Women’s Wellness

Optimizing all phases of women’s life.

At CANH, our practitioners offer comprehensive natural health care for all phases of a woman’s lifetime. You may be experiencing acne, irregular cycles or severe menstrual cramps. Or perhaps you are preparing your body for a healthy pregnancy and would like to enhance your fertility. You may be feeling disrupted by premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, or insomnia or suffering from peri-menopausal related hot flashes, night sweats, low libido, irregular menstrual bleeding, fatigue and weight gain. Whatever women’s health imbalances you may be experiencing our practitioners can help address your hormonal and health concerns naturally. We assess the causes of hormonal imbalance and women’s health with a thorough patient interview, exam and laboratory testing throughout your cycle. We can help restore hormone balance and women’s wellness by offering dietary and lifestyle counseling, acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrient therapy and bio-identical hormone therapy.

Click on your condition below to find out more information on our natural treatment approaches to common women’s health conditions.

Acne
Acne is a condition in which the hair follicles and oil glands become inflamed or infected with dead skin cells, oil, and/or bacteria. Acne is often caused or aggravated by hormonal imbalance particularly of hormones testosterone and DHEA-s, unhealthy diet, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities and food triggers such as dairy, refined carbohydrates and chocolate, stress, and medications, such as corticosteroids, oral contraceptives, lithium and hormones. Adolescents are most often affected by acne however, it can present in women who are pregnant or with polycystic ovarian syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, and peri-menopause. Conventional treatment recommendations such as retinoids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and androgen antagonist drugs may have unfavorable side effects. By assessing your hormone balance, dietary and lifestyle habits, food sensitivities, and nutrient deficiencies, our practitioners can naturally and safely treat acne by looking at the root of the condition. We offer a number of treatment recommendations to effectively treat acne, such as liver detoxification, herbal and nutrient supplementation to balance hormones and promote skin health, dietary and lifestyle counseling, and acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Acupuncture helps the body correct imbalances from within, while herbal medicine serve to reinforce and strengthen the body’s natural processes by reducing inflammation, balancing hormones and clearing infection.
Anorexia

Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight. People with anorexia place a high value on controlling their weight and shape, using extreme efforts that tend to significantly interfere with activities in their lives. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia usually severely restrict the amount of food they eat. They may control calorie intake by vomiting after eating or by misusing laxatives, diet aids, diuretics or enemas. They may also try to lose weight by exercising excessively. Physical effects of anorexia include:

  • Severe mood swings or depression
  • Lack of energy and weakness
  • Slowed thinking; poor memory
  • Dry, yellowish skin and brittle nails
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Tooth decay and gum damage
  • Dizziness, fainting, and headaches
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body and face

Furthermore, anorexia can affect the health and function of many organ system potentially causing problems such as severe nutrient deficiencies,, anemia, low blood pressure, palpitations, heart failure, kidney stones, kidney failure, amenorrhea and infertility, poor immune function, and electrolyte and blood sugar imbalance. Research suggests that a genetic predisposition to anorexia may run in families. If a girl has a sibling with anorexia, she is 10 to 20 times more likely than the general population to develop anorexia herself. Brain chemistry also plays a significant role. People with anorexia tend to have high levels of cortisol, the brain hormone most related to stress, and decreased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are associated with feelings of well-being. In addition, protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as thiamine and zinc linked to anorexia affect appetite, mood balance, and ability to handle stress.

Helping to improve appetite, reduce stress and regulate brain chemicals by restoring nutrient and protein status with a healthy, whole-foods diet and nutritional supplementation is an important part of treating anorexia. Anorexia is not a one step process, but with the help of acupuncture and naturopathic medicine along with a qualified therapist and/or spiritual counselor, patients will be allowed a safe space to process their emotions, identify the emotional root of their eating disorder, and improve their self-esteem and self-worth. In addition, acupuncture, dietary and lifestyle counseling, herbal and nutrient supplementation, meditation and stress reduction techniques are beneficial in treating symptoms of anorexia because it can help calm the nervous system, regulate digestive problems and prevent detrimental health problems associated with anorexia.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is an image disorder characterized by constant fixation of an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance. People with body dysmorphic disorder often times will feel disgust or dislike towards any part of their body, although they often find fault with their hair, skin, nose, chest, legs, or stomach. In reality, a perceived defect may be only a slight imperfection or nonexistent. However, someone with BDD sees the flaw to be significant and prominent, often causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning. The causes of BDD are unclear, but certain biological and environmental factors may contribute to its development, including genetic predisposition, neurobiological factors such as malfunctioning of serotonin in the brain, personality traits, and life experiences. Clinical lab testing might also be done to assess levels of cortisol, serotonin, GABA and dopamine that could identify hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances.

Treating BDD begins by helping patients discover the root cause of their fixation followed by lifestyle and dietary counseling, nutritional and herbal supplementation, craniosacral therapy, emotional and spiritual counseling, meditation and stress reduction exercises and acupuncture treatments to help balance hormones and brain chemicals, calm the nervous system and alleviate anxiety associated with the altered body image.

Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, followed by compulsive efforts to avoid gaining weight. Bulimia involves physically eliminating the food from your body by throwing up or using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. Binging and vomiting can trigger waves of the potent brain chemicals called endorphins. The release of these natural heroin-like brain chemicals helps establish the powerful compulsions that bulimics experience to binge and purge. Studies also show that brain chemicals particularly serotonin play an important role in affecting mood, self-esteem, stress, weight management and appetite control. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein along with other important vitamin and mineral cofactors, such as B-6 and magnesium are needed to produce optimal levels of serotonin. Low tryptophan levels have been linked as a possible contributing factor to bulimia. In one study, bulimics were deprived of the single protein tryptophan. In reaction, their serotonin levels dropped and they binged more violently, ingesting and purging an average of 900 calories more each day. In another study, adding extra tryptophan to the diet reduced bulimic binges and mood problems by raising serotonin levels. Most recently, an Oxford researcher, Katherine Smith, reported that even years into recovery, bulimics can have a return of their cravings and mood problem after only a few hours of tryptophan depletion. She concluded, “Our findings support suggestions that chronic depletion of plasma tryptophan may be one of the mechanisms whereby persistent dieting can lead to the development of eating disorders in vulnerable individuals.”

From a naturopathic perspective, the physiological triggers for bulimia can be assessed by checking neurotransmitter levels, cortisol and adrenal function, thyroid function, genetic health, and nutrient and amino acid status. Bulimia can be addressed with clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, lifestyle and dietary counseling, meditation and stress reduction exercises along with acupuncture to balance brain chemicals, optimize endocrine function, support self-esteem, reduce stress, and calm the nervous system to prevent reflexive binging. We work integratively with physicians, nutritionists, and therapists to break the binge-purge cycle by helping you monitor your eating habits, avoid situations that trigger binges, cope with stress in ways that don’t involve food, eat healthy and regularly to reduce food cravings, and fight the urge to purge. In addition, we help you identify and change unhealthy thoughts and dysfunctional beliefs patterns about weight, dieting, and body shape. You explore attitudes about eating and rethink the idea that self-worth is based on weight. Finally we support your exploration into identifying and resolving the emotional issues that contributed to the eating disorder. Guidance from a therapist and/or a spiritual counselor to help heal relationship issues, underlying anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation and loneliness are essential.

Infertility

Infertility is defined by doctors as the failure to become pregnant after a year of unprotected intercourse. In females, it can be caused by low thyroid function, sex-hormone abnormalities, such as with premature ovarian insufficiency, polycystic ovarian syndrome and low progesterone levels or luteal phase defect, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, endometriosis, scarring of the tubes connecting the ovaries with the uterus, autoimmune conditions and/or infections. In men, infertility is usually associated with a decrease in the number, quality, or motility of sperm. Heavy metal and environmental toxicity can also contribute to infertility and recurrent miscarriages. The specific cause of infertility should always be diagnosed by a physician before considering possible solutions.

Female and male infertility is treated with elimination of alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs and caffeine since it may interfere with fertility. Addressing nutritional deficiencies that may inhibit fertility with appropriate nutrient therapy and treating hormone dysfunction with herbal medicine is also recommended. Detoxification of heavy metals and environmental toxins is essential for optimal reproductive health. In addition, time tested Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of some cases of female infertility due to problems with ovarian function and embryo implantation and has helped many couples increase their chance of conceiving naturally and during IUI (intra-uterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments. Acupuncture can also help lower the stress and anxiety levels during an IVF cycle as well as reduce the side effects of the medications. Please click here for more information on our approach to fertility.

Irregular Menstrual Cycles

Menstrual cycles generally occur every 28 days and are considered abnormal when they consistently occur less than 21 days or more than 35 days or more than three periods are missed in a row. Examples of menstrual irregularities are amenorrhea and oligomenorrhea.

  • Amenorrhea is a condition in which a woman’s periods have stopped completely. The absence of a period for 90 days or more is considered abnormal unless a woman is pregnant, breastfeeding, or going through menopause (which generally occurs for women between ages 45 and 55). Young women who haven’t started menstruating by age 15 or 16 or within three years after their breasts begin to develop are also considered to have amenorrhea.
  • Oligomenorrhea refers to periods that occur infrequently.

Many factors can affect menstrual regularity such as stress, significant weight gain or loss, travel, infections, poor diet, nutrient deficiencies such as iron deficiency anemia, and hormone imbalance associated with premature ovarian insufficiency, luteal phase defect, pituitary disorders polycystic ovarian syndrome, peri-menopause, menopause, and thyroid disorders. Medications such as oral contraceptives, hormones and steroids may also cause menstrual irregularities.

A thorough medical work-up that includes history taking, physical exam, laboratory testing, and imaging helps identify the causes of menstrual irregularity. Treatment recommendations with dietary and lifestyle counseling, herbal and nutrient supplementation, bio-identical hormones, stress management, and acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are offered by our practitioners to help effectively restore menstrual regularity and healthy hormone balance. Acupuncture can help balance the menstrual cycle, regulate the menstrual flow and ease pain. From a Chinese medicine viewpoint, the Liver and Kidneys meridians and organ systems are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle. Stress can disturb the flow of energy in the Liver meridian and overwork and busy lifestyle can deplete the energy of the Kidneys which will in turn lead to irregularities of the cycle. Acupuncture can help restore energy and blood flow associated with these energy systems to regulate menstrual cycles.

Irregular Menstrual Bleeding

Heavy menstrual bleeding (which may include clots of blood) or bleeding that occurs outside the normal cyclic menstruation is referred to as abnormal or irregular uterine bleeding. Irregular uterine bleeding is a common gynecological problem, but a thorough assessment is important to help diagnose the cause.

The most likely cause for any woman depends on whether she is premenopausal, perimenopausal (near menopause), or postmenopausal. Some causes include hormonal imbalances particularly low progesterone or estrogen levels, pregnancy or complications with pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, uterine fibroids, endometrial polyps, infection, and, more rarely, precancerous or cancerous growths. Infrequently, bleeding that seems to be coming from the vagina may actually come from the urinary tract or gastrointestinal tract. For severe bleeding without an obvious explanation, ask to be screened for von Willebrand disease, especially if you have a history of other bleeding problems. Fibroids can cause heavy, longer periods, sometimes with cramping and clots. More commonly, this occurs when the fibroids are submucosal and impinge on the uterine lining. Such periods are usually not irregular.

Depending on the cause of the irregular menstrual bleeding, many natural treatments such as dietary counseling, nutritional support, herbal medicine, bio-identical hormone therapy and acupuncture can help regulate the flow and timing of uterine bleeding. According to Chinese Medicine, irregular menstrual bleeding is a result of excess heat in the blood that can be treated with acupuncture and herbs.

Menstrual Cramps

Dysmenorrhea, commonly referred to as painful menstruation affects over 50 percent of menstruating women. Several factors contribute to causing dysmenorrhea. These include behavioral and psychological causes; lack of blood flow to the uterus; and increased production and release of specific types of prostaglandins that cause uterine contractions and pain. Menstrual cramps may also be due to a specific abnormal pelvic condition such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, adhesions, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, congenital malformations, or polyps.

Symptoms of menstrual cramps include abdominal bloating, frequent and intense cramps, pain below the waistline, or a dull ache that may radiate to the lower back or legs. There may also be symptoms of headache, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, frequent urination, and, occasionally, vomiting. A qualified naturopathic practitioner or acupuncturist will help identify the underlying causes to your menstrual cramps by taking a comprehensive history, performing a physical exam, and ordering the appropriate lab and imaging tests. Once the cause is identified, the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made. These treatment recommendations may include appropriate dietary changes, vitamin and mineral supplementation, herbal medicine, and acupuncture to decrease uterine spasms and muscle tension.

Perimenopause and Menopause

Perimenopause is also known as menopausal transition and may begin at different ages typically during the 40’s but may occur as early as the 30’s with signs of irregular menstrual cycles and bleeding. Menopause is the cessation of menstruation in women, which commonly occurs from the late forties to early fifties. Menopause is diagnosed when women are without a menstrual period for six to twelve months. Menopause is a natural transition which many hormonal changes occur, particularly a drop in estrogen and progesterone and increase in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Some women experience such signs and symptoms as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, palpitations, depression and anxiety, loss of memory, poor concentration, vaginal dryness, headaches, and decreased sex drive. Women who are in menopause are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Consulting with a qualified naturopathic doctor is recommended to properly screen and prevent for these conditions.

There are numerous natural solutions for preventing and treating menopause that help to balance hormonal changes. Studies have shown that a nutrient-dense, healthy diet and regular physical activity can reduce hot flashes. Nutrient therapy, botanical medicine, and bio-identical hormones are also very effective for reducing menopausal symptoms.

Acupuncture is also a promising treatment for reducing hot flashes and night sweats. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, menopause is mainly due to a deficiency of the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for growth, maturation, and aging and can be affected by excessive stress, overwork, poor diet, and frequent pregnancies and births. A deficiency of kidney-yin is directly related to symptoms and complications of menopause. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine helps to replenish kidney energy and helps ease the transition into menopause.

Premenstrual Syndrome

Premenstrual Syndrome is a recurrent condition experienced by women during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Typical symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, depression, headache, breast tenderness, low back pain, abdominal bloating, food cravings, and swelling of fingers and ankles. No clear cause has been identified, however hormonal changes likely contribute to PMS symptoms.

Our natural treatment approach for PMS is comprehensive, incorporating proper nutritional intake and dietary changes, regular physical activity, botanical medicine, and acupuncture to help balance hormones, enhance serotonin and endorphin levels, and alleviate the symptoms of PMS.
In November, 1997, NIH’s Office of Alternative Medicine issued a consensus statement that reported that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of menstrual cramps, and some of the other symptoms of PMS. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, PMS is very often due to blocked Qi (energy) and blood in the body. This blockage can manifest as emotional blockage (frustration, irritability, anxiety, tension, impatience) and/or physical blockage (pain, breast tenderness, water retention etc.). Acupuncture stimulates the circulation of Qi and blood throughout the body and helps to unblock the pathways of energy in our body by inserting tiny thin needles into specified acupuncture points.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder to affect women of reproductive age, affecting 1 in 15 women worldwide. Although classic PCOS presents with obesity, polycystic ovaries or multiple ovarian cysts, elevated androgen hormone levels and irregular or anovulatory cycles, many patients with PCOS experience varying symptoms and health issues that do not consistently fit the classic PCOS picture. The signs, symptoms, and health risks associated with PCOS include:

  • Absent period
  • Anovulatory cycles
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Mid-cycle bleeding and/or heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Alopecia (balding)
  • Hirsutism (excessive body hair)
  • Acne
  • Acanthosis nigricans – a darkening of the skin in the armpits, back of the neck, or groin
  • Polycystic ovaries
  • History of ovarian cysts
  • Mood disorders
  • Obesity
  • Recurrent Miscarriage
  • Infertility
  • Possible increased risk for endometrial and breast cancer due to estrogen dominance
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes

PCOS is due to insulin resistance but the exact cause is still unclear. Scientific research suggests there may be a genetic link, possible abnormal fetal development and inflammatory response contributing to the cause. PCOS is also negatively affected by diet, lifestyle and exposure to certain environmental toxins.

Insulin, released by the pancreas in response to dietary intake of carbohydrates and sugar and stress which triggers an increase cortisol and blood glucose is a hormone that is essential for absorption of glucose and metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, disrupting metabolism and glucose regulation and causing insulin and glucose levels to be elevated. Insulin also signals the ovaries to secrete testosterone and inhibit hepatic sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) production which leads to an increased level of circulating testosterone. Excess insulin in the bloodstream also signals the ovaries to release more estrogen which can suppress ovulation. Women whose mothers, sisters or grandmothers had PCOS are at a higher risk for developing PCOS. Research suggests that exposure to excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens) by the developing fetus may alter proper gene expression, which may cause PCOS during the reproductive years of a woman’s life. In some predisposed people eating inflammatory foods such as processed foods, sugar, hydrogenated oils, gluten and dairy or exposure to certain environmental factors may trigger an inflammatory response, which may contribute to insulin resistance and atherosclerosis.

Effectively addressing PCOS begins with thorough laboratory testing and imaging to assess hormone abnormalities, lipid, insulin and glucose imbalances, thyroid and adrenal gland function and ovarian health. Female and androgen hormones such as FSH, LH, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-s), prolactin and SHBG are tested. If needed environmental toxicity and food sensitivity testing are helpful to identify causes of inflammation. A naturopathic approach to treating PCOS involves a low glycemic and anti-inflammatory diet to balance hormones, insulin and glucose and to reduce inflammation. Nutritional and herbal supplementation to improve insulin sensitivity and hormone balance is also essential to treating PCOS successfully. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, scientifically shown to improve ovulation, regulate menstrual cycles, reduce inflammation, calm the nervous system to buffer the effects of stress, and enhance fertility are also highly recommended.

Weight Gain

Unnecessary weight gain can be stressful for many patients and is commonly due to stress, poor eating habits and physical inactivity. Weight gain can be categorized as a weight increase over one’s average body mass index margin. Aside from an unhealthy or sedentary lifestyle, there are many causes of weight gain such as high cortisol levels, abnormal leptin and ghrelin hormones that affect hunger and satiety, low thyroid function, imbalanced serotonin, medication side effects, hormonal changes in menopause, poor digestive function, food sensitivities, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes that can be identified and addressed for effective weight loss. We offer laboratory testing to help identify the root causes of weight gain, measure your waist and body circumference, and provide body composition testing to assess and monitor your body mass index, lean body mass and fat mass levels.

A successful program for weight loss may include a customized dietary plan that is balanced in healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates, adequate exercise, a positive mental attitude, stress reduction, acupuncture, B-vitamin injections and supplementation with nutrients and herbs to help promote metabolism and digestion, balance hormones, regulate blood sugar, and normalize appetite. We focus on improving your lean body mass, reducing unhealthy fat mass, and preventing chronic conditions associated with weight gain such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes to help you achieve your weight loss goals.