Do you ever wonder how your skincare can affect your fertility ?
- Irregular periods
- Cushings Disease
- Graves Disease
- Premenstrual Tension (PMT)
- Sperm quality
- Birth defects
- and more.
Well, the thing is, everything you put on your skin goes into your bloodstream and around your body. That’s why some medications can be given to you in the form of a patch or a cream. Carefully choosing your skincare products is as important as your favourite everyday beauty products, might be secretly packed with ingredients that are wreaking havoc with your hormones, and you don’t even realise. This can give rise to issues with your reproductive systems and other organs.
WHAT IS YOUR ENDOCRINE SYSTEM ?
The endocrine system is a network of organs and glands that create, store, and secrete hormones. Hormones are chemicals that get carried around the body through your blood, signalling your body what to do and when to do it. When your endocrine system is functioning normally, it will continuously monitor the amount of hormones in your body via the master gland called the Pituitary gland ensuring homeostasis (a balanced body).
WHAT IS AN ENDOCRINE DISRUPTING CHEMICAL (EDC)
These chemicals are artificial preservatives and are used in a lot of skincare products such as cleansers, moisturisers, toothpastes, sun cream, cosmetics, deodrants, shampoo, conditioners…. Have a check on your product labels for methyl paraben, propyl paraben, butyl paraben, and ethyl paraben. These are the most common.
Phthalates are liquid plasticizers and are found in many products including nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, and cleansers. Even small amounts of these chemicals may be unsafe.
According to Jodi Flaws, Ph.D., a professor of comparative biosciences and the director of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Toxicology Program at the University of Illinois. “They can interfere with the production, elimination or binding of any hormones in the body. And the reproductive system in particular is extremely sensitive to these compounds.”
Phthalates are rarely listed as an ingredient on product labels, but keep an eye out for the words “fragrance” and “parfum”. Ditch synthetic frangrances !
Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent now being used in everyday household products which we regularly use including toothpaste, deodrants, soaps, shower gels, cosmetics, shaving products etc. It is known to interfere with the estrogen in women, androgen hormone in males and thus affecting the reproductive system. It influences the concentration of the thyroid hormones. So check your labels and you should be able to find other products which are more natural and do the same job.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Let’s talk about the packaging of your favourite skincare, soaps, shower gels, shampoos. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) BPA can imitate the body’s hormones and interfere with the production of, response to, or action of our natural hormones. For example, it can behave in a similar way to estrogen and other hormones in the human body. In the right conditions, BPA can then leach in to your product and then in to your body. Attempt to buy your products in glass jars or any packaging which is listed as BPA free. Ditch plastic water bottles.
It is very easy to become bogged down with what to eat, what not to eat, what to drink and not drink, what to put on your skin and what not to put on your skin. However, if you try to get back to basics as much as possible, that would be good. Go for organic vegetables and meats, readily available in most supermarkets. Try natural and organic skincare, which is just as powerful and works just as well as other well known brands. Use glass or stainless steel containers for your food in the home, avoiding plastics as much as possible.
I have been using clean skincare products for almost 25 year now and I find them amazing. Everything I use in my treatment room is clean and free from troublesome chemicals. I recommend and sell Blumain Organic Skincare products and Zone Face Lift skincare products in my online shop. Both are produced in Ireland. You can visit my shop by clicking on the link …. https://www.soultherapies.ie/product-category/skincare/
I can also highly recommend VICO deodrants. Again, these are produced in Ireland and you can buy them online here … https://vicodeo.com/products/vico-original-irish-natural-deodorant
If you are trying to conceive, you have most likely heard of Castor Oil Packs. They can be used for so many things but they are great for fertility. If you would like to know how to make them and use them, then this is the blog for you !
I first became aware of Castor Oil as a remedy for constipation. I then came across it as a remedy for problems with the reproductive area, especially endometriosis and cysts.
A castor oil pack is a piece of wool or a cloth soaked in castor oil which you can apply to the skin. The cloth may be cotton flannel or any material that will soak up a lot of liquid.
HOW DO CASTOR OIL PACKS HELP THE UTERUS ?
- They will help to detoxify the uterine cavity.
- Using the pack will help to reduce inflammation.
- It will help to get rid of stagnation and circulate oxygenated blood to the pelvic area.
- The oxygenated blood will help to improve the lining of the uterus in preparation for implantation.
- It may help to resolve endometriosis and fibroids and prevent the build up of endometrial tissues outside of the uterus.
- It will improve circulation to the uterus which will help prevent menstrual cramping.
- It will help to break down scar tissue and cysts.
CASTOR OIL AND YOUR LIVER
In Chinese medicine, the liver system regulates the menstrual cycle and encourages a smooth flow of blood. It helps to promote hormone balance.
The Castor Oil Pack helps to detoxify the liver. Place your Castor Oil Pack in the upper right hand side of the abdomen.
Do not use on the liver if you are pregnant. Follow the guidelines by applying the Castor Oil on the 7-10 days before ovulation.
How to use your castor oil pack
- Lie down on a large towel or sheet.
- Place the castor oil pack on the area around the belly button for digestive issues or down in the pelvic area for menstrual issues.
- Place a small plastic sheet or clingfilm over the castor oil pack. This helps to heat it and press it against your skin.
- Place a hot water bottle on top and leave the pack on for about an hour.
- Gently remove the pack with a warm damp cloth.
- You can store the castor oil pack in the original container which you used to soak cloths. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use them again. Reuse each castor oil pack up to 30 times.
Alternatively, just apply the castor oil directly on to your abdomen, throw on an old pair of pyjamas and put your hot water bottle on top of that.
If you don’t have a hot water bottle, put the castor oil on at night time and head straight to bed and let the magic happen !
Trying to Conceive ? When to Use Castor Oil Packs
So, if you are thinking about having a baby but haven’t yet started trying to conceive, use 3 times a week for up to 1 hour. Do not use during the bleed.
If you are actively trying to conceive, only apply the pack during the follicular phase, that is, from the end of menstruation to ovulation. For most women, this will be day 5/6 to day 14 of your cycle.
IF YOU ARE DOING IVF
Use castor oil on your lower abdomen just before retrieval, and continue using it if taking the birth control pill.
Do not use Castor Oil when you are doing oestrogen shots, or after embryo transfer.
FRESH OR FROZEN EMBRYO TRANSFER AND IUI’s
If you are doing a fresh or frozen transfer or if you are doing IUI, do not use once you start taking Lupron, Estrogen, Clomid or Femara. And do not use it after embryo transfer or after ovulation if doing IUI.
ON YOUR PERIOD
If you have bad menstrual pain, Castor Oil is good to reduce the inflammation by getting rid of the clots from the lining. But be aware that it will increase blood flow to the uterus, making your period heavier.
How to Create a Castor Oil Pack
What you will need
Castor oil (hexane free)
Medium container or bowl
Cut the cotton flannel into rectangular pieces, about 12 inches by 10 inches. You can also cut them into strips or smaller squares depending on where you’ll use them.
- Use at least three to four pieces of cloth to make a pack.
- Pour castor oil into the container. You should be able to completely soak a piece of cotton flannel in the castor oil.
- Drop one piece of the cloth into the oil until it’s completely soaked.
- Use the tongs to pick up the cloth in the container. It should be dripping with castor oil.
- Lay the soaked cloth flat on the plastic sheet.
- Soak the other two or more pieces of cloth in the same way.
- Add the oil-soaked cloths flat on top of the first one.
- Once you’ve soaked and layered each cloth, you’ve made a castor oil pack.
WHAT ELSE CAN CASTOR OIL PACKS BE USED FOR ?
Castor Oil can also help with;
- soothing sunburn, insect bites, or allergic rashes.
- It can help with digestive issues like constipation.
- Helps boost your circulation especially of the lymphatic system.
- It is thought to help support the liver.
- It can be placed directly on strained joints or muscles to reduce inflammation.
- Apply to acne, dry skin, rashes, boils, age spots, and warts to improve complexion and boost moisture.
Cautions and Side effects with using castor oil packs
Some people may be allergic to castor oil. It may cause a skin rash or reaction when used on the body. If you haven’t used a castor oil pack before, do a patch test by rubbing a few drops of castor oil into your skin and leaving it on for 24 hours. If you don’t have any reaction, a castor oil pack should be safe to use.
- Do not use Castor Oil packs when you are menstruating. They are good for inflammation but will make your period heavier.
- Avoid them during the two week wait of your IVF cycle.
- Avoid using them if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Do not use on broken skin.
Through my Fertility Reflexology, I work a lot with women who suffer from Endometriosis. Clients report that Fertility Reflexology seems to have a calming effect on the pain, which is good news. It is also amazing for balancing the hormones and keeping them in check. I also have first hand experience with this condition myself ! But did you know that 1 in 10 ladies suffer from this chronic condition and the symptoms may differ for every woman. It usually starts at around sixteen years of age but can begin at any age.
There are some symptoms that distinguish Endometriosis from a normal period which you may not be aware of. These include;
- Bad pelvic pain (dysmenorrhea)
- Have you needed to take time off school, college our work because of the pain?
- Do you experience painful urination or bowel movements?
- Are you having issues trying to conceive?
- Do you experience pain during or after sex?
- Do you sometimes suffer with fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating or nausea especially during menstruation cycle.
- Have you got very heavy periods
- Do you vomit or faint with the pain ?
If you have some of these symptoms, then you may have Endometriosis.
SO WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Endometriosis is where the lining of the womb starts growing on the outside of the womb and can involve the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, colon, rectum etc. It has even been found in places like the brain and the eyes, so it can be very problematic. These deposits react to hormones like the lining inside the womb. They thicken, break down and bleed with each menstrual cycle causing such pain that can leave you on the couch for days. However, when these deposits bleed, the blood has nowhere to go and it becomes trapped causing adhesions which can then cause other pelvic tissues and organs to bind together.
HOW IS ENDOMETRIOSIS DIAGNOSED?
The most reliable way for endometriosis to be diagnosed is by having a laparoscopy. This is surgical procedure that can diagnose and treat this condition.
It is a low risk and minimally invasive procedure involving a long thin viewing instrument to be inserted via the abdomen wall through a small incision. This allows the doctor to see what’s going on inside and can remove cysts, implants and scar tissue that might exist there.
I’ve had this procedure done myself and I found the most uncomfortable part was the bloating afterwards from being pumped with air during the procedure. After a few days I was fine !
First of all, Endometriosis can be seen running down the family line so if someone in the family is suffering from the condition, the chances are, if you are suffering with heavy painful periods, you may have endometriosis too.
A big risk factor is the environment. Our exposure to toxins and pollution in the air and the water can have a negative impact on our endocrine system. If you live or lived in the country, you could be exposed to pesticides and other chemicals that are being sprayed on crops.
Think about the chemicals you put on your skin in the forms of soaps, shampoos, hair dyes and makeup. These may contain ingredients that will upset your endocrine system causing hormone imbalance. Using skincare that is as clean as possible will really help. I have an account with Neals Yard Remedies which sells clean skincare so if you would like to take a look at their products, then Visit my shop.
Other risk factors include using any plastics which contain BPA. These can also include using tinned foods which are lined with plastic, using cling film and check your water bottle. Also beware of non-stick pans as the coating on them can be toxic to the body.
Endometriosis and Fertility
Endometriosis can have a negative impact on your fertility, however if you have mild to moderate endometriosis, you can still get pregnant naturally. It can hinder fertility by covering or growing into the ovaries or by distorting or blocking the fallopian tubes. It can also hinder conception or the development of a fertilized egg. Fertility issues with regard to endometriosis can be improved after having a laparoscopy. If a couple still have trouble conceiving after getting treated with a laparoscopy, then Assisted reproductive techniques (ART) such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) may be suggested if there are no male factor issues. IVF/ICSI may be considered if there is a male factor issue.
Endometriosis & Diet
To fight inflammation and pain caused by endometriosis, you need to look after your gut. It is recommended to eat and consume a well-balanced diet that’s primarily plant-based which will improve the diversity of the microbiome in the gut. Take little steps if you want to try some of these recommendations !
- Whole, intact grains that are high in fibre are best as they are more slowly digested carbohydrates such as whole or cracked wheat, oatmeal, brown rice and wholegrain breads, cereals, pastas and crackers. If you have a predisposition to gluten intolerance, then avoid grains which contain gluten.
- Fibrous foods such as fruits and vegetables, especially those that are in season would be good to include in your diet. Also include beans and nuts.
- Foods rich in Iron such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, beans, fortified grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Omega rich foods are abundant in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, trout. Omegas can also be found in walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.
- Include antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables found in a rainbow of colours such as oranges, berries, spinach, aubergine, blueberries and beets. Also, throw in dark chocolate !!
- Drinking plenty of water is a must to stay hydrated. I use a Reverse Osmosis system to clean the chemicals out of the water.
- Avoid trans fats as the more trans fat in the diet, the greater the chances of ovulatory infertility (Book Fertility Diet)
- Increase healthy fats in your diet such as olive oil, creamy avocados and nut oils whilst cutting back on saturated fats from red meat.
- Drink green tea to inhibit growths.
- Cut back on your coffee, alcohol and sugar intake.
Visiting a Herbal or Nutritional therapist would be good to get advice from !
My story !
Like a lot of ladies, I only found out I had endometriosis when I was trying to get pregnant. I had symptoms but I never realised what it was. I guess they crept up on me so slowly and I just lived with them. Unlike a lot of other ladies, the pain I had was bearable, but what wasn’t bearable was the pain on my colon every month. After a year of trying to get pregnant, I had a laparoscopy in the Rotunda Hospital where I was told that I had Grade 2 Endometriosis. They managed to clear the deposits of endo on my bowel and bladder and I really never looked back after that. However, I still wasn’t getting pregnant. I embarked on 2 IVF’s, one in the Rotunda and one in Sims, but unfortunately, both ended with a negative result 😢. It was a horrendous time.
We decided that we would do no more IVFs and headed straight to Adoption. This took 3 years to complete and we brought home our lovely baby boy to Ireland. However, we were only home 5 days when I discovered I was pregnant. Yes, you heard right. After 7 years of trying for a baby and never once getting pregnant, we discovered we had a baby onboard !!! We ended up with 2 baby boys in nappies, crawling around the place. Our family was complete.
After all our struggles in trying to build our family, I decided it was my mission to help other couples who are trying to get pregnant.
Endometriosis Association of Ireland
If you suffer with endometriosis and in light of it being Endometriosis Awareness Month, the Endometriosis Association of Ireland are running a number of Information Days which you might be interested in.
The first will take place on Saturday 20th March at 10.30am and 11.30am. There will also be a talk on 27th March at 10.30am
Here is a link if you want more information on these talks
So, what is Fertility Reflexology ?
When I am carrying out a Fertility Reflexology treatment, what I am doing is working the reflex points of the endocrine system on the foot, in a very specific order, to correct any imbalances leading to infertility and thus significantly increasing your chances of having a baby. Each time I work a reflex point, signals are sent to the brain which sends communication signals to the hormonal system. These positively re-balance the organs and systems within the body and specifically the reproductive system. This process also removes blocks in the “energy pathways” also known as meridians, allowing the flow of energy to go exactly where it is needed.
Stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on fertility by raising your cortisol levels and affecting your chances of conceiving. I always start the treatment with a full Reflexology routine to balance the body and the mind before commencing on the Fertility part of the treatment. I also use Emotional Freedom Techniques (tapping) to help reduce stress levels and bringing about a positive mindset.
I have successfully worked with clients with the following issues;
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Inconsistent cycle
This would also be a good treatment for ladies going through the menopause.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
Reflexology is amazing if you are trying to conceive naturally or embarking on IVF, ICSI, GIFT, Donor Egg, ZIFT etc. or any other method of assisted conception. It can support both members of the couple both mentally and physically leading towards a positive outcome by keeping stress and anxiety at bay thus giving the treatment the best possible chance of succeeding. The routines used will support you at every stage of the assisted reproductive process and will never harm the treatment. It is good to start fertility reflexology before embarking on your treatment.