Alternative Ways to Assist Pain and Help with Pain Management

After my recent posts of the management of pain, pain medications and how pain affects so many people lives daily, it is pretty clear that there are lots of people out there in pain. Worst still it highlights what I have known for many years, is that many people who are in pain, or have inflammatory pain conditions, are not being managed really well. Unfortunately many are also trying to manage their own pain conditions and may even be dependent on pain medications. Some of these medications taken long term may in fact be exacerbating their current symptoms, or actually making their pain and inflammation worse. Some of the medications may in fact by shutting off the body’s ability to know that it isn’t actually in pain anymore, but the body actually thinks it is. It is such vicious never ending cycle for many people and there seems to be no long-term, or short term, solutions for many who have to endure the physical and emotional consequences of all these things combined.

The one thing for sure, is that pain often isn’t managed well and there need to be more done to help those in pain. But, it also requires those in pain to seek proper help too. Again it is a bit of complex issue and many in pain often get dismissed initially as well, or are looked at as people who are dependent on pain medications just seeking more pain meds.

Pain does need proper management and if pain is not managed properly, it can do more damage than the medications health professionals, and the person in pain, are worrying about. But sometimes the blanket pain medication treatments don’t work, or they just aren’t enough, and this is why when it comes to pain, it need to be managed with a multi-modality approach. It really cannot just be all about taking medication, or telling people to just go and learn to live with their pain and all will be OK. It won’t be OK and we need to start to educate all concerned that there other options that may assist the current medical treatments and management strategies.

Let’s look at some of the alternatives to pain medications and how these things can help assist those in pain and can be used alongside medications to give better control of pain and also help in reducing dependency of pain medications.

1.Watch your diet

Eating the right foods may provide some protection from the symptoms of pain and the disease state that you may have. The role of diet in inflammatory conditions has been investigated in recent years due to the influence of diet on some of the processes linked to certain disease states that are causing pain and inflammation on a daily basis. Many of the so called anti-inflammatory diets out there are now outdated and have outdated nutritional and dietary advice that don’t really help much at all.

People in pain need to adopt an anti-inflammatory (grain free, primal, ketogenic style diet) to assist with settling any inflammation in the body and also helping the immune system.  This also needs to include prebiotic and probiotic bacteria to help with digestive function, immunity and gut health.  Regulation and restoration of gut function and the microbiome is so important and assisting with pain and inflammatory conditions.

Excess bad carbohydrates increase insulin response and this then causes the body to store fats and stops the burning of fat. This also leads to inflammatory conditions and more inflammation in the body. Excess body fat, now known as obestrogens (because it is estrogenic) needs to be controlled and managed through diet and exercise too. Excess fat and excess weight all lead to inflammation and stress on the body and this can also exacerbate pain and pain pathway.

Certain environmental estrogens, known as endocrine disruptors,  such as preservatives, plastics, pesticides and insecticides that can be ingested through certain nutrients have been suggested as risk factors for exacerbating pain and creating inflammation in the body too

2.Try complementary medicine and complementary therapies

Many people with pain and inflammatory disease states find symptom relief from using a range of different complementary and alternative medicines. There is some good solid research to show that certain natural medicines may help with the management of pain and inflammatory disease states and the associated symptoms. There is now some good research to support many natural medicines treatments such as Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, vitamins, omega 3 oils, probiotics, chiropractic/osteopathy, Yoga, Pilates and more.

Out of all the natural medicine therapies, Acupuncture and Chinese medicines has been one of the most researched and have shown to be the most beneficial and to assist those suffering pain and chronic inflammatory disease and their associated symptoms. Acupuncture has been widely researched to assist with many pain conditions and is now even used in some emergency departments around the world, for acute and chronic pain. Chinese herbal medicines have been used for centuries for pain and inflammatory disease and modern research has shown that certain Chinese herbs and herbal medicine formulas may assist with pain and painful conditions.

Certain strains of prebiotics and probiotics have also been shown to help with the immune system, microbiome, bowel, and digestive associated symptoms of some pain conditions. Probiotics have also been shown to not only help with digestive and immune function, but also with the psychological function as well. It does need to be specific strains of probiotics though. Correction of the microbiome, but using pre and probiotics may assist in reduction of inflammation in the body and thus assist with pain and painful disease states.

There are also western herbal medicines and naturopathic herbal formulations that can assist with pain and assist with pain management. There are also certain amino acids and nutritional medicine supplements that have been shown to assist with managing pain and inflammatory conditions. Like any conditions, management need to be done on an individualised approach and what works for one person, may not work for another.

Chiropractic and Osteopathy have been used for centuries to assist with pain and pain conditions. By correction of the sublaxations and correction of posture, this can assist in better nerve functioning, better blood flow to muscles and also help with pain reduction and reducing inflammation.

Just like with medical treatments, when it comes to complementary medicines, it is important to find someone who is a qualified practitioner and who specialises in pain management. Just like in the medical model, this can also be hard to find. Please find someone who is a registered healthcare practitioner, or part of an association for qualified healthcare practitioners.

3.Boost intake of omega-3 fatty acids

The is lots of research on the health benefits of taking Omega 3 fatty acids and a diet high in these healthy fats. Omega 3 fatty acids may assist many inflammatory conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disease, arthritic conditions and many conditions where inflammatory processes are then leading to pain.

Researchers have also found that the type of fat included in your diet makes a difference in your risk factors for inflammation and pain conditions. Studies have shown that people whose diets were heavily laden with trans fats increased their risk of the expression of inflammatory disease by 48 % when compared with individuals who ate the least of these. By comparison, women whose diets were rich in omega-3 oils lowered their risk of inflammatory conditions by 22 % compared with those who consumed the least amount.

Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseeds, almonds, and walnuts, may be helpful for pain and inflammatory conditions. Another way to get Omega 3 fatty acids is through supplementation, but please make sure you are using a practitioner only grade omega 3 supplement to ensure higher potency and better quality control.  Just remember, it is all about reducing inflammation.

4.Exercise

Often, people who experience pain fear exercising, in case it causes more problems for them. But over time, regular physical activity may decrease the pain and discomfort that you feel. High-intensity exercise and resistance training may assist in helping to reduce the reducing the symptoms of pain and reducing inflammation in the body.

While resistance training and high intensity interval training may assist in pain management and reducing inflammation in the body, some of the more gentle forms of exercise, such as Yoga and Pilates, may also assist in reducing pain and inflammatory response in the body too. Yoga and Pilates can stretch and strengthen your muscles, help with core strength, help with circulation, which all may be beneficial for pelvic pain management and stress reduction.There has been lots of research into the benefits of Yoga and Pilates and how it can assist pain and inflammation.

No matter what exercise, you choose, exercise may help those with pain and inflammation in many ways, including:

  • encouraging the circulation of blood to your organs
  • maintaining nutrients and oxygen flow to all your body systems
  • assist with decreasing pain and inflammatory response
  • assist with reducing stress
  • releasing endorphins in the brain, which are pain-relieving, “feel good” chemicals

Research has shown that those who engage in some sort of regular exercise have fewer symptoms of pain and less inflammation that those people who do not participate in regular exercise.

5.Managing Stress Levels

Stress and emotional factors are probably one of the most under rated causes of pain and inflammatory response. Stress and emotional factors are big factors in any disease and can make any disease worse. Not only can stress and emotional disorders be exacerbated by pain and inflammation, but so can pain and inflammatory symptoms be exacerbated by stress and emotional disorders, in a never-ending cycle. Pain and inflammation could contribute to making your stress levels, or emotion issues worse, due to the impact that the associated symptoms have on all aspects of your life, including family and personal relationships and work.

Stress management, Counselling, Mindfulness and Relaxation techniques may all assist in reducing stress and emotional disturbances that exacerbates inflammation and pain pathways and painful conditions.

People with pain and chronic pain and inflammation need to manage stress by using mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These can help you to increase your awareness of your body, refocus on something calming, and reduce the activity of stress hormones and inflammation in the body. It is all about learning coping mechanisms and what works best for you, not what works best for others.

6.TENS and Neuromodulators

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is an inexpensive nonpharmacological intervention used in the treatment of acute and chronic pain conditions. These small battery-powered devices deliver alternating current via cutaneous electrodes positioned near the painful area. The parameters of pulse frequency, and pulse intensity are adjustable and linked to TENS efficacy. TENS activates a complex neuronal network to result in a reduction in pain

Neuromodulation is the process by which nervous activity is regulated by way of controlling the physiological levels of several classes of neurotransmitters. Many pain management specialist now use a common form of neuromodulation involves using a device to deliver electrical current in therapeutic doses to the spinal cord to disrupt pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain, converting them to a more pleasant tingling sensation. This has been proven a safe and effective therapeutic approach for managing chronic pain of the arms and legs, neck and back often after spine surgery, or for other neuropathic conditions.

In Summary

It is important to know that people with pain and disease states that are causing chronic pain, will need a multi-modality, or team approach to deal with this disease. The team you need and modalities that you will need will be dependent on your individual symptoms. This will mean finding practitioners who will listen to you and also be open to trying some of the alternatives to some of the pain medications and opiates alongside pharmaceutical medications. As I said before, these alternatives may assist in treating your pain and managing your pain long term and also help with reducing some of the pain medications you may have been dependent on. Try and find healthcare professionals that can offer you a multi-modality approach for ongoing care and support and who also have a team of other people who specialise in the disease you are suffering from too. Again, the approach that you and your pain management specialist, or healthcare provider, choose to take will vary depending on your signs and symptoms.

Before starting any pain management, or new treatment, it is important to know all of your options and the potential outcomes of all of them and to know that the people that you are seeing are specialists in your condition and know how to manage the disease properly. That can often be the hardest thing to find and why you need to do your homework and see people who are specialists in this area of medicine. Too many people are missed and dismissed purely because they are just seeing the wrong people in the first place.

Lastly, if you are in pain and have a pain condition, please do not try and keep managing it yourself, or try to self-medicate. You need to be managed properly and should be getting the advice of a professional, not your friends, family or social media buddies. Pain needs to be managed and it needs to be managed properly and this also goes for pain medications as well. If you are still in pain and pain symptoms are getting worse, this means that you need to get something done about it because your disease may in fact be getting worse, or your body may not be responding to medication any longer.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Knowing All Too Well What It Is Like To Live With Pain

I often get asked how I know so much about pain and living with disease state and pain on a day to day basis. While I am a man and cannot truly understand what it is like to have a gynaecological condition and the associated symptoms, I can understand how pain can affect ones daily life and how hard it is to manage a chronic disease state.

You see, I too have a chronic disease state that was missed and dismissed for many years. It causes me pain when the disease grows back and the inflammation gets bad. It has required me to have multiple surgeries, because it was missed for so long. Even though surgery helps, it isn’t a cure and the disease can grow back and then start causing pain and associated symptoms again. Sounds a lot like endometriosis doesn’t it?

While I don’t have endometriosis, I do have a disease that is very much like endometriosis and just this week I have had my 7th surgery for this disease.

My disease state grows in my sinus cavities and it can cause such excruciating pain in my head and make me feel really unwell. It’s really hard to use your brain to shut off pain, when the actual pain is in your head and it feels like my head is going to explode. If the disease gets out of control too much, it could cause extreme pressure and actually cave the bones around the sinuses inwards, so it can be dangerous.  I wish someone had listened to me and helped me earlier on so that I wouldn’t have to have been going through the surgery again.

But, I have learned to find the right team to help me. I have learned to manage pain levels using a multimodality treatment approach. I have learned that diet and lifestyle choices can help me manage my disease state. This is why when I talk to all of you, I understand what you all go through and why I am so passionate about telling you all the facts and helping you get the right help and intervention. They always say that to truly understand pain, you have to experience it yourself. Unfortunately I know all to well how pain can affect the whole body, not just where the pain is orginating from.

While I know first hand how bad pain can affect ones life, I have also learnt that the disease does not define me. I am not the disease and I have made a conscious decision to be proactive with my health and not live and breath the disease.

While it is good to be educated and proactive about your health, it isn’t good to live in your disease and let it overcome you and rule your life either. It is about getting up each day, making healthy choices, pushing yourself to move forward and remember that it is all about small steps forward, not matter what is going on.

I found the more I focussed on my disease, the worse things became and I got caught up in the pain cycle and the disease took over and it just made things too hard on both a physical and emotional level. Sure, there are days when you will have a bad day and that is ok. I know I had days where I had to take painkillers and just get on with it and nobody would ever have known how much pain I was in. Sure, there are going to be days when it doesn’t seem fair and that nobody can truly understand what it is like for you. The main thing is to not live in the ‘poor me’ syndrome and not let the disease define you. It is about overcoming the disease and being you again. It is about finding your team to help you. It is about finding that support you need and not buying into the diagnosis and living in the disease.

The more positive you are, the happier you are, the quicker you will heal and the treatments will work better too. Whatever you need to do, you just need to go and do it. If that means seeing a counsellor, seeing a pain specialist, seeing a gynaecologist, seeing a nutritionist, getting some acupuncture, seeing a physiotherapist, seeing a chiropractor/osteopath, taking pain killers, taking herbal medicines, or whomever and what you need that can help you, then you need to do it.

I also know all too well how hard it can be to get started, but when you get started and you keep going and you find the right team of people to help you, that is when you get the results. Never underestimate the power of positivity and never think that all is lost and get lost in your disease state and symptoms. Even if you make two steps forward and then one step back, you are still moving forward. Try and do something you love each day and try and find joy and positivity in your day. It is so important.

Lastly, never ever just take one opinion and always get multiple opinions about what you are experiencing. This is why I offer a multimodality approach for people and offer a multitude of services like a one stop shop. It is why my motto is “No Stone Left Unturned” because I dont want to see anyone be missed and dismissed. The reason I do a multimodality approach and use and integrative medicine approach, is so I can help people as much as possible on my own and then only have to refer for things like surgery and some other specialty areas that I do not do.

Please remember that pain, no matter where it presents in the body, is a sign of inflammation and a sign that something isn’t right. It is a sign that something needs to be investigated and managed and is you are being missed and dismissed constantly, then you need to find another healthcare practitioner, or a team of healthcare people that can help you moving forward and get some sort of normalcy back in your life. If you can’t find the right person, or team, then book in and see me instead. I’ll make sure “No Stone is Left Unturned” and I also understand what it is like to live with pain. You wont be missed and dismissed at my clinic. Don’t forget that I can do online consultations for people that live interstate, aren’t local, or live overseas. I can be your eyes and ears and be your guide and coordinator too. I understand pain.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

Women’s and Mens Health Advocate

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Period Pain IS NOT Normal

 

 

Early Intervention & Early Management Is Vital For Gynaecological Conditions & Menstrual Issues

By now many of you would know my stance on Period Pain not being normal and that the sooner you get the cause treated and managed the better one is going to be in their day to day life.

Unfortunately not everyone knows that Period Pain is not normal and neither are some of the other symptoms women get each month with the onset of their menstrual cycle. Having heavy bleeding, bleeding in between cycles, menstrual cramps, severe pain, irritable bowel like symptoms, dark clotting, ovulation pain, bowel and bladder pain and urgency etc, are all not normal symptoms that a woman should endure with her cycle. Getting these symptoms at any time of your cycle is not normal either.

Early intervention and early management is the key to any disease state in the body and this definitely applies to menstrual issues and gynaecological disorders. Once a disease is expressed into the body, it can be very hard to treat, especially if it is left a long time and then inflammation spreads to other parts of the body, or in close proximity to where the initial disease was first expressed.

One of the reasons that prompted me to do this post was after a young woman, now in her 30’s, had contacted me and thanked me for helping her back when she was in high school. Since then I have known all of her family well and helped with maintaining their health. At the time she was about 14 years old and showed all the signs and symptoms of endometriosis. She was in so much pain each month, when her cycle came, and she was often curled up on the floor with nausea and vomiting from the pain. Everyone, including GP’s etc, had told her this is normal and that she needed to get used to it. They also told her that she is too young to have endometriosis, or any major gynaecological condition.

That is so bad. Please, please know that period pain IS NOT normal and that teenagers are not too young to have endometriosis. To be honest, they are now finding endometriosis in young girls under 10 years old. Many gynaecological issues can start very early on in a woman’s life, especially if there are hereditary factors involved.  Gynaecological and menstrual issues can be passed from generation to generation, so if mum, or your grandmother, or someone in your family tree had menstrual issues, or a gynaecological condition, there is a good chance that you may inherit this as well.

The long and short of it all was that her mother was also getting frustrated at everyone not helping and somehow ended up finding out about me and ended up in my clinic. From there I got her into one of the advanced trained laparoscopic surgeons I work closely with as soon as possible and this is where stage 4 endometriosis was found and excised properly.  Without coming to see me, this poor girl would never have found the cause of her menstrual pain and associated symptoms. I then did all her management of her disease moving forward. The main thing that this young girl and her mother were worried about was how this was affecting her education and daily life, but how this could also affect her future fertility.

The one thing I know is that the sooner there is intervention and treatment, the better the prognosis for a woman’s future fertility is. The one thing I do know is that endometriosis doesn’t always cause infertility, but it can make it harder to fall pregnant, if it isn’t managed early enough. The longer you leave a disease in the body untreated, the worse it gets, and then the symptoms get worse and the worse the future outcomes may be.

Lucky for this young lady is that she did have early intervention and management and she has proudly messaged me to tell me that she has had her 3rd child and that she puts it all down to me helping her when she was younger. I have many women message me and tell me much the same thing. It is so important not to leave these things just because you are being told it is normal. What the hell is normal about being in so much pain that you feel like you could die?

All too often I see women having gynaecological conditions, like endometriosis, missed and dismissed and that the longer that the disease has been dismissed, the harder it is going to be to treat. That is a sad fact for many women and some will have to endure repeated surgeries due to being missed and dismissed and have a life of issues, if their issue isn’t managed properly either. Many have not seen the right healthcare professionals, or the right surgeon either.

I have discussed in many of my previous posts.  Please have a read of my previous posts about this subject and the seeing the right team of people. This is why it is so important to have early intervention and also see a proper advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon who specialises in the excision of disease states like endometriosis. Then there needs to be proper management and treatments and lifestyle changes administered to help with suppression of the disease state, helping with inflammation and improving quality of day to day life.

There needs to be a multimodality/team like approach to the management of women with gynaecological issues, as there is no one single fixes all approach, with any medicine. While surgery may be a necessary part of the overall management of disease states such as endometriosis, it isn’t the saviour that many perceive it to be. Surgery does not sure endometriosis and there is no cure for the disease at present time. Once you have it, it is there for good.

Surgery is a necessary but small part of the overall picture that needs to combine many other treatments and modalities to give the best outcome for a woman overall. Once the surgery is done you need to look at managing and suppressing the disease and this is done by lifestyle changes, dietary changes, acupuncture, physio, herbal medicines, hormone therapies, pilates, yoga, pelvic floor and core exercises and many other modalities depending on one’s individual symptoms.

When I treat women with gynaecological conditions, or menstrual issues, I make sure they all get an individualised, person centred, caring approach tailored to how they are presenting rather than a one treatment for all approach that many seem to get. You won’t get the results you need that way because we are all individuals with different needs and different symptoms overall.

Lastly, please remember that period pain and menstrual irregularities are not normal and that the earlier you get onto it and get it treated and managed, the better your future outcomes will be.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Period Pain IS NOT Normal

Can we always blame hormones being out of balance, for women’s health issues?

Often I see people posting that the source of all women’s issues is their hormones being out of balance. While sometimes this may be true, saying that the source of all women’s health issues is hormones being out of whack is not completely true. Sure, hormones may have a bit to do with it, but is it all erratic hormones?

Hey, it is good to blame something, but is it really fair to keep saying that women are all just an imbalance of hormones, when they are just having a bad day, or just don’t know why they are feeling the way they do?

The fact is that when I consult with women and they tell me that they, or their partner, or family etc, think they are a hormonal mess, I always have to tell them that this may not necessarily be so. More often than not, when I do my work ups on women, their hormones are actually normal and not out of balance at all.

So why would a woman be feeling like she is out of balance if her hormones are all in normal range?

Well, the answer to that is…. “How long is a piece of string?”

Yes, this is one of my favourite saying because, with any health issue, or imbalance in the body, you need to look at the individual and what the individual has been doing.

When I consult with women about these issues I will always go through a thorough history and testing with them and find out the following

  1. Are they stressed?
  2. Are they sleeping?
  3. Have they had a major upset in their immediate environment?
  4. Are they eating well?
  5. Are they drinking too much alcohol?
  6. Are you taking medications, or recreational drugs?
  7. Are they having too much sugar?
  8. Are they exercising?
  9. Are they taking time out for self?
  10. Is their partner the source of their moods and ill health?
  11. Do they have a gynaecological condition that has, or hasn’t been diagnosed?
  12. Have you had a health condition, or virus, or some other long standing health issue?

There are so many things that can affect a woman’s moods and wellbeing. Stress is probably the biggest factor, followed by lack of sleep and poor diet. High sugar intake also causes inflammation and can affect hormones, but it can just affect your moods. Poor diet and high sugars can also affect gynaecological conditions and affect an upcoming menstrual cycle too. Having a big drinking session on the weekend, or just a few drinks during the week can seriously affect your health, moods and motivations. Try not drinking for a month and see just how much better you will feel and how much better you wake up in the morning. A big binge drinking session on the weekend can affect you for a week afterwards

Lack of exercise can be another big factor in feeling tired. It is a catch 22 situation. When you are tired you don’t feel like exercising, but sometimes you are tired because you aren’t exercising. Exercise keeps the body feeling fit and moods better and your menstrual cycle better too. Not getting enough sleep can seriously affect your body on all levels.

Lack of sleep will not only make you feel tired, grumpy and teary, but it affects everything. Lack of sleep and too many bright lights in your room can affect your melatonin levels too. Melatonin is also responsible for conversion to serotonin, which is what helps moods as well

Too much stress and running on adrenalin does not help the body either. The body goes into this hyper-activated state and that can cause low grade anxiety and also affect the moods and the body’s energy levels. We also need to check if a woman is suffering depression and this is the cause of her health issues, or why she may seem out of sorts.

Then, you could have a gynaecological issue that is causing inflammation in the body and then being exacerbated by things you are doing in your life too. Some gynaecological issues are asymptomatic, but can cause issues with your health, your moods, your energy and yes, your hormones. But, many women with gynaecological issues actually have normal hormone levels, so it isn’t always hormones causing gynaecological conditions either.

At certain times of the year, we are more prone to colds and flu’s and viruses and these can affect our health, our energy, our moods and our systems as a whole. Some post viral symptoms are worse than the actual virus and can last long after the virus symptoms have subsided.

Chronic pain can also throw the body into a state of shock and affect both the moods and the bodies ability to function. Inflammation can play real havoc with a woman’s body and her health.

There are so many things that can affect a woman’s body and it as we can see, it can’t always be blamed on hormones. There are so many other factors to consider, which can affect a woman’s energy, her moods, her concentration and her daily life. So next time you are feeling a bit off, or a bit moody, or teary, or tired, don’t be so quick to dismiss it as just being hormonal. It may have nothing to do with hormones at all. If someone else tries to dismiss you as being hormonal, maybe it is time to be hormonal like and tell them where to go. Politely, but firmly of course.

If you are feeling like there is something wrong with your body, or you feel out of balance, it is a good idea to see your healthcare provider and get some basic testing done and delve a little deeper into why your body isn’t feeling the best it could be. I always make sure I get a thorough history off women and listen to all of their concerns so that they aren’t just dismissed as just having their hormones out of whack. They may be, but it is best to check first and that isn’t hard to do. I think too many women are just dismissed as being hormonal, or that it is hormones out of balance. Nine times out of ten, it is often something else. Let’s not forget that as we get older, we do start to slow down more too. But, let’s not talk about that one as that could be a whole post on its own.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Alcohol Decreases Fertility & Makes Gynaecological Conditions Worse

In today’s modern society, alcohol has become the cornerstone for social engagements, business dinners and after work relaxation. It is important to realise however, that alcohol can directly impact the fertility of both males and females. In males it can decrease sperm quality, reduce testicular size, decrease libido and cause impotence, all of which can impair fertility. In females it has a more systemic response, affecting the reproductive hormones, leading to abnormalities in the menstrual cycle and an increased risk of miscarriage.

Many men and women these days are actually consuming copious amounts of alcohol and may think that their drinking habits are normal, when compared to others around them. When people do things on a regular basis, it becomes their normal. But truth be told, many people’s drinking habits, both men and women, are actually in the realms of alcoholism. The impacts of that are far reaching and fertility and gynaecological conditions are definitely impacted by alcohol consumption.

Effect of Alcohol on Conception for Men

Fecundability refers to the probability of conception during a particular menstrual cycle. It is dependent on the reproductive potential of both partners. Alcohol decreases fecundability by its effect on sperm quality and quantity. Men who continue to consume alcohol on a regular basis, can decrease their sperm motility, morphology and their DNA in the sperm. All of which are important factors in achieving fertility. While outwardly a man’s sperm may look OK, many forget that inwardly, the sperm DNA could be highly fragmented and unless this is tested every ejaculation, you will have no idea how bad the sperm actually is. A one off DNA fragmentation analysis does not mean the sperm each time is OK. It only measures the sperm from the ejaculate that was tested and sperm quality can change by as much as 20% each ejaculation.

Testicular size is also affected by alcohol intake; and can also affect sperm production. Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system (CNS), and can disrupt the autonomic system of the CNS. These effects are temporary and short lived. Abnormal sperm production is also temporary and also can resume after abstaining from alcohol.

One study, this one looking at couples going through IVF treatment, found that for every additional drink a man consumed per day, the risk of conception not leading to a live birth increased by 2 to 8 times. This was especially true if the drinking occurred within a month of the IVF treatment.

Effect of Alcohol on Conception for Women

In women, alcohol affects fecundability, by disrupting the delicate balance of the menstrual cycle. Clinical research data published in the “British Medical Journal” suggests that women, who drank socially, 1-5 drinks per week, were at a greater risk of decreased fecundability when compared to women who remained abstinent. These findings underscore the importance of remaining abstinent while attempting to conceive.

Alcohol disrupts the hormonal imbalance of the female reproductive system, leading to menstrual irregularities, and even Anovulatory cycles, (menstrual cycles where ovulation fails to occur). Menstrual pain can directly be linked to the amount of alcohol consumed in the lead up to the menses and consumptions of alcohol, even small amounts, exacerbates most gynaecological conditions. These changes can drastically decrease a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant and thus affect fertility.

Alcohol effects fertility in both partners, and can do so in so many ways. For couples who desire to have a baby, it is best to stay away from drinking completely. Presently there is no safe limit of alcohol intake; even socially acceptable amounts of alcohol can affect fertility potential and outcomes. Moderate drinking (1-2 drinks in one sitting) is probably okay, especially if you reserve those drinks to a few times a week, instead of daily. However, if you’re going through IVF treatment, or trying to conceive naturally, you might consider cutting out alcohol for the time being. A woman that is trying to concieve, or trying to improve a gynaecological issues, or menstrual issues, should not be consuming more than 4 standard drinks per week. A male who is trying to conceive, or have sperm quality issues, should have no more than 2 standard drinks in one sitting and be having at least 2 alcohol free days per week. These are all part of the healthy drinking set out in health department and government safe drinking guidelines.

Trying to conceive is a special time in a couple’s life, it should be filled with love, devotion and safe health practices, which means a healthy diet and lifestyle and having a healthy mind too. It also means having healthy drinking habits as well.

Decreasing alcohol, having bete foods and looking at a healthy detoxification program is also a great idea for those trying to increase their fertility and get their reproductive systems working better. Healthy eggs and health sperm make healthy babies. Healthy reproductive systems also mean better menstrual cycles and better testicular health too.

Safe drinking everyone

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist)

– The International Baby Maker

-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate

– No Stone Left Unturned

Facts about sperm health and their lifespan

Typically, millions of sperm cells are produced in the testicles every day. During this time, many things can affect their formation and interfere with their quality and maturity.

From a tiny sperm cell it can take between 90-120 days before a sperm is fully mature. The sperm eventually develops a head and tail, so that its cells start to resemble the shape of a tadpole. The head contains all of the DNA, or genetic material, and the sperm uses the tail to help it move. A sperm doesn’t reach full motility until it actually reaches the egg, where when touching the egg it creates a reactions that causes “super motility” to give it the final power to push inside the egg. This is called the acrosome reaction.

There has been lots of debate about the actual time it takes for a sperm to mature and become fully motile, but general consensus is that it will take somewhere between 90-120 days. This is why it is important that men look after their health long prior to conception, because the sperm they ejaculate today was created around 90-120 days ago and what they did to their bodies at that time, will influence how healthy those sperm are. So if a man had a poor diet, was drinking, smoking, had heaps of stress and goodness knows what, this can all have an impact of the maturing sperm and this can result in poor sperm quality and damage to the DNA of the sperm, which will then be carried onto his offspring, should the sperm be successful in fertilising an egg. This is why the couple need to be healthy prior to conception, not just the female.

Biology 101 tells us it take a sperm and an egg to make a baby, not just an egg. Sperm quality issues make up a big part of fertility issues and they can also be a big part of miscarriage issues too. I have spoken about this many times in previous posts. Up to 85% of miscarriage issues can be related to chromosomal and DNA factors related to poor quality sperm and this is often very much overlooked.

What factors impact on sperm health?

There are always many factors that can affect the sperm formation process and interfere with sperm quality and the DNA of the sperm.

Health and lifestyle factors

  • Recreations drugs, medications or alcohol use
  • job, or occupation
  • tobacco use, or smoking in general (including recreational drugs)
  • stress
  • overheating the testicles (spas, saunas, bike riding)
  • excess weight gain and excess body fat
  • Trauma
  • Bike riding (due to heat and trauma through the seat of the bike)
  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • Excess sugars and additives
  • Preservatives and artificial colours and artificial sweeteners

Environmental causes

  • exposure to industrial chemicals
  • heavy metals
  • radiation or X-rays

Medical reasons

  • infection of the testicles
  • cancer of the testicles
  • swelling of the veins (varicoceles etc) that drain blood from the testicle
  • hormone imbalances
  • physical problems in the tubes that carry sperm through the reproductive system
  • chromosomal or genetic disorders (such as Kleinfelters syndrome)
  • certain medications
  • surgery involving the pelvis, abdomen, or reproductive organs

How long do sperm live inside the female body?

There is always a huge misperception about how long sperm can survive outside the man’s body and when they enter into the female reproductive tract. Many women are told all manner of untruths of sperm lasting for weeks at a time. The truth is that sperm cannot survive for long once they are exposed to the air outside of the body.

Precisely how long they can survive depends on the environment that they are released into and how quickly the fluid surrounding the sperm cells dries up.

Sperm lifespan inside the female body

After ejaculation, sperm may be able live inside the female body for several days, but that is dependent on many varying factors once they enter a woman’s body.  The fluid in a woman’s reproductive tract, especially the fallopian tubes, has all of the nutrients that sperm need for their survival during that time. But while the woman’s body can help sperm on their way to meet the egg, it can also hinder it their survival as well. But even so, sperm really only have about 24 hours to fertilise an egg once it is released. After 24 hours, if the egg isn’t fertilised it will die, so really, it doesn’t matter how long the sperm can survive for if the egg has already died.

Poor sperm have to contend with many things when they enter a woman’s body. A woman’s vagina is coated in acids, to protect her from infections and bacteria, but it is also lethal to sperm. This is why within minutes and hours, most of the 300-500 million sperm that set off in search of the egg will be dead. Only a few million will survive to swim through cervix.

A woman’s body can help to get the sperm going up into to the cervix though. Through climax (orgasm) contractions are created that can help pull sperm up and into the uterus. Through these contractions the cervix is dipped time and time again into a pool of waiting sperm and this then helps carry the sperm up into the second stage of their journey through the uterus and then up into the tubes.

Once inside the female reproductive tract, the sperm cells must swim through the cervix and into the uterus to reach the fallopian tubes and then on to find the female egg. It is a very long journey for sperm to make and very few survive. Many get lost inside the uterus and some are attacked by the woman’s immune system along the way. By the time the survivors make it to the fallopian tubes to have a rest, there will only be less than 20 or more left to make the final journey.

After the sperm have a rest in the tubes and actually feed off some of the nutrients in the tubes many more will die, or be lost inside the tubes and by the time the final sperm reach the egg, there will be less than 10 single sperm left. Only one may then go on to fertilise the egg and an embryo is then started to be created.

This is why all men need to have their sperm quality checked by a proper andrology lab and some men will need further testing of the DNA (DNA fragmentation analysis) and further genetic testing if the semen results are poor. This should all be done prior to trying to conceive, as 50% of fertility issues are related to men. If a man has any of these risk factors, he should try to change them at least 3-4 months before trying to conceive, since that is how long it takes for sperm to fully mature. Some men may need longer than this, depending on what is causing their sperm to be of poor quality.

I will discuss some more myths and facts around sperm and what the most important parameters are to look at with sperm, in some later posts.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

 

 

Are you Stressed? … or are you in Denial?

Most people suffer from stress at some point in their lives. There is good stress and there is bad stress and how people cope with these stresses in different for each and every individual. It is all about how you cope with it. Showing signs of stress does not mean that you are a weak person, just human like everybody else.

But, the word stress is probably not used correctly at times. Many people are actually suffering anxiety, or running on adrenalin and then say they are stressed .The word stress is such a broad term. These days the word stress probably means either you have anxiety, or you are busy being busy.

What do we now define as stress?

Stress is the description used for strain, pressure or force on a system. That system may be you. Stress can be the result of trivial annoyances like driving in heavy traffic, or a life-altering major crisis such as the death of a loved one. Stress can also be someone being busy, or someone running on adrenalin too much. Like I said before, stress could also be someone who is suffering from anxiety and then terms it as stress.

Stress can be used both to refer to the event that is causing the disturbance or the effects of that event on your body. Usually when we say we are feeling stressed we are talking about the symptoms caused by our body’s stress response.

There is no doubt that there are different forms of stress and probably the biggest issue for people these days is actually realising that their body is in distress. It is that constant low grade stress that affects so many people and causes so many issues in the body. That low grade stress is the one that eventually catches up with people and can sometimes have very detrimental effects.

The one thing we know for sure is that stress is a cause of a lot of our health issues, immune system issues, reproductive issues, gynaecological issues, mental health issues, respiratory and cardiovascular issues, sleep issues and so on.

Nobody is born stressed, or is predisposed to being stress. It is a learnt behaviour that can be unlearnt and that is why seeing someone to help with coping strategies around stress is so important. There are also supplements and medicines that can help to deal with stress more effectively too.

What are the Symptoms and effects of stress?

Some of the symptoms and health problems that can be caused or exacerbated by high levels of ongoing stress include:

  • migraine or tension-induced headaches;
  • insomnia, fitful sleeping or nightmares;
  • anxiety, anger or irritability;
  • low, irritable or unstable mood;
  • memory lapses;
  • shoulder, neck or back pain;
  • fatigue;
  • rapid heartbeat;
  • high blood pressure;
  • skin eruptions and worsening of conditions such as eczema;
  • heartburn, nausea (feeling sick), diarrhoea or constipation;
  • reduced libido;
  • shortness of breath;
  • problems with your immune system;
  • heart disease; and
  • chronic pain.

Like I mentioned before, stress can also affect the reproductive system, cardiovascular system, nervous system, immune system and so much more.

How stress affects your body

At the first sign of alarm, certain sensory nerves in your body are stimulated and hormones are released that automatically trigger physical reactions to stress. Your heart rate increases, blood is diverted to your muscles and brain, breathing rate increases, digestion slows down, saliva production stops (your mouth feels dry), perspiration increases and your pupils widen. You feel tense, you startle easily and your attention narrows to focus on possible threats.

This is the ‘fight or flight’ phenomenon, which makes your body tense, alert, and ready for action. After this reaction to a real or perceived threat, your body stays on alert until you feel the danger has passed. When the stressor is gone, the brain signals an ‘all clear’, and your body gradually returns to normal.

While some short-term stress is thought to be good for you, pushing you to make that extra effort in a sporting event or game, chronic or long-term stress can be harmful to your health. This kind of stress is when you feel under constant, intense pressure, or you just cannot see a way out of a terrible situation. The problem for some people is that they do not realise they are stressed, or they actually have anxiety, and their body is in the state of constant adrenal overload that eventually catches up with them and their whole body shuts down completely. We see this with adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue

Dealing with stress

Dealing with stress effectively can be complicated, but usually involves:

  • general measures to improve your overall wellbeing; and
  • learning coping skills and setting healthy boundaries
  • specific steps to deal with stress and particular challenging situations.
  • learning what your triggers may be
  • learning ways to deal with stress and how to be more relaxed

It is about getting coping skills to deal with the body having to deal with stress, or at point of perceived crisis.

The word that we term “Stress” commonly results when you feel your resources — for example, time, money or skills — are insufficient to deal with your responsibilities. Take check of what is causing you stress and where you examine your demands and resources can be a useful first step in dealing with stress. There is where the practice of mindfulness is very useful and also talking to a counsellor/psychologist can help you identify triggers for stress and have coping skills to deal with stress.

Problem solving techniques and coping skills may help you with problems and issues creating stress. You may also need to work on limiting your obligations, or asking for extra resources to help you cope with stress better. You may need to accept that there are times in life where you simply can’t do everything that others in your life, or you yourself are expecting.

One way to help deal with stress is to maintain a healthier mind and body. Here are some of the things you can do to deal with stress better.

Ways to Deal With Stress Better

  • Regular exercise to help with stress and tension in the body. It also helps with moods.
  • Make sure you get at least 1-4 hours “You” time per week. Treat yourself to sufficient relaxation time so that you can switch off from you daily routine. This will help to give you a refreshed and energetic outlook on life. Learn yoga, meditation or other relaxation exercises such as mindfulness. There are some great mindfulness courses available now.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you sleep and lack of sleep and stress depletes it. Lack of sleep also puts the body into distress.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. Without a balanced and health diet, your body will have inflammation and this will cause stress and disharmony in the body too.
  • Learn to accept what you cannot change but also learn to be more assertive, especially if you are one of those people who always say ‘yes’. Healthy boundaries are so important.  Assertiveness training, setting clear boundaries and learning to say no can be very helpful in avoiding overload.
  • Make sure you do something that you love at least 1-2 times per week. Spend time with people you enjoy seeing, listening to music, playing sport, reading a book, watching a funny movie, gardening etc.
  • Talk therapy and coping skills: Talk therapy with a trained professional that can help you deal with stress and help you with coping skills is very important.
  • Avoid the use of drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with stress.
  • Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help with stress and studies have shown that it is better than medication and equal to talk therapy in its effect
  • There are natural medicines that can help you deal with the affects of stress and please talk to a qualified healthcare professional how best these can help and what to use. Do not self prescribe ever.

How do I know if I need help?

Many people think that they can deal with stress on their own, but the truth is it is better to get a trained professional to help you deal with it properly. This way you commit to actively doing something too and you are also learning coping skills at the same time. You should consider seeking help if:

  • you constantly worry and have trouble concentrating;
  • you feel a lot of guilt;
  • your sleep, energy and motivation is poor;
  • you can’t be bothered doing things anymore;
  • you experience several of the physical symptoms associated with stress;
  • you recognise that you are turning to self-destructive behaviours for temporary relief;
  • everything and everybody around you is being affected by the way you feel; or
  • you feel as though there’s nowhere to turn.
  • Friends keep telling you that you look stressed, or look like you need to slow down

There are qualified professionals who can help you with dealing with stress. It is important that you do see the right person to help you and your individual situation. You can always speak to your doctor or healthcare practitioner and ask them for a referral to someone. There are also mindfulness courses and relaxation courses you can do also. Exercise it important and again, it is a good idea help from a professional to get started and keep going.

Please take the risk of burnout and running on Adrenalin tests below and see how you are fairing (see below)

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

Risk of Burnout Challenge

  1. Do you feel let down by other people around you?
  2. Are you too busy for close friends and family?
  3. Are you too busy to do even routine things like send out thank-you notes, return phone calls or mail birthday cards?
  1. Do you tire more easily than you used to?
  2. Are you working harder but accomplishing less?
  3. Are you increasingly cynical and disenchanted?
  4. Are you often invaded by a sadness that you can’t explain?
  5. Do you forget appointments, deadlines, possessions?
  6. Are you increasingly irritable? More short tempered?
  7. Does you body ache or are you having trouble shaking a cold?
  8. Are you finding it harder to be happy and joyful?
  9. Have you lost your sense of humour?
  10. Have you lost interest in sex or have a low libido?
  11. Are you less talkative than you used to be?
  12. Do you think of work all the time, even at rest?
  13. Do you find it hard to say ‘no’ to people or things that require your own personal time?
  14. Do you take time-out for others but do not take time-out for yourself?

Your score

To find your total , add up your “yes” answers.

(0 – 5) >> Cruising along nicely

(5 – 10) >>  Borderline burnout

(10 – 17) >> Burnout candidate

 

Running on Adrenalin Challenge

  1. I feel there isn’t enough time in the day to do all the things need to do.
  2. I speak more quickly than other people, even finishing their sentences for them.
  3. My relatives and friends say I eat too quickly.
  4. I would rather win than enjoy a game.
  5. I am very competitive at work, sports or games.
  6. I tend to be bossy and dominate others.
  7. I prefer to lead than follow.
  8. I feel pressed for time even when I’m not doing something important.
  9. I become more impatient when I have to wait for something or when I’m interrupted.
  10. I tend to make decisions quickly and compulsively.
  11. I take on more than I can accomplish.
  12. I become irritable and even angry, more than other people.
  13. I feel a strong compulsion to be doing something while at home or even on holidays.
  14. I fidget often and become restless, pacing, leg kicking, or fast gum chewing.
  15. I get a vague sense of depression whenever I stop an activity.
  16. I have forgotten how to, or don’t know, how to relax.

 

Score description

0 – This does not apply to me

1 – This statement applies to me less than once per month

2 – This statement applies to me on a regular basis

 

Total score

Out of a possible score of 32 you would have fallen into one of the 4 following categories…

(0 – 10) >> Relaxed

(10 – 15) >> Typical

(15 – 20) >> On the edge

(20 +) >> Adrenalin Junkie!