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  • Fat: Fertility Friend or Foe?

    Margaret Wertheim M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

    by Margaret Wertheim, MS, RD, LDN

    There has been much debate about what the ideal diet is for weight loss, optimum health and of course, fertility. After listening to many qualified speakers at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Orlando last week, I realized that there are quite a few uncertainties. However, there are some things that we know for sure. As humans we are very adaptable and can survive eating just about anything, but that does not mean we are thriving . When you’re trying to conceive, it’s essential that the body’s most basic needs are being met. In other words, adequately nourishing your body and meeting your vitamin and mineral requirements is a must.

    Throughout the 1980s, it was drilled into our heads that we should follow a very low-fat and high carb diet, based on the somewhat misguided notion that eating fat makes you fat. This type of diet has fallen out of favor for the most part. The pendulum swung back the other way to the Atkins diet, full of protein and fat with minimal carbs. I think there is a balance to strike somewhere in between.

    In my experience, women tend to follow low-fat diets and eat reduced-calorie foods in order to lose weight or maintain their weight. It’s unfortunate that low-fat and reduced-calorie foods, such as artificially-sweetened non-fat yogurt and diet coke have become almost synonymous with “healthy” in certain circles. While we can survive on these types of foods, we don’t thrive. There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are only found in foods that contain fat. Eat a very low-fat diet, and you won’t get enough of these vitamins that are crucial to your overall health and can play a role in fertility as well. Vitamin A is essential for embryonic development, and in one study of women going through IVF, the group of women with higher vitamin D levels in their blood had higher pregnancy rates. Furthermore, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and may have a beneficial effect on sperm quality. (That’s right guys, this is for you too!)

    When you eat a very low-fat diet, it’s all but impossible to meet your daily requirements for these important fat-soluble vitamins. Remember that when incorporating more fat into your diet, it’s essential to focus on quality fats and steer clear of unhealthy fats like hydrogenated oils. Eating more healthy fat doesn’t have to mean you eat more calories or gain weight. You’re likely to feel more satisfied after eating, which means you’re less likely to be grabbing for unhealthy snacks later on. Also, when you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to be healthy, often cravings fall away and you feel healthier and more vibrant and energetic.

    To learn more about the role of healthy fats in your diet and which fats to stay away from, call 312-321-0004 to schedule an appointment with a Pulling Down the Moon nutritionist.

  • Massage for Constipation

    Cathleen McCauley L.M.T.

    by Cathy McCauley, LMT

    Discomfort, pain, bloating, gas. While broaching the topic of constipation may be embarrassing, it’s a common side effect of many fertility medications. What can you do when you’ve become more than a bit irregular during a fertility cycle? Try receiving abdominal massage.

    A review of research from 1999 to the present shows that abdominal massage can be effective in the treatment of constipation. The review, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (Volume 15, Issue 4 , Oct. 2011), states that scientific evidence over the past 12 years has demonstrated that “…abdominal massage can stimulate peristalsis, decrease colonic transit time, increase the frequency of bowel movements in constipated patients, and decrease the feelings of discomfort and pain that accompany it.”

    So what does that all mean? Basically, abdominal massage can help get things moving so you can go more frequently and easily.

    Many clients have never received abdominal massage and voice concern that it might be painful. Some clients cringe at the thought of having anyone come near their tummies while undergoing fertility treatments. Others feel embarrassed because of how their bellies look and fear being judged.

    These feelings are valid and heard. Therefore, one of my therapeutic goals is to work with a client’s comfort on whatever level necessary to create positive change. I approach abdominal massage slowly and with care. Additionally, I honor each and every client who receives massage, and I truly believe this makes an enormous difference in how the client experiences the treatment.

    In the Hawaiian tradition of Lomi Lomi, the belly holds our energetic and authentic being. It is referred to as the bowl of light. As we go through life we collect stones that block the light. By having our bowls cleansed on occasion we allow the white light to shine through so it can continue to guide us on our path of authentic living.

    I’m happy to discuss the benefits of abdominal massage as well as Pulling Down the Moon’s four-part Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM) series. Please contact me at  I look forward to meeting you along your journey.


    Sinclair M. The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies . 2011 Oct; 15(4):436-45.

  • Strike a Pose

    by Beth Heller, MS RYT

    Yoga poses are a mystery in my book.  We go to yoga class, stand on a mat in our bare feet and proceed to bend and twist our bodies until we take on a completely different shape.  What are these shapes?  Why on earth do they make us feel so good?  Why are they such a gift when we are experiencing life and health challenges such as infertility?

    There is a lot of information about the physiological benefits of yoga.  Clearly, yoga postures are good for our bodies.  Stretching tight musculature improves our posture, strengthens our digestion and makes our muscles strong and supple.  Hip opening postures feed blood to the uterus and ovaries, backbends stimulate our nervous system and free our respiratory system from chronic tension, and twists “wring out” toxins and stale fluid from body tissues.  But aren’t postures just physical exercise?  The answer is yes, and no.

    In his master work Light on Yoga , renowned yogi B.K.S. Iyengar explains that names of yoga poses are significant and symbolize the process of evolution.  There are poses named for plants (tree, lotus), poses named for insects (locust, scorpion), poses named for fish, reptiles and higher mammals like dog and camel.  Some are even named for legendary Hindu heroes and even gods.  The point is, Iyengar says, that while we perform yoga asana we assume many different forms, from the lowliest to the most exalted, and recognize the Universal Spirit that runs through them all.   Mr. Iyengar asserts that it is this unspoken presence of the divine that begins to work on the body of the yogi, causing new discipline and spontaneous healing to occur in diet, cleanliness and character.  What a fascinating thought – and how nice to think that tapping into something greater than ourselves is just a down dog away?

    Over tea last week, Joyce, a fellow yoga teacher and friend was discussing her yoga practice when she added another dimension to my musing.

    “The postures,” she said, “are the constant and I am the variable.  When I move into a yoga pose that I practice regularly, the pose is the same but depending on my state of mind, what I ate for dinner the night before and my present mood it’s a unique experience every time.  When I am tense, my down dog is rigid.  When I am sad I am reluctant to do backbends.  Because the postures encourage me to breathe and reflect, I see how my life affects my body. ”

    So, while in some ways these insights make the mystery even deeper, my appreciation of yoga asana is ever expanding.  These insights remind me that while yoga for fertility is trendy and hip openers are indeed great for fertility, the roots of this practice run far deeper than we will ever imagine.  And for this I am truly grateful.

    Check out our brand new video companion to our book, Fully Fertile. This easy to use practice is great for any level, designed to support your body’s fertility and, with faithful practice, connect you to this universal healing awareness.

  • Anna’s News: Inflammation and Its Role with Infertility

    Anna Pyne, LAc, MSOM, FABORM

    Inflammation is a common disorder which can be a contributing factor or sole cause of infertility.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has many treatment options that may be used exclusively or in conjunction with Western medical therapy.  Inflammation of the pelvic organs can occur in diseases such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometriosis, and salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes).  I have successfully treated many patients with these conditions that are in the middle of or are about to go through a medicated fertility treatment cycle, as well as those trying to conceive naturally.

    According to TCM there can be a number of different causes for inflammation to occur in the body and each can manifest in very individual ways.  Not only will PID, endometriosis, and salpingitis be identified and treated separately, but each one on its own has a number of different potential causes.  I will be able to assess the specific cause of the disorder by observing the tongue, feeling both wrist pulses, and reviewing the intake form with the patient.  By gathering all this information together I am able to then discern the TCM pattern and treatment plan going forward.  If you have any questions about TCM’s treatment options in regards to inflammation hindering fertility, please feel free to email us or if would like to make an appointment please call the office.

  • Staying Positive – That Scary First Trimester

    by Beth Heller MS, RYT

    No, this isn’t another chirpy post about the power of positive thinking or the law of attraction.  While there are potential fertility benefits to both of those things, the positive I’m talking about here is the little plus on the pee stick or the positive lilt in the nurse’s voice when she gives you the news that your beta hCG has just doubled.  This post is also about the apprehension I’ve seen behind the eyes of my yoga students when they share their good news.  One hurdle cleared – “I’m pregnant!” – but another looms ahead…that tenuous first trimester.   This anxiety is magnified if their journey has been a long one or if a previous “positive” ended in a negative.

    Having experienced multiple miscarriages and other assorted disappointments, that odd mix of joy and terror during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy is something I know way too well.  I spent most of the waking hours of my first trimesters taking my basal temperature incessantly to make sure it hadn’t dropped, bracing myself to see blood on the toilet paper every time I went to the bathroom and subjecting every ping I felt in my abdomen to a thorough Google search.  Is there anything we can do to make this time bearable?

    Absolutely.  I’m assuming that you’ve been taking pretty good care of yourself on the road to pregnancy, so now is definitely not the time to pull off that road.  Keep on doing what you’ve been doing to stay happy, healthy and balanced.  In case you’re so freaked out that you can’t remember what those things were, here is a checklist for staying positive, figuratively and literally, during the first trimester:

    1. Practice your yoga and meditation.   When a woman becomes pregnant during our six week Yoga for Fertility class, which I am happy to report happens quite frequently, we encourage her to stay with the class and the practice during her early weeks of pregnancy.   Researchers hypothesize that stress may contribute to early pregnancy loss, a phenomenon they are calling Pregnancy Stress Syndrome .  The immune/endocrine imbalances that result from stress may be a trigger for pregnancy loss.  The good news is that population studies show that “tender-loving-care” interventions that focus on reducing stress and helping women feel supported are associated with positive pregnancy outcomes in women with history of miscarriage. As long as the yoga is gentle and the teacher is knowledgeable about what’s verboten during very early pregnancy, you’re good to go.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing yoga, find a meditation or other relaxation class to attend to keep the “ritual of relaxation” going during this time
    2. Exercise.  Yes, I did say exercise.  Note that I did not say go for a run or start power lifting, but I did say exercise.  Early pregnancy is a time to stroll and smell the flowers or stretch in leisurely manner.  Gentle (stress again gentle ) movement will help to relieve anxiety, mediate the fatigue that often comes along with the first trimester and promote a sense of well-being.  Just keep it gentle (did I stress gentle?).
    3. Keep eating right.  You may not feel ready for the full-on prenatal nutrition consult, but it is time to contact your nutritionist and make sure that any herbal or nutritional supplements you have been taking are still appropriate during the first trimester.   If you’ve discontinued dairy, wheat or other potential allergens , this is not the time to add them back in without the support of a skilled nutritionist, but it is time to ensure that any eliminations you have made have not created nutritional “holes” in your nutritional status.
    4. Keep getting your acupuncture.  Traditional Chinese Medicine is very useful and has specific protocols for miscarriage prevention.  At Pulling Down the Moon we recommend women receive treatment weekly during the first trimester and then continue monthly or on an as-needed basis for the remainder of the pregnancy.
    5. Hands on work like massage and reiki can also help you stay calm and centered.  Think about how your dog or cat melts under your touch when they are anxious.  Make sure, though, that your massage therapist knows that you are newly pregnant and is aware of any contraindicated techniques or points on the body that should not be manipulated during pregnancy.
    6. Finally, keep breathing.  When the anxiety starts to creep up, take a deep inhale through your nose and let it out slowly through mouth saying silently to yourself “I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’m whole.”  The instinct is to hold the breath and count the days until week twelve but the reality is that staying in the flow of life will help you focus on something other than your fears.   The breath is a reminder of that flow and brings you back to center.

    Stay present, stay peaceful, stay positive.  It will be trimester-two before you know it!   Beth

    Note:  Before applying any techniques described in this or any other nutrition, exercise or holistic program an individual should always consult and obtain professional medical advice, including from their doctor.

  • Contact Uranus: Mula Bandha and Fertility

    by Beth Heller MS, RYT

    Jivamukti Yoga Co-Founder David Life tells a famous story about his first experience of mula bandha.   Standing in a yoga class with a famous Indian yoga instructor, Life heard the instructions “Contact Uranus!”

    Contact Uranus?  Did he wander by accident into a Star Trek convention?

    It took Life a while to understand that his teacher was saying  ”contract your anus,” the basic instructions for initiating mula bandha, a very powerful yoga technique for fertility.

    I don’t hesitate to tell you this story because if you’re experiencing infertility you’re no stranger to embarrassing descriptions of things that are happening (or not happening) below the waist.  You can likely rattle off words like “semen” and “cervical mucous,” “vaginal probe” and “post-coital.”   Now, believe it or not, your fertility yoga practice is going to take you there, too.

    Mula bandha is an energetic practice that stabilizes the pelvis and sacrum and tones the pelvic muscles.  While Life’s teacher suggested contracting the anus, mula bandha is actually more subtle. In women the action of mula bandha is the contraction of the vaginal and cervical muscles, similar to a Kegel.  If you’ve never heard of a Kegel, you can get a sense of this muscle action by imagining that you are urinating and must contract your pelvic floor muscles to stop the flow of urine.

    On a physical level mula bandha tones the muscles of the pelvic floor.  It is great preparation for pregnancy where these muscles experience strain which can lead to urinary incontinence.  But mula bandha is more than just a muscular contraction, it is also an energetic contraction.  On an energetic level, the practice of mula bandha is grounding and helps conserve life energy (prana) in our body.    Mula bandha also clears congestion at the root chakra, also called muladhara chakra, which is concerned with safety and survival.  Mula bandha literally lifts  prana up from the root chakra to the second chakra.  The second chakra is called the svadhishthana chakra and is concerned with sexuality, creativity and fertility – so you can see why this might benefit fertility.  Mula bandha is also said to sever the brahma granthi, the energetic knot at the base of our spine that represents resistance to change, so if you’re feeling stuck or afraid, this work is for you.

    To practice mula bandha, sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the ground.  Slowly inhale and begin to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor (ie. as if you are stopping the flow of urine) over a count of five.  I like to use a visualization of an elevator going up (floor 1, floor 2, floor 3, floor 4, floor 5).   Exhale as you release the contraction slowly and feel the elevator descending floor by floor.  Check in with leg and buttocks muscles to make sure you aren’t tightening them.  Repeat 10 times.

    With practice it will become possible to hold mula bandha for longer periods of time, while going for a walk, while doing your yoga, while talking on the phone.  Practiced regularly and with attention mula bandha can bring many gifts.

  • Reconnecting with Ourselves through Reiki Meditation

    Lisa Espinosa, Reiki Master

    By: Lisa Espinosa, M.Ed., Reiki Master

    “I took this class to help me find peace and relaxation during my fertility,” commented Martha*, a student in my meditation class. “It helped me find both, but even more importantly, helped me realize how important it was to not lose myself on this journey.”

    Martha’s comment reflects one of the main purpose’s of the meditation class I teach: to help women re-connect with themselves, and “not loose themselves on this journey.”  In this class I help you experience an hour of peace and relaxation. And I share tools that you can integrate into your everyday life to help you navigate the stress that is common during the fertility journey.

    During the class, I guide women through an hour of relaxing and nurturing meditation, integrated with Reiki healing energy.  The combination of meditation and Reiki really enhances the experience for my students. As one of my students, Jill, shared:

    “I got so much from the class. It is wonderful for learning ways to release stress and take care of yourself whether you are going through treatments or taking a break. Lisa’s guidance through the meditations were gentle and helped me get the most of each meditation. The Reiki was a great bonus. I could feel the energy each time. It was fantastic!”

    During the class I play soothing music as I guide my students to shift from rushing, stress, and worry to a place of peace, and centeredness. I use different meditation techniques, such as visualization and mantra. I also incorporate a chakra meditation, in which students connect with each chakra (the seven energy centers of our body which can often get clogged and congested) and begin to notice which of their chakras might need some balancing. Throughout the class I gently do Reiki by laying my hands on different areas of my students’ bodies, such as tight shoulders, or achy backs, as well as any chakras students identified that need some balancing. During the last meditation, women lie down as I spend a few moments on each student doing Reiki on an area that is in need of more healing. My clients enjoy having this hour to themselves. As Sharron, wrote:

    “I enjoyed the hour to focus on myself without disruptions, to think about the week ahead and focus on what I want to achieve and (sometimes) reflect on the past week. It has been a wonderful prep for a stressful IVF cycle. It calms me during the period and keeps me busy at the same time.”

    For the next few weeks this class will be a drop-in class, and will return to a 5-week enrollment class in November.  I invite all of you to take this opportunity to give it a try. There is no experience necessary, and both fertility and pre-natal clients are welcome.  If you have any questions please contact me at .

    * all names have been changed