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  • Acupuncture and Miscarriage Prevention

    by Pamela Policastro, L.Ac.

    Miscarriage is the result of many possible factors during pregnancy.  These include genetic factors, environmental factors, circulatory factors, and immunologic factors.  Many of these conditions are a result of subtle imbalance within a very delicate internal environment.  Since acupuncture is used to bring the body back to balance, it is able to contribute to the prevention of miscarriage.  There are benefits to having acupuncture during each trimester of pregnancy.

    During the first trimester acupuncture is used  to help prevent miscarriage and provide a stabilizing effect on the pregnancy, balance the endocrine system,  and regulate hormones.  Acupuncture helps to minimize nausea, morning sickness, fatigue, migraines, bleeding and spotting.

    During the second trimester , acupuncture is used to regulate the digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems, all of which are necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy.  Acupuncture helps to alleviate heart burn, hemorrhoids, edema, elevated blood pressure, and stress.

    During the third trimester, acupuncture is used to regulate to musculoskeletal system to provide relief from sciatica, backache, pubic and joint pain, and carpel tunnel syndrome.  Treatment during this trimester also encourages the proper positioning of the baby for birth and helps normalize labor.  Research shows that women who use acupuncture experience shorter labor times with fewer complications, reduced rate of caesarean, and less need for the use of oxytocin, pain medications and epidurals.

  • An Energetic Remedy for Loss

    Last Friday I was riding home from work with our wise-beyond-her-years Chicago admin/receptionist Jenny when our conversation turned to coping with loss.  This had not been an easy winter for Jenny, who had lost most of her earthly belongings in an apartment fire that left her homeless in February.  During the catastrophic event and the aftermath, Jenny remained steady and positive, giving support and compassion to our patients while maintaining an impressively professional demeanor in her work.  Everyone at the Moon was inspired.

    Since I had been noodling a blog about loss around in my head, I thought it would be useful to ask Jenny about the fire and the strategies she used for recovery.  I thought it would provide a foil for the losses I could write about from personal experience (miscarriages and a stillbirth) and for the kinds of losses we encounter at the Moon.  These are largely emotional losses – hopes and dreams of pregnancy, failed cycles, miscarriages and stillbirth.  At times these losses are coupled with the loss of resources, in cases where couples have paid out of pocket for unsuccessful treatments, but they are largely emotional.   Jenny’s loss was concrete – literally valuable possessions as well as priceless mementos that were completely destroyed by a bolt from the blue.

    “I kept telling myself that there is a bigger picture,” she said.  ”It was the old saying that ‘things happen for a reason’ that gave me strength.  I really focused on staying positive and looking for the good that might come.”

    If you smell a cliche here, keep reading.  Jenny’s next words were profound.

    “I think it’s human nature to contract when we experience loss.  We contract around the pain, we avoid situations that remind us of our loss and we try to avoid the emotions – sadness, anger and envy- that come when our life seems to be in shambles compared to those around us.  More than anything I tried to remain open.  To emotions, to help from others and even to situations that could be painful.”

    As Jenny shared her experiences of loss and healing, I was instantly struck by their similarity to my own journey. When my first full term pregnancy ended in a stillbirth of a little girl at 38 weeks, I received one strong message from the universe:  STAY OPEN.   Take every condolence call, accept every offer of comfort from friends, eat every casserole that was delivered and, above all, cry every tear that I needed to cry.  For a very introverted and private person (at least before the creation of Pulling Down the Moon) this was indeed a radical strategy.  My entire being wanted to crawl in a hole and avoid contact with others and with my pain.

    In Jenny’s case, this call to open was an intuition.  In my own case, I believe the message came through my yoga practice.  The simple practice of stretching that has been part of my life for so many years kept calling to me to use the same techniques that keep my body healthy to heal my mind.  If you’ve ever been a beginning yogi, you know it can be an uncomfortable business at first to stretch tight muscles.  Yet, with practice, the discomfort eventually releases and gives way to spaciousness and calm.  This holds true for emotional challenges, too.  When we choose to stay open and experience our loss we can actually release pain and suffering.  When we “close” around these painful emotions we may not ever let them go.  In fact, we will often consciously or unconsciously go to great lengths to avoid the aspects of life that trigger past trauma and in doing so greatly circumscribe the scope of our experience.

    There seems to be an energetic rule in play here, and the similarity of Jenny’s and my experience drove this home.  In the face of loss, rather than constrict, we must look for ways to open.  Begin with a simple physical practice of stretching and breathing.  Find support where you can tell your story and cry tears with people who understand.  Eat the casserole.  Like George Costanza from Seinfeld, do the opposite of what feels comfortable and stretch instead of hunker.

    These are not easy words of advice.  Yet, there is a promise of courage and self-discovery in them.  And if you need help getting there our classes, teachers and gifted practitioners are here to help.  Have you experienced loss?  What worked for you?

  • Food and Mood: Coping with Loss

    By Breea Johnson, MS RD LDN

    Going through a loss can have a huge impact on our nutrition. We know that the mind and body are intertwined, with an even closer connection between the brain and the gut (otherwise known as the digestive system). Do you ever notice when you are nervous you feel it in your stomach? Or when you drink alcohol you feel it in your brain? Dealing with a loss can affect appetite; foods you typically like may seem tasteless and just trying to eat three meals a day may seem challenging. But the connection between what we eat and how it makes us feel and think is also perpetually linked. The brain is the most complex organ, as everyone knows, and it requires proper nutrition to function well.  Beyond nutritious sources of protein, carbohydrates and fat, the brain needs the complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals to properly function and for brain cells to communicate effectively. Most vital are neurotransmitters (i.e. dopamine and serotonin) which are made of amino acids-found in protein foods (meat, fish, dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains) which makes protein essential in improving mental performance. While the comfort foods may be calling your name – be sure to add some protein to keep you thinking clearly and feeling healthy.

  • Electrifying Acupuncture Tools

    by Pamela Policastro, L.Ac.

    It sounds a bit scarey, but there’s a good chance that at some point in your fertility acupuncture treatment your TCM practitioner will pull out “the electro-stim machine.”

    Basically, electroacupuncture is a substitute for time consuming hand manipulation.  Although you may not be aware of it, once the acupuncture needles have penetrated the skin, your acupuncturist then gives the needle a little twist, thrust, or both.   This hand manipulation communicates to the body what action we need it to take.  The point being, electroacupuncture can produce a higher and more continuous level of stimulation than manual manipulation.

    Electroacupuncture was first developed in France during the early nineteenth century when a few physicians and researchers began to apply mild electric currents to Chinese acupoints.  One of the first physicians to do so was Dr. Louis Berlioz, who used electroacupuncture to treat neuralgia.

    Despite discoveries in France at that time, the concept did not receive much attention until the early twentieth century, when sporadic research began to be done by US and Chinese researchers.  Still, it was not until the 1950’s that electroacupuncture began to develop extensively in mainland China.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a German physician by the name of Reinhold Voll systematized the procedure and made several innovative uses of electroacupuncture.  His system, EAV(electroacupuncture according to Voll), is still used by many acupuncturists worldwide.  The 1950’s also brought  developments in electroacupuncture by several physicians around the world.  One such doctor was Dr. Lavier of France (leave it to the French!), who used local electroacupuncture anesthesia for, no thanks.  Today, electroacupuncture is widely employed throughout the world.

    Electroacupuncture involves a set of needles and electric stimulation.At the start, the electrical potential is zero and the current gradually increases so a s to monitor the patients reaction.  The amount of electrical stimulation depends on the tolerance of the patient and the nature of the disease.

    After  the treatment has progressed for a minute or two, the patient may become accustomed to the electric current as effective stimulation gradually decreases.  When this occurs, the current is increased accordingly.

    Most electroacupuncture treatments last 10-20 minutes, but in some select cases it may be continued for as long as 4-5 hours.

    Here,  at Pulling Down the Moon, your acupuncturist will probably include some electroacupuncture if she/he is trying to improve your egg quality. Electroacupuncture creates more qi and blood circulation in the uterine area, thus benefitting both eggs and endometrial lining.

    Well, that is the end of my 4-part series, “Tools of the Trade”.  I hope you have found the information provided to be both educational and interesting.  Take your new found knowledge and go forth to share with friends, family, and physicians alike.  Namaste

  • Is Your Prenatal Nutritionist a Specialist?

    By Breea Johnson, MS RD LDN

    We tend to think of our genetics as a hereditary “gift” from our parents – one that can keep on giving.  Depending on the cards dealt by nature, we may have a life-long relationship with Aunt Martha’s high blood pressure, Uncle Mike’s diabetes and even worry that one day we’ll end up with Grandpa Joe’s Alzheimer’s.  Or maybe we’ve got “good genes,” and expect to live to be ninety-eight like Grandma Mary with a dry martini in our hand.  Hey, you can’t fight genetics, right?

    Actually, that’s not entirely true.  While there is validity to genetic patterning, no health outcome is engraved in stone.  Enter an emerging field of study called epigenetics that evaluates how a woman’s diet, stress, toxic exposure and behavioral factors in the pre-conception and prenatal period can actually alter her off-spring’s genetic makeup and risk for chronic disease.  One established example of epigenetics is the “Thirty Phenotype Hypothesis,” which links poor fetal nutrition to the development of chronic diseases, specifically coronary heart disease and Type II diabetes, later in life.  Other emerging research is teasing out associations between psycho-social stress and poor pregnancy outcomes (miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth) as well as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and poor immune function later in life (Wadhwa et al. 2009).

    As you might imagine, these new developments are placing serious focus on peri-natal health and nutrition.  When you are newly pregnant, your OB is likely to give you a handout that outlines the “need to know” info for the next nine months.  This resource is great for basic prenatal nutrition guidelines, like which foods to avoid, extra calorie needs and weight gain guidelines, as well as a basic heads’ up about the nausea, constipation and heart burn that may be in your near future.  Yet, when it comes to pregnancy, there’s basic knowledge and then there’s cutting edge.  At the Moon it’s our goal to stay on top of the emerging research surrounding the peri-natal period and to use this information to help optimize the health of mom and baby.  We not only counsel our patients on nutritional issues, we also provide a whole range of services specifically directed to pre-conception and pregnancy including yoga, acupuncture and massage.

    Among some of the “nutrition-forward” topics we’re tracking:

    • Vitamin D during pregnancy – what does the latest research say about recommended dosages and why is it important for baby’s future health?
    • If you’re overweight when you start a pregnancy, what does the latest research say about weight gain?
    • Gestational Diabetes – can it be prevented?
    • Soy exposure in pregnancy – helpful or harmful?
    • Emerging guidelines on the benefits/risks of phytoestrogen intake for infants.
    • Increasing rates of infertility in men may be related to perinatal exposure to certain chemicals.  What should you be avoiding?
    • Is it possible to avoid prenatal exposure to mercury and other heavy metals?
    • Artificial sweeteners – should you consume them while pregnant?
    • Organic foods, pesticides and the effect on fetal development.
    • Prenatal Psycho-social stress  and potential health consequences for baby.
    • Can you safely consume potential allergens like peanuts during pregnancy?

    If you have undergone ART to conceive, you may have worked with a specialist in fertility nutrition along the way for optimal health during the process.  Prenatal nutrition is a whole new world, with its own recommendations and guidelines. Thus, the need to see a prenatal nutrition specialist is more important than ever.  So, when you are thinking about seeing a nutritionist during pregnancy, make sure to see a Prenatal Nutrition Specialist for the latest, up-to-date guidelines. If you would like to book an appointment with a Pulling Down the Moon nutritionist, please call (312) 321-0004 or visit for Online Scheduling.

    Wadwha et al.  Developmental Origins of Health and Disease:  A Brief History of the Approach and Current Focus on Epigenetic Mechanisms.  Semin Reprod Med 2009 September:27 358-368.