New World Native: Simple Mind-Body Ways To find Hormonal Balance

Written by Nicole Ohebshalom for New World Native.

As women, our interior lives and our monthly hormonal fluctuations are complex and ever changing. On a daily basis, there are a lot of emotional, cognitive and behavioral changes occurring for women. Our neurotransmitters, serotonin and GABA, and our hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are intricately linked. There are estrogen receptors throughout our brain that affect our behavior and mood. In the brain, there is a complex interaction between estrogen and serotonin, which is a main neurotransmitter that can make us anxious, happy or depressed. These two hormones interact so when estrogen is low then serotonin is low as well. When estrogen levels drop, it’s common for moods to plunge as well. When serotonin levels are low, everything seems like a problem and other PMS symptoms arise. When serotonin levels are higher then we have an easier time to be resilient and ride with the changes in life.

 

Stress can impact the emotional and hormonal fluctuations in our lives. It’s usually due to a combination of factors that leads to imbalances in neurotransmitters, stress hormones and hormonal imbalances. Some underlying factors are: external relational stressors like relationships, workplace stress and money. Also, nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar dysregulation and environmental factors such as, plastics and other chemical exposures that cause excess estrogen in the system.

 

Natural approaches to begin transforming our lives:
 

 

Working with Your Natural Energy

Rather than fighting how we feel, we can heighten our awareness to learn more about ourselves, such as our needs. Then, it’s easier to go with how we feel. Recognize that during premenstrual time, we might need to set aside time to journal with a cup of herbal tea, read a good book, and have a nice out with girlfriends. Once we are aware of our needs for each stage of the cycle, then we can prepare, create the structure for activities to fit our needs at that time and then flow with our natural energy.

 

Rest and Exercise

Waking up refreshed from an adequate night of sleep can work wonders in hormonal care. When we don’t have enough sleep then the physical and emotional discomforts can become heightened. Moderate exercise is shown to help improve hormonal and neurotransmitter levels. It’s important to break a daily sweat and this can still be done with moderate exercise. When we workout too hard often then our cortisol levels can spike leading to a hormonal cascade of stress in our body. Moderate exercise can be a dance part with a good sweat. Walking or light cardio three to four times a week.

 

Diet and Nutrition

Research shows that women with PMS consume significantly more sugar, caffeine, dairy products, and refined carbohydrates. Replacing these foods with alternative options can help relieve symptoms.

Additionally, incorporating adequate protein and fat to each meal can help keep blood sugar levels balanced in order to avoid the ups and downs of the sugar and emotional rollercoaster. Dietary fats can come from avocado, olive oils, hemp oil, coconut oil and other good quality oils. High fiber vegetables are also important to help the body eliminate excessive hormones, particularly estrogen, such as dark leafy green vegetables.

 

Many believe that the way we view our bodies and menstruation can help influence how we experience menstruation. When a woman has a positive outlook on her body’s natural fluctuation, as a time of heightened emotional sensitivity, creativity, intuitiveness and personal power then she can have an easier period. PMS and other hormonal-emotional difficulties is certainly not ‘in our heads’, nevertheless positive reframing can help us overcome these struggles.

Inside/Out Women: NICOLE OHEBSHALOM ON HEALING AND HORMONES

Originally on Inside/Out Women.

“I was born just a few months after my Jewish parents, as exiles and refugees, arrived in New York from Iran. The Long Island town where I grew up was like a miniature Iran with stores that played Iranian music, greeting people in Farsi and serving Iranian cake and candy.

This resulted in my processing my parents’ first American experiences in parallel to my own beginnings in this world. Displacement with no permanent home, learning to be a freer Jew and dismantling expected roles placed on Eastern women were among the challenges that my feisty and sensitive self attempted to navigate during my early years.

My father was a mandatory soldier (at that time, Israel trained the Iranian army) and the Ayatollah was looking to kill my mother’s father and our family. It was a time of violence and anxiety. The loud silence of the 1979 Revolution was a consistent presence in my home, the  community and the town where I was raised. In the early 1980’s, a refugee’s acculturation was not a sensitive a topic as it is now in America. Cultural contrast and acceptance were not something at the forefront of discussions.

As is traditional in my culture, I was raised by my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and extended community. A collective upbringing creates an outlook of the world that holds tradition, spirituality, and community. Spirituality and faith were all around, the women gathered several times a week and the door of our home – and our fridge! – was always open to friends and family of all ages. As we cooked, made tea, danced and played, I observed the way the women expressed themselves. Over the years, I reveled in the rituals: making Turkish coffee, reading my fortune and listening to the poetry, storytelling and herbal remedies said to provide protection from everything from the evil eye to stomach pains. These moments where my psychotherapy and fueled me with empowerment.

Research has shown that the cultures, environments and people closest to us play a role in the way our brains process information and react to stimuli. 

Research has shown that the cultures, environments and people closest to us play a role in the way our brains process information and react to stimuli. As a child raised in an Eastern collective mentality, in which elders and parents made certain choices for us that are a contrast to Western mentality, I learned to think and place importance in the collective experience. The Eastern perspective also provided me with knowledge that there were alternatives to allopathic medicine. I first tuned into yoga and meditation at age 6, followed by using food to heal rather than medication. As a nurse and later a clinical psychotherapist, I was constantly listening to patients and deducing the mind-body connection. Additionally, I have studied Ayurveda, women’s health, functional nutrition and meditation.

Professionally, my background has provided me with an inherent capacity to blend spiritual insights with scientific theory and to confidently navigate various healing modalities from East to West. On a personal level, I have learned to listen to my intuition, to trust the mind-body connection and to give myself permission to be my full and true self.

These days, using my knowledge and drawing from personal experience, I move between the art of science and healing to create natural protocols and therapeutic step-by-step tools to help women in their health and wellness journeys, namely through hormonal psychotherapy. My work calls for each woman to connect with her voice, become sensitive to her sensations, know her desires, ignite her pleasure and feel more relaxed.

Many of my clients are intersectional and have a beautiful, singular cultural identity. Being aware of the way culture contributes to each woman’s values, thoughts and behaviors is vital for hormonal healing. A woman’s hormones are the essence of life, and it is part of her creativity and intergenerational legacy. The only way to heal hormonal imbalances is through food, lifestyle and self-inquiry. These three practices take root in the habits built by culture, which for many have an emotional significance. I honor these parts of a woman while guiding her to recognize her needs and power.”

How The Pill Really Affects Your Health And Steps To Take Before Coming Off

An article I wrote for Glitter Guide

Birth control pills have given women access to pleasure without fear, to navigate their voice and agency. However, the pill and birth control have been used synonymously and interchangeably, even though the intention for prescribing and the alteration in natural hormones is drastically different. The culture has normalized us to thinking there are two ways to live: pregnancy or birth control pills. There are non-hormonal birth control methods that are equally effective in preventing pregnancy while not holding health risks. Birth control has to step away from a religious and political discussion and be a humane discussion in the effect it has on women’s health and reproduction. This article isn’t to prevent anyone from taking the pill, but to provide more understanding on how your pill works.

Globally, millions of healthy women are taking the pill for reasons other than prevention of pregnancy. It has become the main prescription for anything possibly related to hormonal imbalances, even acne. The pill only masks symptoms. Women still have to heal the root cause of hormonal imbalances once off the pill, even 10 years later. It’s alarming that few know how the drug works and the side effects on our mental and physical health. Women deserve better care, so we need to become educated in the way we care for our reproductive health. Our voice creates the structure of reproductive and mental healthcare.

The pill is designed to disrupt the endocrine system. The women’s endocrine system regulates all hormones, so any disruption effects all systems in the body. I believe the pill is the number-one endocrine disruptor. It’s more disruptive to our system than plastics, pesticide, cleaning products and personal hygiene products. 

The pill does not mimic a women’s natural cycle as we are told. By companies calling synthetic hormones similar to the hormone’s name such as estrogen and progesterone, we tend to believe they have a similar effect on the body and that they aren’t toxic. It’s a cognitive disconnect from reality that these endocrine disruptors have any similarity to the actual hormone and the effect it has on every system in our body. 

How The Pill Affects Your Health

When it comes to our hormone system, if one hormone is out of balance, it will affect the entire system. The pill disrupts every hormone and stops the brain from communicating with the ovaries. When the brain and ovaries aren’t communicating and you aren’t ovulating, this has a catalyst effect on all of your hormones and bodily systems. The pill can create a host of hormonal problems, such as low libido, vaginal dryness, adrenal and thyroid dysfunction, leaky gut, inflammatory bowel disease, infertility, headaches, irregular periods, blood clots, risk of cancer and diabetes, and more. 

Steps To Take Before Coming Off

Post-birth control symptoms are symptoms women experience when discontinuing birth control. Women will have the hormonal symptoms that lead them to begin taking the pill, plus added symptoms caused by being on the pill. The symptoms can range from adult acne, loss of menstruation, infertility, hypothyroidism, gut dysfunction, pill-induced PCOS and autoimmune symptoms. Since your brain and ovaries stopped communicating on the pill, now your body, including adrenals, thyroid, gut, and liver might be having some challenges to reestablish connection. Your body is strong and always healing, so we have to make actions to support the body’s natural healing process. It can take weeks or years to heal after the pill. Here are some steps that you can begin before coming off the pill.

LIVER

The liver makes sure estrogen that we don’t need is removed from our body. Some liver-friendly foods to include in your diet: broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, beets, garlic and leafy green vegetables.

SKINCARE

Most women are exposed to hundreds of hormone-disrupting chemicals. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals create mimicking estrogen, called xenoestrogen, that make our body believe it is actually estrogen. Skincare goes right to the bloodstream so it has a more direct effect on our hormones than food that is processed through our digestive system. It’s important to use natural skincare products.

GUT

Our gut contains healthy microbiome that makes us feel happy and healthy. When the gut isn’t functioning properly, we have symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, weight fluctuations and PMS. The health of our gut is also needed to eliminate excess waste, like estrogen, from our body. When our gut function is compromised, estrogen is recirculated back into the body and contributes to hormonal imbalances. Begin nourishing the gut with bone broth, coconut yogurt, and other fermented foods and fiber to have a thriving microbiome. 

By beginning to enhance your gut microbiome, proper detoxification and have products that are easy on your endocrine system, you can begin to create a healthy foundation to reduce symptoms when coming off of a birth control pill. 

Nicole Ohebshalom on Healing + Hormones

My article on InsideOut Women.

“I was born just a few months after my Jewish parents, as exiles and refugees, arrived in New York from Iran. The Long Island town where I grew up was like a miniature Iran with stores that played Iranian music, greeting people in Farsi and serving Iranian cake and candy.

This resulted in my processing my parents’ first American experiences in parallel to my own beginnings in this world. Displacement with no permanent home, learning to be a freer Jew and dismantling expected roles placed on Eastern women were among the challenges that my feisty and sensitive self attempted to navigate during my early years.

My father was a mandatory soldier (at that time, Israel trained the Iranian army) and the Ayatollah was looking to kill my mother’s father and our family. It was a time of violence and anxiety. The loud silence of the 1979 Revolution was a consistent presence in my home, the  community and the town where I was raised. In the early 1980’s, a refugee’s acculturation was not a sensitive a topic as it is now in America. Cultural contrast and acceptance were not something at the forefront of discussions.

As is traditional in my culture, I was raised by my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and extended community. A collective upbringing creates an outlook of the world that holds tradition, spirituality, and community. Spirituality and faith were all around, the women gathered several times a week and the door of our home – and our fridge! – was always open to friends and family of all ages. As we cooked, made tea, danced and played, I observed the way the women expressed themselves. Over the years, I reveled in the rituals: making Turkish coffee, reading my fortune and listening to the poetry, storytelling and herbal remedies said to provide protection from everything from the evil eye to stomach pains. These moments where my psychotherapy and fueled me with empowerment.

Research has shown that the cultures, environments and people closest to us play a role in the way our brains process information and react to stimuli. 

Research has shown that the cultures, environments and people closest to us play a role in the way our brains process information and react to stimuli. As a child raised in an Eastern collective mentality, in which elders and parents made certain choices for us that are a contrast to Western mentality, I learned to think and place importance in the collective experience. The Eastern perspective also provided me with knowledge that there were alternatives to allopathic medicine. I first tuned into yoga and meditation at age 6, followed by using food to heal rather than medication. As a nurse and later a clinical psychotherapist, I was constantly listening to patients and deducing the mind-body connection. Additionally, I have studied Ayurveda, women’s health, functional nutrition and meditation.

Professionally, my background has provided me with an inherent capacity to blend spiritual insights with scientific theory and to confidently navigate various healing modalities from East to West. On a personal level, I have learned to listen to my intuition, to trust the mind-body connection and to give myself permission to be my full and true self.

These days, using my knowledge and drawing from personal experience, I move between the art of science and healing to create natural protocols and therapeutic step-by-step tools to help women in their health and wellness journeys, namely through hormonal psychotherapy. My work calls for each woman to connect with her voice, become sensitive to her sensations, know her desires, ignite her pleasure and feel more relaxed.

Many of my clients are intersectional and have a beautiful, singular cultural identity. Being aware of the way culture contributes to each woman’s values, thoughts and behaviors is vital for hormonal healing. A woman’s hormones are the essence of life, and it is part of her creativity and intergenerational legacy. The only way to heal hormonal imbalances is through food, lifestyle and self-inquiry. These three practices take root in the habits built by culture, which for many have an emotional significance. I honor these parts of a woman while guiding her to recognize her needs and power.”



How To Prep for Your Gyno Appointment

My article on The Good Trade.

How To Get The Care You Need

In 2015, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists decided that your menstrual cycle is a fifth vital sign that can be used to assess your health. Your period is as important to measure your health as your temperature, respiratory rate, pulse and blood pressure.

“Your period is as important to measure your health as your temperature, respiratory rate, pulse and blood pressure.”

From the time we are little girls, we are encouraged not to complain or ask difficult questions about our health. This mindset carries into our OB/GYN offices as adults. We convince ourselves that our symptoms are not important, so we then become silent about them. As a registered nurse and psychotherapeutic coach using food to heal hormonal imbalances, I find most women who come to see me have had feelings of being ignored, condescended, and disregarded by the medical structure.

Why We Must Advocate For Ourselves

The first step in receiving proper healthcare is paying attention to the one expert that most of us forget to turn to: our own body. Our bodies usually are our best source of information. Yet, at some point most of us stop listening to our bodies. The root of mistrust in women’s bodies began with the cultural narrative that women’s intuition was considered irrelevant and unscientific.

“As women, we have so much data and experience with our bodies and it’s up to us to relay to this data to the doctor.”

From our first visits to the doctor’s office, we are taught that we are not the experts on our own bodies and to hand our care over to the medical profession. When we go to the doctor, we are not asked what we think might be causing our heavy bleeds, chronic pain, and recurrent urinary tract infections. Going to the doctor’s office is a conversation between you and a professional with experience in specific skill-sets—not a one-sided evaluation. As women, we have so much data and experience with our bodies and it’s up to us to relay to this data to the doctor. Reproductive health is a team effort and you are at the center of it.

How To Set Up A Successful OBGYN Appointment

If you think something is up, trust yourself enough to believe it and speak up. Nobody can use your voice for you, so you have to be comfortable making yourself heard. Being prepared helps in feeling confident to discuss your menstrual health concerns with a medical professional. Do your own homework by speaking to trusted sources who have training and certifications.

Then, schedule an appointment to discuss your specific concerns with your medical provider. Making an appointment to only discuss your concerns rather than squeezing in the time while having a full physical will give the medical professionals the proper time to speak with you. Arrive at the appointment with a list of things you would like to discuss with your doctor.


Symptoms & Possible Tests to Mention


1. PAIN BEFORE, DURING, OR AFTER YOUR PERIOD

Intense menstrual cramps usually begin before menses and last for an average of three days—but pain is incorrectly normalized as a part of menstruation and PMS. At a doctor’s appointment, many concerned women are often dismissed about their pain levels and concerns. It’s important to discuss discomfort, because painful periods can be a sign of endometriosis, fibroids, infection, or ovarian cysts. Some suggested points to tell your physician are the amount of painkillers you are taking per month, if you experience pain between periods or deep, sustained pain during sex, and to ask about the possibility of endometriosis.

If period pain is new for you, then ask if you need a complete blood count (CBC) test to rule out infection. To understand the cause of your pain, your doctor might even do a transvaginal ultrasound. With my clients, I investigate for underlying causes of nutrient imbalances, inflammation like gut or chronic infection, and other stressors.



2. HEAVY OR LONG PERIODS

Are you having very long periods (more than seven days) or heavy periods (carrying a change of clothes and changing your pad every hour for three or more hours in a day)? When visiting a doctor, begin discussing possibilities of insulin resistance, fibroids and endometriosis.

When working with clients, the most common causes I see of heavy or long periods are estrogen dominance and low thyroid levels. Hormone testing is a must with this amount of bleeding. Having a complete thyroid panel, along with estrogen and progesterone testing can help determine if hormonal imbalance contributes to your symptoms. Testing iron deficiency anemia can also be important for your health.



3. SHORT OR LIGHT PERIODS

If your period lasts for less than three days or you don’t feel the need to change your pad during the day, then your estrogen might be low. During your doctor’s visit, discuss if you are eating enough or over-exercising, if medication is interfering with your hormonal levels, or if you are a vegetarian (you might need to take supplements). Testing estrogen and progesterone during your menstrual cycle can help determine your levels and needed hormonal support. If you do the test at home, I suggest DUTCH Cycle Mapping test.



4. SHORT MENSTRUAL CYCLES

Cycles shorter than twenty-one days might be considered luteal phase defect. This might have been since the corpus luteum didn’t form correctly, or that there is a lack of ovulation. Both can lead to low levels of progesterone.

I suggest tracking your basal body temperature to provide insight into potential ovulation. When visiting your doctor, begin sharing that you are having periods but you don’t think you are ovulating. Ask about a possibility of PCOS, and to test progesterone levels and thyroid levels. In this case, dependent on the person, it can be suggested to conduct a DUTCH test (estradiol, FSH, LH, and progesterone), a thyroid panel (TSH, total T4, total T3, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, anti-TPO, and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies), and vitamin D. 

“Healing from hormonal imbalances calls for a new way of relating to our female bodies, one that honors and values what it means to be in the body of a woman.”

The human body is complex and unique to each individual, so if you have any of these symptoms, speak with a medical provider. The points in this article are not tools to diagnosis yourself—they’re meant to help you start asking questions, learn, and have a conversation with your doctor.

Our menstrual cycle is one aspect of being a woman that has been most denied, hidden, and devalued around the world. Healing from hormonal imbalances calls for a new way of relating to our female bodies, one that honors and values what it means to be in the body of a woman.



Sex & Your Cycle - my article for Atelier Dore

An article for Atelier Dore

Recently, I’ve been back in the dating world – a bit hurt, confused and wanting a meaningful relationship. Like so many of us, I was amid a transformation in my approach to dating and the type of relationship I wanted.

A typical day of mine is filled with hormone chit-chat. From helping a woman heal hormonal imbalances or sitting with a psychotherapy coaching client. I was unexpectedly surprised when my menstrual cycle became one of my guideposts in navigating dating choices. You might not be surprised since I talk about hormones all day, but at this time in my life, my hormonal cocktail took over in a new way and I learned more about myself our ever-fluctuating hormonal changes. The women’s body is set-up for transformation. We go through so many transitions in life and our hormones are always there to help us figure things out. My fluctuating hormones while dating made a difference in the type of men I was attracted to at that time, the intensity of my attraction, and the way I form connections with the guys. In this, I was having way more fun with my libido and sensuality!

How sensual are you feeling right now? I will give you a hint; it’s directly related to where you are in your menstrual cycle. Some days you feel like a turtle. Other days you feel like a cougar. What arouses women are multifactorial, but clearly there is a biological influence.

Do you ever wonder why your attraction to the same person changes throughout the month?

Here is a brief explanation:

During the follicular phase, first half of your menstrual cycle, the ovary nurtures a developing egg. Estrogen and testosterone are starting at a low point in your cycle, then up-surging towards ovulation. This causes your libido to begin at a low point and steadily increase, depending where you are in your cycle during this phase. Your libido becomes stronger as it is preparing you and an egg for implantation. You might start swiping more to the right on the dating app, giving that chiseled guy a ‘shot.’ The thoughts of ‘why not,’ ‘he looks like fun,’ and ‘you never know’ come into the forefront of your mind. Closer to ovulation, the increase in estrogen helps you feel alluring and receptive to sex, while testosterone is the gas pedal in making you flirty and assertive. As your egg becomes ready for ovulation, these qualities help you attract a partner to get your groove on. Do you ever walk into a room, sweatpants still on from the gym, and everyone’s heads quickly turn? Your libido is on!

Ovulation happens at the middle of your menstrual cycle, which is when you might feel the most sensual and fired up to flirt. Oxytocin peaks so you might notice yourself wanting to bond more with others, have more intensity of orgasm, and more lively conversations about creative ideas. Your hormones are telling your body to go out to find the finest and fittest sperm donor. During this time, heterosexual women are more likely to look for alpha-males that have masculine characteristics that will charge up the libido, but might not stay around to take care of the kids. Your hormones are trying to find a sperm that is healthy and will survive to make another human. This is a good time to ask yourself questions, such as: do you feel comfortable to be authentically yourself? How’s the communication? Are your boundaries respected? Hormones, at this time, can blind us to what is important for a long-term relationship. If a long term relationship isn’t on your mind, then relax and focus on your pleasure!

The second half of your menstrual cycle, the luteal phase, is the two weeks between when the egg is released from the follicle and when your period begins. Right after ovulation, estrogen peaks, while testosterone might still have you feeling ready for sex. Then, these hormones gradually decline so you might find yourself spending more time getting in the mood for sex. Since we are less fertile closer to our bleed, we could be more attracted to partners with resources to help with child rearing rather than the blindingly shiny, sexy option. We are in a resting stage, more likely organizing the details in life, reading a book, and meeting friends at a café rather than a loud party. When dating, it can be less about passion and more about witty banter and calm conversation so you can get to know someone.

You might feel more up for sex when you are bleeding, since testosterone is on the rise and estrogen is at the lowest point. Some women feel interested in sex while many others want to allow the body to relax. Sex can be a way to alleviate the pain of cramping and migraines. Be aware that the cervix is wider during your bleed leaving you more prone to allowing bacteria and viruses into your cervix and uterus. Additionally, during your period, your vagina is a more alkaline environment rather than acidic, which gives a thriving chance to microbes. Therefore, you might want to refrain from sex if you experience yeast infections or urinary tract infections.

Are you on the Pill? The phases of the menstrual cycle change on the experience of the pill and our sexual urges follows suit. The pill tricks your body into thinking it’s already pregnant, so you might not feel as connected to experiencing the fluctuations in your sexual urges. Being on the pill has liberated us from the fear of unwanted pregnancy, which has transformed the lives of women, and can have us more relaxed to feel sexual pleasure. On the other hand, the pill has also harmed women’s health in many ways. For instance, it overrides our natural hormones and shuts down our ovaries to not ovulate. Half of our testosterone is made in the ovaries and adrenals. Additionally, the pill raises a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which binds with testosterone and makes it inactive. There is less amount of testosterone in our body when SHBG goes up. Many studies are showing that women taking the pill can experience diminished sexual interest and arousal and reduced sexual enjoyment.

Relaxation is a dependent factor in the health of your menstrual cycle and your libido. When your period and libido are out of balance, you are being signaled to evaluate your stress, find ways to manage stress, and bring balance into your life. Much of our stress comes from the resistance to change, especially the changes in our body. When we know and accept the natural fluctuations in our menstrual cycle, we can take advantage of the changes and plan accordingly. When we move with our natural changes, we can feel more relaxed and uplifted in being a woman. Feeling calm and relaxed, even when feeling flirty and spicy, allows us to become more sensitive to our fluctuations and needs, so we can create a fulfilling sexual and creative life!

Your Brain on Sex - an Interview with Atelier Dore

An interview with Atelier Dore

If you haven’t heard, it’s sex month on the site! We wanted to kick off a month of sex talk with a little science and whole lot of kindness. Reproductive psychotherapist Nicole Ohebshalom generously offered to run us through the psychobiology of sexuality — yes, which means what happens to your brain before, during, and after sex! Read on for an education on pleasure, orgasms, and the connection between the body and the brain during sex.

___________

You are currently a Reproductive Psychotherapist, but I know you’ve held many other roles including a Registered Nurse and even trained as a psychotherapist with experience in women’s trauma and functional nutritional therapy. What led you down this path and what are you currently concentrating on in regards to women’s health?

I began incorporating the healing arts, such as a daily meditation practice and food techniques, into my life as a child. When it was time to choose a career, I knew I wanted to work in women’s health, which lead me to begin my career as a Registered Nurse in an infertility and endocrinology center in NYC. At that time, I was being trained in yoga, meditation and integrative nutrition. The doctors allowed me to bring these tools to the center. This was back in 2005 so, in my eyes, these doctors were pioneers in opening their doors for me to bring more holistic methods into their medical center. Later, I opened a women’s wellness space in NYC for 7 years. There was so many women coming to me with trauma issues and I had an innate talent in psychology that I wanted to explore. I went back to school for psychology with a focus in women’s trauma. I moved to Israel to focus on my research with women’s sexual self-schema, development and hyphenated cultural identity, while keeping a practice in helping women heal trauma and hormonal issues using psychology, food and meditation. Now, I travel and work between San Francisco and Israel.

My focus is for women to understand and trust themselves. I’m a big fan of education so my clients leave understanding the way their bodies work and have tools to take care of themselves. I want my clients to be their own healers and have the tools they need years after working together. I work with women that are experiencing hormonal issues, such as PCOS, PMS, irregular bleeds, infertility, and egg freezing. I also work with women that have experienced various forms of trauma. In my work, I use food therapy, psychological coaching, lifestyle techniques and meditation to help women heal.

Alright, sex! Let’s get into it. We’re going to be talking about the psychobiology of sexuality — can you first define, for us laypeople, what exactly is the psychobiology of sexuality?

Sexuality is an elaborate dance in the brain and body that motivates and focuses us in every area of our life. It’s in the way we feel in every moment that drives a feedback loop response with our hormones and neurotransmitters causing a certain direction in our emotional and physical health.

In understanding the psychobiology of our sexuality, it’s clear that the static view of our body performing in a certain way every single day throughout our lifetime is not normal, even though this is the belief that society, such as magazines and medical system, is trying to have us believe about ourselves. The way we are hormonally and neurologically wired has a lot to do with how we think and feel, and vice versa. Understanding this can help us make hormonally intelligent choices, such as the way we sniff out a potential mate, to our ability to connect to another before and during sex. When we understand the responses our hormones and emotions have to our thinking and lifestyle then our sexuality can be used in an easy and creative way in everything we do.

Sexuality is about the enjoyment with your own body. For us to feel turned on in the bedroom, we need to feel turned on in our daily lives. By pleasure, I mean pleasing your senses all day. It’s challenging to fully surrender to pleasure during sex if the pleasure in our lives is dry. When we receive pleasure in our own sexuality, then enjoying our own body with someone else’s, has a different psychological and hormonal impact. This can be a big distinction, because many women look at sex as a way to please their partners. But, if we want to have a healthy libido (and not just a libido used for sex) we won’t be thinking about pleasing anyone but yourself. Everyone will have a richer experience because of that. You play a huge role in how you experience your sex drive.

Does sex affect the male brain and the female brain differently?

Profoundly! Sex and falling in love have different effects on the female and male brains. In terms of being horny, testosterone is the star. Men and women with high circulating testosterone levels engage in sex more frequently and have more orgasms. However, women falling in love can experience an increase in dopamine levels which enhances our levels of testosterone. Dopamine activates that reward center that has us chasing and fantasizing about a man. Just thinking of your man and smelling him will increase these levels. Stimulatingly, men will have lower levels of testosterone when falling in love. Having these two different responses might provide us with a chemically bonded feeling, and then men and female libidos are evenly matched.

I also think that the difference in location of our sexual organs influences the way sex affects our brains. Men have all their stuff accessible on the outside of their bodies. Women are more hidden, subtle and complex in nature and with that, our primary sex organ, the clitoris, is inside our bodies. The clitoris is only used for sexual pleasure and has eight thousand nerve endings. The clitoris is the most intense and sensitive part of a woman’s body. Our clitoris is the only organ that is used solely for pleasure and teaches us of our sensitivity. This profoundly affects our brains in and outside of the bedroom. Men don’t have an organ that is used only for pleasure. Fully knowing that our clitoris is beautiful and perfect is central to relaxing and receiving pleasure. I like to recommend to clients to sit in a well-lit room with a hand-free mirror to examine and learn to appreciate all her beauty. Take your time and compliment her beauty. Being fully present in your body and breathing deeply can help you relax as you acknowledge your beauty. This will change the way you relate with yourself and the way your partner will relate with you. As a woman, all you need to do is receive your beauty.

What exactly, by definition, is an orgasm?

Research views orgasm as a person’s peak sexual experience during sex. It’s a heightened subjective experience that produces a catalyst of chemical responses leading a person to a type of euphoric experience. I believe most of this definition is true, but a limited view of orgasm was created by the biomedical and media discourse. To view orgasm as a peak sexual experience is very patriarchal and speaks to the male experience. Women’s experiences of orgasm are often an extended experience and can be as unique as the different shapes and colors of our clitoris. There are a lot of women that have experienced orgasm without intercourse or clitoral stimulation. In my work with women, I am observing that there is no correct way to experience orgasm. It’s your unique way of pleasure within yourself.

The physicality of an orgasm happens far away from the brain itself, so what is the connection between the body and the brain during sex?

I’m so happy you brought this up! This is everything! Women need to first feel safe with the other person and in the environment. We must call the shots, to be comfortable to say our needs and feel that no matter what our boundaries are, they are respected. Also, orgasm begins with how much time and attention the other person is putting on her pleasure and beauty. Lastly, as with many things in nature, timing is everything. Women warm up more slowly and the brain and body need time for the buildup of arousal. Placing our focus on the process will have us connected to our libido. This sets the stage for the brain to allow a woman’s hormones and neurochemistry to bring more pleasure into her body and experience. Women are natural flirts. We are always flirting with our girlfriends and having fun with whatever interests us. Women appreciate beauty within ourselves and around us. When we feel safe in our power and have our focus on our pleasure, then we are already feeling alive and directing our libido for our own pleasure. In this place, a woman trusts her body and her voice, so she listens to the communication between them. Her sexuality is in a turned-on state! Watching a woman relaxed in her own turn-on while ordering a grilled cheese or tending to her garden is uplifting.

Can you walk me through what happens to a female brain during sex, leading up to an orgasm and the orgasm itself?

Estrogen makes us more receptive to sex, while testosterone has us lust and flirt with almost any semi-appropriate partner. During sex, testosterone can influence us to be more assertive and lustful. Simultaneously, sexual activity releases more testosterone, which further revs up our sex drive. Dopamine is triggered by testosterone causing an euphoria feeling and enhancing arousal. Oxytocin becomes released by cuddling, skin contact, and nipple stimulation which also enhances testosterone and dopamine. Our brain is in a series of loops that bring closeness, pleasure and relaxation.

When attention is given to our clitoris, cervix and vagina then more oxytocin and estrogen is released. This can expand our vaginal muscles creating this feeling of wanting to be penetrated because estrogen makes us more sexually receptive and lubricated. It also triggers more oxytocin, so we might want to feel even more connected to the person we are having sex with. During orgasm, there is a decrease blood flow to the frontal cortex, executive brain, while an activation of the somatosensory cortex during orgasm, which is part of the brain that maps out bodily sensations. Then there is an increase of blood flow in the emotional center, amygdala, which is part of the release of oxytocin. Peaking at orgasm, oxytocin causes uterine contractions. At this point, dopamine and endorphins enhance our sensory input and motivates us towards orgasm.

Post orgasm I think we can all say we feel a bit different, more relaxed to say the least. Why is that? What chemicals are released in the brain that cause this?

After orgasm, serotonin peaks. This can make us happy, sexually satisfied and relaxed. Some women feel sleepy and less horny after sex since prolactin is secreted. Other women are ready for round two and three because all of the testosterone, oxytocin, norepinephrine and dopamine that was released during sex and further triggers sexual desire. Oxytocin is part of orgasm and post-orgasm, creating that relaxed feeling, the desire to cuddle and have more skin-to-skin contact.

So…. are orgasms essentially good for the brain? And for us?

Absolutely! It lowers blood pressure and stimulates our immune system, which is relaxing to our body and mind. Orgasm can make us feel nourished, connected, relaxed and elevated! There are a lot of endorphins being released, which enhances blood flow to the vaginal wall that can assist women with fertility issues, menopause, endometriosis and much more. It can lower our cortisol which is one of the main root causes of hormonal imbalances I see in my practice. Orgasm enhances our life force!

Care for Your Menstrual Health

As seen on Live The Process

A woman’s hormonal system is very delicate by nature.

Everything we do, say, eat and feel changes the entire chemistry of our bodies and hormonal balance. At times, this can be challenging because we have to be very aware, listening to our bodies to identify what will balance each of our own unique systems.

Fortunately, this delicacy also means that the smallest changes can be healing. With gentle lifestyle shifts, we can bring our hormonal systems back into balance. Each woman has a very unique experience of her body and of herself. Each of us finds our real power in knowing our uniqueness and being able to trust our bodies to tell us what we need.

Here are foundational steps to begin re-aligning with your cycle:

1. Observe Your Cycle

One of the most effective and tangible ways to navigate hormonal shifts is to observe physical sensations and emotional fluctuations. Our hormones are always changing, impacting the way we feel and see the world, but there is also a steadiness as we connect to those rhythms. The more we begin to feel rooted in the cyclical rhythms of our hormonal shifts, the more we can appreciate ourselves rather than act unconsciously.

When we observe each phase of our cycle—the emotional, cognitive and physical changes—we can move with them and consciously come into synch with our bodies and psyches. For me and my clients, speaking the language of hormones helps us to know ourselves. We can shift our lifestyle and food choices appropriately, instead of fighting, pushing and resisting where we are.

2. Neutralize Stress

When a woman feels stressed or unsafe, the tension goes right to her ovaries before the pituitary. This physical feedback helps us protect our womb and eggs. Therefore, stress is unique for a woman. Upon waking up in the morning, I advise my clients to massage their ovaries as a hormonal signal for relaxation. This helps to decrease cortisol and encourages the glandular system to unwind.

Making our emotional, physical and spiritual health the most important part of our lives can help us choose nurturance over stress. It places us above the extras. Making a list of pleasurable and relaxing activities is a precursor to hormonal health. Often, when women are overworked and feeling exhausted, we gravitate towards unhealthy ways to soothe ourselves like shopping sprees, ice cream, wine and coffee. By making a list, we can begin to add more beneficial habits into our daily lives.

Investigating what we do or don’t enjoy, and then taking responsibility for integrating these moments into our lives, can calm our nervous systems and regulate our hormones. For example, I love starting my day with organic facial products that smell like flowers. The smell is so centering. That makes me feel good and it’s healthy.

3. Consume Nutrient-Rich Foods

The way we eat is a great reflection of our relationship with our body. Food offers an opportunity to come into a place of more self-love, care and nurturance, to take the time to think about what our unique bodies need (especially when it comes to hormonal regulation).

When our systems are relaxed, we can absorb the vitamins and minerals from our meals. A general and foundational place to start at every meal is to include healthy fats, proteins and low-glycemic carbohydrates. Each person must experiment to see what’s best, but research has revealed an ideal ratio estimation for each plate: 45% of low-glycemic carbohydrates (especially green leafy vegetables!) 30% healthy fats (love coconut butter right now!) and 25% protein.

When we nurture our physical and psychic health, we become awake to the connections when we, for instance, stray off track. This provides us power, rather than giving hormonal imbalances power over us. This is the journey.

Returning to Your Natural Flow

The term feminine can be very confusing and often implies that a certain criterion needs to be fulfilled, such as attending goddess circles and wearing flowing boho clothing. In gender studies, it’s having qualities associated with delicacy and prettiness. In reality, feminine and masculine mean different things to different people. And, the qualities live in both genders.

In simplistic terms, I like to think of masculine aspect in us as the part of us that likes to get things done. It’s the part of us that organizes, strives and does. Our feminine is our creativity. Both need to be present to live a relaxed and relational life.

The demands of our daily life leave us mostly centered around our masculine expression so we can be efficient and assertive. But, these are not useful when we want to relax, feel and flow with life. When we are constantly in our masculine, we can feel this state of chronic stress that increases our cortisol leading to a cascade of hormonal havoc. The feminine aspect of relaxing, pleasure, beauty and feeling can offset the stress response. We must accept and cultivate both aspects. This integration places a fuller you into the world.

When we come back to our feminine and integrate it with our masculine, we strip away layers of behaviors, masks and coping. We begin to feel who we really are underneath it all. We re-calibrate our hormones, our nervous system resets, our intuition comes back online and creativity soares. We return to feeling through the body and trusting what we felt. We realize the moments we ‘push’ or ‘don’t feel good enough’ so we can re-calibrate to a more natural state of relaxation and release so we can be ourselves.

Through the body, feminine tools can balance the nervous system. Feminine skills for the body need to be practiced and cultivated to enhance sensitivity, feeling, creativity and expression. We each have a unique natural inclination in how we feel the happiest and most expressed. Finding your authentic expression is more important than fitting in with the way we image a feminine expression looks like. One’s expression does not fit all. The feminine expression comes from an authentic, heartfelt, embodied wisdom expressed by your uniqueness. It’s not on a strip pole, a feather boa or lingerie, though it can be!  

By attending to the body, we can become aware of relaxation and feelings. Here is an easy way to become aware of the sensations in your body. Take a moment to notice your body. Are you relaxed and comfortable or do you feel tension somewhere? If you are sitting, begin feeling your body in the chair. Begin subtly moving, wiggle your toes and stretch your feet. Begin moving your spine wherever you are feeling. Primarily focus on areas that feel good, expanding the pleasurable sensations through your movement. Allow yourself to take this movement to just be with the sensations in your body. Dance by listening to the way your body wants to move to feel pleasure.

Another feminine relaxation tool is to use present-moment awareness. Take a moment to define pleasurable activities for each of your five senses. Begin incorporating sensory enjoyment into your life. As you consciously engage in your senses, you can gradually notice subtle shifts in your body and energy levels. For example, wherever you are find things of beauty to observe. In your office and home, create displays that give you pleasure and positive sensations in your body when you look at them. The key is to look at something you enjoy rather than something that disturbs your nervous system.

I hope these practices inspire and encourage you while reconnecting to your body, beauty within you and returning to your natural flow.

Art by Marie Sophie Lockhart

San Francisco The Art Gallery (May 2017)

by Devora Ohebshalom

Indigenous Reclamation    An exploration of Persian Jewish women artwork, which is the artist’s lineage, at a time when all three identities are being isolated and highlighted in the global culture. The artist uses ancient Judeo-Persian style and stages Vulva as a power and mystery women hold to piece together fragmentations of her history of diasporas, persecutions and colonization. As she is reclaiming, there is a belonging, not as souvenirs collected through common travels of scattered displacement, but as an inheritance passed down from Israel yesteryear to herself.

Indigenous Reclamation

An exploration of Persian Jewish women artwork, which is the artist’s lineage, at a time when all three identities are being isolated and highlighted in the global culture. The artist uses ancient Judeo-Persian style and stages Vulva as a power and mystery women hold to piece together fragmentations of her history of diasporas, persecutions and colonization. As she is reclaiming, there is a belonging, not as souvenirs collected through common travels of scattered displacement, but as an inheritance passed down from Israel yesteryear to herself.


Mizrachi in the Exploration of The Nameless    Exploring an Israeli-Persian woman’s movable identity as a political statement in tribalism, honour, and individuality. Destroying the idea of collective identity because creating collectivities is dangerous in these communities. Once a person and community experiences colonism, fragmentation, and patriarchy then they can’t go back to the origin. They can’t go back to authenticity of the past. Once it is gone, it is gone. It is not traditional anymore so only something new is created. The two women and their vast raw power are the birth of new. This is a confrontation of dismantling collective identity. The bold outline of the body is stating something is being born anew in her vulnerability at that moment.

Mizrachi in the Exploration of The Nameless

Exploring an Israeli-Persian woman’s movable identity as a political statement in tribalism, honour, and individuality. Destroying the idea of collective identity because creating collectivities is dangerous in these communities. Once a person and community experiences colonism, fragmentation, and patriarchy then they can’t go back to the origin. They can’t go back to authenticity of the past. Once it is gone, it is gone. It is not traditional anymore so only something new is created. The two women and their vast raw power are the birth of new. This is a confrontation of dismantling collective identity. The bold outline of the body is stating something is being born anew in her vulnerability at that moment.

Trauma’s Effect on Our Hormones

As women, our hormones are sensitive to the most subtle changes. This can be from food, environments and much more. When we experience emotional shock, such as a trauma, then it can directly make stressful changes in our hormonal system. Many of my clients have reported a longer cycle or other changes in their cycle due to the stress of working towards work deadlines. That one stressful week can cause physical changes in their cycle. Working with clients, I've seen shifts in hormonal imbalances once they start healing deeper childhood traumas. Healing from stress and trauma can have you flow better in life and with your menstrual cycle.  Research is currently finding that if we experience a traumatic situation during our luteal phases (the two weeks before you bleed) verses our follicular phase (two weeks after you bleed) can have a very different affect in our psychobiological response.

The levels of our hormones are cyclical throughout our monthly menstrual cycle. When estrogen levels are raised, they can have the ability to protect a woman from a mood disorder, while a lower level of estrogen can make a woman more susceptible to trauma. Research is suggesting that women are most at risk for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when their estrogen is low  during the menstrual cycle.

Men may be less susceptible to mood disorders since testosterone is regularly converted into estrogen in the male brain, resulting in a more steady flow of estrogen. Overall, research is showing women show less fear to neutral stimulus when their estrogen levels are high rather than low. This might be a reason women’s PTSD symptoms last on average four times as long in women as in men after trauma.

Recent research has shown a solid correlation between endometriosis and childhood trauma. This study in the Journal of Human Reproduction, funded by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development among other organizations, is the largest of its kind. Researchers found that among the 60,595 premenopausal women with endometriosis, 31 percent reported they had experienced some form of physical abuse as children. Another 12 percent reported being sexually violated, while 21 percent disclosed both types of abuse. These numbers are far too high and bring awareness to the link of needing psychological support with endometriosis. My psychotherapeutic work is highlighted in my work, but I know hormones are rarely discussed in therapeutic sessions. It’s time for change!

Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus instead grows outside, sometimes causing pelvic pain and in some cases, infertility. Researchers already knew the association between chronic pelvic pain and abuse, but this research finding gives more insight into women’s hormonal health care; however, there needs to be more research to understand the biological connection between trauma and physiological symptoms. What does happen is there is a stress response to the trauma that activates these systems and causes women to be more sensitive to pain. in this study, researchers found that women that have had chronic or severe abuse can have a 79 percent increase risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis compared to women who hadn’t been abused. This does not mean that women who were abused have a 79 percent chance of developing endometriosis or that all women with endometriosis experienced abuse.

These new research findings are so vital for women’s health-care. People are afraid to look into the influences of sex hormones because it’s such a complex system. Females add more variance so scientists tended to avoid studying them. Studies of human brain (and endocrinology research) tend to combine men and women, assuming that neurological gender differences were minimal. But this attitude is changing. Freud was beginning to find concrete evidence that women were not ‘hysteria’ but the complex variables made him step away from understanding the women’s psyche. It was decades later when, my professor, Carol Gilligan, questioned the psychologist used male model of human development. She started researching women’s voice and development incorporating psychoanalysis. She changed the language of psychology and feminism.  

Too many women live with unexplained hormonal, emotional and physical symptoms. We are left feeling silenced and shamed, leading us to not trust our body and core knowingness. Most of the time, the answer we receive is “it’s all in our head.” This is because physicians are not trained to see the psychological, food and lifestyle connections. Our health care system compartmentalizes each body part while hormonal health is dependent on the health of our gut, liver, thyroid and more. And, research has only begun to research women’s hormones and psychology.

It is now time to start listening to the innate cyclical nature of our body and take responsible by educating ourselves on our body and hormonal system.  I think the feminist movement of truth to power has to include taking responsibility for our own health and educating ourselves rather than depending on the system.

HORMONE HEALTH 101: THE IMPACT OF STRESS

This post was written for Harness Magazine.

It seems stress has become a norm in everyone’s daily basis. I am always asking myself how I can be more physically and mentally healthy so I feel more relaxed instead of stressed. Working with women in helping them with hormonal issues, I know that we are all trying to tackle this issue. When you are experiencing a stressful time in your life, it’s time to focus on your physical health which will impact your mental health.

Research has shown that women are more likely to feel anxiety than men. Also, 18.1% of the American population report times of anxiety. Conventionally treatment has lead physicians to prescribe medication that come with a host of side effects. However, there are many natural ways to alleviate anxiety. Unchecked stress can inhibit you from reaching your goals. There are ways to help yourself.

 

Stress on A Woman’s Body

When a woman’s body is triggered by every day stressors, her hormones are affected. Here are a few ways stress affects your hormones and health.

  1. It causes vitamin and mineral deficiency. When you have too much cortisol, it will strip your body of essential nutrients, which impacts your thyroid and blood sugar regulation. The key nutrients that is depleted but needed during this time are b-vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium.
  2. It messes up your blood sugar levels. Your adrenals go on a rollercoaster when you have too much sugar, coffee, carbs and alcohol. This produces cortisol, which then affects the cascade and levels of your hormones. For example, your luteal phase lengthens, progesterone levels decrease, and PMS symptoms increase.
  3. A disrupted gut flora. Your gut has harder time metabolizing hormones such as estrogen. Additionally, it does not have the proper flora to eliminate toxins and hormones out of your body, leaving you bloated, gases, brain fogged, and much more.

 

Supplements Needed to Combat Stress

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acid. Research has shown that omega-3 are part of the building blocks of hormones. When you are under stress, hormones are depleted so nourish your body by providing more essential fatty acids. They can also be mood-boosting!
  2. Magnesium prevents extra cortisol and calms the nervous system. This mineral can also help control insulin production which reduces blood sugar spikes and sugar cravings.
  3. Vitamin B5 helps regulate the body’s stress response by directly stimulating adrenal cells.

 

Stress affect on our hormonal health is serious stuff. A variety of factors can help like de-stressing lifestyle techniques, eating nutrient-rich whole foods, and prioritizing sleep and activity. It’s right to feel and radiate health and happiness.

 

HOW TO TREAT CRAMPS, BLOATING, AND OTHER PHYSICAL PMS SYMPTOMS

Orginal article on CORA's Blood + Milk

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is common but does not have to be a normal occurrence in your monthly schedule. It doesn’t have to be an uphill battle and it can even become a thing of the past. Often, clients want me to tell them how to ‘fix’ their body. There’s no quick fix for hormonal issues (and more likely other undercurrent issues you are experiencing like food sensitivity and adrenal fatigue), but we can assist our bodies in their natural cycle.

Eighty percent of women report some emotional and physical fluctuations in the luteal phase (second half of their cycle). Twenty percent of women experience symptoms severe enough to seek medical help. The good news is that PMS responds quickly and well to natural treatment. You can learn more about improving your emotional symptoms and PMS mood swings here, and below I’ll share tips for reducing pain and physical PMS symptoms.

CURCUMIN

Curcumin is a powerful ingredient in turmeric. It is not only an impactful brain booster but also an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. In the luteal phase, your liver is working on detoxifying estrogen; however, chronic inflammation can impair estrogen detoxification. When estrogen lingers in your bloodstream, it builds up and throws off the balance your endocrine system is trying to maintain. This congestion and estrogen dominance lead to many PMS symptoms.

Additionally, inflammation impairs the manufacturing of progesterone. Progesterone counterbalances estrogen. One way it does this is that progesterone thins your uterine lining while estrogen thickens it. Progesterone also calms your nervous system, so you can feel relaxed during stressful times. Therefore, more progesterone during your luteal phase will have a relaxing effect on your body and mood. Curcumin is a golden ingredient to help your body’s natural estrogen detoxification system. I recommend making a turmeric paste and begin adding it to soups, rice, and chicken (and really, any meal) one week before your period, and every day during. The paste includes black pepper and coconut oil to make the curcumin more effective.

Curcumin Paste Recipe:

  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup of organic turmeric root powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup organic cold pressed virgin coconut oil
  1. Mix and stir the turmeric powder with the cup of water in a pot on very low heat for about five minutes or until it forms a thick paste.
  2. Once it turns into a paste, add freshly ground black pepper and coconut oil and mix well.
  3. Cool and store in a mason jar and store in your fridge.

It should last in your refrigerator for two weeks.

YOGA POSE

Since women are the protectors of life, our ovaries are the first area in our bodies that feel and react to stress. This can lead to many hormonal issues. Here is a wonderful yoga pose to practice when experiencing cramping, bloating, and other physical PMS symptoms. Breathe deeply as you gently move through this pose.

 

Sit on the heels. Extend the left leg straight back along the ground. Bend forward and place the forehead on the ground. Put both arms back along the sides, palms up. Relax all the muscles and relax the breath. Hold for three minutes. Then slowly rise up on the inhale. Bring both legs under, sitting on the heels. Repeat on the other side also for three minutes.

FENNEL TEA

When you have PMS cramps, drink fennel seeds after a meal. This tea gets your digestive fire going! Fennel is known to ease and regulate menstruation by properly regulating hormonal action in the body. The antispasmodic properties help to relax the muscles in the uterus, relieving cramping, releasing muscle tension, and soothing inflammation.

To make fennel tea, add one teaspoon of fennel seeds to a cup of water. Let the pot simmer for about five minutes. Turn it off and then strain the tea.  

It’s also fun to chew on a few fennel seeds after a meal. It warms the digestive tract. If you experience any burping, acid reflux, or discomfort then please stop using.

PMS DURING OVULATION

Ovulation occurs when estrogen peaks. Since estrogen is surging, you’ll want to make sure your body is efficiently metabolizing and eliminating the surplus of estrogen. Three days before ovulation and during PMS, add foods with high levels of the antioxidant glutathione to support a first stage liver detox. These foods will help in detoxing estrogen from your liver. Having PMS symptoms such as bloating, a rise in temperature, headaches, and mood swings around ovulation is usually an indicator that estrogen is dominant in relation to progesterone.

If this is the case, start filling up on organic brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and kale. Keep them cooked and you can add the curcumin paste recipe from tip #1!

PMS DURING THE LUTEAL PHASE

Progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone rise and then drop throughout this phase. Estrogen and serotonin are your normal appetite suppressants so when they drop, it’s normal to become extra hungry closer to your bleed. Additionally, progesterone is a natural appetite stimulant so get ready to eat! But, no worries because progesterone also speeds up your metabolism. Sugar cravings are hard to beat at this stage of your cycle. Focus on clean and organic forms of protein to feel full without hurting your health. When sugar cravings show up during PMS, you can start supplementing with B6 and magnesium. Together they calm inflammation, regulate stress, enhance GABA activity, detoxify estrogen, and relieve histamine intolerance. They are the best gift any woman experiencing PMS can ask for! My favorite brands are Thorne, Gaia and Pure Encapsulations.

Every woman has the power to heal all PMS and hormonal symptoms by creating a lifestyle that includes the correct nutrient-dense foods that are hormonally balancing, to calm the mind, and to create an authentic lifestyle.  By adding simple, hormonally healthy habits, the unbalancing habits will naturally drop. Have fun exploring foods and lifestyle tools that bring you into balance!

Turmeric Ginger Lemonade with Fresh Mint

This delicious drink is great for reducing inflammation, supporting gut health and metabolism, alkalizing and fights infection.

 

INGREDIANTS

·         4 to 5 cups of water

·         1 to 2 teaspoon turmeric powder

·         A pinch black pepper to activate curcumin in turmeric

·         1 tbsp fresh ginger root or 1 to 2 teaspoon of ginger

·         Lemon slices

·         Maple syrup or raw honey (adjust to desired sweetness)

·         Fresh mint leaves

 

INSTRUCTIONS

1.       Bring water to a light boil

2.       Add in spices and let it boil for a minute

3.       Reduce boil and add simmer turmeric for ten minutes

4.       Remove from stove and let it cool

5.       Strain excess spices

6.       Pour the rest of the liquid into a pitcher

7.       Add sweetener and extracts of choice

8.       Mix to combine all ingredients

9.       Garnish with lemon and fresh mint

10.   Store in fridge

De-Stressing Tips to Heal Your Menstruation

It’s really normal for us to experience stress in our daily lives. Did you know the subtle and not-so-subtle fluctuations of stress affects menstruation?

The monthly ovarian cycle is driven by a well-tuned, tightly run system by the hypothalamus.  It receives input from many different parts of one’s body and from the environment surrounding the body. This gland tells the body how to respond to all the subtle stimuli with the goal of keeping the endocrine system stable, safe and healthy. If there is a perception that a woman is not physically or emotionally capable to sustain a pregnancy and care for a dependent child, the hypothalamus will shutdown the ovulation cycle. When you are stressed, your hypothalamus will get a signal that cortisol is high, and your sex hormones will decrease so then you can survive rather than reproduce.

Many women notice changes in their menstrual cycles when they encounter a difficult time, stressful work deadlines, strenuous exercise regiment, or excessive weight loss. Our hormones can be affected by watching a scary movie. That’s how sensitive we are! Our ovaries respond to stressors encountered in our lives. This is when you can see an alteration in your menstrual cycle. It can be erratic, heavy or light, shorten or lengthen or you can stop bleeding.  Luckily, when the stress is removed, we can return to normal ovulatory function and our health returns to baseline.

 

De-Stressing Techniques

1.       Say No!

Many of us are blessed with having a positive outlook with a passion to be involved with activities or to help someone out. Other times, the perfectionist in us comes out and we feel obligated to do and be everything in order to succeed and get some external approval. By saying no, we only feel focus on the priorities and activities that are most meaningful to us and make us happy.

 

2.       Laugh with your best girlfriends

Sharing laughter with friends you feel closes with will reduce your production of cortisol and increase dopamine, serotonin and other mood-boosting neurotransmitters.

 

3.       Dance Breaks!

I love this tool! I use it a lot – from waking up and moving my body to some good tunes or going to the bathroom to dance before a meeting. Dancing makes everyone feel good! And you can really do it anywhere. My friends nickname my car: the dance house.

 

4.       Deep Breathing

Feeling centered in yourself can immediately shift your focus, oxygenate your blood and reduce tension. Try to let go of any force or trying to deep breath the right way. There is no right way. Be aware of how you are breathing and then notice subtle changes throughout and after.

a)       Breath in through your nose. Let your belly fill with air. Imagine that the air is filled with a sense of peace and calm. Allow yourself to feel it throughout your body.

b)      Breath out through your nose. Feel your belly lower.  Imagine that the air leaves with your stress and tension.

 

5.       Send yourself flowers

Humans are comforted by vegetation. Keep a plant at your work desk and flowers around your home. A research study at Harvard University, delivered candles to one group of women and flowers to another group of women. The scientists found that the women with flowers had less anxiety and depression.

 

6.       Desk Nap

Take a refreshing nap at your desk. After doing this, you will feel rejuvenated!

a)       Keep both feet on the floor with your forearms stacked on the edge of the table

b)      Extend your spine by scooting back in your chair

c)       Rest your forehead on your arms

d)      Deeply breath and/or focus on your heartbeat.

e)      Visualize your tasks going well

f)        Mentally repeat “Victory!”

 

7.       Sunlight Exposure

Stress can trigger an offset in the circadian rhythm. Exposing the retina to sunlight can reset your rhythm so your brain is back on schedule. Take a walk outside without sunglasses for twenty minutes a day, three times a week.

 

8.       Walk in Nature Barefooted

Research has shown that electrons form the Earth have antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation and calm your nervous system. Further, the earth’s surface maintains a negative electrical potential. When you are barefoot, in direct contact, with the ground the earth’s electrons bring you to the same electrical potential. You will leave feeling grounded and relaxed.

Using DIM and SGS

Your liver plays a large role in hormone metabolization and levels. The liver detoxifies from the body all the chemicals and toxins found in food and the environment. The liver has a two-part natural detoxification that occurs on a daily basis. For most, phase one works well, but phase two is slower and not breaking down the toxins properly so the toxins come back into your system and makes your liver more sluggish.

One of the most important tasks your liver has is to remove excess hormones from your body, particularly estrogen. Estrogen builds the uterine lining, can help your mood stay high and keeps your vagina lubricated. When your liver is blocked-up from excess toxins it is reabsorbed into the body, cannot remove estrogen and unable to keep estrogen at normal levels.

If your chronically constipated then the liver sends the broken down estrogen to your colon. If you do not have enough fiber for the bowels to move estrogen then it get reabsorbed back into the bloodstream.

The results of estrogen build-up in your bloodstream is called estrogen dominance. This means you have more estrogen in your body in relation to progesterone.

 

Indole 3 Carbinol (I3C) is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, such as brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and broccoli. I3C breaks down into the metabolites Diindolylmethane (DIM) and Sulforaphane Glucosinolate (SGS). DIM is more popular than SGS because it has been studied more. I3C is not taken because it has been shown to promote tumor growth in studies on mammals and other undesirable side effects in human clinical trials.

DIM and SGS can be helpful for estrogen dominance. Please see your medical provider for diagnosis, herbal suggestions, and before taking either of these supplements. There can always be a risk of an interaction with other medications or supplements, especially with toxins including medication broken down by the liver.  Consult a healthcare provider.

 What’s the difference between DIM and SGS?

DIM

DIM is supportive of phase one of the liver detoxification process. It improves the breakdown of estrogen by the liver to good metabolites rather harmful ones. Another role, it prevents testosterone to convert to estrogen. It also blocks the effects of testosterone such as acne and hair loss.

 

SGS

SGS is supportive of phase 2 of the liver detoxification. When there is a backlog of byproducts of phase one for phase two to keep up, it can cause significant harm to the body. When a person is overexposed to harmful toxins, such as caffeine, pesticides, radiation, heavy metals and alcohol, it can cause phase two to not work properly. SGS can help harmful toxins to detoxify out of the system in phase two.

 

Recommendation

It’s suggested to start with SGS for 30 days. As we learned in this article, most people have a slower phase two liver detoxification. If you don’t have the desired results, then move onto DIM.

SGS: I recommend Thorne Research Crucera SGS

DIM: Designs for Health DIM or BioResponse DIM 75

A Guide to Histamines and Your Hormones

What are Histamines?

Histamines are compounds found in various parts of the body. From the brain to the gut, histamine has a variety of actions. It is both a neurotransmitter as well as an immunomodulator. Depending on where it is found in the body, and what receptor it interacts with, histamine can elicit a multitude of reactions. There are different types and each are found in different parts of the body and when activated have distinctly different effects on the body.

H1 are found in the smooth muscles causing reactions like hives, difficulty breathing and asthma. H4 also leads to allergies and asthma but have a different cause.

H2 are found in the gut. An increase of histamines causes an increase in gastric acid secretion.  

H3 are known as inhibitory receptors. They can inhibit neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA and serotonin. When H3 is blocked, histamines increase, which is a reason many believe histamines are related to anxiety and ADD.

Histamines are usually metabolized in the liver and intestines. Some people have low levels of the enzymes to metabolize histamines causing them to have more circulating histamines in their body. Histamine can inhibit almost every neurotransmitter in the body causing a chemical imbalance starting in the brain. This can cause brain fog, anxiety, fatigue and wreaking havoc on your sleep cycle by stimulating your body to stay awake.

The body is also affected. An increase amount of histamine in your body can lead to irritable bowl syndrome, ulcers, nasal congestion, hives and itchiness. These symptoms are largely modulated by the adrenal glands and can lead to adrenal fatigue.

 

Histamines and Food

When histamine levels are beyond what the body can handle, food sensitivity is common.  Histamine is typically found in foods that have been highly processed or fermented. Dairy products like yogurt and fermented cheese such as Gouda and cheddar. Gluten can cause a histamine intolerance. Sausage, pepperoni and other processed meat are high in histamine. Tomatoes, spinach, sauerkraut and eggplant are higher in histamines compared to other vegetables. Chocolate and red wine also are high in histamine. Histamine levels can increase by intestinal dysbiosis and estrogen excess.

 

Histamine and Estrogen

Estrogen and histamine reinforce each other. Estrogen triggers histamine release and histamine causes increased estrogen production. Many studies have found that estrogen can down-regulate the enzymes that break down histamine: diamine oxidase (DAO) and monoamine oxidase (MAO). This can explain why symptoms of histamine intolerance are common from ovulation to just before your period starts.

 

Histamine can stimulate the ovaries to produce more estrogen. The histamine compound stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) which, in turn, leads to more estrogen produced at ovulation. Eating foods with more histamine can put women on a hormonal roller coaster due to an increased estrogen levels, possibly causing estrogen dominance.

 

Recommendations:

1.       Reduce histamine-containing foods

Dependent on your symptoms from these foods, restrict your intake from two weeks to one month. Then introduce a food group for a few days and observe your body’s reaction. Then, introduce another food. This will give you information in how much your body can handle of the food group. You might need to eliminate these foods from your diet for a few weeks or months.

High histamine foods

Dairy is usually the culprit

Gluten

Red wine

Cured processed meat

Aged fermented cheese

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut

chocolate

2.       Supplement with B6

B6 upregulates DAO, which is an enzyme that metabolizes histamines out of the body. Food sources include chicken, meat and sunflower seeds.  

3.       Decrease DAO-Blocking Foods

-          Alcohol

-          Energy drinks

-          Black tea

-          Mate tea

-          Green tea

 

4.       Add Low-Histamine Foods

-          Fresh vegetables (except tomatoes, spinach, avocado and eggplant)

-          Pure nut butters

-          Freshly cooked meat or poultry

-          Freshly caught fish

-          Gluten-free grains: rice, quinoa, corn, millet, amaranth

-          Fresh fruits: mango, pear, watermelon, apple, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapes

-          Dairy substitutes: coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk

-          Cooking oils: olive oil, coconut oil

-          Herbal teas

 

5.       Improve Gut Health

-          Include a probiotic that has  Bifidobacterium infantis and B. longum. These strains can interfere with the histamine pathway and reduce levels of histamine.

-           When a histamine moves past the intestinal wall, it goes to the liver. One liver supporting herb is milk thistle.

Book Review: Orgasm in Contemporary Western Culture

Scholarly Book Review published in Feminism and Psychology journal (2018)

Firth, Hannah. Orgasmic bodies: the orgasm in contemporary Western Culture. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; (192pp). ISBN 9781137304377 1137304375. Reviewed by Nicole Ohebshalom,, RN, PCCI Tel Aviv University

Hannah Frith’s Orgasmic Bodies: The Orgasm in Contemporary Western Culture is an accessible text within the growing scholarship of critical sexuality studies. It provides a concise and comprehensive examination of the historical and pop culture assumptions of heterosexual orgasm which is oen interpreted as purely biological. Building upon her previous published essays, Frith critically analyses representations of orgasm in sex education and sociology literatures and two popular lifestyle magazines - Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health . From her analyses, Frith focuses on orgasm not as a natural or pre-social act, but as an experience that is formulated by highly structured social arrangements which maintain the rules, norms and rituals that underpin gender relations and social inequalities. Frith draws on myriad theories in the book to investigate the meanings given to orgasm in Western culture and to probe ‘why orgasm maers.’ In contrast to the considerable number of scholars who make assumptions about ‘knowing’ the orgasmic body, especially the female body, Frith seeks to show how the embodied experience remains ambiguous and ineffable even as scienfic and lay discourses seek to make it concrete and unmistakable.

Frith’s historical look into different approaches that have informed Western comprehension of orgasm offers us ways to answer the queson: ‘what is an orgasm?’ In the first chapter, she fastidiously reviews four key theoretical positions, which she then uses to critique constructions of orgasm throughout the following eight chapters of the book. The first of these theoretical positions is a biomedical frame that is characterized by an objective ‘clinical gaze.’ The meanings of orgasm within this frame reflect a focus on isolating the exact physiological location of orgasm, which is positioned as the peak of sexual experience. Thus, a biomedical frame categorizes and measures orgasm as healthy or dysfunctional and constructs men and women as having similar sexual responses. The second theoretical position Frith presents is a behavioral one which constructs the nature of male orgasm as indubitable but places importance upon the number of orgasms a male produces. Underpinned by medical discourse, this concept permeates discussion in Chapters 2 and 3 about the way in which the absence of orgasm is constructed as a female problem, one so widespread as to become an ‘epidemic’ of female dysfunction that can only be ‘fixed’ by medical interventions. This pathologisaon of orgasm’s assumed absence in women, and its implications for treatment, are evident in Masters and Johnson’s influenal account of sexual dysfunction as well as the DSM model of sexual response in which orgasm is key to the diagnosis of dysfunction. Frith outlines an experiential frame as a third theoretical position. This frame is concerned with the lived experience of orgasm and what orgasm feels like, but, like the biomedical frame, also constructs orgasm as the pinnacle of sexual intimacy. Frith describes a fourth position as ‘contemporary shifts,’ a theoretical frame of more recent mes which is characterized by an ethic of reciprocity in heterosexual relationships. In Chapter 2 Frith contextualizes this position within the emergence of a post-feminist neoliberalist discourse that constructs orgasm as a self-actualizing and individualistic goal, one that requires the acquisition of knowledge in order to improve sexual performance and to achieve ‘liberation’ through sexual pleasure.

The four heterogeneous frameworks function to construct female orgasm as necessary but at the same me elusive. Lack of experiential information about the presence of female orgasm in the literature Frith analyses, leads her to inquire: ‘When do women who experience orgasm infrequently feel that they have been unjustly treated and when do they feel that they are simply inadequate?’ ‘How long does the average person take to have an orgasm?’ and do clock me and subjective me coincide? If a woman is told that she is experiencing orgasm due to her brain lighting up on a PET scan -how likely is she to be convinced she is experiencing an orgasm unless it looks, feels and sounds like she culturally expects it to? Does she require an interpretive process or does she know by her body alone? ‘How do individuals, couples or partners make sense of bodies which do or don’t live up to expectations?’ This book is as ambitious as it is successful in helping us think about those questions.

The central focus of Frith’s book is the idenficaon of orgasm norms, rules and rituals embedded in biomedical, science and media discourses that shape ways sexual subjects are constituted. Within this focus she highlights the gendered power relations that flow through these discourses of orgasm. In Chapter 3, where Frith discusses ways the subjective orgasmic experience is not taken into consideration, for example, biomedical and media discourses construct women’s absence of orgasm as deficiency rather than men’s poor sexual technique. Further, she also underlines how, despite a postfeminist media construction of orgasm as mandatory for the sexually desiring, always being ‘up for it’ young woman, women’s subjective experience is all missing, their orgasm represented as merely a response to, and responsibility for, male orgasm.

Moving on from her discussion of subjective orgasmic experience, in Chapter 4, Frith discusses the discrepancies and implications that the ming of orgasm has, together and alone, for men and women. She documents how ming norms, have been created from the Masters and Johnson’s model and subsequently popularized through Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health advice columns. The gendered narrative of orgasmic ming in these magazines focuses on the ‘fast’ male sexual response as the benchmark to monitor performance of both genders. Frith argues this narrave reinforces a gendered cultural model which focuses on disciplining the body in a gendered fashion, requiring women to adjust their own sexual ming to fit men’s needs.

In Chapters 5 and 6, Frith adds further layers to the meanings of orgasm by challenging the idea that ‘faking’ orgasm is rooted in the insecurities and inadequacies of individual women. Instead, she describes the meaning of ‘fake’ orgasm as a socio-cultural condition in which women’s access to pleasure is being negotiated because the gender of women have ‘more at stake.’ She states, pointedly (p.111-112):

(women fake in order) to avoid hurng their partner’s feelings…to avoid problems in the relationship…wanted to end sexual encounter…avoid feeling abnormal.

Frith argues that cultural constructions of femininity make women accountable for performing and managing emotions (their own and others) in relationships and shows how this idea informs women’s participation in faking orgasm: if women’s “orgasm is absent, it is accountable and has to be explained” (Frith, 2013a). Therefore, women’s ‘faking’ of orgasm is an anecdote to the “position of orgasm as an obligation in a cultural context in which they have unequal access

to sexual pleasure, (p.125)” which is further embedded in ideologies of love and intimacy. Breanne Fahs (2011) similarly makes the distinction that faking orgasm may symbolize a paradox: an effect of deeply internalized cultural oppression but also a gesture of care, affecon, love and nurturance. Frith discusses how men, on the other hand, may be questioned if their investment in women’s pleasure appears to be more about their own performance than pleasing women. In this way, Frith discusses ‘faking’ orgasm favoring the complexity of heteropatriarchy; it maintains a reciprocal exchange of caring. Men are rewarded in ‘providing’ an orgasm whereas women are solely responsible for men’s pleasure.

The final chapter concludes with the uncertainty of women’s orgasmic experience - men are assured of the presence of their orgasm by visible ejaculaon while women’s orgasmic experiences are ‘mysterious’ thus leading them to question their own bodily sensations. In this closing chapter of the book, Frith addresses possibilities of intervention through challenging the key discourses which structure the meanings around embodied sexual desire and orgasm . In particular, she explores whether or not there are processes that might facilitate learning about how to make sense of physical sensations and to understand them as sexual and pleasurable or not. Frith suggests that women's magazines and social media may offer this kind of information about sexual experiences which is missing from school-based sexuality education. On the other hand, Frith more critically argues that the neoliberal poseminist tools that the two particular ‘expert’ media outlets (Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health) she analyses offer influenal information about the body, but little in the way of understanding how the body subjectively feels.

One of the great strengths of this book (and there are many) is the way that Frith draws upon, traces, and maps out the cultural context surrounding absences and subjective experience, in particular the educational formats through which sexual values and norms are taught. However, the main disappointing feature of Orgasmic Bodies: The Orgasm in Contemporary Western Culture is its sole focus on white Western cultural experiences. Although, the text references contemporary Western culture, the volume does not include any case studies or examples that examine various experiences of others, such as Asian-American, Hispanic-American or Middle Eastern-American, who live within Western cultures. As such, it seems one dimensional and heavily weighted on an Anglophone narrave. At a me when the West is becoming more multicultural, it is important to include more cultural and ethnic narratives in research. Without these narratives, the book could potentially alienate culturally hyphenated readers for whom the content might not speak to their own culturally informed experiences. These readers might therefore find it difficult to engage with the text and the concepts it presents.

However, Orgasmic Bodies: The Orgasm in Contemporary Western Culture is a powerful and encouraging read. It highlights the challenges concerning the gendering of heterosex that still have to be overcome. Frith writes well-researched chapters that continuously challenge assumptions about orgasm, particularly in relation to commonly held ideas about gender idenes and authentic bodily experiences. She provides a spirited account of the complex meanings of orgasm within the Western culture. Frith’s book would interest a wide range of readers from feminist academics, to sexuality educators and psychologists who are seeking a concise and keenly critique introduction to an interdisciplinary history of orgasm and the changing narratives and gender norms through which it is expressed and understood,

References Fahs, B. (2014). Coming to power: Women’s fake orgasms and best orgasm experiences illuminate the failures of (hetero)sex and the pleasures of connecon. Culture, Health & Sexuality,16 (8), 974-988.

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

                       

                                               

Self Defining Your Sexual Health and Natural Ways to Boost Libido

Listen to blog at the WMN'S Flow and Ritual Podcast!

REDEFINE SEXUALITY

I love how we women always want more – that energy of desire for change creates everything. It brings you here and will use what you learn to take steps forward. This blog is a holistic view of restoring and maintaining your sex drive. It isn’t just about being able to have an orgasm. It’s about being able to have enough energy to enjoy your life. This starts with expanding your understanding of our sexual response beyond what you see from magazines and pornography.

When you look at many women’s assumptions about what their sexual experience should be like, it’s less expansive than it actually is. These assumptions reflect a lack of understanding about what the sexual response is and how it works – that a women’s body should perform in a certain way every single day throughout her life, which is a static view. We are going to put some of these misconceptions to rest.

Before we dive in, I want to say that this information applies no matter what relationship you’re in, or not in. This is about you and your enjoyment with your body. You can enjoy being with someone elses body only if you’ve been practicing how to enjoy being in your own. There is a big distinction, because women look at sex as a way to please our partners. But if you want to have a healthy libido (and not just a libido used for sex) you won’t be thinking about pleasing anyone but yourself. Everyone will have a richer experience because of that. You play a huge role and responsible in how you experience your sex drive.  

Before we discuss the reasons that libido takes a nosedive, I want to create a framework for each of us exploring what is a normal libido for ourselves because our culture is known to be highly sexualized and telling us how we are supposed to feel and act during sex. So, we need to know what actually feels right for ourselves.

There are many factors and we can’t cover everything today but I want to highlight that libido changes with our life cycle, our monthly cycle, medications that we are taking including birth control, never really recovering from pregnancy and much more. Also, women believe that once they are having sex, they think they should be able to orgasm easily and if they don’t climax at a culturally instilled appropriate time then they feel they disappointed their partner. So we shift our attention on our partner’s pleasure, abandoning our own. And let me tell you, when you focus only on your pleasure, it’s so much more of a turn on for him.

Libido is on a spectrum. I think the perception of what is considered a normal/high/low libido is heavily influenced by the culture we live in. I think some cultures are more sexual than others. Would you agree?

This can impact the way we expect and feel shame or pleasure from sexual responses and other factors. That is why we have to decide what is normal for ourselves. Minus any hormonal imbalances that could be causing problems. Because there are a whole bunch of people telling us what is normal and what is not.

For me, my libido changes throughout the cycle and when my DHEA, estrogen and testosterone is on the higher level then my sex drive is noticeably more dominant in my daily lifestyle. I have more vitality, creativity and I feel really grounded and embodied. My self expression is also on a spectrum, one moment I love to move slow and sensual and feel myself in this way. Another moment, I’m highly expressive in sharing ideas and flirting with everyone which is a ton of fun. Other times, I want to put that energy into putting new ideas that usually came from the first week of my period into a creative construct.

I also think libido changes throughout our life cycle. Libido is typically higher in our teens and 20s (from a purely physiological standpoint) than it is our 30’s and 40’s.

If someone takes the pill then they usually have lower levels of DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone. This can mess up the libido. 

Assignment to do with a friend or alone

We are going to choose a partner and everyone spend 5 minutes to discuss how you feel when you feel that aliveness. Many of us are or were recently on birth control or this is a new way to think about sexuality so think back to your childhood and when you felt this flirty turn out and vitality without cultural expectations.

 

Turning Yourself On

Another viewpoint of libido is the ability to give and receive pleasure, enjoyment and acknowledgement. In order for you to feel turned on in the bedroom, you need to feel turned on in your daily life. By pleasure, I mean pleasing your senses all day. It’s challenging to fully surrender to pleasure during sex if the pleasure in your life is dry. If you are overextended, tired or burned out. Your energy and libido is directly related. As we talked about a second ago, it begins with your frame of mind. You don’t have to change anything of what you need to do, but only alter only your approach to what you’re already doing. It’s a more vitality mind-set. How can you find enjoyment in every day things and interactions within yourself? The focus is on your pleasure no matter the external circumstances.

Enhancing the quality of each day is about cultivating beauty and pleasure in your daily life. These tiny shifts can cause of significant transformation in how you live your life and how you experience your libido in mundane activities. When you come home and have to answer tons of email. Instead of putting your nose to the grind, and feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Put some music, change to something comfortable, have some tea and put some candles on. Every time you experience pleasure in your day, your neurochemicals that we spoke about before will be affected and you will infuse your libido with more vitality and relaxation. Give yourself a multisensory experience by finding the pleasure in the moment not only in the end result. You will find yourself more relaxed and happy. You will be able to give and receive pleasure from a more authentic place. Women don’t feel comfortable receiving. If we can’t receive in social situations then it’s more likely we can have some challenges to receive and let go with our clothes off. Receiving is part of feeling full and us women really need to feel full.

Partner Work

Come back to your partner. Lay down. For 2 minutes we will receive touch. The giver will stroke your arm. Moving slowly. The giver will be feeling and enjoying this touch. This touching is for you and your pleasure. The receiving will relax and feel the touch, observe each moment how it feels – being mindful.

At the end: say thank you. Describe the physical sensation. No story or emotion.

 

YOUR BRAIN ON SEX

Lets take a look at how sex hormones affect libido, and some of the causes of low sex drive.

When estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are out of balance, you lack the ideal ratio of neurochemicals essential for robust sexual response. For decades, scientists believed that testosterone was the controller of sex drive but now they are learning that estrogen and progesterone play a huge role too.

1.       Testosterone is a sex hormone that effects libido and necessary for a normal sex drive for men and women. Women’s adrenal glands and ovaries produce testosterone by converting DHEA, DHEA-S and androstenedione into testosterone. To experience normal sexual desire, arousal and orgasm, Testosterone levels should have a balance, of not being too high or too low.  Low and high testosterone levels can cause low libido and difficulty achieving orgasm. High testosterone is associate with an increase in aggressiveness and anger. Also, some women report a preference of masturbating rather than intercourse.

2.       Estrogen keeps the vulva and vagina lubricated and elastic. It keeps the clitoris sensitive. Estrogen is linked to clitoral stimulation while testosterone is linked to sexual desire. An important factor is that too much estrogen can block testosterone so there needs to be a balance between estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen dominance is a leading cause of low sex drive.

3.       Progesterone is a feel-good sex hormone that helps women feel relaxed and vital. It impacts sleep, sexual desire, mindfulness and mood. This can be a catalyst for how you feel about your relationships. When progesterone is low then your mood is low, it effects your sleep and harder to keep your cool.

Since our hormones are cyclical and the concentrations vary throughout our menstrual cycle, sex doesn’t feel the same each and every time for women as it does more typically for men. You’re hardwired to have an abundance of experiences. She cTncentrations of hormones in each phase determines your sexual response, this includes both mental urge and physical ability to be aroused. In addition to the three hormones I mentioned, your libido is also governed by 4 groups of neurochemicals, which are neurotransmitters that target the pleasure areas of your brain.

1.       Serotonin and Dopamine target the feel-good regions of your brain.  They boost your experience of pleasure and then have you want to do it over and over again. This is why certain antidepressant medications such as SSRIs dampen sex drive. They block serotonin’s ability to bind with receptors in the brain. When serotonin levels are lower than normal then we become obsessive and angst when we meet a new guy and fall in love. When serotonin is high then we have a sense of satiety and it can be hard to climax. SSRI creates artificial high serotonin levels so it decreases impulsivity and dopamine levels. Oral contraceptives have the same effect – dampening dopamine and increasing serotonin so it’s not helpful when dating and your libido.

2.       Sexual activity increases nitric oxide release, which causes the blood vessels to relax enabling blood to flow more efficiently through them. This causes sex organs to become more engorged. This can increase oxygenation to your heart and brain and lower blood pressure.

3.       Oxytocin is released which is a bonding hormone that can make you feel more connected to your partner, leads to desire and facilitates climax.

4.       Sex can decrease cortisol levels because experiencing orgasm is like a cortisol flush - getting it out of your system. But too much cortisol in the body can decrease arousal so it’s crucial to control cortisol levels. Cortisol curbs all bodily functions that are not essential to your survival when you are under threat.

Now that you know the hormones and neurochemicals involves with libido, you can depend on them as a baseline for each stage of your menstrual cycle.

Follicular Phase

This last usually 2 weeks right after menses. When you get your period, the levels of estrogen, testosterone and progesterone start at their lowest point in your cycle and then increase towards ovulation. You can have a low sex drive, dependent where you are. When your hormones are at a low, you need to put more attention in the arousal stage of your sexual response. This will assist in bringing your physical sensations such as lubrication and mental desire for sex. In the follicular phase we are open to try new things, so experiment with foreplay in the bedroom with touching, massaging and nonpenetrating foreplay. Research more about your own pleasure with using your sensations. Try new creams and take your time to put it on. Observe how it feels for you. Take more time eating and decorating your plate. Enjoy your sensual sensations to keep you in your pleasure.

Ovulatory Phase

In ovulation, you are most fertile and don’t need much help with stimulation to feel aroused. Your body is primed to crave and seek out sex. The cervical secretion in this phase keeps you lubricated which is different from sex related secretion so in this phase you can move from arousal to plateau phase more effortlessly.  Since you have more desire for sex and the naturally high energy from the hormonal surge, it’s time to have more passionate intense sex. It’s also a great time to focus on creative ideas for your projects.

Other important things happens midcycle. Oxytocin peaks, which also increases rates of orgasm and wanting to bond with another.

What happens when you are on oral contraceptives and in the fertile stage? Since the hormones are static, there is no midcycle peak in oxytocin to push bonding and orgasm. Additionally, there is no serge in estrogen and testosterone to stroke our desire and creativity. Our brains also think that we are pregnant at this time so women on the pill act like women that are pregnant so the focus to attract someone for sex and reproducing is not as vital. A research study has shown that women on the pill show weaker or no preference for facial and vocal masculinity.

Luteal Phase

In the first half which is usually a week after ovulation, testosterone is steady from the ovulatory phase. However, estrogen and progesterone climb to their peak. in this first half, you still could feel hot and ready for sex, but you might need more stimulation to climax when you want to orgasm. In the second half which is a weak before menstruation, testosterone, progesterone and estrogen dips. At this time, you might not feel in the mood for sex. Instead, look for ways to initiate arousal. New experience can trigger dopamine in the brain and dopamine can trigger testosterone release. Also, when you focus on just feeling turned on, then you will feel juicier. Once you get going, some of the brain changes will kick in and before you know it, you’ll feel more in your center and pleasure.

Menstruation

Hormones are at there lowest levels. If you have a shorter cycle and bleed heavily the first few days then your hormones immediately are at their lowest point. If you have a longer cycle with spotting in the beginning, estrogen may be a little higher and progesterone lower in the beginning of your period before dropping off so you might feel more symptomatic.

For women with symptomatic cycles, the unbalanced hormones might make you feel uninterested in sex. It’s okay to abstain from sex for a few days just as it is to take a break from other physical activities. If you have yeast infections or urinary tract infections, you may always want to stay away from sex when you have your period. The low pH levels in your vagina at this time can make you more susceptible to bacteria. For women that sex relieves menstrual cramps, migraines and enjoy the different sensations they feel during sex then enjoy.

 

REASONS FOR LOW LIBIDO

1.       Birth Control and Libido

Birth control decreases circulating testosterone and cause estrogen dominance. Birth control pills are the leading cause of estrogen dominance in women because they contain a synthetic estrogen that prevents the body from producing its own estrogen. We already mentioned that when estrogen is high it will cause testosterone to be low in ratio.

Additionally, birth control increasing SHBG sex hormone binding globulin. SHBG binds to testosterone so it becomes unavailable for use by the body. When SHBG goes up, then active testosterone will go down. It can take up to 6 months and sometimes longer, for the body to normalize SHBG levels after stopping birth control and impact the libido.

2.       Stress

There are physical and emotional reasons related to stress that can bring libido down. When the body overproduces cortisol, which is does in our societies chronic state of stress, this interferes with sex hormone production and balance. Oxytocin release during sexual activity (with self or another or just being in your pleasure on a daily basis) can flush out increased cortisol.

3.       Systemic inflammation

When we have inflammation throughout the body then your body puts it’s priority on healing rather than reproduction. It does this because if your body is in poor health then you can’t have a healthy pregnancy. Thus, your body wants to conserve energy so your sex drive will go down.

Additionally, cortisol increases when inflammation is in the body, which effects the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Additionally, excessive cortisol will directly decrease the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. This leads to low libido and results in depression and anxiety.

Inflammation usually involves leaky gut. If you have hormone issues then you have a leaky gut. The gut releases lipopolysaccharides which have a direct and toxic effect that causes brain fog, tiredness and low libido.

Cleansing and balancing your hormones begins with gut health, sugar balance, nutrients, and much more. It’s bio-individual which is how I work individually with women.

A great way to start at home is to reduce dairy, wheat, ---- from your diet for 2 weeks or more, dependent on your symptoms and then slowly introduce those foods to see how your body reacts. In addition, start adding bone broth which is healing to the gut lining, and prebiotic foods which go directly to the colon and becomes food for your intestine to strengthen the lining.

4.       Eating fat is key

The body feels like it is starving when we have low body fat, over-exercise or eat low fat diets. When it’s in this stressed out zone, then your body doesn’t want to have sex. Its priority is survival and conserving energy, not reproduction.   

a)       When the body fat is below 15% then sex hormone production decreases, especially testosterone. This occurs because cholesterol is broken down from fat. Cholesterol is the backbone of all sex hormones. You need body fat to produce sex hormones.

b)      We need about 30grams of fat a day to produce an optimal range of sex hormones.

c)       When we over-exercise then our body fat levels can become low. Also, over-exercising causes stress on the body which increases cortisol levels so it keeps the body from producing enough sex hormones.

5.       There are some medical conditions that are linked to low libido.

There are many medications and medical conditions which can take time to discuss. Today, we will mention PCOS. PCOS is associated with high levels of testosterone, low progesterone and insulin resistance. The high levels of testosterone can create a challenge in achieving arousal and orgasm. Sometimes, it can cause decreasing sensation and ability to lubricate and have an orgasm because estrogen can be decreased.

6.       As women approach menopause, sex drive can also decrease.

This is due to low estrogen which is associated with decreased clitoral sensitivity, dryness and less blood flow to the vagina.

7.       After a baby, you may be nursing for an extended period of time so your sex drive might be minimal. Prolactin levels are up which suppresses testosterone section. Also, when nursing women have less vaginal lubrication due to less estrogen levels. Most importantly, you may not be ovulating yet so you don’t have these surge of sex hormones. When your period comes back then your libido will come back too. Mothers of young children can also have an increase of oxytocin which is the cuddle hormone, which decreases testosterone. Also, married women have less testosterone than single women. You get it. Oxytocin up, testosterone down. More warmth and cuddles and security, then less testosterone.

 

8.       I do want to mention, if your libido is low then you might want to have your thyroid checked. Now, doctors just measure TSH but that isn’t informing you of your hormones. You need to have T3 and T4 checked as well. This is an entire lecture on its own so I can’t go into it now but keep it in the back of your mind.

 

Foods to Boost Libido. The focus is to have foods that decrease inflammation, improve vascular tone and are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients.

1.       Almonds, brazil nuts and pine nuts contain zinc and selenium. This helps reduce inflammation and improve circulation and provide a lot of energy.

2.       Pomegranates raise testosterone and are loaded with antioxidants that improve blood circulation. The increased blood flow at the vaginal wall can enhance lubrication.

3.       Watermelon also helps relax the blood vessels and might have an affect on libido.

4.       Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, antioxidants and B vitamins. Magnesium is essential to the production of sex hormones. B vitamins and antioxidants helps the body decrease inflammation and improve circulation. Dark raw chocolate has a compound called phenylethylamine which triggers the same endorphins that are produced from having sex.

5.       Asparagus is b vitamins and in particular folate that aids in increasing the production of histamines. Histamines is a vital part of inflammation in your body so it is important for libido.

6.       Coconut water contains the same electrolytes as your blood so it can improve blood flow and possibly increase your libido.

7.       Avocado contains b6, folic acid, potassium and essential fatty acids and antioxidants. This increases blood flow and is a building block for sex hormone production.

8.       Nuts, seeds and omega-3 rich fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel are also fats that help build healthy sex hormones.

I want to end with emphasizing sleep! Most of my clients were certainly not getting enough sleep but it’s a huge game changer. It is essential for libido and hormonal health. Sleep keeps your body in line with your bodies natural detoxification system and circadian cycle that controls the natural daily ups and downs of each cycle. Tips for a restful sleep that will balance your hormones is removing anything that emits light such as TV, phone and other electronics. If you can, have a comfortable mattress, you can diffuse essential oils such as ylang ylang or neroli. And candles which set a relaxing and sensual mood.