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

 

No Bad Carbs + Increased Protein = Increased Fertility & Increased Pregnancy rates

I know I talk about it all the time, but a good diet, and I mean a good diet (not half hearted, I am trying to do it diet), can actually increase your fertility and pregnancy rates

Every day I get people ask me “What can I do to increase my fertility and my chances of pregnancy?”

Well, I always say “How long is a piece of string?”, but while there are many things that people can do to increase their fertility, one being start of my fertility program, the other important one is starting with a good diet. That is one thing “You” are solely responsible for and something “You” can do for yourself. This is for the couple too. Not just the woman.

Healthy couples produce healthy babies. That means health men produce healthy sperm and healthy women produce healthy eggs and the combination creates healthy embryos that go on to become healthy babies. It really is a fact. Even for same sex couples, a partner should be supporting their other half in the journey and at the end of the day a healthy diet is going to help everyone live longer to enjoy their children later on, and hopefully grandchildren too.

Obviously there is a lot more to it, and why in my fertility program I cover “everything” for the couple,  but this is one way to ensure your body is ready to have a baby. This is also part of my PACE (Primal, Ancestral, Clean Eating) diet that I have formulated.

Recent studies have shown that when the bad carbohydrates are removed and the protein increased, that the clinic pregnancy rates shot up by 80%. Yes… a massive 80%

The other thing that is important is that eating this way also improved the embryo quality. Blastocyst development was higher in the high-protein group than in the low-protein group (64% vs 33.8%), as were clinical pregnancy rates (66.6% vs 31.9%) and live birth rates (58.3% vs 11.3%).

Reducing carbohydrates and boosting protein intake can significantly improve a woman’s and couples chance of conception and birth according to the research presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) several years ago.

The effect is “at the egg level,” said lead investigator. He presented the findings here at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 61st Annual Clinical Meeting.

Carbohydrate-loaded diets create a hostile egg and embryo environment even before conception or implantation, he explained.

“Eggs and embryos are not going to do well in a high-glucose environment.” By lowering carbs and increasing protein, “you’re bathing your egg in good, healthy, nutritious supplements,” he said.

These studies demonstrate how little many in the reproductive medicine and fertility profession know about the effect of micronutrients in our diets on various aspects of reproduction.

These studies demonstrate a field wide open for future research and shows how bad carbohydrates (refined grains, refined sugars etc) have an inflammatory effect that affects fertility and pregnancy outcomes and also detrimental to IVF outcomes.

This is why I always promote a grain free, primal based diet (PACE Diet) to all of my patients, especially my fertility and gynaecology patients. It is an essential part of my overall success rate and why I have been able to help over 12,500 babies into the world and help many with gynaecological issues as well.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

Vitamin D Increases Fertility & Assisted Reproduction Success Rates.

New research has concluded that there is a relationship between a woman’s vitamin D status and the success rates of assisted reproduction therapy(ART), which includes IUI, IVF and ISCI. While this is research is nothing new, and something I have been promoting for years, finally it is now official. Women trying to conceive should be taking vitamin D supplements, eating vitamin D rich foods, and getting a healthy dose of the sun daily.

Infertility, or what we call subfertility, is becoming an increasing problem and affects millions of people worldwide. More and more people have to turn to assisted reproduction therapy (ART) which now means more and more people are having to use IUI, IVF and ICSI.

The problem is that even with assisted reproduction therapy (ART), at best the success rates are only around 25- 30% on average, and that depends on the clinics individual success rates. Some clinics are also inflating and bodgying success rates to bring in unsuspecting customers.

While there has been much advancements in assisted reproduction (ART) such as IVF and improvements in success rates, the success rates have also started to stagnate. This is why couples need to look at all options to help increase those success rates and this is why I have set up a fertility program that can boost those success rates by as much as 96.1% *. This is why what I do has helped over 12,500 babies into the world and why couples need to look at a multimodality approach to increasing their chances of conception.  I often explain to couples that it is like preparing for a marathon; because that is what doing ART can be like. You need to prepare the body (both the man and woman), get the right diet, get the right nutrients, prepare mentally, prepare physically and basically get the bodies into the best shape possible to give the best success. Nobody should ever run a marathon without adequate preparation and the same goes for assisted reproduction.

Vitamin D and reproduction

Researchers across the board know that there is room for improvement in ART success rates. A range of potential factors are being explored, and some scientists have turned their attention to the potential role of vitamin D. While vitamin D is something that needs to be explored, and something that I give to my patients, it needs to be combined with other things mentioned above. It isn’t just as simple as taking Vitamin D and all your fertility problems are gone. But, it is one of the things that can help increase your overall success rates and should be used.

Most of our vitamin D supply is generated in our skin after exposure to sunlight. We do get some from our diets as well. This means that individuals who live in colder or darker environments are more susceptible to lower vitamin D levels, or those who regularly wear clothes covering the majority of their skin, and those who rarely go outside. The problem these days, many of us have jobs that require us to be inside most of the time and therefore were aren’t getting enough sunlight. The current figures actually show that up to 97% of Australians, and most probably other countries like the US are the same, are actually vitamin D deficient. The other issue is that even though some of us do get out in the sun, it actually needs to be at a certain time of the day, for optimal absorption. The optimal times are 10am and 2pm in the afternoon. The thing is, most of us aren’t getting out in the sun at these times.

A link between vitamin D and fertility has been theorized for many years and based on a number of observations and studies.  This is one of the reasons I have been promoting the use of Vitamin D for more than 20 years now, for those who are on my fertility program. For instance, vitamin D receptors and enzymes have been found in the endometrium. This is why Vitamin D is also good for women with gynaecological issues such as endometriosis, or adenomyosis. It is good for any gynaecological issue really. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, and lower birth weight. Vitamin D is also essential for a health immune system and reducing inflammation in the body too.  It also helps with bone health.

We have also seen that in animal studies, vitamin D deficiency causes poorer fertility and reduced function of the reproductive organs. Many of our breakthroughs in medical science, actually come from animal studies first, especially when it comes to ART and IVF. Many cows and other animals are now impregnated using ART and advancements in this area have helped with human studies.

Vitamin D deficiency and lower success rates

Getting back to the feature studies, Vitamin D was shown to help women undergoing IVF, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), frozen embryo transfer, or both.

All the participants’ vitamin D levels were checked by blood test. What people need to know is that many of the reference ranges still used  are actually under review and that if levels of vitamin D in the blood are under 100 Nmols\L, then you need to be supplementing. Anything under 75 Nmols/L is actually deficiency in vitamin D.

This analysis of the current research showed that when women, who underwent ART and had adequate vitamin D levels, were “one third’ more like to have a successful live birth compared to those who were deficient. When compared with women who had insufficient vitamin D concentrations, those with sufficient amounts were “46 percent more likely” to have a clinical pregnancy, and “34 percent more likely” to have a positive pregnancy test result.

Vitamin D is something that I promote and all of my fertility patients are on, as well as other beneficial supplements, diet, emotional support, medicines etc. Before you run off trying to buy vitamin D just remember it is just one thing that can help, and it isn’t a miracle cure, but, it can help. Lastly, before using any supplementations, please consult with a qualified healthcare professional and please don’t self-prescribe, or buy products of the internet. Make sure you buy practitioner dispensed supplements only, which are known to be of the highest quality and not filled with all sorts of things such as heavy metal, low levels of arsenic, toxic fillers etc, which is what some supplements off the internet can have.

 

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-The International Baby Maker

-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

Could your health issues be coming from your Thyroid?

E5PRGR Doctor examining the thyroid gland of a patient.

Thyroid issues are common, especially in women and especially if there is a family history of thyroid disorders in your family. When your thyroid goes out of balance, it can cause all sorts of symptoms and issues in your body. You need to know what to look for.

When Your Thyroid Goes Awry

Does fatigue drag you down day after day?

Do you have brain fog, weight gain, chills, or hair loss?

Or is the opposite true for you: Are you often revved up, sweaty, or anxious?

Your thyroid gland could be to blame. This great regulator of body and mind sometimes goes haywire, particularly in women. Pregnancy and postpartum is when it can also go haywire too. Getting the right treatment is critical to feel your best and avoid serious health problems.

What Is the Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control the speed of your metabolism — the system that helps the body use energy. Thyroid disorders can slow down or rev up metabolism by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones. When hormone levels become too low or too high, you may experience a wide range of symptoms.

Symptom: Weight Gain or Loss

An unexplained change in weight is one of the most common signs of a thyroid disorder. Weight gain may signal low levels of thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism. In contrast, if the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs, you may lose weight unexpectedly. This is known as hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is far more common.

Symptom: Swelling in the Neck

A swelling or enlargement in the neck is a visible clue that something may be wrong with the thyroid. A goiter may occur with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Sometimes swelling in the neck can result from thyroid cancer or nodules, lumps that grow inside the thyroid. It can also be due to a cause unrelated to the thyroid.

Symptom: Changes in Heart Rate

Thyroid hormones affect nearly every organ in the body and can influence how quickly the heart beats. People with hypothyroidism may notice their heart rate is slower than usual. Hyperthyroidism may cause the heart to speed up. It can also trigger increased blood pressure and the sensation of a pounding heart, or other types of heart palpitations.

Symptom: Changes in Energy or Mood

Thyroid disorders can have a noticeable impact on your energy level and mood. Hypothyroidism tends to make people feel tired, sluggish, and depressed. Hyperthyroidism can cause anxiety, problems sleeping, restlessness, and irritability.

Symptom: Hair Loss

Hair loss is another sign that thyroid hormones may be out of balance. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair to fall out. In most cases, the hair will grow back once the thyroid disorder is treated.

Symptom: Feeling Too Cold or Hot

Thyroid disorders can disrupt the ability to regulate body temperature. People with hypothyroidism may feel cold more often than usual. Hyperthyroidism tends to have the opposite effect, causing excessive sweating and an aversion to heat.

Other Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can cause many other symptoms, including:

  • Dry skin and brittle nails
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands
  • Constipation
  • Abnormal menstrual periods

Other Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can also cause additional symptoms, such as:

  • Muscle weakness or trembling hands
  • Vision problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular menstrual periods

Thyroid Disorder or Menopause?

Because thyroid disorders can cause changes in menstrual cycle and mood, the symptoms are sometimes mistaken for menopause. If a thyroid problem is suspected, a simple blood test can determine whether the true culprit is menopause or a thyroid disorder — or a combination of the two.

Who Should Be Tested?

If you think you have symptoms of a thyroid problem, ask your doctor if you should be tested. People with symptoms or risk factors may need tests more often. Hypothyroidism more frequently affects women over age 60. Hyperthyroidism is also more common in women. A family history raises your risk of either disorder.

Thyroid Neck Check

A careful look in the mirror may help you spot an enlarged thyroid that needs a doctor’s attention. Tip your head back, take a drink of water, and as you swallow, examine your neck below the Adam’s apple and above the collarbone. Look for bulges or protrusions, then repeat the process a few times. See a doctor promptly if you see a bulge or lump.

Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders

If your doctor suspects a thyroid disorder, a blood test can help provide an answer. This test measures the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a kind of master hormone that regulates the work of the thyroid gland. If TSH is high, it typically means that your thyroid function is too low (hypothyroid). If TSH is low, then it generally means the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroid.) But just measuring TSH levels is not enough. People with thyroid disorders can have normal TSH levels and the other thyroid hormone levels and this is why thyroid antibody testing is probably the most important testing to be done. High thyroid antibodies mean you have a thyroid condition and your thyroid gland is under attack. Hopefully doctor will want to check all the other thyroid hormones in your blood. If he/she doesn’t, make sure they do. They should always check TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies. In some cases, imaging studies are used and biopsies are taken to evaluate a thyroid abnormality.

Hashimoto’s Disease

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the thyroid gland. The result is damage to the thyroid, preventing it from producing enough hormones. Hashimoto’s disease tends to run in families. This is why thyroid antibodies needs to be checked because people with Hashimotos disease can actually have normal TSH levels and normal Free T3, Free T4 and reverse T3 levels.

Other Causes of Hypothyroidism

In some cases, hypothyroidism results from a problem with the pituitary gland, which is at the base of the brain. This gland produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid to do its job. If your pituitary gland does not produce enough TSH, levels of thyroid hormones will fall. Other causes of hypothyroidism include temporary inflammation of the thyroid or medications that affect thyroid function.

Graves’ Disease

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland and triggers the release of high levels of thyroid hormones. One of the hallmarks of Graves’ disease is a visible and uncomfortable swelling behind the eyes. Again this is why testing thyroid antibodies is so important.

Other Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can also result from thyroid nodules. These are lumps that develop inside the thyroid and sometimes begin producing thyroid hormones. Large lumps may create a noticeable goiter. Smaller lumps can be detected with ultrasound. A thyroid uptake and scan can tell if the lump is producing too much thyroid hormone.

Thyroid Disorder Complications

When left untreated, hypothyroidism can raise cholesterol levels and make you more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. In severe cases, very low levels of thyroid hormones can trigger a loss of consciousness and life-threatening drop in body temperature. Untreated hyperthyroidism can cause serious heart problems and brittle bones.

Treating Hypothyroidism

If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your doctor will most likely prescribe thyroid hormones in the form of a pill. This usually leads to noticeable improvements within a couple of weeks. Long-term treatment can result in more energy, lower cholesterol levels, and gradual weight loss. Most people with hypothyroidism will need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.

Treating Hyperthyroidism

The most common treatment for hyperthyroidism is antithyroid medication, which aims to lower the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid. The condition may eventually go away, but many people need to remain on medication for the long term. Other drugs may be given to reduce symptoms such as rapid pulse and tremors. Another option is radioactive iodine, which destroys the thyroid gland over the course of 6 to 18 weeks. Once the gland is destroyed, or removed by surgery, most patients must begin taking thyroid hormones in pill form.

Surgery for Thyroid Disorders

Removing the thyroid gland can cure hyperthyroidism, but the procedure is only recommended if antithyroid drugs don’t work, or if there is a large goiter. Surgery may also be recommended for patients with thyroid nodules. Once the thyroid is removed, most patients require daily supplements of thyroid hormones to avoid developing hypothyroidism.

What About Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is uncommon and is among the least deadly. The good thing with thyroid cancer is that it is encapsulated, so it won’t spread. Once the thyroid gland is removed, the cancer is removed also. The main symptom is a lump or swelling in the neck, and only about 5% of thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous. When thyroid cancer is diagnosed, it is most often treated with surgery followed by radioactive iodine therapy or, in some cases, external radiation therapy

Complementary Medicine For Thyroid Issues

There are many complementary medicines that can assist thyroid issues and Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine has successfully treated thyroid disorders for centuries.

There are also supplements and other herbal medicine to assist thyroid function, or balancing the thyroid hormones. Diet and lifestyle changes are also very important for thyroid health, as is working on the gut to reduce inflammation in the body and assist the immune system as well. There are also compounded natural thyroid medications we can discuss with you also

At my clinic,  I can help with all hormone issues and can help you with thyroid testing, blood tests etc and thyroid management.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-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

 

 

 

The Different Colours of Semen and What These May Mean

Many men often believe they have healthy sperm and healthy semen just because they were born male. The fact is that these days men’s sperm is now not as good as men’s sperm was 50 years ago. Much of this is now blamed on environmental estrogens and also dietary and lifestyle factors. Let’s face it, many guys are big alcohol drinkers, they eat poorly and some of the population are also indulging in recreational drugs regularly too.

To put it honestly, many of the male populations sperm are drunk, stoned and have so many defects from the lifestyle their owner has been living. The fluid they swim in, the seminal fluid, is often contaminated and not that much better.

While many men may want to believe they could impregnate every woman in their sight, or at the local bar, many men are flat out getting the woman they are with pregnant.

As I have often said, many often look at the female as being the major factor in the reproductive and fertility journey, yet to be honest; men are more than 50% of the issues faced with fertility and up to 85% of miscarriage issues are related to chromosomal and DNA factors related to sperm. These chromosomal and DNA factors cannot be seen in a routine semen analysis either and does require specialised genetic testing.

Men’s overall health is reflected in his sperm and semen and this health is now known to be passed onto his offspring. Yes, what men eat, drink, smoke, think etc, is passed onto his offspring. That is why we say the healthier the man is, the healthier his sperm is. Healthy men produce healthy babies.

The colour of semen

Much can be seen in the quality of men’s sperm and much can also be seen by the colour of the seminal fluid that sperm are carried in.  While semen is typically a whitish-gray colour, there are some instances when semen may appear as a different colour, which is commonly yellow. Sometimes producing unusual coloured semen is a once-only occurrence. Other times, a man may notice a more consistent change in the colour of his semen. Although this occurrence is not always a cause for concern, there are some instances when semen colour change can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition, or that a man’s health and lifestyle may be affecting his seminal fluid and his sperm.

 

Fast facts about semen and colour changes

Semen is a gel-like liquid that males emit during ejaculation or sexual release. Semen contains sperm, which can fertilize a female egg. Several glands and male reproductive organs are responsible for producing semen and transporting it for ejaculation. Dysfunction of one or more of these areas could lead to semen colour changes. Treatments for unusual coloured semen will depend upon the underlying cause.

Semen as a substance is a combination of secretions from the male reproductive glands as well as sperm. Changes and disruption to these areas are what cause colour changes.

Colour changes to semen and what is could mean:

Yellow Semen

One of the main colour changes seen in sperm is that is changes to the colour yellow.
The urethra is the tube that urine and semen pass through, so urine may mix with semen to change the colour. Although semen is usually a whitish-gray color, some men may have sperm that can change to a yellow colour. However, if yellow semen represents a significant colour change for a man, this could be cause for concern.

While semen that is light yellow is not usually a cause for concern, there are instances when a man should see a doctor for yellow semen, especially when the semen is a dark yellow.

If a man has other symptoms, such as yellowing skin, fever and high temp, the semen that has a terrible smell, or he experiences pain when ejaculating, he should see his doctor.

Some potential causes associated with yellow semen include:

  • Jaundice: This results when the liver a dsyfunction of the liver, or when the liver is in overload. Jaundice can causes yellowing of the eyes and yellowing of the skin and the semen can appear yellow too.
  • Abnormally high white blood cells: Inflammation can produce excess white blood cells. When there is infection, or inflammation, additional white blood cells can cause semen to appear yellow.
  • STIs: A sexually transmitted infection may also cause yellow semen. It may also cause other symptoms and cause the semen to have a terrible smell too.
  • Dietary changes: Eating certain refined foods can cause yellow semen. The smell of ejaculate may also change if a man eats strong-smelling foods, or have too much alcohol, or recreational drugs.
  • Infrequent ejaculation: If a man has not ejaculated in some time; the semen is more likely to have mixed with urine. The quality of semen and sperm is affected by infrequent ejaculation too. Storing it up makes it worse, not better and this is why regular ejaculation is important for sperm quality.

Other semen colour changes and what they may mean

Semen can be other colours too. Some other potential colour changes a man may notice include:

  • Brown or red: Sometimes blood vessel may burst around the seminal vesicles. The release of blood can cause semen to take on a brown or red appearance. If the semen continues to be red after 1 to 2 days, a man should seek medical treatment.
  • Green-tinted: Green-tinted semen can indicate a potential infection of the prostate or surrounding tissues. A man who has green semen may need to see his doctor.

What do if your semen colour changes

It is not completely abnormal for a man to produce semen that varies in colour, texture, and even smell. This can be caused by a man’s diet, lifestyle, amount of alcohol he drinks, drugs consumed, medications he is taking, and the amount of time since he last ejaculated. Stress can also affect his sperm and semen.

If a man notices something out of the ordinary, or his semen remains discoloured for an extended period, he should contact his doctor who can diagnose the potential cause and provide peace of mind. Sometimes medications and antibiotics may be needed. In severe cases surgical intervention and hospitalisation may be needed too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-‘Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader’

-‘No Stone Left Unturned’

 

 

 

 

 

Could you need an Iron Infusion?

Iron infusion: Uses, benefits, and what to expect

As a reproductive medicine and women’s health specialist I am used to seeing women with really low iron, due to various gynaecological conditions.

Many women do not even know they are low in iron until they get bloods tests to show that they are. Being low in iron can be very dangerous for a woman on so many levels.

Many women who are suffering from fatigue are actually low in iron.

Symptoms of low iron can include

Fatigue

Dizziness

Fainting, or feeling of feeling faint

Pale skin

Breathless

Frequent headaches

Palpitations, or racing heart

Easily irritated

Difficulty in concentrating

Cracked, or reddened tongue

Loss of appetite

Strange food cravings

Risk Factors For Low Iron

Heavy menstrual bleeds

Endometriosis

Adenomyosis

Fibroids

Coeliac disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women

Certain Cancers

Vegetarians and Vegans

Girls going through puberty

Certain illnesses

Sometimes when Iron gets too low, supplements just will not be enough to get iron levels up to where they should be quick enough. This is where iron infusions can be very effective.

So what is an Iron Infusion?

An Iron infusion is when iron is delivered via an intravenous line into a person’s body.

Increasing the amount of iron a person has in their blood can cure anaemia, or increase a low red blood cell count.

The body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an important part of red blood cells and helps carry oxygen around the body.

If a person does not have enough hemoglobin, they can feel tired, or have symptoms mentioned previously. An iron infusion may be used for someone with an iron deficiency when supplements do not work.

As discussed before, there are a variety of medical reasons can cause low iron levels, so your doctor, or healthcare specialist will order iron studies and other tests to see what may be causing someone to be deficient in iron.

An iron infusion may be given if a person’s blood counts are so low that taking iron supplements or increasing their daily intake of iron-containing foods would be ineffective or too slow in increasing their iron levels.

What to expect

A person will go to a doctor’s office, hospital, or another healthcare facility to have an iron infusion. This is done intravenously and the infusion will take between 15-30 minutes if it is given in amounts of 200-300 milligrams (mg). In days gone by iron infusions would take hours to do and would have to be done in a hospital setting.

The new rapid iron infusions allow iron into the body much quicker and have little to no side effects compared to the older solutions that took hours to administer and were not as good as the new versions used now.

What happens after an iron infusion?

An individual can experience some mild side effects after an iron infusion. The symptoms are usually mild side effects such as headaches, metallic taste in the mouth, or some mild joint pain. Some people can feel faint and nauseas after an infusion but this is usually people who do not tolerate having blood taken, or having needles given. Reactions to infusion are rare, but your healthcare provider will explain all this too you. There are some people who may be allergic to iron, just like people can be allergic to certain foods.

Most people will only need one infusion done, but sometimes people with very low iron may need multiple infusions done. This will be after careful monitoring and testing to see where your iron levels are.

Usually iron levels will return to normal and symptoms of iron deficiency will decrease several weeks after the infusion. A doctor will regularly check the person’s iron levels and blood counts to ensure the iron infusion is working.

Iron infusion vs. injection

Doctors can administer iron to someone via an injection or an infusion.

Iron injections are given intramuscularly, but while iron injections may be faster than iron infusions to administer, they can have some unpleasant side effects. Some of the side effects can be pain at the site of the injection, bleeding into the muscle, and permanent discoloration at the injection site. This is why more doctors are now recommending iron infusions over the injections

Before and after the Infusion

Most people do not need to fast or stop taking their medications beforehand, and can also resume their everyday activities after an iron infusion.

If a person is taking regular iron supplements, however, a doctor will usually tell them to stop taking these about a week before the procedure. This is because the supplements may prevent the body from absorbing the iron from the infusion efficiently.

A person will need to resume iron supplements at some stage after the receiving iron infusions, t ensure levels stay where they should be. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to do this.

People who have a genetic issue called haemochromatosis should not ever have an iron infusion.

Iron infusions are now being used more and more, when iron levels are low and people are not responding to supplementation and adjustments to their diet. I recommend them to many of my patient who have low iron due to many varying reasons. Like I said said before, many of my gynaecology patients, fertility patients and pregnancy patients have very low iron levels and will actually need an infusion to get their levels up quickly.

If you are feeling tired, lethargic and may be at risk of low iron, have a talk to your healthcare provider about finding out if you are low in iron and also discuss having an iron infusion if your levels are really low. Your healthcare practitioner may not know about the new iron infusions and that they are now a great option to use and have very little side effects compared to the older methods and solutions. Some GP clinics now specialise in administering iron infusions too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

The Toxic Consequences of Sugar on Mental Health

When sugar cravings set in, the last thing we might think of is how this may affects our long-term mental health. There is now so much research to suggest that we should.

After a stressful day and when our moods can sometimes be low, it is all to easy to reach for sugary treats. But sugar can also be in the form of savoury things too. We need to remember that savoury things convert to sugar and may have hidden sugars as well. There is so much evidence to show the link between sugar and chromic inflammation and now the evidence around it affecting mental health and mood disorders is increasing.

Last week, I shared some new research in post about the greater risk of depression in men and women who consumed significant amounts of sugar in their diet. A few people commented that feeling depressed may lead to increased sugar consumption, rather than the other way around. However, what was really interesting about this study was that the researchers, from University College London Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health in the United Kingdom, used a mathematical model to exclude exactly that. This is known as reverse causation.

Using data from a large group of civil servants in the U.K. – they showed that sugar consumption came before depression, rather than being a consequence of it.

Diet and mental health are linked

When people ask me for help with mood disorders, I always tell them that a multimodality approach is needed, which encompasses changes to diet and lifestyle. It isn’t just about taking a pill. To be honest, there are no magic pills for mood disorders so people need to stop looking for them. True help come from changes to diet, changes to lifestyle, talk therapy, medicines and treatments that have been shown to help mood disorders.

In 2002, a study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas showed that the overall sugar consumption per person in six different countries (Canada, France, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, and the United States) implicated sugar as a factor in higher rates of major depression.

There have been many other research teams that have investigated the effect of diet on mental health. For example, consumption of processed food, take-away foods and fast food – including hamburgers, pizza, and fried foods – was found to be higher in both children, teenagers and adults with increased rates of depression.

A study of Chinese adults, who traditionally drink unsweetened tea , also showed that those who drank soft drinks and other sweetened drinks had higher rates of depression.

The science of sugar

Sugars are simple carbohydrate molecules. While being essential for cell and organ functioning, our bodies have sophisticated machinery to break complex carbohydrate molecules into simple sugars. Sugars therefore do not need to be added to the diet and our bodies do not need added sugar to function properly. Refined carbohydrates (bread, cereals, pastas, sweet drinks etc) all convert to sugar very quickly. This makes the blood sugars spike and causes the body to store fats and also stop the burning of fats. It also causes inflammation in the body, which is the cause of many disease states and health issues that we all face.

What is really important understand is that our bodies do not differentiate between sugars from different sources. Whether it comes from white sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, concentrated grape extract, fruit, or milk, our bodies use the sugar in exactly the same way. Sugar is sugar, not matter what sources it comes from. We can try and sugar coat it (pardon the pun) and dress it up to look healthy, but at the end of the day, it is not healthy for us and is causing major issues with our health, both physically and mentally.

The daily recommended intake of sugar is roughly about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men. Even that is probably way too much. To put that into context, a can of Coca-Cola contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, while a small banana contains about 3 teaspoons. When people add up what they have in a day, they might be very surprised. Add in some bread, some pasta, some dried fruits, some juice, some sugar in your tea and coffee and it all starts to add up exponentially. We really do consume a lot of sugar.

Sugar affects on the nerves and brain

Neurons are very sensitive cells and are not well prepared for sugar level spikes. In fact, individuals with diabetes are at risk of neuron and nerve damage, and scientists now understand how high blood sugar causes this.

Researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, performed studies on diabetic rats and showed that high blood glucose led to chronic inflammation and neuronal damage and death in the brain. Importantly, there is a strong link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, further supporting the claim that sugar toxicity has a role in brain health.

How to cut down your sugar intake

Cutting sugar from our diet may be easier said than done and these we are bombarded with advertisements for convenience foods and tasty treats. But even seemingly healthful foods can have high levels of hidden sugars. This is where many people get caught out. Food such as breakfast cereals, sauces (including ketchup and pasta sauce), dried fruits, gluten free products, flavoured milks, wholemeal bread, and many products labelled as low fat, such as fruit yogurts, low fat milk etc.

The other food that often get overlooked are fruit juices and so called healthy smoothies. A study published in the British Medical Journal last year showed that over 40% of the smoothies and fruit juices for children contained at least 19 grams of sugar. That is a lot of sugar for an to ingest, let alone a child. High levels of sugars are also in many toddler and baby foods too.

The best way to keep tabs on sugar consumption is to become familiar with nutritional labels. While some products may claim that they have no added sugars, the nutrition facts panel will show the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in the product. It is really important to read these panels because some of what you are ingesting may shock you. Just beware of clever marketing and advertising.

It is so important that we all start to look at foods and start to choose foods that are low in refined ingredients, such as sugar and other additive, but high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients that can relieve the symptoms of depression. Scientists are now seeing that these foods are promoting good brain health, which is great to see.

The next time stress and low mood threatens to spoil your day, remember that good foods can help you and remember where that sugar can actually make your moods worse.

Let’s not forget that trying to withdraw off sugar can be harder than coming off some hard core drugs. Sugar is highly addictive and does have drug like effects on the body. Don’t believe me?

Try it sometime and see hard it is.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

The International Baby Maker

Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

Coffee intake can make you live longer

Coffee is usually the first thing to go when people go on a health kick, as many think that coffee is bad for you. Quite the contrary and recent research has actually shown that coffee has many health benefits and can prevent and reduce many cancers and disease states. It is always amusing to see people ditch the coffee and still keep the alcohol, which can be very bad for ones health. After all coffee actually does have a substantial amount of vitamins, nutrients, amino acids and bioactive compounds.

It has to be good bean coffee, not the instant variety, which is full of colours and additives

In new research from two very large studies coffee intake has been shown to significantly lower risk for certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, strokes and some digestive cancers that affect people world wide.The benefit was found in diverse European populations, as well as across different racial/ethnic groups, researchers report in articles published online in Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the study of over 451,000, from ten different countries world wide, men and women who drank coffee lived up to 12% longer than non-coffee drinkers. The study also showed that there was a significant reduction in death (59%) from digestive disease, circulatory disease and cerebrovascular disease.

The study showed that those who drank good coffee ( bean coffee, not instant) lower risk for all-cause death and death from heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Obviously coffee intake does need to be in moderation (1-3 cups per day), especially those with adrenal issues and it needs to be incorporated into a healthy diet along with lifestyle changes. You can’t have a bad diet and lifestyle and expect to drink coffee to make you live longer.

So before you ditch the coffee in favour of other vices like alcohol on your next health kick, maybe you might need to rethink your choices. It is time for a coffee yet?

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist

Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader

-“The International Baby Maker”

-“No Stone Left Unturned”