Why I Teach

I am very excited today because I just decided to teach a One Day Fertility Yoga Retreat  in our Chicago location on July 18 .  It’s been a couple of months since I’ve taught a class, largely because we have such amazing teachers (like Jenliyn Francis, Sara Shelley and Jeni O’Keefe) in all our locations.  Yet, I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for anything.

First, teaching yoga, especially at Pulling Down the Moon, grounds and centers me.  For those of you who know my story, you know fertility struggles shaped and directed my life in ways I could never have imagined.  I love sharing in the raw energy of transformation that women bring with them to our yoga class.   As I teach the healing model that frames our yoga I’m also continually struck by its applicability to every challenge in our lives, not just infertility.  Each story I hear is moving and each personality so different that I always walk away a bit transformed myself.   Above all, I love it when I see our students exchange emails (mine included!) at the end of class and make dates for future get-togethers.  The only rough part of teaching is having to shoo my students out of the tea room after class.  I know they’d stay there for hours if they could.  Luckily, it’s summer and our Chicago space is right on the river so taking the chat outside and up the riverwalk to Japonais is always a possibility.

So why am I blogging this?  Well, I think it’s to share my excitement and let you all know that my heart is still very present with our mission.   Even though my fertility struggles are over, my love of the journey is still very fresh.  If you have any questions about our yoga class or this retreat, feel free to contact me directly at beth@pullingdownthemoon.com .   I’m totally looking forward to it.

If this retreat doesn’t work for you or is out of your financial reach, we do have a Fully Fertile book group starting in July as well .  This is a free, peer-led book group that meets for thirteen weeks at PDtM’s River North location to work through the holistic plan for fertility described in our book, Fully Fertile.

I hope that summer brings you joy, peace and +++ experiences this summer.  Peace, Beth

Get the Dirt on Fertility Nutrition

By Breea Johnson, MS RD LDN

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Growing Power’s Urban Agriculture Farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Founder Will Allen is a national guru of local and sustainable food and grows food year round to supply many restaurants, farmers markets and schools in the Midwest.  So, what does this have to do with fertility, you ask? Well, Allen believes that farming isn’t as much about the growing of fruits, vegetables and grains; rather it’s about building soil which he often refers to as “fertile soil.” His message is this:  Without nutrient-rich soil, plants won’t grow, his land will be barren and he will have no fruits or vegetables to sell .  As I listened to him speak, I couldn’t help think about the relationship between “soil fertility” and “human fertility” and my work at Pulling Down the Moon specializing in fertility nutrition.  While growing vegetables may seem like a huge departure from helping women conceive, there are actually many more similarities than you might think.  

If you have ever tried to grow organic vegetables this thought may have crossed your mind. I’m personally finding in my spring venture the amount of work required to grow vegetables organically, with no pesticides, fertilizers or Miracle Gro. Vegetables may sprout in ordinary potting soil but in order to get them to grow and thrive and produce offspring they need soil that is completely nutrient-rich and thriving with microorganisms – along with sun and water, of course.  When you ask Will Allen what his biggest asset is on his urban farm, he won’t say equipment or even the people, he will always say the worms.  With hundreds of thousands of worms living on his farm, he utilizes them to compost food waste scraps into beautiful and nutrient-rich soil in order for his plants to thrive.  It’s easy to see with a visible eye how nutrient rich the soil is and taste of the vegetables is so unbelievable that I literally crave their spicy salad mix!

So, think about it. If soil nutrition is essential for soil fertility then human nutrition is essential for human fertility, right? Yes, there absolutely needs to be a nutrient-rich environment (body) for a baby to develop.  In order for this to happen, nutrient-rich foods need to be consumed.  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, quality meat and dairy, eggs and fish have what is termed “nutrient density” – lots of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals per calorie. A diet full of these foods and void of processed nutrient-empty foods is sure to turn your body into a “nutrient-rich” one – perfect for seed planting! 

Another big connection between soil fertility and human fertility are the benefits of microorganisms. Our microbiota (the bacteria that live on and within us) actually outnumber cells that are on our body.  We call them “probiotics” as they are “good” bacteria that can be found on vegetables (specifically fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi), fermented beans and cultured dairy such as yogurt and kefir.  Almost all cultures include a fermented food or beverage as part of their daily diet, likely leftover from a time when fermentation was used to preserve foods prior to refrigeration. In our modern times of trying to kill off all bacteria we are starting to realize that the bacteria can actually be very beneficial to health, especially in fertility. Not only do the bacteria help break down food in our digestive system so we can absorb and utilize more nutrients, but they also help keep pathogenic bacteria at bay (such as E. Coli) and help keep our immune system supported.  Similar to soil fertility, the worms keep the pathogenic bacteria low and the beneficial bacteria high while producing nutrients in the composted material. Plus, recent research shows that beneficial bacteria may help prevent early pregnancy loss and improve IVF outcomes.

I often get asked if nutrition is actually important in the role of fertility. While my first instinct is to say “Of course,” as nutrition is important in every aspect of health, I think that comparing human fertility to soil fertility makes it a more obvious connection.  Can you plant a thriving garden in a clay-filled, nutrient-void soil, shady, bug-less patch of your yard?  You can try, but the chances of it growing are slim.  Can you dig up some dirt, add some compost, some worms and seeds in a sunny spot and water and expect to grow tiny seedlings? Your chances are definitely better!  

For more information on Pulling Down the Moon’s nutrition program please visit www.pullingdownthemoon.com or call (312)321-0004 to discuss the best nutrition options for you.

The Many Faces of PCOS

by Breea Johnson, MS RD LDN

An important aspect of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is the fact that it is a syndrome, not a disease, meaning it’s a collection of symptoms.  Working in fertility nutrition, I’m constantly fascinated by the many faces of PCOS.  Gone are the days where the typical PCOS patient is overweight, has insulin resistance, adult acne, facial hair growth and elevated testosterone levels.  Normal body weight and thin women can present with PCOS.  Women also may or may not have insulin resistance, which has been so commonly associated with PCOS.

When I see clients with PCOS, 90% of the time it is because a woman wants to conceive in the coming months and does not get a regular period.  The other 10% want to conceive at some point in their life, have tried medication and were not happy with the side effects and want a more natural way to manage PCOS and induce ovulation.  Many women do not even realize they do not have a normal cycle until they discontinue the birth control pill which has medically induced their cycle for many years.

While the causes of PCOS is unclear, we do know that it is related to an underlying hormonal imbalance and that working to balance hormones and increase the sensitivity of the hormone, insulin, can definitely benefit a woman with PCOS.  While we have a comprehensive nutritional treatment strategy for PCOS at Pulling Down the Moon, a few of our important recommendations are:

  • Eat low glycemic carbs: Lowering the intake of refined carbohydrates such bread and pastries and increasing nutrient-dense foods can be beneficial to decrease insulin levels.  Insulin is the “store and save” hormone, as elevated insulin levels make it difficult to lose weight.
  • Try FlowPro: Myo-inositol, part of the B-vitamin complex , has been found in multiple research studies to help increase insulin sensitivity and induce ovulation in a high percentage of women with PCOS.  Some research has found it to be equally effective as Metformin in restoring ovulation.  Myo-inositol has also been found to increase progesterone levels and decrease testosterone levels. 
  • Have your Vitamin D levels checked:   Studies have shown that women with PCOS have very low levels of Vitamin D (25-OH) which may contribute to insulin resistance.  The lab test is a blood test that your primary care physician can administer.

 

  • Get screened for autoimmune thyroid disease: PCOS has been linked to autoimmune thyroiditis) with studies showing a three-fold increase of autoimmune thyroid disease among women with PCOs.  In addition to having the standard thyroid tests performed by your primary care physician, have you thyroid antibodies checked.

While PCOS is not a well-understood syndrome, there are many treatments both conventional and alternative that really work to help reduce symptoms and induce ovulation.  A client recently emailed to tell me that after 3 weeks of taking FlowPro she got her period for the first time naturally and within a few cycles was pregnant.  If you have any questions about PCOS and nutrition or would like to set up an appointment with a Pulling Down the Moon nutritionist, please click here or call (312) 321-0004.

Can Cookouts Harm Sperm Quality?

Summer is the season for cookouts, al fresco dining and steaks on the barbie.  Yet, all that charred animal flesh may not be the best for you favorite guy’s fertility.  Read more here .

Farm-fresh Foods for Fertility

Kimberly Wong, RD, LDN

Spring, in unbroken tradition, has long been a celebration of the fertility of the earth. Similarly, this glowing season marks a time of renewal and revitalization in one’s fertility journey. Thus, in new hope and anticipation, what better way to welcome the coming months than by improving your fertile body with the natural nutrients of Mother Nature.

While it seems like the path to parenthood may at time be paved with difficult words upon deeply scientific concepts, the movement for local foods, dubbed with the endearing, folksy name “locavorism,” is much less esoteric and was spawned in the mid-2000s in an effort to promote sustainability and eco-consciousness.

Fertility vocab 101: locavore, (ˈlō-kə-ˌvȯr, noun ), one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible.

Repeat. Memorize. Embrace.

Here’s the 411 on why becoming a locavore can aid in optimizing your preconception nutrition status. In short, locally farmed foods a) provide more vitamins and minerals per serving than do their grocery store counterparts b) encourage increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and c) frequently boast a pesticide-free label.

Local foods travel far fewer miles than your average megastore produce. While it seems convenient to run to the corner store and buy a pint of strawberries to meet our daily quota for our 9-A-Day, what we end up with in hand is quite the reverse of nutritious and fresh. In fact, a food is only considered local if it is grown within 100 miles of where it is sold. Conversely, the average carrot will travel 1,838 miles from farm to table.

While this particular carrot travels the rough equivalent of DC to Mexico City, greater than 50% and up to 90% of its vitamin C content will be lost within the first day of travel. Other essential nutrients fall prey to time-, temperature-, and light-sensitivity: the vital B vitamins, particularly folate, and vitamin E. These particular nutrients are all antioxidants that not only protect from an array of disease, but also help prevent harmful oxidative stress that has been linked to both male and female infertility.

Next, shopping for local foods is a calming, rewarding, and positive experience. Sifting through the wagons of crisp kale, chatting with its grower, and breathing fresh air may be considered so pleasurable that it increases the frequency of fresh fruits and vegetables, and grass-fed/cage-free proteins in one’s diet. Even without a drastic increase in servings per day, the mere substitution of local foods decrease the amount of commercialized foods in the diet. This, in turn, essentially cuts back the amount of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and preservatives in the diet. Just think-a mere trip to a local market can bring you one step closer to an anti-inflammatory, lower-glycemic, fertility-friendly diet!

Finally, local foods tend to offer pesticide-free and organic varieties. The upside to directly dealing with the foods’ producer ensures the elimination of any confusion. Pesticide-residues on fruits and vegetables and hormone/antibiotic-residues in meats and their by-products are of concern to fertility because of the accumulation of such toxins has been linked to reproductive damage.  

The Environmental Working Group has developed the infamous “Dirty Dozen,” which notes the foods that are likely to be highest in pesticide residuals. Do try to buy these foods organic and locally when possible. Conversely, they have released the “Cleanest Twelve” which indicates the produce lowest in pesticides.

Dirty Dozen Cleanest Twelve
Peaches Onions
Apples Avocado
Sweet Bell Peppers Sweet Corn (frozen)
Celery Pineapples
Nectarines Mango
Strawberries Asparagus
Cherries Sweet Peas (frozen)
Pears Kiwi Fruit
Grapes (imported) Bananas
Spinach Cabbage
Lettuce Broccoli
Potatoes Papaya

 

Words of caution: the label “organic” does not mean that the produce was grown locally. While it may lack harmful toxic chemicals, it may have travelled several days to arrive to your location and thus also lacking in vital nutrients.

Although the warm summer-like weather donned upon us this year with as much surprise as our back-to-back blizzards, take this opportunity to explore new grounds in your fertility journey and tune into your inner locavore and enjoy the one predictable mainstay this spring: the flood of fertility-friendly, nutrient-rich produce into our fresh markets.

Check out http://www.rawdc.org/dc/fruitDC.html , an excellent online resource with more details and links to local farmers’ markets, CSAs, and organic retailers scattered across Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland. For nationwide information, check out http://www.localharvest.org/ .

Click here to schedule a fertility nutrition consultation with Kimberly Wong at Pulling Down the Moon in Rockville.   For more information about nutrition counseling visit our website at www.pullingdownthemoon.com .

What’s Special About Prenatal Massage

 Ever wondered what makes prenatal massage different from “regular” massage?  Pulling Down the Moon Co-Founder Tami Quinn interviews fertility and pregnancy massage specialist Dana Durand, LMT to get the scoop:

Click here to schedule your FEM (Fertility-Enhancing Massage) Protocol or Pregnancy Massage with Dana Durand at our Shady Grove location.

Anna’s News: A TCM View of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

  By Anna Pyne, L.Ac.A TCM

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive endocrine disorder and something we frequently treat at Pulling Down the Moon. Up to 75% of women with this diagnosis do not ovulate, which is hardly ideal when trying to conceive.   In fact, it’s not until they have trouble conceiving that many women learn they have PCOS, which in addition to causing infertility can also have negative long-term health consequences including heart disease and diabetes.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, PCOS is considered an anovulation disorder related to ovarian insulin resistance.*  Chinese medicine initially acknowledged PCOS in the 1200′s describing it as a “Tian Gui” disorder, meaning a genetic disorder with the main symptoms being cycle irregularity and infertility due to anovulation.  There are a number of TCM patterns of diagnosis to describe PCOS, the main one being a (Chinese) Kidney Deficiency. The kidney in TCM is the organ system that is regarded with any genetic disorder and considered the root cause in PCOS.  The absence of the period, and therefore the absence of ovulation is a kidney pathology.  Interestingly, modern science has just recently identified a genetic component to PCOS and now think of PCOS as a hereditary problem in which symptoms often do not present until later in life.

A secondary pattern in TCM is Spleen Deficiency, which has to do with the insulin resistance part of the PCOS diagnosis. The Chinese spleen is responsible for the metabolism of nutrients from foods, as well as the transformation and transportation of fluids in the body. In patients with actual cysts in the ovaries, TCM considers the spleen to be dysfunctional. This is also the organ that relates to weight gain. Obesity is seen in 30%-60% of patients with PCOS. By improving the function of the spleen we help regulate blood sugar and resolve the excess fluid accumulation from ovarian cysts and/or fat from weight gain.  A third, related TCM pattern is Liver Stagnation, which can manifest as blood stasis or excess heat in the channels. Blood Stasis in the channels causes hair follicles to be nourished excessively creating coarse unwanted hair. This represents the hirsutism symptom, of which 70% of patients with PCOS have. Excess heat in the channels also promotes the acne component of PCOS.

When trying to improve fertility in patients with PCOS the primary focus is to induce ovulation.  According to TCM pattern diagnosis, the main organs treated for this condition are the kidney, spleen, and liver.  Treatment using TCM pattern diagnosis is greatly successful in inducing ovulation and a skilled TCM practitioner can use a combination of acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, moxabustion and herbal therapy to treat Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. 

*Different phenotypes of polycystic ovary syndrome by Rotterdam criteria are differently steroidogenic but similarly insulin resistant. Fertil Steril. 2010 Mar 1;93(4):1362-5. Epub 2009 Sep 26.

Book an initial consultation with Anna Pyne in Chicago here.

PDtM & FCI Patients Share Stories of Hope on The Fertility Chase

Are you or someone you know struggling to conceive?  If so, we hope you will pass this video along. 

Pulling Down the Moon and Fertility Centers of Illinois are featured in the first episode of the new WeTV show The Fertility Chase.  The focus of this segment is to raise awareness of how holistic techniques like acupuncture, yoga, nutrition and massage should be used as a first line of treatment rather than as a last resort.   Two PDtM patients and their partners share their personal struggles with infertility and discuss how holistic treatments supported them in the journey.  In addition, Dr. Brian Kaplan of Fertility Centers of Illinois adds his perspective of the role holisitc medicine can play even when couples have moved on to medical intervention. 

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