Women’s Health

Toronto Naturopathic Clinic

Many women experience chronic conditions that are unique to women only. A holistic approach to treatment targets the root cause of women’s health issues in order to resolve symptoms and prevent future recurrence. Since women’s hormones affect many aspects of health including mental/emotional health and reproductive health, the effects of balancing these hormones can help a woman live a happier and fuller life.

Women’s conditions we commonly provide treatment for include:

  • Prenatal Care
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Chronic yeast infections
  • Endometriosis
  • Heavy periods
  • Hot flashes and other difficult menopausal changes
  • Infertility
  • Irregular periods
  • Menstrual cramps

Prenatal Care

Dr. Guthrie can guide you through a healthy pre-conception stage where you prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. During this planning stage, it’s is important to adopt a healthy lifestyle, correct nutritional deficiencies and promote healthy stress management strategies to prepare your body for conception and to support a healthy baby.

Once you’re pregnant, Dr. Guthrie can be part of your prenatal healthcare team ensuring you’re well supported through a healthy pregnancy. Naturopathic medicine can also safely and effectively treat many pregnancy concerns such as: nausea, backache, leg cramps, infections, constipation, heartburn, gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to the exacerbation of any number of symptoms in the one to two weeks before your period starts.

Typical symptoms include: decreased energy level, irritability, depression, food cravings, headache, breast pain, backache, abdominal bloating, joint pain and swelling of the fingers and ankles.

Although there is a wide spectrum of symptoms, most symptoms are related to changes in neurotransmitter levels and changes in estrogen & progesterone levels. Low thyroid function can also worsen PMS.

Research shows that women who feel stressed and dissatisfied with life have more concerns about PMS, insomnia and lack of energy than women who don’t feel stressed. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” blamed for many of the negative effects of stress in the body. High cortisol levels disrupt the female hormones that control the menstrual cycle and also predispose women to feelings of anxiety and depression. Therefore, good stress management and coping strategies are an important part of PMS treatment.

There are no specific tests for PMS, therefore the diagnosis is made based on a thorough review of your symptoms. Medical questionnaires can also be helpful in diagnosing PMS and monitoring treatment and progress. To begin an assessment, please click here for a PMS questionnaire. Please bring this completed questionnaire to your initial consultation to help us get started with your treatment.

The Naturopathic medical approach to treating PMS is holistic, looking at the many aspects of well-being that affect the menstrual cycle. Depending on your unique symptoms, the best treatment approach is selected, which may include nutritional & herbal treatments, acupuncture, stress management techniques and guidance in a healthy lifestyle for hormone balance.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) can occur in both men and women, although are most common in women. There are 3 types of UTI: Cystitis (infection in the bladder), Urethritis (infection in the urethra) and Pyelonephritis (infection in the kidney). If a bladder infection is not treated, it can progress to infect the kidneys (pyelonephritis), which can cause permanent kidney damage.

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Frequent desire to urinate, often urgently and immediately
  • Urine that looks dark, bloody, cloudy
  • Pressure or pain in the lower pelvis
  • Fever

***If you have high fever or pain, especially in the lower back, or are unable to urinate, seek emergency medical attention.

Most UTI’s are associated with E.coli bacteria, Staph saprophyticus or other sexually transmitted bacteria. These bacteria are often able to mutate and become resistance to antibiotics. Unfortunately, the balance of “good bacteria” (probiotics) in the body is easily disrupted, making us more susceptible to bladder infections. Several factors disrupt the balance of “good bacteria” including: antibiotic medications, spermicides and postmenopausal estrogen deficiency. While antibiotic medications may be necessary to use in some cases of infection, in addition to killing the “bad” bacteria they also wipe out all the “good” bacteria. This leaves the body far more vulnerable to future UTI’s and yeast infections.

Many people become frustrated by the cycle of taking antibiotics and shortly afterwards getting yet another UTI. Often, antibiotics are initially effective at eradicating the infection, but don’t help prevent future infection and therefore recurrence is very common. Just as one course of antibiotics finishes, another infection takes hold. And in some cases of recurrent UTI’s, antibiotics are no longer effective at all due to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

  • High stress levels
  • Yeast infections increase vulnerability to bacterial infections
  • Using a diaphragm
  • New sexual partner(s) or increased sexual activity
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes or high sugar intake
  • Imbalance of protective bacteria (probiotics)

Conventional treatment is to kill the infection using antibiotic medications. If you get repeat infections, your medical doctor may prescribe ongoing antibiotics to keep the infection at bay.

Naturopathic treatment focuses on clearing the infection, but also restoring health and balance to the urinary tract in order to help prevent recurrent infections. While antibiotics may sometimes be necessary, we also use herbal medicines, nutrition, acupuncture, lifestyle strategies and stress management techniques in treating UTI’s. Replenishing with good quality, recognized strains of probiotics is an important part of treatment and in preventing future infection.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex disorder of the nervous system and hormones that affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age.

  • Infertility
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Overweight
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Acne
  • Male-pattern body hair growth (on face or chest)
  • Male-pattern hair thinning on the head
  • Ovarian cysts found on ultrasound tests

Diagnosis can be complex because despite the above list of characteristic symptoms, all women are different and some women may not have all of the expected symptoms of PCOS or the expected test results. Diagnosis is based on a detailed review of your symptoms and may also include a pelvic ultrasound. Blood tests may also be done to make sure there aren’t any problems with your adrenal glands, hypothalamus and thyroid gland.

The causes of PCOS are multifactorial, meaning that there’s not one simple cause. A variety of causes can play a role, including: a defect in the ovary leading to high male hormone levels, the adrenal glands making too many male hormones, disordered hormonal signals causing irregular periods and blood sugar imbalance.

Blood sugar imbalance, or more specifically a resistance to insulin, is a triggering factor in aggravating the underlying hormonal imbalance in PCOS. Studies show that even in women who appear of healthy weight with normal blood sugar levels, insulin is still involved in perpetuating the symptoms of PCOS.

When we’re under stress, our brain signals the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones. Recent studies suggest that over-functioning adrenal glands contribute to reinforcing the hormonal imbalances in PCOS. Women with PCOS tend to over-produce the stress hormone called “cortisol.” Also, in this over-stimulated state, the adrenal glands can produce excessive amounts of male hormones. This is why stress management and treatments to support and balance the adrenal glands are a very important part of healing for women with PCOS.

If not properly treated, PCOS can increase a woman’s risk of developing fertility problems, heavy menstrual bleeding, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

The conventional medical approach involves using birth control pills, diabetic medications, testosterone-blocking drugs and fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation.

Exercise, dietary changes and fat-loss are foundational aspects of treatment, aimed at improving blood sugar balance and rebalancing hormones. Studies show that a modest weight loss of 10% improves hormone levels and increases the frequency of ovulation.

First Line Therapy is a healthy lifestyle program that has an immensely positive effect on PCOS. Our First Line Therapy is a program of “therapeutic lifestyle change” that incorporates a healthy and delicious nutrition plan to balance blood sugar, exercise plan and stress management. Throughout the program, your body composition is tested to ensure that the weight you’re losing is due to fat loss, not muscle loss. Please click here for more information on this program

Your treatment may also include specific standardized herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, acupuncture or other natural medicines to help rebalance your hormones and give you the support you need, both physically and emotionally, to heal.