Summer in Traditional Chinese Medicine

by Meghan Gibson, L.Ac.

It’s finally summer! Time for street fairs, farmers markets, outdoor concerts and hitting the beach. Summer in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the most yang time of the year. Corresponding to the fire element, a time for heat, we will find growth both in nature (gardens are sprouting!) and our own lives. The fire element is associated with the heart/ small intestine, the emotion of joy, the color red and bitter taste. Our heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout our body and in TCM it also houses our “shen” or spirit. When the fire element is balanced and in harmony, the heart is pumping strong and is healthy, the spirit is calm and sleep is sound. When the fire element is unbalanced or in disharmony, depression or insomnia may arise.

TCM based Nutrition categorizes food based on their energetic properties and temperature. Eating foods that are moistening and cool in nature will help to keep you hydrated.

Avoid dehydration by eating “cool” this summer with these tips!

  • Add cucumber or mint to your water
  • Eat more fruit and veggies, take advantage of farmers markets and eat what’s in season Examples: lettuce, watermelon, spinach, corn, broccoli, asparagus, watercress
  • Avoid hot, greasy or spicy food
  • Add more seafood and fish to your diet

Swimming, meditation and yoga can keep the spirit calm, maintain good sleep and help your personal growth this summer season. Now get out there and enjoy, after all, joy is the emotion of the season!

Cucumber: A Cool Fertility Food

With June being Men’s Health Month our minds naturally turned to the health benefits of cucumbers. No seriously. Cucumbers are great for your guy and for you and here’s the low-down on why.

Cukes, along with other misunderstood veggies like mushrooms and celery, have received a bad rap in the media. These low-calorie munchies have often been portrayed as nutritionally barren. But no more. With summer’s heat upon us, we are here to share the many, many good reasons to reconsider the cucumber this June.

Cucumbers are an excellent source of B-vitamins and antioxidants. These nutrients are essential for energy production and the health of our cells and also play a key role in egg quality. B-vitamins can be depleted by the use of oral contraceptives (part of many medicated fertility protocols) so ensuring ample dietary intake of these vitamins is essential.

Recent research has identified cucumbers as a great source of lignans, chemical compounds that have many health benefits including lowering cholesterol, preventing certain cancers and acting to limit inflammation. Lignans are also one of the favorite foods of the healthy bacteria in our gut. Eating a diet rich in lignans can support digestive regularity and may even help us to lose weight.

Cucumbers help us to hydrate. Don’t forget that cucumbers are about 95% water. This means that a serving of cucumber can help you meet your daily water consumption goals.

Got leftovers?

Great! You can use cucumbers as an inexpensive healthy, no-chemicals-added face scrub. Cucumbers have natural astringent properties that help to sooth and tone the skin.

But before we go we want to share a few cucumber caveats. First, cucumbers are one of the “dirty dozen” (produce with the most pesticide residue) so always peel your cukes. Second, this cooling astringent food can aggravate certain TCM diagnoses so, as in all things, use moderation. Finally, salads and cooling foods are delicious in the summer but make sure that your diet contains warming foods to balance out the salads and smoothies that come with summer eating.

Click for instructions on how to make cucumber facemask for different skin types !

Click this link to find three delicious, fertility-friendly cucumber recipes!

The Male Fertility Diet

The Male Fertility Diet

If you’ve been having difficulty trying to conceive, it’s important that both partners be evaluated. Did you know that male factor infertility can account for up to 50% of all infertility? Have you or your partner been told you have abnormal sperm motility, morphology, concentration or vitality? If so, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that the solution might be as simple as changing your diet! Interested in learning more?

In honor of National Men’s Health month, Pulling Down the Moon will be offering a special “quickie” nutrition consult for men during the month of June. These 30 minute consults will be done via Skype with one of our nutritionists for a discounted rate of $50.

During the consultation, you’ll learn about nutrients that help decrease inflammation, how to achieve a healthy weight, how to control your blood sugar and maintain healthy hormone levels. In addition to diet recommendations, you’ll also hear about supplements that have been shown to aid in improving sperm quality. Our nutritionist will work closely with you to develop a plan that is customized specifically for your needs.

Don’t miss out on this promotion! Call (312) 488-1452 (Chicago) or (301) 637-0179 (DC Metro area) to schedule your appointment.

Anna’s News: Applying Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory with Treatment Increases Odds of Live Birth Rate with IVF Cycles

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a unique medical system that when used accordingly, focusing the treatment on a patient’s individual pattern, can profoundly enhance the effects of Western science medicine. New infertility research supports the benefits of combining both medicines to produce a better outcome. This study compared three different groups: IVF cycles with whole systems traditional Chinese medicine, IVF alone, and IVF with acupuncture only. The study concluded that “overall, IVF with adjuvant WS-TCM [whole systems traditional Chinese medicine] was associated with greater odds of live birth in donor and non-donor cycles.”*

The definition of “whole systems” TCM means staying true to the medicine as originally intended, thereby utilizing any of the pertinent modalities for treatment according to the individual’s TCM diagnosis. This treatment included one or more of the following therapies, deemed necessary per patient, of which all are within the scope of TCM practice: acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, Chinese herbs, lifestyle recommendations, moxibustion, and/or any other accessory technique indicated. “The proportion of live births was significantly higher in the WS-TCM group (61.3%) compared with either the usual care [IVF alone] (48.2%), or ACU [acupuncture and IVF] (50.8%).”*

To find out more or schedule an appointment with myself or any of our acupuncturists please call the office at 312-321-0004. Feel free to email me with any questions you may have or call our office.

Anna Pyne LAc MSOM FABORM

* http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1472648315000929

Wake Up It’s Spring Already!

Every year spring comes. I don’t know about you but each time it does it feels like a miracle. The colors shift slowly from winter gray to a piercing, almost electric, green and there’s a deep sense of movement and becoming everywhere we look.

Contrast that with the fertility journey – this endless round of cycles and injections, measurements and outcomes. In the midst of these struggles it seems like spring will never come and we will never have that moment of awakening that is signaled by the positive beta test. We feel as if we are in limbo. And we feel apart from life.

But this does not have to be so. One of the biggest gifts of the holistic practices we offer at Pulling Down the Moon is that they help us come to life. They do this by helping us release what is old and begin to cultivate a present moment that is more grounded, whole and free. If this sounds like a big promise I can assure you it is one I am confident making. The essence of yoga, acupuncture, massage and nutrition work is change and growth.

Yoga. Over the last three months we have been conducting a study looking at the impact of yoga on the fertility journey. With preliminary results collected we can say with surety that women who participated in our Yoga for Fertility class experienced significant decreases in anxiety. When anxiety is decreased we are healthier and happier. We make clearer decisions and listen to our heart more closely. The measurable decreases in the anxiety scale were more than just numbers. They translated into real life experiences. Patients in these classes found the ability to have better interactions with their physicians, partners and families. Hard decisions (Move to donor? Another round? Genetic testing?) were made from new a place of strength. Positive betas were received and nerve-wracking first trimesters were survived. What’s more, lasting friendships were made. Above all the women in these classes woke up to friendship and community and what is more grounding and life-affirming than that?

Acupuncture . Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for fertility are about creating the optimal “soil” in which to plant the seeds of pregnancy. Each of us brings a lifetime of patterns, both good and bad, to the present moment. Our habitual patterns impact our physical health and can constrict growth. If we are anxious we may be depleted of life energy and essence. Anger and frustration can cause stagnation. While these statements may sound like poetry (or superstitious mumbo-jumbo), modern science is beginning to recognize their value. In the field of fertility, for instance, research has shown that treating kidney deficiency – a pattern of depletion common in women experiencing infertility – improved egg quality ( Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2015). Using acupuncture and herbs a TCM practitioner helps to bring the body back in to balance so that it can do as natures intends it to do. Read more about the Whole Systems TCM approach in this month’s Anna’s News column.

Massage. We offer five amazing massage sessions as part of our Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol and each has a different role in helping prepare the body for fertility. From moving and clearing stagnant tissues to unlocking deep areas of stress and tension, massage is a deeply healing process. And the medical community is beginning to explore more tangible benefits. A recent study 30 minutes of massage leading up to transfer was associated with higher pregnancy rates ( Altern Ther Health Med. 2015). Touch therapies like massage have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, decrease pain, decrease blood pressure and help new born babies to thrive. In a journey like infertility, filled with isolation and stress, massage can lead us back in to our bodies for a new awakening.

Nutrition . You know how you feel when you are making great nutritional changes. Perhaps more than anything else the food we eat gives us a sense of energy and wellbeing. Many of us know what to eat, but often what makes it into our mouth doesn’t always jive with best intentions. Having a consult with a nutritionist can be both motivating and revelatory. Our nutritionists stay on top of the latest research and help to translate the science into concrete advice. From learning the latest about the supplements that may support fertility and egg quality to truly getting your sugar cravings under control, a change in diet can create a complete shift in the rest of your life.

So whichever path you choose, or if you choose something completely different like starting belly dancing or taking an art class, do something that will help you come alive. Our programs, practitioners and community are here to help!

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