Natural Therapies by Regina Lasaitis

Natural Therapies

to nurture your body, mind and soul

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Why minimising stress will keep hormones in check

Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2016 by Regina Lasaitis

Emotions and hormones are very closely linked. When you’re feeling stressed, upset, down, anxious or overwhelmed to the point where your emotions are taxing your body, hormones can go haywire and periods might become irregular or even stop.

This is because stress affects our biochemistry with the release of a whole cascade of hormones that are part of the “fight or flight” response.  Our body activates these hormones when we are in a stressed state as it can’t detect the difference between when we are confronting an actual life or death situation or when we are worrying over our finances, anticipating an upcoming confrontation with someone or we’re stressing about a work deadline.

Stress for a lot of us has become routine. Some days it feels manageable, and other days it feels like it has a life of its own and this is considered “normal”. The end result is being in a constant, physically stressed out state. This is a problem because the body’s stress response isn’t designed to continuously cope with the levels of stress and it impacts on other hormonal systems.  For females it can negatively influence our reproductive hormones at whichever stage of life you’re in.  

Sure, PMS can affect our emotions.  We can blame being a victim of our hormones for snapping at people and our “Jekyll and Hyde” personality change at “that time of the month” but if the stress system wasn’t overtaxed that monthly cyclical transition could be smoother. 

This can often be the case in fertility problems - why are so many needing IVF these days? My suspicion is that our stressed out systems are a factor.  I treat women experiencing fertility issues.  Often they’ve had medical testing and there is nothing mechanically wrong but when we look at their life there’s stress overload.  Making changes to lifestyle as well as treatment with my favourite tonic herbs to balance the hormones and support the body’s stress response can lead to shopping for a pram.   Most of us know of a couple that when they stopped trying, and focused on other aspects of their life or even adopted, they conceived.  This is evidence of the link between stress and hormones.

This interplay with stress hormones and female hormones is paramount in menopause.  Our adrenals play a crucial role in the stress response and all our life they are pumping out stress hormones, often without a break.  Then during menopause they are expected to be taking over some of the duties of the ovaries that are heading for retirement. These stressed out adrenals say “sorry, I’m busy dealing with the stress response, can’t help you” so the woman has a harder time with low energy, low libido and any of the other (not fun) menopausal symptoms.  A trigger for a hot flush can be a stressful situation so there’s this emotions and hormonal link again.

So what can be done?  Minimising stress is the key and preventing the effects of stress is how to keep those hormones balanced.  In an ideal world this would mean having an equal balance between work and relaxation.  Keeping completely chilled, not overworking,  eating well,  doing exercise you enjoy and choosing activities that bring you joy.  In reality, for most of us it’s a struggle to not take on too much, say no to extra commitments and not feel guilty when we do something for ourselves.  

A wise friend once said to me “we are human beings not human doings” and I’ve often used this phrase when counseling people about achieving balance and allowing time to just “be”.  I always ask  “what do you do for relaxation” and I often get puzzled expressions and it seems we are very good at being busy but not so good at not being busy.  The opposite to busy is what will give that stress response a break, let those hormones settle and ultimately lead to better health.  

Life is short. Live in the present. “At this moment I’m ok” is a mantra for when you are anticipating events that haven’t happened yet.  We never have full control of the future, that’s the nature of this life.  If you let go of the drive to do everything, be everyone for everybody and allow time out that’s when the fight or flight emergency system can stop pumping out those stress hormones, female hormones will equalise, you’ll regain balance and feel better.

If you are experiencing any of these problems contact me.

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How to get that libido back - Dispelling a menopause myth

Posted on Saturday, February 06, 2016 by Regina Lasaitis

“She who possesses a hundred husbands” is the translation of the name of a tonic herb that I frequently prescribe in my clinic.  No prizes for guessing its main use! Even though it can be effective, it’s not the only way to boost that flagging libido.  It’s a common misconception, or I’d go as far as calling it a myth of menopause and perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause), that libido spirals downwards and there's not much that can be done about it.  Sadly, this is often the case for younger women too.  

Research suggests that between 30-50% of women experience sexual dysfunction.   Complaints include low sexual desire, difficulties with arousal and problems with orgasm as well as the complexities of the “mechanics” of sex such as pain and dryness.  The reasons for these issues are varied but there are solutions that can lead to even more pleasure than in your younger years.

It’s not just about hormones

Sure, hormonal changes can influence libido, but other physical, emotional and psychosocial aspects play a role.  Overall wellbeing and vitality needs to be at optimal levels for a healthy libido.

Are you simply too tired? Is the fatigue related to an underlying medical condition that needs investigating?  Or are you doing too much and not taking time out for yourself?  This is possibly another myth of womanhood that we must always be busy and wearing our superwomen capes all the time.  Most of my patients need to be reminded to stop and breathe! What I mean is taking deliberate deep breaths even for a few minutes a day to start creating more balance between ‘being’ and ‘doing’ in our busy lives.

Emotional wellbeing is paramount to libido. Are you content with yourself, your life and your relationships?  Relationship dynamics can be damaging to desire as conflicts, resentment, guilt and other emotions can become a barrier that stops you from having a satisfying intimate connection.  In some cases professional help may be needed to resolve issues.

Many women who come to see me are not happy with the body changes they are experiencing especially as they approach menopause.  This influences their self-confidence and can dampen libido.  Love the body you have, don’t focus on any perceived flaws and don’t compare yourself to the touched up images of celebrities and models that abound in the media.  Resist the pressure to conform to the idea that our appearance is in constant need of improvement.  I support the growing movement of body positive activists encouraging women to appreciate themselves in whatever body they are in during all stages of life.

The need for technical changes

Painful intercourse can be a definite barrier to a healthy libido and this may need to be medically investigated. It could be due to vaginal dryness and an application of hormonal or herbal creams may be necessary.  For others a good lube (natural and petrochemical-free) could be the answer.  

Look at this as a time of sexual reawakening and exploration. Accept that changes in technique and allowing more time for arousal is important.  Some women are in a stage of life with less family commitments where they can devote more time to their own pleasure, so enjoy it! A bonus is a patient partner willing to join you in this time of development of new methods of arousal and/or make time for exploration of new solo pleasures. The term “use it or lose it” is apt here.  Increasing circulation/activity to this area of the body is essential with or without a partner.  There are health benefits to having at least a weekly orgasm.

Other causes

Many medications can have adverse effects on libido.  These include hypotensives, antidepressants (especially SSRIs) and in some cases oral contraceptive pills.  Depression and anxiety can also be detrimental to libido and unfortunately the pharmaceutical medications prescribed to treat these conditions can be a contributing factor so be sure to talk with your health care practitioner about this.

Treatments to consider

There are many herbal medicines and nutritional supplements available that can be useful in increasing energy and regaining a sense of vitality.  Eating regularly and sensibly is crucial.

Adding Maca powder, the Peruvian plant with positive effects on sexual function and energy, can be a beneficial addition to your morning smoothie. Studies have also shown it to be useful in alleviating SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction.

Asparagus racemosus, or Shatavari, the aphrodisiac herb already mentioned, balances hormones and increases vaginal mucus. It is one of many herbal tonics that increase energy and wellbeing.

Naturopaths and herbalists focus especially on adrenal/kidney health as we age because the adrenals need to take over some of the work of the retiring ovaries. In oriental medicine “kidneys” govern sexual vitality so adrenal and kidney herbs are often prescribed.  These alleviate fatigue and assist the body’s ability to cope with stress.

Improving overall quality of life is the key.  Libido is a measure of vitality and anything that increases your vital force will help.  Manage and minimise stress, focus on healthy eating, find an exercise you are motivated to do, address any relationship and/or self esteem issues and seek professional help if needed.

Reach out

If this is something you need help with, please contact me as I've treated many women with these health issues.
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My top 12 herbs

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 by Regina Lasaitis

I get asked by students what my top herbs are so I thought I would share this with you.

Calendula officinalis

  • Alleviates lymphatic congestion
  • Acne, eczema and dermatitis.

Centella asiatica (Gotu kola)

  • Improves healing eg. wounds, post-surgery 
  • Assists with focus and concentration

Matricaria chamomilla (Chamomile)

  • Calming to the digestive and nervous system 
  • Relaxing - The ideal children’s remedy

Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree)

  • Assists with hormonal imbalance eg. PMS
  • Infertility

Cinnamomum spp. (Cinnamon)

  • Warming tonic 
  • Relieves Dyspepsia and other digestive problems

Echinacea spp.

  • Infection prevention 
  • Chronic and acute infections

Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower)

  • Anti-anxiety
  • Calming and relaxing properties

Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)

  • Improves memory and concentration 
  • Enhances liver clearance

Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda)

  • Relaxing tonic 
  • In stressful conditions balances cortisol levels

Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari)

  • Female tonic
  • Menopausal symptoms

Rehmannnia glutinosa

  • Adrenal exhaustion
  • Inflammatory conditions

Schisandra chinensis

  • Fatigue and debility
  • To improve liver function and clearance
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Are You Ready for Winter?

Posted on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 by Regina Lasaitis

Are you ready for Winter?

With the colder months approaching it’s time to start preparing for the possible onslaught of respiratory infections such as colds and flus. Prevention is possible with herbal medicine and adopting some healthy eating habits.

In winter we are more prone to infections and exposure to them is often difficult to avoid with air conditioning and being in environments where many people gather. 

Your immune system is your defence system against the ‘bugs’ that cause illnesses. So it’s important to ensure your immune system is functioning at its optimum. Echinacea, Andrographis and Elderflowers are some of the herbal medicines that enhance the immune system and can help relieve the symptoms of colds and flus. There are other herbal medicines that can relieve specific symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, cough and the aches and pains of respiratory infections. However, with the use of strategies to support the immune system you will hopefully not develop any illnesses this winter.

Some vitamins and minerals are also very useful in helping to build your defence system such as vitamin C, bioflavonoids and zinc. Studies have shown vitamin C to be stimulating to the immune system but in doses higher than what we can gain from our diet. Bioflavonoids are in cirus fruits and are added to some vitamin C supplements to increase the absorption of vitamin C. Zinc is essential for health and wellbeing and surveys have indicated that inadequate intake is not uncommon. A deficiency in zinc will increase your susceptibility to infections.

Eating a diet rich in whole foods and restricting your intake of processed foods will also aid the function of your immune system. Including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, fish, eggs (eating organic foods where possible) and avoiding refined sugars will benefit your overall health as well as helping to prevent infections.

Stress will also deplete your immune system so try to find some ways of relieving or managing your stress. Investigate some stress management techniques such as relaxation exercises, massage, meditation, yoga and/or taking time out for yourself.

Remember to get the most benefit out of herbal and naturopathic medicine you need to consult a qualified, experienced practitioner that can work with you to create an individualised immune boosting plan using specific herbal medicine, nutritional supplements and lifestyle recommendations.

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