These are some of the main Facts about PCOS
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
-Women and Men’s Health Advocate
The one thing I have learn about life and having to live with a chronic disease is that no matter what you do sometimes, some days are just going to be bad days and that is OK
You can have the best diet in the world, you can have the best emotional outlook, you can exercise, and you can have the best support, but some days “Shit Happens”
Some days the disease state just flares up, or your immune system just doesn’t work as well as it should, or the body just wants to take a break and those are the days when you sit there wondering what you have done, or ask yourself “why is this happening?”
This week I had one of those weeks. I am sure many people can relate. My lung capacity was at half of what it should be and I was really struggling to get on top of it all. I had to work really hard to get back to a state of normalcy and it was really concerning me and also frustrating me. The whole week was a struggle and then by the end of the week, I was starting to feel back to normal again. But, it took some really hard work to start to feel normal again.
“Why?” I kept asking. My diet is good and I am taking my medicines and trying to stay positive and I have been getting to be early, so why is this happening?
Well the truth is that sometimes, when you are living with a chronic disease, no matter what you do, you are just going to have bad days. People can say what they want, or try to justify it being this, or that, but some days there is just no reason why. But, the main thing is that even though you have bad days, as long as the good outweigh the bad, then you are moving forward and probably in a better place than you previously were. We aren’t invincible. We are humans. We get sick. We get tired. We get stressed. We cannot expect to be in perfect health all the time and sometimes we just have to realise this. Then, if you have a chronic disease state, there is more chance of having some bad days and again, that is OK.
Having said that, if you do all of a sudden have a flare up of symptoms, it is good to do the system check and evaluate what may be causing you to have a flare up, or have a bad day, or not feel so great, or feel so tired etc.
The things you need to ask yourself are:
- Have you been eating well?
- Have you been eating too many bad foods?
- Have you been stressed?
- Do you have negative people impacting you and your health?
- Are you exercising and moving the body to keep fit?
- How is your emotional outlook?
- When was your last holiday?
- When was the last time you took some time out for you?
- Have you been taking you medications? (if needed)
- Have you been following the advice from your healthcare practitioner?
- When was the last time you had a health check-up?
- Have you been drinking enough water?
- Have you been drinking too much alcohol?
- Have you been getting enough sleep?
- Have you had a virus, or a cold, or a flu, or some other illness recently?
All these things you need to ask yourself and are some of the things I asked myself recently. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, stressing too much, not exercising, not eating well, aren’t being positive, aren’t drinking enough water, not taking your medications, not following healthcare advice etc, and then all these things can lead to a flare of symptoms. Sometimes it is just a bit of everything that builds up and causes you to feel poorly, or have a flare of symptoms. Sometimes it may just be one thing alone. No matter what it is, you need to do a check and see if there is anything that needs to be changed in order for you to feel better.
Some of the things you can do to feel better:
- Eat health whole foods and no refined foods
- Go and do some exercise, or go for a nice walk in the fresh air
- Drink more water
- Take your medicines
- Take some time out for self
- Do some mindfulness training
- Do some meditation
- Book in with your counsellor
- Book into see your healthcare practitioner
- Get some acupuncture
- Do some yoga
- Get a massage
- Go for a swim
- Read a book
- Get a funny movie out and have some laughs
- Be supported by friends
- Make love
- Get cuddles
- Be positive
There are many other things you can do to make yourself feel better and help get your health back on track.
As I said, we are humans and we aren’t perfect, but we also need to sometimes stop and take check of our lives and look at what may be causing our health to suffer, or our disease states to be exacerbated and flare symptoms. It is about being proactive and being honest with one’s self and then making the necessary changes to help yourself get better. There is no “try” there is only “do”.
Lastly, just remember to not be harsh on yourself. Be kind to yourself. Just remember that you are human and it is OK to have a bad day. If those bad days continue, it just means you need to get some help and get back on top of your health again and that is OK. Never be scared to ask for help when you need it and ask for support from those around you.
Now, off you go, and be the best version of you and go and have a good day.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate
Many gynaecological issues such as endometriosis and PCOS often take years to be definitively diagnosed and women have to suffer the consequences of their disease state through being missed and dismissed along the way. Then after many years of suffering, they finally get the diagnosis they have been looking for, but then many are not told what to do next, to manage their disease state moving forward. From a state of relief then comes a state of despair as the diagnosis is made and realisation that disease state you are living with isn’t really being helped as well as it could be. So now what?
As someone who has had to live with a chronic disease state daily and spent many years trying to find the right help and be diagnosed properly, I know all too well what many face daily. Many days it just feels like you are knocking your head against a brick wall and nobody wants to help, or listen to what you are telling them. This is why it is important to take things into your own hands and keep searching until you find the right help. That is why I know do what I do and my motto is “No Stone Left Unturned”.
The sad but real truth is that we do know that despite the best medical interventions and treatments that many women will continue to suffer the consequences of their disease state. We know that disease states like endometriosis have no cure and despite surgical intervention, hormonal therapies, pain medications etc, that the disease state can continue to grow and cause debilitating symptoms, both physically and emotionally.
While surgical interventions, hormone therapies and pain medications can offer women some reprieve in their disease state, are they enough?
Sadly the answer is “no!” and this is where many get caught in the vicious cycle of further surgical intervention, the need for new hormonal therapies and a dependency on pain medications. There are also the side effects of some of the medications and treatments and also the effects on future fertility. Treatments also tend to be about treating the masses, rather than the individual. We know that while women may suffer the same disease state and similar symptoms, all will have differing symptoms as individuals as well.
The trouble with the current treatments for many gynaecological issues such as endometriosis and PCOS, is that they are suppressive rather than being curative. These treatments also tend to mask the disease and also only provide temporary relief of symptoms during the period of treatment. On discontinuation of treatment the reoccurrence of symptoms is generally to be expected. For example, after medical treatment and surgical intervention, the reoccurrence rate of endometriosis is said to be around 25% after 2 years and around 50% or more at 5 years.
So what is the answer?
For any disease state to be treated and managed properly it needs to follow these treatment principles.
- Treatments needs to be individualised and not about treating the masses
- Treatments and management needs to be multimodality and may require a team like approach
- Treatments need to be curative, rather than being suppressive
- Treatments need to treat pain and associated symptoms
- Treatments need to have an acceptable side effect profile
- Long-term treatments need to be safe and affordable
- Treatments need to treat and assist fertility and not interfere with ovulation and implantation
- Treatments need to inhibit the current disease state and inhibit the current formation of lesions and cysts and future growths and cystic formations as well.
- Treatments are efficient in treating all parts of the disease and all types of the disease, either superficial, or deep infiltrating, or related to the current disease state.
Do treatments like this exist?
Well, the answer is ‘yes!’… and ‘no!’
There is no curative medical treatment for endometriosis, but there are treatments that can assist in helping women with their disease state and to become symptom free, or at least live a fairly normal life.
There are treatments that can assist PCOS and actually assist in the reversal of some of the symptoms that are associated with the disease.
The one thing I explain to my patients is that they need to be real about their disease state and they also need to look at their expectations versus reality. The longer one has had a disease state for, or health issue for, the longer it is going to take to manage. Then I always talk about the magic pill. I think many people are waiting for “the magic pill”, which does not exist, and then get caught up in the vicious cycle of “Nothing works” and then spiral over and over again. I wish there was a magic pill to take to solve everyone’s disease state, but there isn’t and this is something that all concerned need to come to terms with. I know I have been there, so I understand where people minds go to. When you are in pain, or living with disease state, it is all too easy to blame everything and become very cynical and negative, which in turn does not help the disease state either. This is why when it comes to dealing with any disease state, we need to help the individual emotionally as well, so that they can learn to be focussed, be clear and also learn to cope with their symptoms better.
The problem is that many just get caught up in the one dimensional medical treatments of surgery and taking a pill approach, when in fact they need so much more. Again, this is not discrediting that surgery and medications are a much needed part of treatment for many, especially those with endometriosis, or severe PCOS etc. Many will not be able to function daily without surgical intervention, or pain killers, etc. But, as mentioned before, while they are necessary, they are not enough and women need to be looking outside the box and looking for a more individualised, multi-modality, team like approach, if they truly want to get the help they are needing and to be clinically managed properly.
So where do you find these treatments and people who can help?
Well, that is the million dollar question that everyone is looking for and probably the hardest thing to answer. In every profession and every industry there is good and bad and not everyone specialises in the disease state you are wanting help with. This is the biggest hurdle many will face. The sad but honest truth is that many people are seeing someone that doesn’t have the skills to deal with their disease state and is actually a big part of them not being able to move forward with proper treatment. This isn’t just related to the medical profession either. It is the same in allied health, complementary medicine and other areas of health. This is why it is so important to find the right person, or the right team to help you. People that have the right skills, the years of experience, the specialisation in the area you are needing help with and also willing to work in with others to help you be managed and treated properly. If the healthcare practitioner you are seeing isn’t helping you, then you need to change. Don’t just sit there complaining about it. Don’t go back to them and go and find someone who will help you. It might just change your life. Remember that if you do not change anything, nothing changes.
Having to live with a chronic disease state daily, I know the issues people face, on both a physical and emotional level. I know how hard it is to find the right people and get the right help and having to sift through the BS people tell you, when in fact many of these really have no idea. I really get how hard it is and I also hear how people are being missed and dismissed daily and it annoys the hell out of me.
This is why as a healthcare practitioner, I use a multi-modality approach to healthcare. I help people with as much of my own skills and multimodality treatments and then I am also their guide, their coach and their voice, if they need to be referred to others. I always work within my close network of healthcare professionals and only refer to those whom I can trust and whom I know have the skills to help me and to help my patients. I always joke with my patients that I am here to keep the others honest and also be their guide every step of the way.
For those that are living in chronic disease state, I do feel for you, as I know how hard it is when you have to deal with a chronic disease daily. The one thing I did learn though is that you have to fight and you need to take your health into your own hands. If you aren’t strong enough to do it on your own, find someone who will be your voice for you. I know this is what I do for my patients.
If something isn’t working for you, or your symptoms aren’t getting better, then this means you need to change something. Don’t just keep doing what you have been doing and expect it to change. Don’t get caught up in the blame game, or get caught up in the label, as this doesn’t help you either. It just creates more stress and negativity. The best way to help your condition is to help yourself and get your mind and body strong again. You also need to realise that nothing is going to fix overnight and there is no such thing as a magic pill. You need to take one day at a time and do things one step at a time, no matter how hard things seem. You need to put one foot in front of the other and just keep doing that. Yes, you will have bad days, but as long as you are progressive and being monitored and managed properly and you are progressing forward, no matter how slow you may think you are going, then this is a good thing.
I often say that when one is faced with the challenges of having to deal with a chronic disease, or chronic health issue, that it is like running a marathon. You can’t not put in the training and all of a sudden wake up one day, without any training, and expect to run a marathon and complete it.
To run a marathon you need to put in the work. You need to train. You need a coach to motivate you and help you with your training. You need to put good food in. You need to put supplements and additional nutrients in. You need to get your mind right and be motivated. To do that you need a mind coach, or a psychologist, or counsellor, or mindfulness coach. What will get you over the line in the end is “You” and the work “You” have done and the advice “You” have followed and the lifestyle and dietary changes and the body conditioning. It is about everything “You” have done in combination coming together to help you overcome the marathon of your disease state. Nobody is going to do this for you and this is probably one of the hardest things I had to learn on my own health journey. You can either stay where you are, and live in the state you are living in, or you can get up and take control of your own health. It isn’t going to be easy, but it can be done. I help people do this everyday. I see people do this everyday. It is also about finding the right people to help you and support you along the way. This is what I now do for my own patients and if you so need help, I can always assist you in the marathon of your own disease as well.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate
The word “Barren” comes originates from the French word ‘Brehaigne’, which means not producing, incapable of producing offspring, infertility, infertile; sterile.
Sounds terrible doesn’t it?
Fortunately very few women are ‘sterile’ and the word “infertility” is often misused in our modern society. Nobody is truly infertile, unless they actually have reproductive organs missing, or have genetic abnormalities that will actually prevent conception from happening etc. When a couple is having trouble conceiving, we should really use the word “sub-fertility” instead of “infertility”
The problem with talking fertility, sub-fertility, or infertility is that we often reference, target, or even blame the woman. Yes, women are often the blame of not being able to conceive a child and therefore the myth of the barren woman still runs deep and is very much in existence and kept alive by all concerned today in our modern world.
But is conception and the ability to conceive a child inherently the fault, or responsibility of the woman?
The answer to that is “No!”, but there is still this expectation, or focus, that not being able to conceive all falls back on a woman. Sometimes women actually wrongly blame themselves, or wrongly take on that responsibility too. Some women will even take on that burden, to protect a partner, who may actually be the main issue. Then we now have an area of medicine that has its focus as being the woman, because women are the primary driving force for wanting to have a child. Hence the vicious cycle continues in this terrible loop and then many, practitioners included, buy into the myth of the barren woman and so the cycle continues over and over again.
Well, I am here to tell you that women are not the only part of having a child and that men play just as big a part when it comes to fertility issues and not being able to conceive.
No matter what you get sold, or what BS (bullshit) you are sold, while pulling on your ‘I need a baby heartstrings’, to make you part with your hard earned money, the fact remains, and will always remain, that it takes a sperm and an egg to make a baby. That is basic biology 101 and no matter what someone tries to tell you, sperm quality is just as important as egg quality in this equation.
Every day I see practitioners, both medical and in complementary medicine, focussing in on women as the primary focus of fertility and actually feeding the myth of the barren women by their very actions. Many times the men are overlooked, or ignored, or completely disregarded in the fertility equation. Not only is this unethical, to just treat and focus on the women when it comes to fertility treatment, but it is highly negligent as well. Men are not born with an inherent right to automatically be able to conceive and worse still, the male sperm levels have fallen by as much as 60% in the last 70 years, with sperm quality levels said to be dropping at an alarming rate.
So why is the focus, the burden, the guilt and the whole emotional baby roller coaster left solely to women?
Well, I have explained that practitioners are to blame, the fertility profession is to blame, society is to blame, guilt is to blame and last of all men are a big part of the issue too.
Men are often to reluctant passengers in the fertility journey and are often very happy to bury their heads in the sand and pass the responsibility of not being able to conceive onto a woman. Then many men are told their sperm is fine, when in fact it is far from being fine.
Over 50% of fertility issues are related to male factors and up to 85% of miscarriage issues may be related to male chromosomal, or DNA issues related to sperm. As I said before, research has now shown that the male sperm quality has fallen by up to 60% over the last 70 years and is actually on the decline. Men are often the bigger part of the fertility picture and it isn’t just the woman at all.
Semen analysis parameters are based on what is needed for Assisted Reproduction (IVF, IUI, ICSI) , not based on what is needed for natural conception and this is where some of the biggest issues lay. Misinterpretation of semen analysis and misinterpretation of parameters have many men believing they have OK sperm, when in fact it is far from being OK. With modern procedures such as ICSI, we only need a few single sperm to be able to fertilise eggs and this can still be considered ok, because at least there was some sperm to fertilise the egg in the first place. A few single sperm, or a few hundred sperm, or even a few thousand sperm is not OK when it comes to natural conception. We actually need a few hundred million sperm for it to be OK and even then they need to be motile and they need to be swimming properly (rapid progressive) and actually be of good shape (morphology)
While a semen analysis is often the first part of male fertility evaluation, it is also very limited. While we can look at morphology, motility, concentration, count etc, it does not tell us about the actual quality of the sperm inside. Many sperm may look ‘OK’ via a semen analysis, but inside their DNA integrity is poor and there are high amounts of DNA fragmentation and this can only be measured by a DNA fragmentation analysis. Even then, each time a man ejaculates, the quality of the sperm will be different and can differ by up to 20% in each ejaculate.
We also know that what a man eats, drinks and even his physical and emotional health will affect his sperm quality and that a man’s physical, dietary and emotional health can be passed onto his offspring through the sperm. This is why it is important for a man to get his physical and dietary and emotional health in check way before he tries to conceive a child with his partner.
We always say that the healthier a man is, the healthier his sperm is and the healthier the woman is, the healthier her eggs will be also. A healthy man and a health woman produce healthy babies.
I have been assisting couples with fertility and pregnancy for over 20 plus years now, and helped over 12,500 plus babies into the world, and I can tell you that conception is not just about the woman. It gets back to basic biology 101 that it takes a sperm and an egg to have a baby. Even when couples are having issues trying to conceive, or doing IVF, or however they are trying to conceive, there will be some issue on the man’s side and the woman’s side. Unless there is absolute infertility on one side, or the other, there will always be a bit of both the man and woman to work on to assist in being able to conceive.
While the myth of the barren woman runs deep in society, fertility clinics and through the guilt handed down from their fellow sisters and mothers, fertility issues and the right to be able to conceive ‘does not’ fall solely into the hands of a woman, far from it. Men are an equal part in the fertility equation and men need be held just as accountable when it comes to trying to have a baby, or if there are difficulties in conceiving. No matter what anyone tells you, a man needs to be part of treatment, management and support of the journey to have a baby. This is a big part in my multi-modality fertility program being so successful in assisting over 12,500 babies into the world. Fertility isn’t just the responsibility of the woman, it is the responsibility of the man as well and I make sure both the man and the woman are properly investigated, clinically managed and helped with treatments as well.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
-The Brisbane Baby Maker
Men, it is time to eat more nuts, to help your…. ummm… NUTS!
But this isn’t just about your family jewels, this is about helping with what they produce and helping you carry on your family tree. A diet rich in nuts has been shown to improve sperm count, motility, morphology and sperm DNA.
Recent research published in the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (July 4th 2018) has shown the men that regularly eat nuts have improved sperm quality and function and less DNA fragmentation in their sperm.
In many forms of traditional medicines, foods and the shapes of foods, often correlate to an organ in the human body. To give you an example, walnuts look like a lung and they also look like a brain. There are now research papers to show that walnuts may assist with brain function and help with lung function as well.
Many of the foods we eat may also assist fertility. Many of these foods may look like a reproductive organ, or contain seeds in them. Fruits such as dragon fruit and kiwi fruit look like the shape of a testicle, or an ovary and have seed in them, which traditional medicines often say are good for the seed (meaning eggs and sperm on a fertility level)
Hence it is no surprise that nuts, can help with… ummm… well…. a man’s nuts (reproductive organs)
This new research showed that the inclusion of mixed nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts) in a regular diet significantly improves the quality and function of human sperm, according to results of a randomized trial which measured conventional semen parameters and molecular changes over a 14-week study period. The findings, say the investigators, ‘support a beneficial role for chronic nut consumption in sperm quality’ and reflect a research need for further male-specific dietary recommendations.
Results firstly found significantly higher levels of sperm count, vitality, motility and morphology in the men randomised to the 60 g/day nut diet than in those following their usual diets free of nuts. Moreover, the subjects in the nut group also showed a significant reduction in their levels of sperm DNA fragmentation, a parameter closely associated with male infertility. Indeed, it was this change in the level of DNA fragmentation in the sperm cells by which the investigators explained, at least in part, the improvement in sperm count, motility and morphology.
Nuts are dense foods containing many antioxidants, omega 3 oils, amino acids and folate. This may explain why nuts are so beneficial to improving sperm quality overall. Antioxidants help with oxidative stress, which can be a big factor in DNA damage to sperm and poor sperm quality. Antioxidants and amino acids help with proper formation of sperm at the cellular stage and help prevent damage to sperm cells and help with repair and formation of the DNA of sperm as well.
There is much more growing evidence through research literature that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern can assist conception. Healthy parents make healthy babies. It takes a sperm and an egg to make a baby and healthy men produce healthy sperm. This is why it is important for not only the woman to be healthy prior to conception, but for the man to be healthy as well. The health of the father is passed onto the child and there is growing evidence to support this now.
When it comes to fertility and trying to have a baby, males need to be an equal part of the equation. Fertility isn’t just a woman’s responsibility and fertility issues are not just related to women.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. “A diet rich in nuts improves sperm count and motility: Improvements associated with better male fertility and explained by a reduction in sperm DNA fragmentation.”
Many years ago I was asking this same question, “But what do I do?” and “Who is going to help me?”
Like so many others, I know all too well about having a chronic health condition and living with that daily. Yes, I too have a chronic disease state and I also know what it is like to live in that chronic disease state. That is why I understand what many of you go through daily. I may not know what it is like to live with your disease state, but I know what it feels like to live in chronic disease state and have to live with the consequences of that disease. I also know what it is like sitting there thinking that nobody seems to be able to help me and one seems to be getting nowhere with this. Then the vicious cycle of then doing nothing, because one believes that nothing works and nobody can help, and then nothing gets done and the symptoms continue and then you get even more and more frustrated. Yes, I have been there too. This is why I do what I do now and why I want to help others get out of their rut, and help them overcome their disease and learn to manage their disease better to then have a better life.
But unlike many others, I do know the power of positivity and know that once I put my mind to something and commit to it, then I’ll do as best I can and it also helps get the process going. I also know that in order for something to change, that I also had to be proactive and make things change. It is that old saying “If you don’t change anything, then nothing changes”
So one day I sat down and said “Right, let’s just forget about whom I have been seeing, forget the blame game etc and let’s just really look at this objectively. What do (I) need to do to create a change?” and “Can I do all these changes on my own?”
Sometimes asking these sorts of questions about yourself can be quite confronting and when you do, you also need to be completely honest with yourself and have those around you be honest with you also. Then you have to take that advice, listen to what people are saying and then go about finding someone to help you and then actually make the necessary changes that are needed. But, finding someone to help can be really hard too. Like every other profession, or industry, or workplace etc, there are good and bad people in what they do. Unfortunately finding the good people to help can often be hard, but it doesn’t mean they are not out there. There are good people out there, and people who are excellent at what they do, but it also means not being sceptical and also having an open mind, otherwise you will just give up and not do anything again. Then you end up being in the vicious ‘poor me’ cycle again and that isn’t going to help anyone. This is where a good counsellor or psychologist can help and be impartial and be objective in what you need to do to move forward.
Then I also learnt that I had to stop the blame game and had to learn to stop making excuses. I know all too well that it was much as it is easy to blame others and blame things for not working, but at the end of the day we are all in charge of our own health, our own lives and what happens to our body too. Well, to a point anyway. I do know that sometimes you just can’t help genetics and hereditary disease, but at the same time, these disease states can be managed “If” you get proper care.
I remember a good friend sitting me down and talking to me about what I should do and also some of the questions this friend asked me. Some of the things he said to me and insights he shared with me were things like these.
- “Are the people you are seeing good at what they do?”
- “Have you noticed any changes after the treatments they have prescribed?”
- “How long have you been seeing these people for?”
- “What are your expectations around the treatments they have prescribed for you?”
- “Have you actually been doing the treatments they have prescribed”
- “Have you been taking the prescribed treatments and advice seriously and doing it properly?”
This friend of mine said to sit there for a minute or so and really reflect on what he was asking and be completely honest with myself.
He said to me “You know how some people come to see you and then they go away and then don’t take on any of the recommended changes and don’t do the treatments and then expect for things to miraculously changes and you to somehow just fix them without them having to do anything….. are you one of those people too?”
Not something I wanted to hear, but I did appreciate the honesty. I could relate to what he was saying because if one doesn’t do the necessary recommendation, or do the treatment, then one isn’t going to get better and then you can’t blame the person you are seeing if it all goes pear shaped.
Then he said to me “You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. If it isn’t working, you can’t then expect a different outcome each time, or just hope that all of a sudden it works.” He then went on to say “I’ll put it to you this way. If you keep running into a brick wall and then it hurts and you fall over and then get back up again and try to do it again thinking it might not hurt this time, and expect a different outcome, when you know it is going to hurt, then you need to start asking yourself some serious questions”
Then he said to me “Let’s really look at expectation versus reality. You have had this disease state for a really long time, but in your own mind you want it fixed straight away, or after a few days, or after a few weeks. The thing is… it isn’t going to happen.” He then continued “You know all too well that if you have had a disease state for years it isn’t going to fix overnight and that it is going to take months, or may even take a year or more to fully get on top of it, depending on the severity and what is going on”
This friend also said to me “Sometimes pain levels and symptom and all a matter of expectation versus reality too. Sometimes you think you aren’t getting better, when in fact you actually are. If someone where monitoring you properly you may have started out at 10/10 pain and may now be 5/10, which is an improvement. But, because you are still in pain, you won’t see it as such until someone points out the difference. It is all relative to what you believe versus what is actually happening ”
Lastly he then put it rather bluntly to me “Who the bloody hell have you been seeing and are they any good?” then he added “Because we all know there are people out there you wouldn’t send your dog to and the good ones are few and far between. Btw, who sent you there in the first place?”
He then added one more thing in “You can’t try and do this yourself, or try and treat yourself because that isn’t going to work and this is not your area of expertise. Go and see someone for advice and help and don’t be like many others and try and (Dr Google), or try and self-manage your own disease. That will end in tears”
So, after my brutally honest, but helpful, conversation with my friend, I did have a big conversation with myself and realised some things. These same things I now share with my own patients.
- Not everyone you see is good at what they do and if someone isn’t helping you, then you need to find someone that will. This is why now I always say to people that never underestimate the power of a second, or tenth opinion. Never give up until you find someone who will listen and then really help you.
- When you get a referral to someone, do your research and make sure the person you are seeing is well qualified to be helping you and your condition. You need to ask them the big questions and don’t be scared in asking the big questions. If they don’t seem qualified to help you, then find someone else. Also make sure your surgeon is advanced trained, if one is needed and also specialises in your disease state.
- Look at who is referring you. Look at what their knowledge of the area you need help with. It is your friend referring that may have no idea? Is it mum, or dad referring? Make sure the person referring you has a good knowledge base of the person they are referring to and also has a good understanding of your disease. Sometimes the people referring you have no idea and then refer you to someone mediocre. It is all about perception and sometimes perception of who is good and who isn’t might be a little distorted.
- Look at how long you have had a disease for and look at what your expectations are around how long it may take to see some changes? Then ask the person you are seeing for an honest opinion about how long they would expect to see some changes happening. No long term health issues fixes overnight and the longer you have a disease for, the longer it is going to take to help it and see some real changes.
- If you are asking to make changes and do a certain treatment and management plan, then make sure you do it 100%. For changes to happen you have to follow the advice given and stick to it. Forget what Dr Google says. If a professional with years of training tells you to follow their advice, then make sure you give it a chance and actually do it. You also need regular follow-up consultations and regular management to oversee those changes and also talk about any concerns and also talk about changes as they happen. You need to document changes and actually be managed properly. If a treatment isn’t helping, or you perceive it isn’t helping, then have a chat with your healthcare practitioner about this. If something really isn’t working, then you need to change something, or change the person you are seeing until you find someone who can help you.
- Pain levels and symptoms and healing times can sometimes be distorted when you are in pain. When you are in pain, or have bad symptoms sometimes you don’t always realise you have had changes, because you are still in pain and have symptoms. As my friend mentioned to me, sometimes you may have started at 10/10 pain, or symptoms, but now you may actually be 5/10 pain and symptoms. That is actually a big change and means you are getting better, but because you are still in pain, or have symptoms, you may not be able to see this until it is pointed out. As long as you are progressing and moving forward then this is good and something to give you hope that your treatment is working.
- You are always going to have bad days. Even with the best treatments and best management, everyone will have bad days and these are the days you need to be careful about and not get negative about. Shit happens. Bad days happen for everyone and we all have to be aware that while the bad days will happen, as long as you are moving forward, even if it is step by step, then this is a good thing. Like they say “Two steps forward, one step back”, which still means you are one step ahead of where you were.
- Don’t try and treat yourself. It is good to be educated and good to be informed etc, but relying on Dr Google, or friends advice etc, can be a bad thing too. We don’t try and cut our own hair, or fix our own car, or make our own medicines etc, so we shouldn’t try and fix ourselves either. We need someone who can be objective and someone who is actually qualified in the area that we need help with to get the best results.
- Many disease states need a ‘team’ or multimodality approach to give you the best results possible. We know that despite the best medical treatments, that many people are still in pain etc and it isn’t until they incorporate other therapies, that they then start getting positive results. Be open to trying new therapies and new things that may help you.
- If you do ever need to go to the emergency department for your disease, just remember that the emergency department isnt there to fix your chronic disease. They are there to stabilise your pain and stabilise your symptoms and once that is done, they are more than likely to send you home, if you aren’t in any medical danger. If so they will admit you. But part of critical care should be making sure you are referred to someone who can manage you clinically moving forward. The reality is that sometimes this doesn’t always happen.
- Never ever let the disease own you. You are not the disease and it does not own you and we need to be careful of not buying into the label and then letting the disease and the label consume us. Take back your power and be positive and use that to help you overcome the disease and being owned by the label.
- Be kind to yourself. That means eating good foods, exercise, lifestyle changes and getting out into the sunshine daily. Many foods that we eat are inflammatory and only add to the inflammatory disease process you are dealing with already. Create good gut health to build up your reserves of health gut bacteria to help your body and help your immune system. Get the body moving and get the circulation and blood flow moving to nourish the body too.
- Last but not least, never underestimate the power of the mind, or how emotions can be a big part of a disease state and some of those disease states symptoms. We check in our tax to the accountant, we check in our health with the GP, we check in our hair to the hair dresser, but when do we actually check in our emotions and our thought processes. Never underestimate the power of talk therapy and seeing a counsellor etc. The body mind connection is a big part of many diseases. Never underestimate the power of stillness and mindfulness and bringing the body to rest and being mindful of your life and what may be needed to help your health. There are people who can help you with mindfulness and meditation and creating that positivity in your life
Having lived with a chronic disease state for most of my life, I do know how challenging it can be for people and to find that strength and courage to actually get up and do something about your health. It can also be disheartening when the people you have seen have missed and dismissed your disease too. It all just compounds and adds to the daily burden of what you are going through. But, never let those things stop you from finding someone who can help, or finding the strength to get up and make the necessary changes you need to make a better life for you. I think that having a disease is sometimes like learning to ride a horse. You may fall off many times, but you need to just get straight back on again until you master the art of staying on and being a good rider and being in control. But even the best rider is going to fall of every now and again, and that is ok too.
Just remember that there is always help out there and there are people who will listen and who do specialise in the area you need help with. Lastly, for you to get better, it also needs for you to be a big part of the driving force behind that and actually do the work needed. Don’t just sit there in ‘poor me’ mode. Get up and get yourself out there and do what you need to do for you. If something isn’t working then change it. Just remember that in order for a change to take place, something has to change. Something that means you changing your belief and your thinking too. It might also mean changing the healthcare provider you are seeing too.
As someone who has been there, I hope this helps you all get the help you so desperately deserve. Just remember that if you don’t know what to do, or where to get help, please know I am here to help you as well. You can always book in a consult (in person, or via online) and I can help assist you with your health, and also point you in the right direction too.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
Vaginal bleeding between periods can be common and is not generally a cause for concern. Most of the time women will get just very light pink coloured watery flow, or just some spotting. There can be many reasons why a woman would be getting bleeding between periods, which includes hormonal changes, injury, or an underlying gynaecological, or health condition.
While bleeding between your periods may not be cause for concern, on one level, the ideal situation is to not have any form of bleeding at all and if you do get bleeding between your cycle, it is a good idea to have this investigated, just to be on the safe side.
What a proper menstrual cycle should be like
I have done quite a few posts on what a proper menstrual cycle should be like, but I will go over this again just briefly
A proper menstrual cycle should be between 26-32 days in length and really only have about 3-5 days flow. Any longer than this can be too long and put a woman at risk of being low in iron, especially if this happens all the time.
The blood flow should be a nice red consistency, no clots, with no stopping and starting, and women shouldn’t have too many digestive disruptions, and really, a woman should not be getting pain with her cycle. A little bit of distention and knowing the period is coming is fine, but there should not be pain at all. If you have to reach for the pain killers and the heat pack, or are doubled up in pain, this is not normal and you need to get this checked out.
What are the causes of bleeding between periods?
As mentioned before, there can be a variety of reasons for breakthrough bleeding, some of which are no cause for concern at all. Some however do need to be investigated.
Below are some of reasons for bleeding between periods:
When an egg is released from the ovary, it does create a tiny wound, through which the egg will then travel through the tubes and prepare to make its way to be fertilised, or then shed with the menstrual flow. At ovulation, this tiny wound can also create a tiny amount of bleeding, which can be seen as spotting during the ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle.
When an embryo implants into the uterine lining and begins to grow, many women experience spotting around this time. This is called implantation bleeding. They may also experience some slight cramping at the same time and all of this is quite normal. Some women may then experience some lighter bleeding as the embryo grows further. They usually get some light spotting, which can be a light pink, or a brown colour. Sometimes it can be more like fresh blood. While this is normal, it is a good idea to get this checked out just to be on the safe side and to also put the pregnant mothers mind as ease too.
Bleeding between menstrual periods can be an early sign of a miscarriage. Many women may not even know they are pregnant and may be completely unaware they are having a miscarriage. While it is generally thought that once a woman reaches twelve weeks gestation everything is generally going to be ok, miscarriages can occur at any time during pregnancy.
After having a termination women can bleed for some time after the procedure, or taking the medication to start the abortion process. If bleeding continues and is very heavy, women need to seek medical advice.
Polyps are small growths that can develop in the uterus or on the cervix. They are often a cause for unexplained bleeding between the cycles. Polyps do need to be removed as they can prevent implantation happening and they can also turn cancerous if left behind. Polyps are a very common cause of bleeding between periods.
Fibroids, or myomas (also known as leiomyomas, or fibromyomas) are growths, or benign (non-cancerous) tumours that form in the muscle of the uterus. Up to 40% of women over the age of 40 years have fibroids and as many as 3 out of 4 women develop fibroids in their lifetime.
Fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, extended bleed and painful periods. They can also cause infertility, miscarriage and premature labour. In many women, they will not cause any problems at all. Fibroids are a very common cause of bleeding between the cycles.
Polycystic Ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common condition that can cause irregular periods, absent periods, and can also cause bleeding between periods. PCOS can also cause other issues such as acne, weight gain, infertility and hormonal and emotional disturbances.
Endometriosis or Adenomyosis
One in ten women are diagnosed with endometriosis and many more do not even know that they have it. Endometriosis and Adenomyosis are very closely related, with endometriosis usually being more superficial disease and not confined to the uterus, and adenomyosis being deep within the uterine tissue. Chronic conditions such as endometriosis and adenomyosis, can cause bleeding or spotting between periods. These conditions may also cause heavy or painful menstrual periods and cramps between periods. Adenomyosis will usually cause more bleeding symptoms along with pain etc.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause pain, vaginal bleeding and spotting. If you do suspect you may have a STI, you need to see your doctor for investigation and treatment.
Injury to the vaginal wall
During sexual intercourse the tissue of the vagina can be damaged and this can then cause bleeding. If the vagina is too dry, lack of arousal, and not lubricated enough this is more likely to happen. It can also happen if there is atrophy in the vaginal tissue as well. This is called atrophic vaginitis. This is more likely to be seen when a woman is going into menopause, or undergoing cancer treatments, or has diabetes.
Menopause or perimenopause
The menopausal stage of life and especially the perimenopause stage, can be a cause of irregular menses and irregular bleeding. It can also cause spotting, or heavy bleeding too. Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause. This stage of a woman’s life can last for up to 10 years as hormone levels in the body change and can be unstable.
Hormonal contraceptives are a common cause of bleeding between periods. They can also cause irregular bleeding and this can be quite usual in the first 3 months of using the contraceptive. If a woman misses takin her oral contraceptive, it can also cause irregular bleeding, or a withdrawal bleed. Intrauterine Devices (IUD’s) like the Mirena, will often cause irregular periods and irregular bleeding in the first 3 months after it have been inserted. If bleeding lasts for longer than 3 months on any contraceptive, it is a good idea to seek medical advice and get investigated and managed properly.
The morning after pill, or emergency contraceptives, may also cause bleeding. If bleeding persists, you should seek medical advice.
Vaginal bleeding between periods can also be a sign of gynaecological cancers in women. Most bleeding that women get is not serious, but it still needs to be checked. Cervical cancer can affect women of any age. Bleeding between the cycle, or after intercourse, and pain after intercourse, or unpleasant smelling discharge can be symptoms of cervical cancer and these all need to be checked by your doctor, or gynaecologist.
Uterine cancer tends to occur in women over 50 year of age. One of the early symptoms of uterine cancer can be vaginal bleeding. Uterine cancer mostly affects women are in the menopause and no longer have periods, so this is why any bleeding after menopause needs to be investigate and seen as not being normal.
Yes, stress can cause abnormal bleeding and also interfere with a woman’s cycle. Increased levels of stress can interfere with hormones and this can lead to bleeding, irregular cycles, or pain with cycles too.
When to see a doctor
If vaginal bleeding between periods is heavy, persistent, or unusual then a woman should go and see a specialist, or a gynaecologist, who is a specialist in this area of medicine. As mentioned previously, while some causes of bleeding are not serious, some are and need to be properly investigated and properly managed medically.
Treatment and prevention
All women should keep a record of their menstrual cycle and when the period starts and how long it lasts for. Any abnormal bleeding should be recorded so that you can show your healthcare specialist if need be. Any abnormal bleeding should be investigated and the treatment will depend on what the underlying cause is.
Women should try and see their healthcare specialist for regular pap smears and regular check-ups for gynaecological health.
If women are getting small tears and bleeding caused from dryness in the vagina, then there are water based lubricants that can be used to help with lubrication and to moisturise the surrounding tissue.
There is no cure for gynaecological and reproductive issues such PCOS and Endometriosis, but these disease states can be treated and managed to give women a normal life. Proper treatment of these issues needs a “Team”, or multimodality approach using medical options, surgical interventions, pelvic floor specialists, acupuncture, herbal medicines, hormone therapies, and diet and lifestyle changes. It is about using what works for the individual and not a blanket one treatment fits all approach.
Last but not least, all women should know that period pain is not normal and that irregular bleeding really isn’t normal either. While most causes of bleeding are not life threatening, they still need to be investigated and checked out properly. Never ever put off seeing a specialist if you have abnormal bleeding.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
The average Australian woman reaches menopause at 51 years of age- with a normal range from 40-55. Contrary to the popular concept, the female body does not become depleted of eggs at this time, but the remaining follicles become less and less responsive to hormonal stimulation.
Premature menopause is defined as cessation of ovarian function prior to 40 years of age. About 1% of women will experience menopause before 40.
The approach of menopause is signalled by rising LH and FSH levels as the pituitary attempts to prompt a response by the ovaries.
The menopause signals the permanent end of most ovarian function and hence the menstrual cycle in a woman’s life. Sex hormones don’t only influence reproductive tissues but also have a multitude of other functions including effects on bone and mineral metabolism, cardiovascular function, memory and cognition, effects on the breast and genitourinary system as well as nutrient absorption.
There are a variety of symptoms which are believed to be due to reduced oestrogen levels and approximately 85% of women will experience some of these symptoms to a greater or lesser degree. These symptoms can be summarised as:
Vasomotor symptoms– (these tend to be early onset):-Hot flushes ( or “flashes” as they are called in USA literature), Night sweats, Formication ( a particularly unpleasant sensation likened to ants crawling under the skin – “formica” is latin for ant)
Urogenital Symptoms– (tend to occur about 3-4 years after menopause):-Dry Vagina, Change in vaginal pH, Atrophic vaginitis/altered vaginal discharge, Dyspareunia, Urinary frequency/dysuria/aggravation of stress incontinence
Associated physical changes-these are partly the result of the normal ageing process, but may be accelerated by declining oestrogen levels. These may include decreased fitness and flexibility, changes in distribution of body fat, changes in sleep patterns
Loss of elasticity of skin and support tissues (may result in):- Worsening of uterine prolapsed, Loss of glandular breast tissue ( breast size and texture changes), Skin changes and wrinkling, Less nipple sensitivity and erectile potential, Joint and muscle pain, Skin dryness
Emotional and psychological changes– it is sometimes difficult to separate the hormonal from the personality-driven and situational as the cause for these symptoms, but women at the menopause may complain of such symptoms as:- Anxiety and/or depression, Insomnia, Lack of concentration and poor memory
Effects on Bone– (these effects may not become apparent until some years after menopause) :- Osteopenia/osteoporosis, Fracture and bone pain
There are other symptoms which have been ascribed to declining androgen levels, though the evidence is less clear-cut. These may include such symptoms as:
Change of body shape – increasing fat deposition around abdomen, less at buttocks and thighs
Loss of libido :- Many libido issues are caused by emotional issues and changes to lifestyle rather than being a hormonal issue
Change in body hair distribution– Pubic hair thins, hair on the head may thin or if woman carries the gene for male-pattern baldness may recede at temples and crown. Facial hair may increase.
Treating symptoms of Menopause
The main cause of people seeking treatment for the menopause is for relief from vasomotor symptoms, the main one being hot flushes or night sweats.
There is a lot of misinformation about the peri-menopause and menopause stage of a woman’s life. Some of the peri-menopause (meaning before the menopause) symptoms can start up to 8 years before a woman actually goes into menopause (meaning the menses stop). Then some of the actual menopausal symptoms can last many years after the menses has stopped and this is something that is not discussed enough and often poorly understood by many, including many healthcare practitioners.
Some women with menopausal symptoms do not choose to pursue any medical treatment when they experience it. However, some women have severe symptoms that affect their quality of life, and may need to have medical treatment in the form of hormone replacement. One of the biggest fears around hormone replacement therapy is the increased risk of breast cancer. You can talk to your specialist, or doctor about these risks before you start any form of treatment. There are now compounded bio-identical hormones to assist menopausal symptoms and these may not have the breast cancer risk factors of conventional hormone replacement medications.
Examples of some medical treatments available for menopause include:
- Hormone replacement therapy, such as taking estrogen therapy at the lowest, most effective dose.
- Vaginal estrogen, which is applied directly to the vaginal tissues to aid with elasticity and assisting with vaginal atrophy
- Antidepressants (SSRI’s), have been shown to reduce the incidence of hot flashes in some postmenopausal women.
Traditional medical HRT can also help with bone strength and reduce the risk factors for heart disease.
The Women’s Health Initiative of 2002, issued a warning against the long-term use of traditional hormone therapy (HT) because of the increased risk of breast cancer, but this study was poorly explained and created lots of panic for both practitioner and patient alike. Since then alternative methods, such as bioidentical hormone therapy, have been developed.
Bioidentical hormones are chemically the same as those that the body produces naturally. As a result, the body should is not able to tell the difference between the hormones it produces and the bioidentical ones. Bioidentical hormones can be made from a variety of sources that span plant and animal products and are said to have less side effects than traditional hormone replacement medications. Many women get great relief from Bio-identical Hormones, but it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about these and if they are suited for you
Women may also consider trying herbal medicines or other dietary supplements as a means to reduce the incidence of menopause symptoms. There are now many menopausal formulations on the market and anyone wishing to use complementary medicines should speak to a qualified complementary medicine practitioner about what is suitable for them. Never self prescribe natural medicines with consultation from a qualified healthcare practitioner.
Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
Chinese medicine has been treating and assisting symptoms menopause for thousands of years very effectively. The key to Chinese medicine treatment is that a practitioner will assess and treat each person individually, not with the one treatment fix all plan. We aren’t all the same so why should we all be given the same treatment.
It must be noted that up until recent times the Chinese did not have a word for Menopause and that very few women experienced any of the symptoms of menopause. The only ones that did seem to were the rich and those of noble heritage, who ate very rich and luxurious diets. This does show that diet and lifestyle factors do affect menopausal symptoms. Many used to believe that the Chinese didn’t get menopause because of their higher consumption of phytoestrogens such as soy. This has now been proven not the case, as soy products “do not” have any benefit to menopausal symptoms, but adherence to proper diet and lifestyle improvements does.
There is also some really good evidence to show that acupuncture can assist with hot flushes and also assist with the symptoms of menopause.
Things to do at home
In addition to medical and complementary medicine treatments, there are many at-home treatments that a woman can do to reduce menopausal symptoms. These include:
- Avoiding triggers that are know to make hot flushes worse. Examples can eating spicy foods, drinking hot beverages, acidic foods, being in hot weather, or being in hot rooms.
- Using water-based vaginal lubricants during sexual activity to reduce discomfort due to dryness and thinning tissues. Vaginal estrogen creams may be needed as well
- Reduce Stress & Practicing stress-relieving techniques. Examples can include mindfulness, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation, yoga, journaling, massage, counselling and other forms of relaxation therapy
- Do not smoke. Smoking can increase the risk of hot flushes and contributes to many other health issues such as certain cancers.
- Do Weight Baring Exercise. Weight baring exercise is needed to keep strong and health bones and it also has other health benefits. You can also look into doing yoga and pilates to help with core strength and to help with pelvic floor strength and tone. Exercising can also help to relieve stress.
- Pelvic Floor Exercises. Kegels exercises or use of Jade eggs (known as yoni eggs), or Ba Wen Balls, can help with pelvic floor muscles and increase blood flow into the vagina and pelvic floor area and also help with bladder control
It must be noted that menopause is a normal part of a woman’s life and menopause is not a medical condition. The main reason that women seek help in menopause for is the menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, dryness and loss of libido etc. At my clinic I use a multi-modality and individualized approach to treating and assisting the symptoms of menopause, using a combination of Medical science, Integrative Medicine treatments, Chinese herbs, Diet, Nutritional supplements and Lifestyle changes and find this gives the best results in assisting my patients.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
New research published in Human Reproduction, has found that those who follow a “Mediterranean” style diet at least six months before assisted reproductive treatment have a significantly better chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a live baby than women who did not.
As part of my Fertility Program, one of the first things I talk to couples about is the importance of a healthy diet that has adequate protein, lots of vegetables, seeds and nuts, healthy oils, adequate water intake, electrolytes and cutting out all the refined carbohydrates that cause inflammation. The hard thing is that I hardly see a couple following those health food principles, with many not even really knowing what a health diet is. The diet that I promote is a Primal based diet.
Previous studies have shown that when refined carbohydrates are cut out and replaced with proteins, essential fats and good carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables, that the clinical pregnancy rates shot up by 80%. (Fertility & Sterility 2012 Volume 98 issues 3 Page S47)
In this new study, researchers focussed in dietary patterns rather than individual nutrients, food, or food groups. They found that those who ate lean protein, more fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and olive oil, had a 70% greater likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and birth compared to women who didn’t follow this style of diet.
The research outcomes found that out of the 244 women in the study, 229 women (93.9%) had at least one embryo transferred to their wombs; 138 (56%) had a successful implantation; 104 (42.6%) achieved a clinical pregnancy (one that can be confirmed by ultrasound); and 99 (40.5%) gave birth to a live baby.
The most important message to come from the study is that women attempting to have a baby should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean style diet, because it may help increase the chances of successful pregnancy and successful live birth.
The researchers did note that when it comes to conceiving a baby, diet and lifestyle are just as important for men as for women. Previous studies from the same research group showed that male partners that adhered to the same sort had better semen quality.
A healthy diet is important for all couples prior to trying to conceive and should be a part of any preconception planning by all healthcare practitioners assisting couples with fertility. While this study focussed on improving assisted reproduction pregnancy rates, this style of diet should be adopted by any couple wanting to have a baby and should be implemented at least 6 months prior to conceiving. This is why it is essential for all couples to receive counselling and guidance on the importance of a healthy diet and having a healthy lifestyle as well. This is a foundation of my fertility program that has helped over 12,500 babies into the world and continues to help many more couples reach their goal of becoming parents.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned