Using the Power of Scents During Your Fertility Journey
Have you ever walked into a room and experienced an immediate memory from a single scent? Whether that be the smell of a dessert passing by your table that reminded you of your grandmother, or that Axe Body Spray from your high school boyfriend. Your sense of smell plays an extremely important role in your body, impacting mood, hormones, stress and even concentration. Now, although we may take our sense of smell for granted, this is an extremely sophisticated and important function that can impact so many aspects of our health. There are an estimated 300 active olfactory receptor genes specifically devoted to helping you detect thousands of different fragrance molecules. In fact, your sense of smell (olfaction) is directly connected with many important aspects of your brain that control your emotions including, the amygdala, hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex. This would explain why we are so emotionally connected to scents. We actually can notice immediate changes in our mood simply by the presence of certain scents. In today’s blog post, I wanted to share how we at, NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, use scents to help our patients with hormone related disorders. I will also be reviewing the importance of the quality of your scents and how to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals that can absolutely mess with your hormones.
The Use of Aromatherapy in Stress Management
Now, before we talk about a few of my favorite scents, it is important that we talk about the big elephant in the room… stress. Now more than ever, we are under more stress, more deadlines and more social criticism than ever before. Unfortunately, that stress is absolutely impacting our health. In fact, researchers agree that chronic stress has a significant impact on a variety of health concerns including obesity, infertility, endometriosis, depression, heart disease and even diabetes. And although we would all love to live in a “stress-free” environment, the reality is, we can’t eliminate all the stress out of our lives.
What we can do, however, is to begin to acknowledge and address our stress. For example, if there are toxic relationships in your life that are stressful, considering setting boundaries with those relationships is an important first step into reducing your stress. Other stressors, like the stress associated with trying to get pregnant, can often feel unavoidable while you are trying to conceive. In these instances, the use of stress management techniques can be extremely valuable. Now although, breathwork can be helpful, when used properly, for most of us, taking a deep breath when we are already stressed or anxious, doesn’t really help. Instead, using an unconscious behavior, like your sense of smell, appears to be a more effective way of implementing stress management techniques.
At NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, we focus on women’s health and preconception support, helping couples throughout their fertility journey. As some of you may have experienced, this journey can be very stressful and often filled with a variety of doctor’s visits, waiting days post ovulation and continuous worry. Although we may not be able to eliminate all of your stress and anxiety, we do believe that daily practices including exercise, light exposure, high quality foods, sleep and aromatherapy can make a significant difference in your experience.
One of our favorite ways to use aromatherapy is by helping patients create a meditative state.
How to Create a Meditative State:
Select a location that provides you inner peace (a room in your home, a nearby park, etc).
Select a triggering scent you would like to use to anchor your meditative practice (Make sure to use only organic, high quality essential oils that are plant-derived like magnolia, orange, rosemary, eucalyptus, etc).
For the following six weeks, plan to spend 15-20 minutes in your meditative state at the location of your choice, with your triggering scent 3 times per week. This will allow the brain to connect to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state and will allow you to later tap into this state even during episodes of anxiety.
Hormone Disrupting Chemicals
Just like I mentioned that you likely remember the Axe Body Spray your high school boyfriend used, fragrances, especially synthetic fragrance can have an extremely potent impact on your health. Synthetic fragrances commonly found in your cosmetics, cleaning products and air fresheners are rarely made with a single chemical and in fact, are often a combination of a variety of volatile chemicals that are specifically designed to elicit your olfactory system. Although some of the chemicals used are listed on the ingredient list, according to the Environmental Working Group, the average fragrant contains about 14 secret chemicals that are not listed on the label. In fact, if you see the word “fragrance” on a label, it can consist of up to 3,059 chemicals. Not only can this be deceiving to consumers, but some of these 3,059 chemicals have been directly linked to a variety of health concerns including cancer, reproductive toxicity (infertility), as well as, allergies and sensitivities.
For this reason, evaluating your current fragrance source is extremely important. That means, going through your candles, ditching the air fresheners and reviewing your cosmetics. If you aren’t sure whether a product could be negatively impacting your health, I suggest using the Skin Deep Database by the Environmental Working Group to assess your current products. You may be surprised to hear that some of our most common products contain chemicals or ingredients that are known carcinogens (cancer causing). Eliminating your current exposure points is your first step.
The second step can be to incorporate safer fragrant alternatives.
About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...