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Recurrent UTIs…could the problem be your vagina?

Posted: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 1:10:10 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

 

"I'm p****ing razor blades again..."

It’s a lament I heard from a friend twenty-five years ago that still echoes in my ears every day, from different patients, if in different words!

Recurrent urinary tract infections are not only painful but emotionally debilitating.

Feeling that first sting of pain and knowing that, once again, sex has triggered a UTI causes frustration and heartache to countless women and their partners.

Infections in the bladder are usually thought of as quite separate to those in the bladder…but are they really so isolated? We know that bacteria from the rectum (mainly E. coli) is a key culprit in UTIs…why couldn’t vaginal bacteria also play a role?

For the vagina to be healthy, it needs to be dominated by Lactobacillus species of bacteria. If it isn’t, it increases the risk of all kinds of vaginal infection. If the balance of bacteria swings far enough away from Lactobacillus dominance, it’s called bacterial vaginosis (BV).

Gardnerella species are key bacteria present in BV, where lactobacillus numbers have sufficiently declined.

Well guess what? New research shows that Gardnerella has a role to play in recurrent urinary tract infection.

E. coli, the main species of bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections, can remain dormant within the bladder after antibiotic treatment. Even when symptoms have resolved, the sneaky critters can be reactivated after sex, causing yet another urinary tract infection.

Guess who’s the culprit of this “reactivation” of UTI?

That’s right, gardnerella.

That’s why it’s really, really important to get on top of BV and to strive for a lactobacillus-dominated vagina.

This is my bread and butter here at Equilibria.

Need help with this? Make contact. Skype appointments available. 

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Thrush Issues? Time to Ditch the Sugar!

Posted: Friday, March 3, 2017 at 9:25:35 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Vaginal thrush and sugar…do you really need to cut it out?

Thrush loves sugar, Candida loves candy: it’s a piece of naturopathic wisdom. Or is it just folklore? Is there any real evidence for it?

Many women who have experienced chronic or recurrent vaginal thrush suspect it: Sugar is not the vagina’s friend. I treat women with ongoing thrush problems all the time, and when I regretfully bring up the sugar issue, they stop me even before I have finished.

“I know, I know…I’ve got to get rid of the sugar. It’s just so hard!”

But gynaecologists will rarely tell you to cut out the sugar, or watch the carbohydrate load in your diet. Why is that?

Modern medical practice is ruled by research evidence, and there just isn’t that much evidence for sugar and thrush in humans.

Back in 2002, a study looked at the effects of sugar on Candida in women.

They looked at the link between Candida in the mouth and faeces of women who eat differing amounts of carbohydrate, and didn’t find a connection between high-carb and Candida. Then they got the women to eat high-sugar diets, and reported a “limited effect” on Candida counts. But when looking at the fine detail, they did find that in some women with high Candida in their mouth, the high-sugar diet increased the Candida in the faeces. So even back then there were signs that sugar was not completely neutral when it comes to Candida.

Now this has been confirmed. A recent study using pretty fancy DNA technology to analyse gut microorganisms did confirm what we suspect: Candida was higher in those with higher carbohydrate diets, and lower in those with diets higher in fats and protein. The highest likelihood that they would find thrush? If you just ate carbohydrates.

Yes, it appears that Candida loves sugar.

So why doesn’t every woman have raging thrush, considering our society’s sugar addiction? Well, maybe many women do. Maybe overgrowth of Candida is a part of foggy brain, low energy, gut symptoms as old naturopathic folklore tells us. But that’s a discussion for another time.

For now, suffice to say that women with thrush issues probably handle sugar worse than women who don’t.

A study found that women with recurrent thrush actually had impaired glucose tolerance – the same thing you find in pre-diabetes! And could this be the reason why so many women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have chronic thrush issues? PCOS is linked with blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance.

It seems pretty clear. If you have recurrent thrush issues, it’s time to ditch the sugar.

If you need help working out a diet that allows you to feel satisfied and get healthy while tackling your thrush issue, that is exactly the kind of thing I help women with all the time at Equilibria - just contact us for an appointment. Skype appointments available!

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter
Tags: thrush,

Can You Trust Your Supplements? Four Corners and the Australian Complementary Medicines Industry

Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 2:52:17 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Natural medicines…are they all just forms of snake oil in different coloured (and flavoured!) packages?

If you watched the Four Corners special, you might think you are being taken for a ride!

Here’s a few things to consider if you watched the Four Corners special.

  1. The program focused almost entirely on multivitamins and –minerals, which are by definition hardly targeted interventions. Multivitamins are by definition a “safety net” – something you take even if you’re not sure if they’ll help – a kind of insurance policy. The world of nutritional supplementation to support optimal health is vast, and doesn’t really include multivitamins – for most health practitioners trained in this field, we will use them rarely if at all.
  2. They touched on a famous and much-cited study that showed that certain antioxidants actually increased risks – specifically, beta carotene increased risk of cancer in smokers. This is why seeing a trusted health professional who follows the research is so important. No health professional worth their salt would recommend isolated beta-carotene supplementation, whether you are a smoker or not.
  3. The conflict of interest issue is a serious one and applies equally to complementary medicines and pharmaceuticals. As was pointed out, much of pharmaceutical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies, and there is also a publication bias for positive studies (meaning that studies that don’t show a result are simply less likely to be published, which skews the available studies to looking possibly more positive overall than they are.)
  4. There was a lot of talk about hidden “evidence” – studies that you can’t access kept secret by the vitamin companies. This is simply a red herring; most research on complementary medicines is available to the public, easily searched on databases like PubMed, which any Australian with an internet connection can access.
  5. Much of the talk about pharmacies selling inferior products, and/or products making false claims, has definite merit. This doesn’t mean that products that do work don’t exist. Many of these products are not sold in pharmacies and health food stores. Every day, patients bring in to me their useless supplements that they have been sold at the pharmacy and health food store by staff who don’t understand the product. Once again, it comes down to establishing a relationship with a health professional you trust to follow the research and prescribe in accordance with research findings.

Here’s some facts you need to know to complete the picture.

Australia has one of the most stringent quality-control systems in place for natural medicines in the world.

You need to take care when ordering any supplements on-line as most countries, including the USA, lack the quality-control we have across the board. Analysis of complementary medicines sold in the USA has found countless incidences of the supplement not containing what it claims to contain – including containing fragments of pot plants instead of active therapeutic herbs listed on the label.

There is strong and rapidly growing evidence for the use of complementary medicines. Anyone who denies efficacy of all complementary medicines is not following the research.

Complementary medicine has a huge role to play in the management of chronic disease.

A good natural health practitioner will not only follow and understand the research on natural medicines and health conditions, but will use research as a guide for precise use of natural medicines – for example, the exact strain of the probiotic, the exact type of the curcumin, and the exact extract strength of the exact species of the herb. She will understand potential interactions among supplements, and between supplements and pharmaceutical drugs and explain all this to you so you feel confident in what you are using.

A point to add: interesting that the only people they spoke to you were healthy people who used supplements “just in case”…not the people who modern medicine was powerless to help, whose lives have been turned around by the use of carefully selected supplements under the guidance of an experienced health practitioner. This is the daily experience of health professionals like myself.

Bottom line? Stop believing one report or the other, one blog post or the other. Delve into the research. If you can’t, follow my page and be directed via links straight to the studies. 

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter
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Nutritional Nuggets: Nine Big Culprits Behind The Rise of Autoimmune Disease

Posted: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 11:42:02 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Autoimmune disease is exploding: Hashimoto’s, Graves, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s…but why? 

One major factor in the development of autoimmunity is increased intestinal permeability.

Or, in fewer letters: leaky gut.

If your gut is a mosquito net, imagine puncturing a few small holes in it: that’s leaky gut. Sounds minor, but as anyone who has had a holey mosquito net when camping can attest, it’s a BIG deal.

Leaky gut exists in such diverse autoimmune diseases as type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease.

But what causes the leaky gut? Lots of things.

Alcohol is a big one, but it’s temporary.

Aspirin and anti-inflammatories.

Gluten.

Too much glucose and salt.

Weird additives used in food processing like organic solvents, nanoparticles and microbial transglutaminase. (Hint: stop eating packaged processed food.

But the one I really want to harp on about? Imbalance of gut bacteria.

Lousy gut flora is a big trigger for leaky gut.

And the causes of this?

Medications.

Stress.

The Pill.

ANTIBIOTICS.

“But I have not had antibiotics for thirty years, and then only once!”

Oh yeah? How’s this then:

Being born in the age of antibiotics when they were used by all ancestors over multiple generations.

Luckily, manipulating the gut microbiome and using specific nutritional strategies can sew up those little holes in the mosquito net. Keep an eye out for future blog posts on this topic.

Or to cut to the chase, see your trusty functional nutritionist. Skype appointments available.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

An Interview with Alyssa Tait - Adhesions, Chronic Pain, and the Nervous System

Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 1:14:04 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

It's not often someone gives me the floor for 45 minutes to talk about the web of connections linking adhesions, pain, visceral manipulation, the gut and the nervous system...

Stephen Anderson's questions were so thought-provoking, I just kept talking!

Here's the interview: Alyssa Tait on Pelvic Pain, Adhesions, and SIBO

This interview will either be a great cure for insomnia, or a useful insight into how my brain sees this broad and fascinating field.

We traversed the physical, the emotional and even the metaphysical!

Listen here.

We covered all sorts of topics...

...the curious pathway of my career and how it led me to visceral manipulation

...the emotions and your organs

...chronic abdominal and pelvic pain and visceral manipulation

...adhesions, and how they are more than just structural, but neurological as well

...endometriosis and how these adhesions differ from surgical adhesions

...central sensitisation in chronic pain and its links to visceral hypersensitivity in irritable bowel syndrome

....the power of the words "let's see" in therapy

Have a listen now!

Stephen's highlights and insights include...

....the power of the nervous system to increase neurological tone as a means of self-protection, and how this might impact the function of the organs

...the importance of engaging in fun, nurturing and nervous-system relaxing activities to take care of ourselves

....the need as practitioners to be careful with our language with our patients and not be "part of the problem".

Please listen, and give your rating or review on itunes!

 

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Avoiding Muscle Soreness of Olympic Proportions

Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 9:03:55 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Inspiring watching the best athletes in the world, isn’t it? It makes you participate in your chosen physical pursuit with just that bit more enthusiasm…until you wake up the next morning and every movement is agony, and you realise you overdid it.

You’ve got DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

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So is it just a lack of conditioning? Just need to improve your fitness? (Just push through. No pain, no gain, right?)

No way.

Of course you are likely to get less DOMS as you get fitter, particularly if you keep doing the same thing. But the amount of DOMS you experience along the way has everything to do with the biochemistry of nutrition within your cells.

To fix it, we need to understand what actually causes DOMS (without the boring detail). So in a nutshell:

They used to say DOMS was caused by “a build-up of lactic acid”. More on this later. But for now, it’s worth knowing that:

DOMS is a reflection of injury to your muscle cells.

That’s right. When you wake up feeling every muscle in your body, and you say you smashed yourself at the gym, you are pretty much right.

Get your muscle cells under a microscope and you’d see all the signs of inflammation and muscle damage.

Does that mean you just have to progress slower? Stick to a more tame level of activity?

Thankfully not. It would kill me with boredom to do a progressive walking, gym or jogging program.

{Everytime I go on a group inline skate I am feeling it in every fibre of my body for several days. If I backed off and took it gradually, it would take me months to work up to it and I would have a whole lot less fun in my life.)

By optimising your nutrition before and after your chosen pursuit, you can have your cake and eat it too.

(Well uh…maybe not cake.)

But does this mean expensive, fancy, hard-to-get supplements? Not at all. There is lots of research for things that might either be in your kitchen, or in your vitamin cabinet.

So what does the research say about food, plant extracts, and nutrients to prevent/reduce DOMS?

Eat straight after the workout, preferably a decent amount of protein.

Take a relatively modest dose of antioxidants (vitamin C and vitamin E) for the ten days leading up to the workout.

Take fish oils, 6g/day, for 7 days before the exercise bout.

2.7g/day may be enough if done for 30 days before the exercise (that is, taken as a daily supplement).

Take curcumin (an extract of turmeric spice) twice a day, 2.5g.

Ginger 4g/day for the 7 days before the workout won’t help the DOMS, but will accelerate your muscle recovery.

Simple as that? Well, probably not.

The amount of DOMS you get is also affected by the general health and functioning of the cell – your cellular nutritional biochemistry. There are many things that can go wrong here even with apparently normal, healthy people.

If you are bothered by bad DOMS which is affecting your life after exercise, see a clinical nutritionist trained in functional medicine.

We can select the right tests to diagnose the underlying problem and get you active and loving it, minus the price tag of the severe DOMS afterwards!

Enquire about an assessment now.

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Tags: DOMS, exercise,

Annoying Abdominal Adhesions: Start Here

Posted: Monday, July 25, 2016 at 1:34:11 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Abdominal Adhesions: when pain after surgery persists and a technique to resolve it

You’ve had abdominal surgery.

Now you’ve got persistent abdominal pain.

Not the result you were after.

Well, don’t look back now – most likely, you had to have the surgery – it was the best or only choice available to you. And you can’t go back, only forward!

So how to move forward with this abdominal pain after surgery when you’ve had all the medical checks, and they tell you it’s “just” adhesions?

Well, first things first.

What are adhesions? “Adhesions” is really just a fancy name for scar tissue, but doctors often use it to refer to scar tissue they assume is more extensive or more restrictive as a way of explaining your pain. Occasionally, they’ll use the word “adhesions” because they actually found them when doing your surgery, as in

Boy, everything was a mess in there!” or

Gosh, everything was stuck to everything else!

(These comments don’t do anything for your confidence, and may actually play a role in worsening the pain you experience via some complicated brain mechanisms. For more about that, see my post on chronic pain in the pelvis and the brain. But back to the story.)

Adhesions form in an estimated 50-100% of cases of surgery (I know, a pretty broad statistic.) They start forming within hours of the surgery. When they become a problem (i.e. are assumed to be responsible for ongoing abdominal pain after surgery) – the suggested treatment is: surgery. (Yes, strange but true.)

But there is another technique that works.

(And whether or not you need to have surgery for adhesions or not, it is always a good idea to have this technique done after to maximise recovery).

Visceral manipulation is the technique.

It’s a mouthful to say but very easy to have done, providing you can find an appropriately-trained therapist.

Visceral manipulation is something I do a lot of in clinical practice in Brisbane, Australia. More to come on this wonderful technique, but in the meantime, make an appointment with us or track down a therapist trained in visceral manipulation closer to you.

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Hidden Infection When Your UTI Isn't A UTI

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 7:54:29 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

 

Can you be sure that your bladder, urethral or vaginal symptoms are not due to infection?

When is a urinary tract infection (UTI) not a UTI and when is it?

It’s harder to be sure when the tests for infection are fraught with such shortcomings. Make sure you've read my blog posts on why dipsticks are so unreliable and the difficulty with urine cultures.

Mysterious urethral pain that feels like a urinary tract infection, yet tests come up negative...it’s a mysterious condition with many possible causes. But we have to acknowledge that some of those causes – including those hard to uncover – involve infection.

Here’s one you probably didn’t know about: ureaplasma infection.

And here’s ten things I bet you didn’t know about ureaplasma infection.

  • It can be there even when the usual culture for urinary tract infection (UTI) is negative (i.e. doesn’t show up anything).
  • What’s more, it can be there even with a negative midstream urine test (i.e. when you pee on the dipstick, it doesn’t show up anything).
  • Ureaplasma is known as an “opportunistic pathogen”, which means while it hangs out to some degree in most people (40-80%), it can cause disease if things get out of balance.
  • It is a reasonably common cause of urethritis (i.e. inflammation of the urethra) when it isn’t gonorrhoea (a sexually transmitted infection).
  • It is also linked with increased susceptibility to HIV infection, infertility, kidney stones, premature labour, miscarriage and stillbirth, and inflammatory joint disease.
  • It can only be detected using a special DNA test, such as a vaginal PCR DNA test.
  • Ureaplasma loves to form biofilms – that is, “walled cities” to protect itself from eradication by antibiotics (which makes it more likely to become resistant, and antibiotics not to work).
  • It is common for ureaplasma to be resistant to trimethoprim (the most common antibiotic prescribed for urinary tract infection).
  • If you test positive for it, your partner should be treated as well, as research shows you could be transferring it back and forth to each other.
  • While a recent review found it was not higher in women who had urethral pain syndrome than in women without, it is likely linked with reduced protection by good bacteria. For example, one study showed that the chemicals produced by lactobacilli inhibit ureaplasma.

Thankfully, the common treatments for it – the antibiotics doxycycline, azithromycin, clotrimazole, and fluconazole – do not seem to have severe negative effects on the vaginal lactobacilli, according to one study.

Even so, we know that antibiotic treatment alone at best fails to address the major issue (i.e. an underlying imbalance in the urogenital microflora and other local immune factors). At worst, it can perpetuate a cycle of increasing susceptibility to this and other urogenital conditions – not to mention the systemic problems implicit in damage to the gut microbiome.

Because my focus is on the short- and long-term health of the whole person, I do not recommend stopping at antibiotics. They may be important – discuss this with your trusted clinician. But don’t ignore the potential impact on the microbiota.

My approach involves co-administering natural compounds that address the following:

  • Minimise damage to the gut microbiome
  • Maximise the effectiveness of the anti-microbial action against the “bad bugs”
  • Restore the gut and urogenital microbiome
  • Reduce risk of recurrence and risk of other problems like thrush and bacterial vaginosis
  • Maximising immune system protection, both systemic and local (i.e. the environment of the vagina, urethra and bladder)

Navigating your way through this poorly understood (even by doctors) area can be incredibly difficult and frustrating. I accompany many women along this journey! Skype appointments are possible if you can’t get to Brisbane, Australia…but thorough investigation is critical and must be pursued from where you are.

Get in touch if you need a guide and a plan for recovery.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Best Ways to Help a Tampon Go In Step 10

Posted: Monday, February 29, 2016 at 1:02:00 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Time to fix the issue once and for all!

I hope you have been following this series about solutions for the problem of being unable to put a tampon in. If not, head straight back to the start to not miss a thing!

I have devoted 9 individual blog posts to different tips to make it easier to put a tampon in, including using a mirror, picking the best position, relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, not being squeamish, using your finger, lubricating the tampon like crazy, picking the best time of your period, considering using a "sex toy" to help, and using vaginal dilators as trainers.

But I've kept the best one for last!

(Mainly because if the other tips have worked so far, you won't need this one - but this is the most sure-fire way to solve the problem if the other tips haven't worked yet!)

My very best tip on solving the problem of being unable to put a tampon in is this:                 

Work with an expert.

This may sound strange - even outlandish - but let me explain.

If you just can't get that reverse park, you would work with a driving instructor, wouldn't you?

If you can't get the technique naturally when learning butterfly, you would ask for the expertise of a swimming teacher, wouldn't you?

The problem is, as young girls and women, we often don't have an obvious "expert" on women's issues at our fingertips. We might be too embarrassed to ask our friends, assuming they can all do it already. We might be too intimidated to ask the doctor. This goes for whether the problem is putting in a tampon or successfully having sex with penetration - getting a penis in the vagina.

Well, great news.

There are experts out there - they are called pelvic floor physiotherapists.

We not only understand the anatomy of the area in detail, but we have the experience to help you overcome these problems that other health professionals may lack. Best of all, we are a pretty nice bunch of people! (I'm not just saying this. Most pelvic floor physiotherapists move into this field because of a great compassion for women with these troubles. Many women's health physios even have first-hand experience with all sorts of women's troubles. While we won't spill the beans on that, it does give us a lot of understanding and you will find that we put you at ease.)

So don't be nervous! Find a pelvic floor physiotherapist to help you with this. Helping women successfully put tampons in is part of our job description. Wherever you live, you can ring your national physiotherapy organisation and ask how to find a pelvic floor physiotherapist with the training and experience to help you.

If you are in or near (or can get to) Brisbane, Australia, I would be more than happy to help you overcome this problem and put it behind you so it stops interfering with your life!

Make an appointment without delay!

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

“Gut Memories”: Why Pelvic Pain and IBS Are More Common in Women

Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 9:04:04 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Chronic pain in the pelvis and abdomen is a huge mystery that even specialists struggle to solve.

Depending on what specialist you see, and what tests are done, it might be given the name “chronic pelvic pain”, “irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)”, “painful bladder syndrome” or “functional abdominal pain”, to name a few examples. If you have endometriosis, it is possible – even likely – that you will be diagnosed with IBS as well. You may not really care what they call it. To you it’s just pain without much of an explanation.

Men do get chronic pelvic pain and IBS, but statistics show that the majority of those with it are women.

Why is that?

Recent research reveals why this might be the case.

The study in question looked at “aversive visceral learning”. This is a way of saying “what the organs learn when exposed to stress or pain over and over”.

Brave volunteers had their rectums distended repeatedly.

While this sounds like a method of torture, it is actually the accepted method of measuring normal sensation of the gut. When the gut is unusually sensitive, as in irritable bowel syndrome, the person feels pain sooner with rectal distension. That is, they are not as tolerant of it as other people would be (if anyone can be said to be tolerant of having their rectum inflated like a balloon).

Together with the rectal distension, the experimenters presented another stimulus – a slightly distressing picture or photograph.

Over time, the people’s brains learned to show the same anxiety response, even without the rectal distension. (For those of you interested in psychology, this is the classic "Pavlov's Dog" response, otherwise known as "classical conditioning". By repeatedly being brought their food to the sound of a bell, Pavlov's dogs soon learnt to salivate to the sound of the bell alone.) The really interesting bit?

This happened even more with women.

This was the case even where the women and men reported equal pain, and measured equal pain thresholds and stress responses.

So, women’s brains seem to learn to associate pain with unpleasant memories more than men’s do. The researchers called this “reactivation of old fear memory trace”. More memorably – and accurately, I feel – they called it forming “gut memories”.

What “gut memories” do you think you could be storing in your chronic abdominal or pelvic pain? 

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

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