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Connective Tissue Dysfunction in Vulvodynia and Chronic Pelvic Pain

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 5:17:27 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Your vulva hurts. Your vagina hurts. You’ve been told you have vulvodynia.

One doctor says the problem is in your nerves. Another says the problem is in your muscles.

But has anyone checked your connective tissue?

There is no doubt that in most cases of vulvodynia there is a problem with the nerves – either the local nerves of the vulva, or the central nervous system (the nerves that travel through your spinal cord and brain). In fact, some cases of vulvodynia are more accurately termed pudendal neuralgia (a problem with the pudendal nerve, which goes to the vulva).

Equally, most women with vulvodynia have a problem with the pelvic floor muscles – either as a cause (they were tight first, and caused dysfunction) or an effect (sex hurts so much it makes muscles tense up). Sometimes this is called vaginismus – confusing!

But the connective tissue is an often overlooked area that can contribute to vulvodynia as well.

So, what exactly is connective tissue, and what does it have to do with vulvodynia?

Connective tissue is the wrapping that covers your muscles and organs, and separates them from each other. It separates different layers of the body – skin from fat, fat from muscle, muscle from deeper muscle, and organs from muscle. It is everywhere in your body, connecting and holding everything together.

Connective tissue wraps around your blood vessels (veins and arteries), your lymphatic vessels (which carry fluid) and around your nerves. It is even wrapped around individual strands of your nerves, and individual fibres of muscle!

With this connective tissue surrounding and connecting all parts of your anatomy, can you imagine some of the effects if it’s tight or inflexible?

That’s right: pressure, tension, pulling, tugging, squashing and restriction of muscles, nerves and blood vessels. This can lead to pain that feels like burning, tugging, pinching, grabbing, swelling and “something getting stuck”.

Part 2 in this series will help you understand your connective tissue further - including how to get it healthy and flexible.

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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

Sex Selection of Your Baby: Can You Do It Naturally?

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 4:12:17 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

"Of course I just want a healthy baby...but...I wouldn't mind having a girl this time..."

Sometimes I am asked whether it is possible to increase the likelihood of having a girl as opposed to a boy, or vice versa. This is from parents who are grateful for the gift of a child and would love and welcome the child regardless, but (for example) have a gaggle of girls and would love a boy.

When it comes to assisted reproduction – for example, sex selection in IVF – this is controversial and ethically debatable. However, many people feel comfortable if this “odds increase” is based on natural methods, and often ask what I know about the topic.

Certain factors have often been cited as increasing or decreasing numbers of boy or girl babies born relative to the opposite sex. The most well-known of these is stress, the impact of which can be measured using a test done at home.

A recent study (Catalano et al 2013) after the 2011 eastern Japan earthquake found that in areas most affected by the disaster, there was a decrease in male babies conceived relative to females. Sadly, spontaneous abortion of male foetuses increased in Japan in the period following the earthquake.

It has also been proposed that boys born following a period of major stress (e.g. famine) grow up into a cohort of men who are relatively more robust because of a selective increased loss of male babies, thus acting as a “culling” of weaker males in utero.

Additionally, more female babies are born to women with what are perceived as “high-stress jobs” (Ruckstuhl et al 2010). However, this effect was blunted where there was a high-earning partner; clearly financial security can have a stress-relieving impact.

So, overall, stress seems to select for the birth of more girls than boys.

(Interestingly, no one has suggested purposely increasing your stress levels to increase the chance of a girl, as the above research would suggest – clearly, we are all stressed enough already!)

There are two main natural methods discussed for “sex selection” of the baby.

(This would more accurately be termed “increasing the odds of a particular sex”, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll keep it at “sex selection”!)

One method of proposed natural sex selection is timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation.

A second method of proposed natural sex selection is diet and supplementation.

These will be addressed in turn in future episodes of this Blog Series.

Interested in concepts related to fertility? Sign up for our Fertility Blog Series here.

A Guide to Getting Off the Pill (or IUD, or injection, or implant…)

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 12:42:00 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

The Pill has its upsides and downsides.

Most of us women have been on the Pill at one time or another – 82%, to be precise. But many women have not been satisfied with it. In fact, between 2006 and 2008, one-third of women who had ever used the Pill discontinued it because they were dissatisfied with it. 

More and more women are telling me that they would really like to get off the Pill.

Some of them are switching to the IUD, (such as the Mirena), and finding that it trades one set of problems for the other.  The most common reason for ceasing the Mirena in a 2013 study was cramping.

But many women persist with the Pill despite problems.

In my experience this is largely for one of two reasons:

  • The perceived reliability and convenience of the Pill
  • The “welcome” side effects of the Pill

The reliability (or not) of the Pill

We often think of the Pill as a fairly watertight method of contraception. It is commonly quoted at an effectiveness of around 99%. However, with typical use, the failure rate of the Pill over one year was 9%. This means that for every 100 women that use the Pill for one year, 9 of fall pregnant unintentionally. This compares with 7% of Depo Provera (injectable) users, less than 1% of IUD users, and 17% of condom users.

The “welcome” side effects of the Pill

Before I talk about unwelcome side effects of the Pill, it’s important to point out that some women go on the Pill – and stay on it – because of perceived positive side effects. The two most common are

  • Help with acne
  • Help with painful periods

So women are in a constant state of “push-pull” when it comes to the Pill and other chemical contraceptives.

They are not really comfortable with what it’s doing to their bodies – or at least feel uneasy about effects in the long-term – but there seem to be too many good reasons to stay on it.

It’s also easier to keep doing what you’re doing than make a change – so some women stay on it, despite their misgivings, because of it’s the easier choice.

But what if you would really like some help to come off it?

Maybe you’re concerned about your future fertility, or your risks of hormone dependent cancers. Maybe you don’t like how it makes you feel, or don’t like the side effects you’ve had of decreased libido and weight gain. Or maybe it just doesn’t feel right to you. For any of these reasons, this blog post series of A Guide to Getting Off the Pill is for you.

To read the first step to getting off the Pill, click here.

If you would like to sign up to receive this free information series, go to our Newsletter Signup page and tick the box “Getting Off the Pill”, or just click on the button below.

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The Muscle You Need to Train to Improve Your Singing (or for the non-singers…your shouting)

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 2:32:01 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

No, it’s not a throat muscle, and it’s not your abdominals.

Of course, the abdominals are very important in good singing technique. Any good singing teacher will teach you how to breathe diaphragmatically and activate your abdominal muscles correctly to maximise your air flow, essential to good singing technique.

But there is one humble muscle that is often forgotten – the pelvic floor.

The muscles that form the floor of the pelvis need to coordinate with the abdominals and the diaphragm for effective technique in singing.

And it’s not just singing, but other more mundane daily activities. Take this quick quiz:

Can you coordinate your pelvic floor muscles with your abdominals and diaphragm when you…

…speak?

…hum?

…whistle?

…blow out a match?

…sing?

…shout?

…blow your nose?

…cough?

…blow up a balloon?

See the link below from the clever people at Burrell Education – the dynamic image will give you a sense of how these muscles coordinate together.

http://www.burrelleducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Breathe_titled.gif

If the abdominals and diaphragm work correctly, but the pelvic floor doesn’t play its part, not only will you produce sound less efficiently, but you put yourself at risk of causing or worsening things like prolapse and bladder leakage.

I frequently see women who can coordinate the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles, but the pelvic floor gets left behind.

Yes, it is a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time…but it can be trained!

The pelvic floor, like the abdominals, should be released during the intake of breath, and activated during the production of sound for best airflow.

I give my musical patients a very structured program to incorporate the pelvic floor correctly in order to improve their singing or instrument playing.

These exercises are a must to incorporate into your singing warm-ups and singing training.

And for those who avoid singing anywhere except the shower, you may find that training this way makes you want to break into song outside of the bathroom!

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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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Chronic Pain in the Vulva and Pelvis: Retrain Your Brain

Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 6:54:38 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Have you ever wished there was a manual to help you outsmart your pain?

Good news – there is. In fact, it is called “Outsmart Your Pain: Twelve Key Insights for Conquering Vulvodynia and Persistent Pelvic Pain”. I wrote this as an e-book to make it accessible to the largest number of people in the shortest possible time frame.

Recent research shows that persistent pain has a lot to do with the brain. The brain begins to process sensation inaccurately, and needs to be retrained in order to resolve the chronic pain.

brainonfire

But firstly – why would we need a book specifically on pelvic pain anyway?

Persistent pain at the vulva has a lot in common with persistent pain anywhere else in the body, like the back or the knee for example.

However, it is at the same time quite different.

The female genitals are a region of intense privacy and emotional vulnerability. The vulva and vagina are important symbols of femininity, womanhood and sexual identity for many women.

Therefore, pain in this region may be of a different quality and have a particular psychological and emotional impact.

The difficulty in talking about and coming to terms with pain in this area can hamper recovery.

On the flip side, these identity issues can be addressed through education, therapy and self-help methods that are referred to throughout the e-book. These include methods for retraining your brain.

calmbrain

The e-book also contains a Recovery Workbook designed for you to use over twelve weeks. This section summarises each section and its Practical Tips, and gives you a structured system for following the concrete tips I give you. This is not a complete manual on any type of pelvic pain or vulvar or vaginal pain, but rather a summary of the neuroscience aspect of persistent pain, structured as an educational tool and workbook to help you in your recovery.

Get the e-book here.

If you need the specific help that only a health professional experienced in this area can provide, contact me to make an appointment and get started on your 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

No, You Can't Get It All From Food Part 3: Nutrient Thieves

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014 at 12:12:47 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

What you might be doing to rob yourself of essential nutrients might surprise you!

We all know that getting enough nutrients is important for general health and normal functioning of the body. But it’s not just about eating a healthy diet (as nutrients in food may be lower than you think). Even if you are getting the nutrients from your food, something in your diet or lifestyle may be stealing them away before your body can use them. Some of these Nutrient Thieves are obvious, and some less so.

Alcohol

Alcohol depletes almost every nutrient from the body. Drinking alcohol makes you need more B-vitamins, magnesium, potassium

Coffee, Tea and Other Caffeine Sources

Unfortunately, coffee increases your need for all of the B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium.

Medications

Many medications have an effect on nutrient levels in the body, and the established adverse effects probably only represent a small portion of the nutritional impact on the body. Anti-epilepsy drugs increase need for vitamin E, antibiotics and methotrexate increase need for folate, antacids increase need for iron and phosphorus. The negative effects of proton pump inhibitors on nutrition is an issue I have addressed in a separate post.

The Pill

While the oral contraceptive Pill is, of  course, a medication, it is often not recognised as such (many women leave it off the list when I ask them for medications). Taking the Pill makes you need more vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, zinc and more.

Nutrient Supplements

Even taking supplements can be a problem: vitamin D can deplete the other fat-soluble vitamins A, K and E for example, and calcium, zinc and iron can all block each other.

Food Additives

Even additives hidden in our food increase the need for particular nutrients. One example is tartrazine, the green colour found (inexplicably) in Tim Tams, which increases the body’s need for zinc.

Malabsorption

Malabsorption can be due to many causes from coeliac disease to inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis) to low gastric acid to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome. Malabsorption increases your need for all nutrients because fewer are finding their way into the cell where they are required. Most common nutrients at risk include vitamin B12, zinc and iron.

Pregnancy

Don’t forget that while pregnancy requires only a small increase in calorie intake, almost all nutrients are required in higher amounts – and this is tricky when you weren’t managing to get them beforehand, and now you are constantly feeling queasy! It’s important not to take this lightly, as levels of some nutrients, such as omega 3 fatty acids, can have a far-reaching impact on your child’s health and behaviour for years down the track.

Stress

Battling stress throughout the day relies on a constant demand of B-vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C to support the adrenals.

Sugar and Refined Carbohydrate

It’s a cruel double-whammy: not only is sugar and excessive carbohydrate bad for us, but it also makes us need more nutrients. These include the B-vitamins, chromium, magnesium and potassium

Fibre

The high-fibre diet: it seems to be the pinnacle of good health. A healthy diet is by definition high in fibre, but there is a downside. Phytic acid, present in all plant foods, binds important minerals to form phytates. These phytates remove minerals from the body, including zinc, iron and calcium. Bran cereal for breakfast? Forget about any nutrients for that meal!

This is only the beginning. Genetic variability is another major reason why the nutrients you are getting in your diet may not be enough for you - and this is the topic of another blog post.

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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

No, You Can't Get It All From Food Part 2: Nutrients in Food are Lower Than You Think

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014 at 12:31:32 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

It’s sad but true.

While we’d like to think we can get all our essential nutrients from food, it’s not easy.

Last post I talked about how are diets are never as good as we’d like to think. Most of us know this intuitively, and research confirms we’re not meeting our nutrient requirements.

For example, a 2014 study of Australian adolescents showed that fewer than 50% of females got enough calcium, magnesium, folate or vitamin D or E, and the males fared no better. 50% of males did not get adequate magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin D or E. A multitude of studies shows inadequate nutrient intakes in special groups of people, including breastfeeding mums, people on a gluten-free diet, and older adults.

So this brings me back to another key reason we are not getting enough nutrients:

We can’t get the nutrients from food if they’re not there.

Australian soils are low in zinc, molybdenum, manganese and zinc.  There has been a dramatic reduction in the amount of nutrients in the soil that grows our fresh food since the 1920s. Magnesium levels in the soil, for example, have declined as the use of fertiliser has risen. This is because increasing levels of phosphate in the soil (from fertiliser) result in the plant taking up less magnesium.

Many heavy metals block the uptake or the action of essential minerals in our body.

Cadmium, which is present in fertiliser, blocks the uptake of zinc. Mercury and lead, which we are exposed to every day, strongly block calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, and other essential trace minerals. 

Other chemicals in our environment also compromise nutrient intake.

For example, the fluoride in our water interferes with iodine and molybdenum, minerals that are both essential to our good health.

This is a reality of 21st century living: even when we try to eat the best quality and freshest produce possible, we can’t rely on the level of nutrients being sufficient for our needs.

Next post in this series will focus on common “nutrient thieves” in your diet and lifestyle, some of which may surprise you.

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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

How Badly Is Stress Affecting Your Physical Health?

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 8:59:36 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

A Simple Method to Quantify the Effects of Stress on You on a Daily Basis

We all know that stress is bad for our health. Sometimes the pressure to squeeze “de-stressing” in to our already chaotic lives is a source of stress in itself! But how do you know when the stress is so significant that it is a major factor in your low energy, youar sleep problems, or your health issues?

There is a simple test you can do yourself at home without going to your doctor.

This test is especially useful if you have anxiety or depression, insomnia, headaches, low energy, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, poor immunity or blood sugar problems. I also see evidence of adrenal issues in women with vulvodynia, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain.

The test looks at your cortisol levels as they change through the day. As you can see from the diagram below, cortisol is high to start the day, then gradually drops into the evening, so that you develop a nice, natural tiredness as a signal you need sleep to recharge your body and mind. Cortisol then begins to slowly rise in the hours before 6am to ensure you wake up again – ideally, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

 

A number of things can go out of balance with this system. As stress causes you to release cortisol, if your stress rises towards the evening, the cortisol can spike or fail to drop as low as it should.

This can result in sleep problems:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Early waking

The last one is especially common. If you have a busy, stressful or active evening, the cortisol spike may result in you waking at 4 or 5am, even though you actually need more sleep for your health.

If you are constantly busy, overcommitted and stressed, you are under great demand to produce cortisol. Your cortisol may actually be too high, making you feel edgy and overstimulated, and as though you can’t sit still without doing something. If this continues on too long, you start to drain your adrenal glands, a bit like using the mobile phone without recharging it. If your battery starts to run low, you can then, over time, have trouble producing enough cortisol, and approach “burnout”.

Classic signs of these kind of energy problems include:

  • Feeling groggy and unable to get going in the morning
  • Low energy despite plenty of sleep
  • Feeling unrefreshed after sleep
  • Low mood and difficulty getting motivated for anything

A simple test that can track your cortisol rhythm is the Adrenal Hormone Profile.

This is completed at home by spitting into a test tube four times per day – 8am, 12pm, 6pm and 10pm. The cortisol is then measured by the lab.

This test is not ordered by your doctor, who will tend to order only a morning cortisol, which will not give the full picture. The Adrenal Hormone Profile needs to be ordered by an integrative practitioner who is experienced at interpreting the cortisol patterns.

Contact us now if you would like to order this test and gain some insight into the impact of your adrenal function on your health.

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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

The Five Sources of Painful Sex (And Not One of Them Starts With "V")

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 12:21:26 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Vaginismus, vulvodynia, vestibulodynia, vaginitis, vulvar lichen sclerosus, vaginal atrophy, vulvitis…

Any of these might be names that your “painful sex” has been given, but they don’t tell you much about the root cause. Painful sex itself is medically termed “dyspareunia”- but again, if a doctor tells you that you have dyspareunia, it doesn’t leave you any wiser.

Even after you have been given a diagnosis (and many women never are), it is more important to understand the cause of your pain. While there is rarely one source of the pain, these are five areas that can contribute to the cycle of pain to ask your health professional about.

Skin.

vaginalepithelium_sm_sm

The external skin of the vulva or the internal skin of the vagina is an often overlooked source of pain. Raw, chafed, inflamed skin is painful to rub on your arm, so why would it be any different in the vulva or vagina? Sore, vulnerable and fragile vaginal or vulval skin can be due to many causes, including hormones, allergies, mucosal inflammation from other sources or nutrient deficiencies. Vaginal dryness can be a contributing factor, but is often not the only cause (or even the most important cause). Tight scar tissue in the skin from episiotomies is another source of pain with sex. Has your health professional ruled all of these out?

Nerves.

Nerves convey information about sensation to your brain. Sometimes, though, the nerves themselves get “caught up in the action” creating a type of nerve inflammation called neurogenic inflammation. This creates over-sensitive nerves, technically known as “peripheral sensitisation”.

Organs.

uterusandcervix

Tender or inflamed organs can be painful when pressure is applied to them. A problem with your bladder can give you pain with sex, especially in specific positions. Possibilities include urinary tract infection, urethritis or interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome can also cause pain with sex, as there is often significant pressure on the rectum and the small intestine through the walls of the vagina. Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition leading to formation of adhesions or internal scars, and a common cause of painful sex.

Muscles.

It is rare that I see a woman with painful sex who does not have some muscular cause as part of the picture. Stinging after sex can be an issue with the skin - but it can also be an early sign of problems with the muscles. It is important that all parts of the pelvic floor muscles, from the surface to the deep muscles, are assessed, as well as the deep internal hip muscles (obturator internus).  More commonly, it is assumed that muscles are the sole cause when there are other causes that need to be addressed as well. While muscular problems are important to address, it is rarely sufficient to work only on the muscular causes of painful sex.

Brain.

brainonfire

The brain causes of painful sex fall into two categories: the over-blamed brain and the under-blamed brain. In the over-blamed brain, it is assumed that stress, relationship problems and psychological problems are to blame for most of the painful sex. This is rarely the case. In the under-blamed brain, the contribution of the central nervous system to the maintenance of your pain is undervalued. Central sensitisation is the medical term for when your brain and nervous system are actually helping to drive your pain - and it does not mean you are being a hypochondriac! Your health professional should be able to describe the ways in which the brain acts to perpetuate pain. In this situation it is a must to retrain your brain. My e-book Outsmart Your Pain describes the brain’s role in your pain and how to break the cycle.  It can be ordered here.

Ask your health professional if they have ticked off all five sources of pain in your assessment.

They should be able to give you a rough percentage that each is likely to be contributing to your pain.

If identifying potential sources of the pain is important, it’s even more important to identify the processes causing your continuing pelvic pain – but that’s the topic for another blog post.

Now that you know what areas are involved, you may be interested in a brief summary of ten reasons why sex hurts. There may also be special considerations for pain with sex in the older woman. And let's face it, sometimes it can just be a challenge to track down that elusive libido!

If you would like to solve your painful sex – whatever “V-Word” it might have been called - contact us to make an appointment.

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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

Paralysed By Choice: Three Steps to Working Out What Diet is Right for You

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 8:38:00 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Gluten-free, Paleo, grain-free, low-FODMAPs, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, GAPs, raw, liver detox, low-salicylate/amine/glutamates, high-fibre, high-protein, low-carbohydrate, anti-Candida, low-oxalate, alkalising, Weston A Price, vegetarian…how do you sift your way through?

Some of these diets can be questionable, especially the way they are described or interpreted on some websites or by less experienced practitioners.

But most of these diets can be helpful – even ideal – for some people for short or long periods of their life. It is rare that one diet will cover all of your needs for your whole life. So where do you start in working out what diet will suit your body’s needs right now?

There is a wealth of information on the Internet about ideal diets for gut health, thyroid health, autoimmune disease, hormone-balancing, weight loss, best energy, you name it, as well as testimonials from people who are convinced of the benefits of these diets. There are sites galore promoting interstitial cystitis diets, IBS diets, diets for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), anti-Candida diets. But sometimes, the wealth of information can leave you feeling no closer to figuring out what is right for your body’s needs at this stage of your life.

Let me give you a simple formula to work out what is right for you.

Listen to your body.

This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how often people ignore it. These are just a few of the comments I hear all the time:

“I feel bloated if I eat too much wheat”.

“Too much dairy gives me diarrhoea”.

“When I eat eggs, they go straight through me.”

An integrative nutritionist can help you joint the dots on factors in your history that give important clues. For example, chronic sinus issues are often associated with a dairy intolerance, as is bedwetting in children and acne (in fact, a 2014 review in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology) comments on the link between acne and dairy, which requires further investigation). The link between gluten sensitivity and thyroid disease is also well established in the research.

Don’t ignore these clues! Without wishing to oversimplify, it is important to start somewhere – and following the already-established links is a good place to start.

Testing, testing, testing

Going in the direction that has helped others with your condition is only a starting point at best – and at worst, it can take you for a ride on the “health website merry-go-round”, where you half-follow one diet after the other without ever systematically measuring the results.

Working with a practitioner experienced in testing is essential. Choosing the right tests is important, as is choosing the right order of tests. Which are most important? Which ones should you prioritise? Are there key ones you should include before a dietary change? (One example is in making sure you do the right testing before you try going gluten-free.) Some of the key tests in establishing what kind of diet is appropriate to your body include:

  • IgG food sensitivity testing
  • Lactulose breath testing
  • Fructose breath testing
  • Coeliac screening
  • Bioimpedance (Body Composition) testing

In some cases, further important information is gained from tests such as:

  • Functional Liver Detoxification Profiles
  • Hormonal Testing
  • Autoimmune marker testing, such as thyroid antibodies
  • Adrenal Hormone Testing
  • Red Cell Essential Fatty Acids

A functional medicine practitioner will be able to order any of these tests that are appropriate to your situation. Much of this testing is done through what is known as “functional pathology” as opposed to “general pathology”. This usually means reasonable out-of-pocket expense. Some of these tests can cost a few hundred dollars. However, they will probably save you far more in consultation and supplement expenses, not to mention medical expenses over the years as undiagnosed problems turn into more serious medical conditions.

Put your history and test results together with a skilled functional medicine practitioner or integrative nutritionist.

It’s important to find an experienced practitioner to help you navigate the territory. This may be a naturopath, a clinical nutritionist or a medical doctor. Look for someone who uses or understands the terms “functional medicine”, “nutrition medicine” or “integrative nutritionist”. Generally, if they provide rebates, the rebates will be under naturopathy, not dietetics.

Self-treating is a minefield, even when you have good knowledge and awareness of your body. In fact, functional medicine practitioners (FMPs) often see other FMPs to help them with their own health!

Improving your health through optimal nutrition is anything but  a one-size fits all approach. It requires commitment on your part, a skilled and experienced functional medicine practitioner, and the careful collection of information from your history, your symptoms and specific testing. The great news is, you’ll find that the effort pays off, helping you achieve the best health possible.

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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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The Gut - Thyroid Link (In Under A Hundred Words)

Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 2:05:32 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

How do gut problems lead to Hashimoto’s disease? This comes up often with my patients.

The explanation is rather long and convoluted (but fascinating, I promise!) so strap yourselves in for the first leg of the ride, for which I’ll use diagrams to start you thinking. This will be the first in a Gut-Thyroid series of blog posts to help you navigate the territory and apply the knowledge to your own health.

(And yes… this is the only way I could keep within the word count promised!)

Watch this space for more and see also The Thyroid Summit.

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