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Best Ways to Help a Tampon Go In Step 9

Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2016 at 7:52:39 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Use Vaginal Trainers or Dilators

Well done for getting this far in the series about making tampons easier! If you have missed any of the episodes on this channel, start here at the first post and work your way through.

If you are still having troubles, it may be worth changing tack a little. It may be worth trying something other than a tampon in order to achieve the goal of being able to use tampons. What am I talking about? Let me explain.

A tampon is designed to be absorbent. That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? But this fact may actually be part of the difficulty you have. Tampons are kind of fuzzy and furry. They are usually made of cotton or rayon, or a combination. The unintended effect of this is to increase friction. When you try to put the tampon in, it might feel slightly scratchy. It might feel like it’s dragging the skin inside.

Now imagine you had a tampon shaped object that was perfectly smooth. Smooth and flat, like glass or ice. There’s a reason it’s easiest to ice skate on ice, not grass! Smooth, flat surfaces like glass or ice are a lot more slippery and cause less friction.

Now, I’m not suggesting you try to insert an “icypole” or “Popsicle”. But I do have good news. There are these things called dilators, which are tube-shaped objects usually made of very smooth plastic. They are designed exactly for this purpose – to allow the vagina to comfortably expand. They are used for certain medical conditions, including vaginismus and vaginal agenesis.

I see a lot of women who have difficulty inserting tampons, and we work together on a “dilator program” – gradually learning to insert a dilator with relaxed muscles, and keep the muscles relaxed. Over time, they progress to larger dilators as each one gets easier. Most women find using tampons easy after doing this program.

Freaked out about the concept of vaginal dilators? Click here to start reading my blog post series about Ways to Make Your Dilators Less Unappealing.

Vaginal dilators are easy to get online. It’s just usually a case of “too many choices”! A pelvic floor physiotherapist is the best health professional to give you advice on what to choose.

And here is the finish line! Click here for the final post in this blog series.

Taking Care of Calcium in the Vegan Diet: The Vegan Calci-Culator

Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 6:02:45 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Vegan and so you don’t eat dairy? Is this cause for calcium hysteria?

Absolutely not.

Eating a variety of plant foods that are a rich source of calcium is a perfectly acceptable way to meet your calcium needs!

You’ve probably seen lists of vegetable calcium sources before. While these lists are helpful, it can sometimes still be difficult to know what combination of foods will allow you to meet your calcium needs on any given day.

That’s where the Vegan Calci-Culator comes in!

I’ve developed the Vegan Calci-culator to make it really easy for you to ensure you are getting a decent amount of calcium per day. While calcium recommendations differ, I have selected the common target of 800mg of calcium per day. If you and your treating health professional estimate that you need more, this can of course be done by adding more of the foods listed – but the easiest way would be to add another cup of fortified soy, rice or almond beverage. Please, talk to your health professional about your best target - in Australia, for example, the recommendation for Australian adults 18-50 is 1000mg/day.

How to Use the Vegan Calci-Culator to reach around 800mg/day of calcium:

The goal is to get to 25 POINTS/DAY through using any combination of the GOLD, SILVER or BRONZE foods PLUS 1 cup of your calcium-fortifed beverage*.

*A “calcium-fortified beverage” is soy milk, rice milk or almond milk with added calcium (typically 300mg per cup)

EXAMPLE DAILY OPTIONS

OPTION A OPTION B OPTION C  OPTION D

1 cup of calcium-fortified beverage

+

3 GOLD

+

4 SILVER

+

5 BRONZE

1 cup of calcium-fortified beverage

+

3 GOLD

+

6 SILVER

+

1 BRONZE

1 cup of calcium-fortified beverage

+

2 GOLD

+

6 SILVER

+

5 BRONZE

1 cup of calcium-fortified beverage

+

4 GOLD

+

3 SILVER

+

3 BRONZE

       OR, JUST ADD UP YOUR POINTS!


Now all you need is the list of vegan calcium-rich foods, conveniently categorised into GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE.

That’s way too big for this blog post!

To get the list, as well as a 3-day meal plan to give you a feel for how to meet your calcium needs as a vegan, e-mail us with your name and "Vegan Calci-Culator".

(Please make sure you give us your name so we know you're a human...we hate spam as much as you do!)

Get the free Vegan Calci-Culator and more by signing up to our free newsletters and ticking "Nutrition Medicine"!


There’s been a lot written about the dangers of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – that is, chemicals that mess up the finely-tuned orchestra that is our hormonal system. In short, they have been linked to infertility, endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, obesity and much more.

For the purpose of this post, I am assuming you know about these dangers already. Sometimes hearing further about the dangers can make you feel overwhelmed, without giving you any action you can take. So the simple aim of this post is to give you a range of ideas for reducing your exposure.

  1. Keep a tally of the number of cans you use in cooking for the week. Aim to cut it in half.
  2. Examine your plastics for the number “7” in the triangle. Avoid buying anything with this, as it likely contains BPA. Limit plastics overall. Teach this habit to your kids. My son was appalled when my daughter emerged from the fruit shop with the bananas in a bag. We usually make a spectacle of ourselves traipsing down to the car, each of us full to the brim with groceries because we've forgotten our reusable bags. It's a task that's spatially and physically challenging, while being a great boost for the environment and our own health!
  3. Buy a stainless steel water bottle for each member of the family and have each family member take responsibility for it (wash it up each day, make sure it’s ready for each outing, etc).
  4. Buy physical block sunscreens (those whose active ingredient is zinc oxide or titanium dioxide). Sadly, the others contain EDCs.
  5. Ban conventional air fresheners from your house and car, such as Air Wick, which contain phthalates. Use essential oils, beeswax candles, or eucalyptus/tea tree sprays.
  6. Use a bowl or plate to cover food as opposed to plastic wrap, or glass containers with plastic lids (available from the supermarket).
  7. Save nailpolish for special occasions. Don’t give it to your daughters. Don’t give manicure vouchers as gifts. Choose low-toxin nailpolishes. See Sarah Wilson’s excellent blog post on this.
  8. Check your ingredients lists of cosmetics and household products. Considering it a flashing red light with sirens if you see the terms PROPYLPARABEN, ISOPROPYLPARABEN, BUTYLPARABEN, ISOBUTYLPARABEN. Try Aware washing powder and get two health bonuses for the price of one by avoiding the support of unsustainable palm oil production, which ultimately harms human beings. 
  9. Wash all fruit and vegetables before eating them. Buy whatever you can afford organic, especially high-pesticide produce like spinach, broccoli, lettuce and strawberries.
  10. Stop using anti-bacterial washes. Triclosan, which they contain, is an endocrine disrupter. Just Use Plain Soap And Water.
  11. If you have Gore-Tex products for travel, take good care of them so you don’t need to replace them. They contain perfluoroalkyl acids (PFOA), which have been shown to disrupt the thyroid. This saves even more of these chemicals ending up in our environment, so is a community service you can do! Of course, if you have concerns about your own thyroid, you might want to get rid of them!
  12. Throw away peeling Teflon (non-stick) pans immediately. Just use more olive oil on regular pans and cook on lower temperatures to stop food burning – it’s much better for you!
  13. Avoid fast food. The wrappings and containers contain endocrine disrupters. And that’s before we even get started on the contents of the containers!

More ideas? Comment!

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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

When was the last time you felt exhilarated?

Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 11:56:21 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

This morning? OK, this post is not for you…it’s for the rest of you, which would have included me at one point.

There’s lots of talk about stress. Plenty about depression and anxiety. But far less about positive human experiences. That’s why I want to talk about exhilaration today.

Exhilaration is a hard feeling to define but one we instantly recognise. It’s a sense of freedom and quiet inner joy. It’s when you feel a sense of rising above the banalities of life. You are lost in the moment.

Something like what I’m calling exhilaration has been described well in a book called “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (and if I’d been able to spell his surname from memory, that probably would have been a cause for momentary exhilaration.)

Abraham Maslow, in classic psychology literature, talked about something he called “peak experiences” in life. I’m not sure that that is quite the same as what I’m describing, in that peak experiences are described as “rare” and “exciting” –  whereas the experiences I’m referring to don’t need to necessarily be grand or exceptionally memorable. However, he does use the term “exhilarating”, which is the feeling I’m describing here. We might call them “peak moments”, and they are worth pursuing.  

I have felt this sense of exhilaration in many contexts:

  • Running while listening to music through various times in my life… lost in Angels & Airwaves, Placebo, the Cure, Queensryche (although you may not agree with the specifics, feeling exhilaration while absorbed in music is a common experience)
  • Playing the clarinet alone in my room for hours
  • Doing astanga yoga in silence in a room full of yogis with Krishna Dass thumping through the speakers
  • Singing with a huge choir at maximal volume
  • Riding my bike down a hill at breakneck speed through Toohey Forest (actually, I’m not much of a daredevil, and the “breakneck speed” is undoubtedly mainly in my own mind)
  • Rollerblading at maximal speed
  • Rollerblading at maximal speed while singing at (submaximal) volume (aren’t you glad you don’t live in my neighbourhood?)

I’ve had periods of my life when that feeling of exhilaration was lacking, or at least very rare. This is not the same as being depressed or even apathetic. It’s almost more a “forgetfulness” about how to experience the full range of inner experiences. Now, before I get any more philosophical, let me defer to an expert.

Csikszentmihalyi (yes, I had to look back to spell it) presents some aspects of a concept called “flow” that describe what I’m attempting to here.

  • Complete absorption in what you are doing
  • Merging of action and awareness
  • Loss of reflective self-consciousness (this describes well the rollerblading + singing example above!)
  • Distortion of temporal experience – meaning time passes faster than normal

As suggested by the last point, you “lose time” when you feel exhilarated. But in a strange way, you gain time as well, because nothing exists except in that moment. It is the ultimate experience of living outside of time.

Why am I writing about this? Because I think we underestimate how incredibly valuable this experience is for our health and well-being.

Euphoria is known to relate to the production and binding of endorphins and endocannabinoids in the brain. These are involved in the experience of the so-called “runner’s high”. Interestingly, the experience of music involves these substances as well as dopamine (the “reward” neurotransmitter).

Producing endorphins enhances your stress response and is linked with feelings of pleasure.

Sounds like something we should all be pursuing a bit more, don’t you think? What’s your favourite way to experience exhilaration?

 

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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

What Can You Lose to Gain Back Your Pelvic Health?

Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015 at 9:57:30 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Why The First Step to Recovery Can Be Losing Something

You’ve got an annoying pelvic condition. It might be incontinence, prolapse, vaginismus, thrush, constipation.

It might seem a strange hypothetical question to ask: what can you lose first in order to recover?

But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Sometimes there are big obstacles in the way of your recovery. Sometimes they have been there so long you fail to see them anymore (in the same way as a long-term wearer of glasses no longer notices there is something perched on their face).

And often, you know the answer to this question, deep down. There might be (and usually is) more than one answer.

And of course, symptoms can sometimes be improved – even “fixed” – without Losing This Thing. The important thing is though, without Losing This Thing, the effect may well be temporary. Your bugbear has a good chance of coming back to bite you if you don’t Lose This Thing.

But let’s look at some obvious examples:

If you really, really want to recover…if it’s truly important to you…what is something you need to lose in order to correct

…stress incontinence?

(a smoking habit)

….prolapse?

(abdominal obesity)

…vaginismus?

(fear or negativity around sex)

…thrush?

(that sugar addiction)

…vulvodynia?

(intense stress)

Irritable bowel syndrome?
(eating on the run…the hectic lifestyle)

This does NOT mean that….

Smoking is the CAUSE of stress incontinence.

Abdominal obesity is the CAUSE of prolapse.

Negativity around sex is the CAUSE of vaginismus.

Sugar is the CAUSE of thrush.

Stress is the CAUSE of vulvodynia.

Eating on the run is the CAUSE of irritable bowel syndrome.

No, that would be much too simple. (Don’t you wish life was simple?)

All of these factors, though, are a massive influence on the named condition. So massive, in fact, that it is sometimes hard for the clinician (that’s me) to help you resolve your symptoms (permanently) without you addressing the big factor.

And that big factor is usually the answer that pops up in your head when you ask yourself…

“What do I need to lose in order to gain back my pelvic health?”

You could call this a functional medicine approach to your health. Or you could just call it good common sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Can You Have Sex With A Prolapse?

Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 2:28:28 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

The word prolapse, for many women, conjures up terrifying images of their internal organs falling out.

While severe prolapse can involve the involved organ coming quite a distance out of the vagina, most cases of prolapse are much milder. Prolapse is the technical term used for any stage of the organ (whether bladder, uterus or rectum) moving out of its anatomical position. This is evaluated by a gynaecologist or pelvic floor physio. If you have a minor bulge of the bladder into the vagina, it is still technically a prolapse. And by this, the correct definition:

75% of women who’ve ever had a baby will have a prolapse – that’s a clear majority!

It is often very distressing for a woman to discover she has a prolapse. Aside from the fears for the future – will this get worse? Are things going to come out completely? – it is a more personal, and therefore potentially distressing, area to experience a problem – much more so than your elbow, for example. And due to the intimacy of sex, in no part of the body is a problem more of a shared problem than the vagina.

So the natural question is: can I still have sex? Is sex going to be different? Will it cause damage?

Well, the research does suggest that sex is different if you have a prolapse. Women with prolapse tend to score higher on sexual dysfunction scores. This may sound depressing – but keep in mind these scores are self-report questionnaires, which describe a woman’s take on her experience of sex. So women with prolapse don’t find sex as satisfying or problem-free. And interestingly, this doesn’t always depend on how bad the prolapse is, but rather, just depends on the existence of prolapse, full-stop.

That said, advanced prolapse (stage III or IV, which describe the organ coming out of the entrance of the vagina) tends to negatively affect sexual self-image, especially in elderly women. Surgery for prolapse has been shown to improve sexual function.

However, other research shows that this mainly has to do with two things: firstly, the woman’s body image, and secondly, how bothered she is by her prolapse in general. Both of these things are very subjective, so it’s likely that by changing the way you view the prolapse as a problem, and nourishing your self-image and in particular your sexual self-image, you have the power to change this.

And thankfully, there is no evidence that prolapse is more likely – or that existing prolapse worsens – with consensual sexual intercourse, if surgery has not recently occurred.

So if you have a prolapse and are feeling awkward about prolapse - you're not alone. But be assured there are ways of working around it - and it is not harmful in the least.

See your pelvic floor physiotherapist for help.

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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: prolapse,

Chronic Thrush, Painful Sex and Vulvodynia

Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 9:47:03 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

When The Likely Suspect Is The Culprit!

Getting an accurate diagnosis of vulvodynia is usually a long and difficult process. You have had burning and stinging pain with sex, you have seen doctor after doctor, and they have put it down to thrush and given you creams and tablets galore, all to no avail. Then you finally see a clinician with experience in vulvodynia and you find out that it isn’t thrush, and no wonder the thrush treatments aren’t working. It’s a completely different pain condition of the vulva called vulvodynia.

That’s the common scenario I see in clinic, day after day. But that’s not what this blog post is about!

This post is about the opposite situation – when it’s been called vulvodynia – maybe they’ve used the word vaginismus as well – but the problem is actually due to chronic thrush. The chronic thrush hasn’t gone away with the medical treatment. But once we manage to get rid of it, your symptoms are gone. Yes, it does happen like this – and more often than you’d think!

Let me give you an example from a recent patient in her mid-forties who developed pain with sex six months before she came to see me after a particularly nasty bout of thrush (or vulvovaginal candidiasis, as it’s technically known). I will call her (for no particular reason) Z. Z had had antibiotics over several months before she developed symptoms. Not one course – not two – but four. Four lots of antibiotics! If something is going to give you a chronic thrush problem, this is it.

The thrush she developed was so persistent, Z needed to have the antifungal tablet (fluconazole) once a week for 6 months. When she stopped the tablet, the thrush came back. This is the point she was referred to me to help with her “vaginismus” – that is, the tightness/protectiveness in her pelvic floor muscles she’d developed from being so uncomfortable for so long.

Well, on examination it was clear that her poor old pelvic floor muscles were doing what was only natural when everything is so irritated. Her vestibule – the area outside the vaginal entrance – stung to touch (vestibulodynia), and the labia stung when touched as well. There were signs that the thrush was still present, despite being on strong antifungal medication. The problem was, the enemy was being gradually defeated, but the clean-up operation had not yet begun.

Z had a lifelong history of constipation. Four lots of antibiotics was enough to wipe out her protective flora, which left the vulva and vagina vulnerable to an enemy invader – thrush. Lack of a Peace Corps (the protective flora) meant that when the enemy numbers had been reduced (via the antifungal treatment) there was no one there to restore and maintain peace, which meant the enemy invader could continue to go out of control.

So, we started to restore her Peace Corps. We used a combination of a probiotic containing bacteria that live in the vagina. She took this by mouth as well as vaginally. She took a particular prebiotic that feeds the good flora. She took a mineral supplement that suppresses yeast growth. Getting a healthy and balanced vagina is an important part of comfortable sex.

Over a few months, pain with sex completely disappeared. Also, the itch that she had been experiencing over certain parts of her cycle drastically diminished. And despite her diagnosis of vaginismus, we didn’t need to do any work on her pelvic floor muscles, aside from making sure she had good awareness of relaxing when she wanted to relax.

Pain with sex can have many causes. Sometimes there is more than one cause. Sometimes the cause is complicated, as in vulvodynia with sensitisation of the nervous system. But sometimes the cause is straightforward. How will you know? The only way you’ll know is to see a clinician with experience in this area.

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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

MTHFR and Migraines: A Right Royal Pain in the Head

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 11:23:58 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

The MTHFR gene mutation gets a lot of bad press.

Its role in cardiovascular disease susceptibility is undisputed, and a long, long list of chronic diseases is related to its unlucky presence in your gene pool.

I’m afraid this post will be yet further bad press for the not-so-innocent MTHFR.

Migraine is yet another one of those conditions.

A caveat, before I begin: MTHFR doesn’t equal disease – far from it. Keep the concept of epigenetics in mind at all times: the way the environment affects your genes, and influences the way they express and affect your health. As they say, “genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger”.

That said, it’s worthwhile knowing the link between a health condition you have and MTHFR. Knowledge it power. If this leads you to get tested for MTHFR, and other markers, it gives you the opportunity to change the environment to prevent the trigger being pulled.

My focus here is on migraine.

The MTHFR gene mutation increases susceptibility to migraine, particularly with aura. Migraine with aura is more common in people who are homozygous for the C677T variant of MTHFR (that is, they have not one, but two dud copies).

Mutations in the MTHFR gene influence your ability to produce methyl folate in the body. It often leads to increased levels of a chemical in your body called homocysteine, as your body has more difficulty in metabolising it. A study found that nutrient supplementation to reduce homocysteine levels had some pretty exciting effects on migraine: reduced disability, reduced pain frequency and reduced pain severity.

But let’s not exaggerate the effect of MTHFR.

There are other genes at play here as well. Another study found that mutations in the gene for the MTRR enzyme had an influence, completely independent of the MTHFR influence. MTRR is an enzyme involved in your metabolism of vitamin B12. Both enzymes MTHFR and MTRR could be described broadly as influencing your body’s methylation process, among many others.

Rather than making MTHFR the automatic scapegoat, it would be more accurate to say that your epigenetics surrounding methylation have a major influence on migraine.

As an integative nutritionist, your methylation process is one major focus of my evaluation of your migraines.

MTHFR is a great place to start.

It’s simple and cheap to test, and is a great first step. I frequently test MTHFR in my patients with migraine.

The results of treating what we find nutritionally are often spectacular – lifelong migraines completely gone within a few weeks.

Get in touch if you would like to explore a nutritional epigenetic solution for your migraines.

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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

Chronic Pain is Complex - But Can Be As Simple as A, B, C

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2015 at 4:32:00 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Chronic pain is not easy to live with.

And it’s no more easy for researchers to fully understand. It’s also not easy for clinicians working with people living with chronic pain. A clinician who thinks there’s a simple solution is not likely to be the best one to help you!

That aside, let’s not forget the simple stuff! At times, there can be a clear and simple contribution to chronic pain from nutrient deficiency: vitamin A, vitamin Bs, vitamin C…you get the idea!

For example, one study showed that vitamin B12 helped chronic lower back pain.

This study was doubled-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled, which is a good start for trusting the findings. It included people from age 18-65 who had had lower back pain for at least six months. The test group was given a vitamin B12 injection, while the placebo group was given a dummy injection. The test group had a greater reduction in pain and disability, and took fewer painkillers. Interestingly, there had been no attempt to investigate if there were signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency – and it still worked! While giving everyone with pain vitamin B12 injections would be a pretty haphazard approach, it does suggest that if you have had persistent pain, you should consider getting your vitamin B12 levels checked, then working with an integrative nutritionist like myself who understands the subtleties of B12 testing and treatment, and the pathways in the body it affects.

Another study showed that people with chronic, intractable pain in the joint of their jaw were nutrient deficient.

They were deficient in, on average 3 of a possible 10 tested nutrients, including beta-carotene, folate, serum iron, ferritin, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins B1, B6, B12, and C.

Another study showed that vitamin C and vitamin E supplementation reduced not only pain, but markers of inflammation in endometriosis.

I could go on and on - but this is a blog, not a book!

By no means do I wish to suggest that chronic pain is simple. As a clinician working in the field of pain for many hours a day, I know how complex pain can be.It takes a combination of approaches to address all the factors associated with chronic pain.

But I do want to make the point that we should avoid missing the simple things.

Sometimes in the complexity of what the research tells us about chronic pain, it is easy to miss basic nutrition.  

That’s why I incorporate nutritional assessment into evaluation of every patient I see with chronic pain, and with the patient’s permission, we explore this avenue of treatment. Almost without exception, the patient feels the benefits.

Thanks to Skype, it is now possible for me to do a nutritional consult with you even if you can't get to my clinic in Brisbane!

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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

Epigenetics and Pain - Why You Should Know About It

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 1:30:59 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Epigenetics! Everyone’s talking about the interaction of our genes with the environment, and how it affects our health.

Even more fascinating – and empowering – is that once we understand the influence of our genes, we have the knowledge to change our health.

The power to change the future – and the present, for that matter! – is in our hands.

We know genes influence our susceptibility to all kinds of illnesses. But what about pain? Is pain any exception?

Clearly, the answer is “no”! Susceptibility to pain – and pain syndromes, with complex names and even more complex explanations – is just as much influenced by your genes as anything else. And the concept of epigenetics –how the environment influences your genetic expression, and hence your health – tells us that once you know about it, you have the opportunity to do something about it.

Everyone knows someone that doesn’t seem to feel pain. We also know people who seem unaffected by medications – people for whom it takes a super-powered dose to have an effect. These are two simple characteristics that tell us something about the variation in the ways in which pain works in people’s lives.

We know that the role of genes in migraine is up to 58%, the role of genes in lower back pain is up to 67% and the role of genes in menstrual pain (painful periods) is up to 55%.

Genes affect your likelihood of injury.

For example, genes that code for collagen type have an influence on how likely you are to injure tendons or cartilage.

Genes also have a role in how you perceive sensation, and the pain experience your system has.

The enzyme COMT influences your body’s production of neurotransmitters involved in sensation and pain, and the MAO enzyme influences your body’s metabolism of these neurotransmitters.

Genes certainly influence how you will respond to pain medications.

The CYP450 enzymes are involved in metabolism of hormones and how you metabolise medications. They influence the detoxification of various substances through the liver.

Knowledge is power! Once you know where the weak links are in your chain, you can work on fortifying them.

Genetic testing is now widely available to the general public – and is relatively affordable. I work with people who have various symptoms (including chronic pain) who want to work out how nutritional biochemistry is contributing – and how to use this knowledge to their advantage.

Get in touch with me  if you would like advice on where to go for genetic testing, and how to get the ball rolling.

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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

New Mums...Don't Succumb To Vaginal Amnesia!

Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 12:24:58 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

It’s a situation I see regularly in my clinic: new mums with vaginal amnesia.

Let me explain.

Vaginas are sensitive creatures.

It’s an obvious statement, but it’s worth stating the obvious. They are easily overwhelmed by stress, tension and pain. New mums usually have a fair bit of all three going on. The pain of the stitches might fade fairly quickly (if you’re lucky), and then the aching back and aching shoulders sets in, from all the hours of baby holding, baby feeding, baby jiggling…and the stress of this time goes without saying.

I frequently see new mums for the first time six or so months down the track. It seems to be the time when life is getting (just barely) manageable, and the mum has time to notice for more than a few seconds that things don’t feel right – deep pelvic aching, pelvic dragging, lower back pain. And as for sex! Well, don’t even go there. The pain with sex can hang around a lot longer than what it takes for the stitches to fully heal.

I’ve talked in other posts about the role of the episiotomy or perineal tear scar, and how like any scar, it needs to become flexible and supple again.

But that’s just part of it. This post is about something different.

It’s about those poor, vulnerable, frazzled nerves of the vagina.

Frequently, I do vaginal exams on my postnatal patients, and find that the scar tissue is not the main issue. Instead, the nerves are objecting to any touch. The nerves have been on the defense for so long (often due to prolonged pain, coupled with the effects of stress) that the lightest touch becomes painful. This is seen by gentle, light touch within the vagina being reported as very painful, despite minimal pressure against scar tissue or muscles.

I see this as a situation of unintentional neglect. The focus has been on anywhere but the vagina, and in response, the vagina is crying out for attention and a bit of “TLC”. The new sensitivity is the nerves’ way of expressing a sense of “danger”. This has often started with a general reluctance to touch the area due to early pain due to the inflamed stitches. But this progresses to a persistent fear of pain, a defensiveness of the area. The nerves have “forgotten” how to feel sensation normally. What shouldn’t be painful (like light touch, pressure or stretching of the vagina) becomes painful.

Sex is not on the agenda at first.

When it eventually comes time to go down this road again, there is a great amount of fear and trepidation. This leads to an avoidance of sex  - easy to do anyway, when life with a baby is so busy and exhausting! – but this may end up inadvertently making the problem worse.

If you have pain with sex after having a baby, and it doesn’t ease with the first few times, it could be a kind of “vaginal amnesia” developing.

It’s important to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist for evaluation, and a program to help your body get back on track.

Then you can aim to forget all about vaginal amnesia!

For lots more detail – and practical help – about persistent pain in the pelvis, see my e-book Outsmart Your Pain: Twelve Key Insights for Conquering Vulvodynia and Persistent 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.

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