usage.

Our bodies prefer to be in balance and working efficiently. The challenge is determining the obstacles to health and safely removing them.

Our team-based approach to patient care

Naturopathic medicine is very powerful for treating women’s harmonal health concerns such as:

Hormonal imbalances – Fertility – Pregnancy/prenatal care – Perimenopause – Menopause symptoms – Irregular periods – Painful periods – PMS – PMDD – Endometriosis – Fibroids – Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)Recurrent yeast infections – Low libido – Pelvic/vaginal pain – FATIGUE – Insomnia (especially if you wake at 2-4am) – Unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight – Hair loss

Services for Women's Harmonal Health | The Process

Our approach is to really HEAR the patient’s case, to get the complete story end to end to ensure that no nuance is missed. Then, with this thorough understanding of the case, we build a theory of the mechanism of illness and root cause origin of their concerns. Next, we use laboratory testing (like blood, salivary, urine, stool and possible hair analysis) to confirm our diagnostic suspicions, and are then able to address the patient’s chief concern with an effective and comprehensive treatment plan.

Clinical Intake

The first visit with one of our naturopathic doctors is up to 90 mins! This is so long because you are complicated and it usually takes that much time to hear your whole story. We need to ask you about your sleep, energy, mood, food choices, digestion, exercise, stress, etc. We need to take the time to look into all of the nooks and crannies and not miss a detail, as so often there is one tiny clue that really pulls the whole case together.

Lab Testing

Symptoms alone are often not enough to guide a proper treatment plan. Having a good look “under the hood” by testing either the blood, urine or saliva for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol, among other labs can be invaluable for determining the root cause of a woman’s concerns. We also need to rule out any other non-hormonal issue, to ensure that your foundations of health are well set up. This includes looking at your iron, B12, vitamin D levels, thyroid, cholesterol, liver and kidney markers, inflammation, blood sugar and insulin, etc. We also often draw from data collected by wearable medical devices and fitness trackers (like continuous glucose monitors, Oura rings, Apple watches, Fitbits, Garmins, etc). The more data we get, the more precise and effective the treatment can be. 

Diagnosis

Naturopathic doctors are some of the few regulated health care providers in Ontario that are legally capable of diagnosis. Diagnosis is a protected act and only entrusted to highly trained medical professionals regulated by governing bodies that ensure the safety of the public. 

Treatment

A Naturopathic Doctor works with you to create a strategy for improving diet and reducing stress, and we also create a plan to level the hormonal playing field often using herbs, acupuncture, supplements, bioidentical hormones, etc. These add-on therapies are usually required short-term to bring you back to balance, and then the lifestyle and dietary modifications continue long-term to hold you in a state of good health.

Getting started:

Naturopathic Tools for Women's Harmonal Health

We rely heavily on evidence-based medicine, meaning that we are constantly checking recent scientific publications to be sure that we are using as up to date interventions as possible. We find comfort in knowing that our suggestion has a foundation of proof, confirming that not only is it effective but also safe.

Nutritional Counselling

Your food choices are some of the most powerful health factors affecting your system. If you’re making the best choices for your body, then food acts as medicine. If you’re making less beneficial choices, food can act as poison. Most of us don’t land on either far end of the spectrum, but more so somewhere in between. We just need to find that perfect balance of “good” and “bad” food, so that you can be as free as possible in your meals, but also so that you’re symptom-free. Nobody’s perfect, and nor should we be (that’s not at all sustainable), but usually we do have to listen to our bodies and fuel it properly if we want it to treat us well in return.

Lifestyle Modifications

If we lived in a vacuum that was stress-free and flexible to allow for an abundance of comfortable exercise, we would all be healthy. But often our patients have restrictions and responsibilities in their lives that cut into the time that they could be investing in their health. This is, however, a grand possibility for improvement. We work with you to modify systems and curate a more liveable life. We point out what factors MUST change for you to get well, and which ones can be worked around.

Supplements

Although diet is our first choice, sometimes we include supplements in a treatment plan to push the body back into balance, and then once the health concern is regulated, we aim to switch back to dietary support alone. There are however some nutrients that are difficult to get in the diet, like vitamin D, and hard for our bodies to manufacture in our northern climate, so we’re not shy to make sure you know what you do and don’t need to take. We don’t sell products as a part of our practice due to ethical concerns.

Herbal Medicine

Plants are powerful! We see herbs as premium foods that specifically target certain organs. The herbs can be dispensed as foods, as teas, as supplements, or as tinctures, and we rely on local crafters like Roish Apothecary and Perfect Herbs, as we don’t sell products as a part of our practice due to ethical concerns.

Bioidentical hormones (estrogen, progesterone, desiccated thyroid hormone)

When a woman is in a hormone deficient or imbalance state that is not resolvable by nutrition, lifestyle change, supplements or herbs, then we are fortunate to have the extra training, licensure, and clinical experience to prescribe bioidentical hormones. Depending on the woman’s precise situation, these hormones may be a temporary measure to assist her through a hormonal transition (like perimenopause), or can be prescribed for a longer timeline when needed (in hypothyroidism). We ensure that the hormones are suggested in the absolute safest manner, using the safest forms of hormones, with the fewest additives, for the shortest duration, and supported by dietary and nutraceutical plans that allows the body to best process the hormonal load.

How Hormones Cycle

Lab testing for Women's Hormonal Health

The more we know, the better positioned we are to succeed. Even though symptoms of hormone imbalance can be very informative of the underlying hormonal situation in a woman’s body, assessing the actual hormonal terrain can allow us to be much more precise with treatment plans. Hormone testing is an invaluable way to get specific insights into the underlying mechanism of a woman’s symptoms.

When women come into our naturopathic practice we offer them 4 options for hormonal assessment:

  1. No testing, assessment just based on symptoms
  2. Blood testing
  3. Salivary hormone testing
  4. Urine hormone testing – DUTCH testing

Hormone Assessment Intake

If you know the language, and if you’re listening well, the body is very good at giving us hints about what’s going on underneath the surface. Depending on what the symptoms are, and when in your cycle they’re happening, we can often very precisely nail down the root cause of your health concern. Using tools like basal body temperature testing, and possibly ovulation predictor test strips (OPK) are a cheap and easy way to really fine tune our understanding of your hormonal cycling. And because naturopathic doctors (aka naturopaths) mostly use gentle interventions, we can often start a simple treatment plan and see how the body responds to help guide the deepening of the plan. 

Many times however, it is best to get some objective data via lab testing to be 100% sure that we are on the right track.

Blood Testing for Hormones

Serum hormone testing is the standard for assessment for most family physicians and OBGYNs. It is the best form of testing when working in collaboration with a patient’s other care providers. 

A typical female hormone panel would include estradiol, progesterone, LH, FSH, free testosterone, DHEA, and prolactin. It’s important that estradiol and progesterone are tested 1 week after ovulation (day 21 of a 28 day cycle, or 1 week after a positive at-home OPK test), and that the others are tested on day 3 of the cycle. This is also a good opportunity to test other markers that could indirectly impact hormones, or cause symptoms that mimic a hormonal imbalance like a full thyroid panel (TSH, T4, T3, and possibly thyroid antibodies), iron/ferritin, B12, vitamin D, blood sugar and fasting insulin, and inflammatory markers. 

Blood hormone testing usually costs about $100, and is often covered under your extended health care plan.

Laboratories that we use for blood hormone testing:

Dynacare

Lifelabs

Salivary Hormone Testing

Hormones circulating in the blood can be viewed as what’s passing by the village, as opposed to what the cells are actually utilizing (what’s actually in the houses). Salivary hormone testing gives us more of a tissue measurement of the hormone values, and as it’s easily collected at home, we have the added benefit of collecting multiple samples. Serial sampling is ideal for cortisol hormone testing, as there is a circadian (daily) rhythm and being able to measure cortisol levels at multiple points across one day gives a very usable data set with which we can specifically tailor a targeted treatment plan addressing each observed imbalance. 

Salivary hormone testing usually costs about $200-300, and is often covered under your extended health care plan.

Laboratories that we use for salivary hormones testing include:

Rocky Mountain Analytical

Doctor’s Data/Labrix

Urine Hormone Testing

Dutch hormone testing is the Cadillac of hormone testing. Not only does it test for a broader range of hormones, but by testing the hormone metabolites it helps us determine not just the what but also the why of hormone imbalance.

A complete Dutch test assesses your 3 types of estrogen (estrone, estradiol, estriol), your progesterone, your androgens, testosterone and DHEA, as well as melatonin and cortisol. Samples are taken 4 times in one day, so that we get an accurate view of your daily cortisol circadian rhythm. 

Dutch hormone test reports are very extensive and are presented pictographically for ease of understanding, but once your results are in, your naturopath will thoroughly comb through each item with you and translate that into actionable plan sections so that you can finally achieve hormonal balance. 

The Dutch test costs about $400, and is often covered under your extended health care plan.

Get the information you need to get well

It’s hard to heal from hormonal imbalance when you don’t actually know what’s going on, and lab testing can be the most direct route of knowledge acquisition when it comes to your health.

Naturopathic doctors offer an accessible entry point to a more in depth investigation of what’s going on underneath the hood. We are a means by which you can learn more about your own body. It’s your body, you should be able to get the information about it that you’d like to know.

We will give you the rundown on your suite of testing options, and help you understand what is warranted, what is relevant, what is necessary, what is not needed, and what is bonus. It’s up to you to decide what route we take.

Some patients need to know the numbers and they’d like to be tested through and through. Others just want the basic testing, and still others prefer trying gentle dietary and lifestyle interventions to let their symptoms point them towards health.

It’s totally a choose-your-own-adventure, with your naturopath guiding you, but where you steer the ship.

No Judgement       |        Cost Transparency       |      Your Health, Your Decisions

Personalized care, from a doctor who listens

Feel heard with a natural path to wellness

We serve naturopathic patients all across Ontario!

Our service area includes:

Ottawa | Toronto | Hamilton | Kitchener | London | Oshawa | Windsor | St. Catharines | Barrie | Guelph | Kingston | Milton | Brantford | Thunder Bay | Sudbury | Peterborough | Belleville | Sarnia | Sault-Ste-Marie | Northbay | Cornwall | Timmins | Carleton Place

… And all small towns and rural areas in between! As we offer virtual appointments, our naturopathic patients have the flexibility to see us from the convenience of their home or office. And we rely on local laboratories (Lifelabs and Dynacare) to complete the testing required to do a complete assessment.

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