Fast Food, Fruit, and Your Fertility

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

A recent study looked at women’s diets while they were trying to conceive and found that certain aspects of their diet impacted their fertility. 5628 women with no previous pregnancies recalled their intake of certain foods leading up to conception when they were 14-16 weeks pregnant. The two factors that were found to impact time to pregnancy (how long it took to get pregnant) were fast food intake and fruit intake.

Fruit

Eating fruit 1-3 times per month as compared to 1-6 times per week was associated with an 11% increase in time to pregnancy. Eating fruit 1-3 times per month compared to 3 times daily was associated with 19% longer time to pregnancy.

Fast food

Eating fast food at least 4 times per week was associated with a 24% increase in time to pregnancy as compared to women who eat no fast food.  Risk of infertility was 41% higher in the group of women who ate fast food at least 4 times per week compared to those who ate no fast food.

It’s important to keep these results in perspective, as the time to pregnancy increase with high fast food intake or low fruit consumption was only about 0.6-0.9 months, which isn’t a huge difference. The increase in risk of infertility is definitely concerning. The bottom line is that we already know that fast food is harmful to our overall health, but it is also seems to impact fertility, which could be through the intake of unhealthy fats in fried foods and just a generally nutrient poor diet high in refined carbs and added sugars.

It’s important not to stress when you read these studies! Fertility is affected by many factors, so worrying about your fast food intake or lack of fruit intake is definitely counterproductive. Instead look forward and work on small changes that that will improve your overall health and potentially your fertility moving forward.

If you are eating fast food regularly, focus on one step you could make towards healthier eating. It could be cooking up 1 one-pot meal with leftovers per week, such as soup or chili that you could eat for multiple meals during the week. Alternatively, it could be choosing healthier fast food options with more whole foods such as tacos, a salad with protein, or a burrito bowls that include vegetables and omits fried foods. Adding some fruit can be as simple as taking the step of bringing an easy fruit with you to work or adding a fruit after dinner in the evening. Clementines, bananas, and apples are all pretty easy and portable. Berries pack a good antioxidant punch and would also make a great addition.

Need help making changes to your diet to maximize your fertility? Schedule a nutrition appointment today! Get outside this summer with others TTC and learn more about nutrition for fertility with Mia Zarlengo at the FREE Two Week Walk event in Chicago on July 21st! 

 

3 Tips for Staying Together While Navigating Infertility

By Amanda Hofbauer MA, AMFT

Infertility can wreak havoc on a relationship. Trying to get pregnant may begin as an exciting journey to bring a new life into the world together, but it can quickly become a steep climb filled with painful procedures, blame, shame, difficult decisions, and financial burdens. At some point you may look over and no longer recognize your climbing partner.
Here are 3 tips for maintaining your relationship with your partner while you climb:
1. Acknowledge your losses: The path of infertility is fraught with loss and grief in many forms. Disenfranchised grief happens when we experience a loss that is not socially recognized. For instance, there are not funerals for miscarried babies or sympathy cards for unsuccessful IVF attempts. Not only are these losses not formally recognized, they are often not even spoken. Couples suffer silently, often without the support of their friends and family. Anticipatory grief happens when we begin to grieve the seemingly impending loss. We begin to think we will never have a biological baby, and we start to grieve in preparation for that loss.
Take time to acknowledge these losses as a couple. Share your grief with your
partner (even if your experiences of grief are different) and find ways to mourn
together. This may mean creating your own ritual to mark a loss.
2. Act as a team: Don’t let infertility become one person’s problem or responsibility.
Share the logistical burdens like scheduling appointments as much as possible. Go
to appointments together whenever you can, even if the appointment is only
medically “for” one of you. Try to be together when you receive results of tests or
procedures – even if it’s through a conference call – so that one person doesn’t have
to be the bearer of heavy news. Be curious about your partner’s experiences that
may differ from yours, such as how it felt to go through a certain medical procedure
or what kind of emotions they are experiencing each step of the way.
3. Create infertility-free spaces: Infertility can easily engulf an entire relationship.
Go on a date night where you’re not allowed to talk about anything infertility related. Rediscover activities you used to enjoy that have fallen by the wayside since you starting dealing with infertility. Reclaim your sex life by taking a short break from baby-making sex by only having sex at times when fertilization cannot occur. Infertility does not have to define your relationship.
The climb is exhausting, unpredictable, and may or may not end with a successful pregnancy. But by prioritizing your relationship amidst the chaos, you can ensure that you will still be together when the journey ends.
 
Couples therapy can also be a helpful resource while navigating infertility. Contact me to set up an appointment and start the process today. I can be reached at amanda@relationshipreality312.com or 312-857-6270. Amanda is a Couple and Family Therapist at a private practice in downtown Chicago. She specializes in helping couples who have experienced or are currently experiencing infertility. Find out more at amandahofbauermft.com.
 Resources: Diamond, R., Kezur, D., Meyers, M., Scharf, C., & Weinshel, M. (1999). Couple therapy for infertility. New York, NY:
The Guilford Press.; Humphrey, K. (2009). Counseling strategies for loss and grief. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Is it Hot in Here?!

By Dr Helena Para LAc, DACM, MSTOM

With the quickly approaching summer, and Chicago’s humid tendencies already underway, some people may be getting concerned about staying cool. One such population would be women with a tendency towards hot flashes. While we most often associate hot flashes with menopause and ladies over 45, there are other reasons for this bothersome temperature dysregulation. Pregnancy, menstruation, premature menopause and anxiety can all be causes of hot flashes, and some individuals are just heat intolerant overall. Interestingly, Traditional Chinese Medicine pays particular attention to your body’s internal and external temperature, and you may find that your acupuncturist often asks about temperature even when you don’t have any complaints associated with it.

The best way to balance temperature and clear heat is the integration of acupuncture into your health care routine. Your acupuncturist can determine the root cause of the fluctuations you are experiencing and bring your body back into balance. If you want to carry on the heat clearing outside of the treatment room- you can also eat foods that are “cooling” in nature.

Alfalfa sprouts Apple

Artichoke Apricot

Asparagus Avocado

Bamboo Shoots Banana

Beets Blueberry

Bok Choy Cantaloupe

Broccoli Cranberry

Cabbage Fig

Carrots Grapefruit

Cauliflower Lemon

Cilantro Lime

Collards Orange

Cucumber Peach

Daikon Pear

Dandelion Persimmon

Mushroom Strawberry

Potato Tomato

Seaweed Watermelon

Snow Pea Barley

Spinach Kamut

Squash Millet

Watercress Rice

Try a Nutrition Consultation in June AND a follow-up session for only $99!  It is great for general health, your fertility treatment plan, during pregnancy, and postpartum. Learn more here.

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Helena in Sept for our FREE Points to Ponder:  Acupuncture, Community, and Stress Reduction session in Chicago! Have more questions about how acupuncture can help you or want to schedule an initial consultation?  Call us today at: 312-321-0004.

Choosing the right kind of fats to support fertility

By Mia Zarlengo, MS RD

Do you know the different types of healthy fats that support a diet that fights off inflammation in the body ? Since science has begun to debunk the myth that a “low-fat diet” is the healthiest diet, we can look to focus more on which fats are actually healthy that we should include in our daily intake.

One of the key components of a diet that supports reproductive health is being anti-inflammatory. Many sources of fats can support fighting inflammation, while some are actually pro-inflammatory. Navigating these different choices is a great first step in adopting a more anti-inflammatory, fertility friendly diet.

Fats to avoid that can cause inflammation:

Trans-fats: Luckily, trans-fats for the most part have been taken out of our food system in America. However, it’s still important to always check your food labels and be sure there are 0 grams of trans fats!

Corn and Soybean oil: These oils are often used as cheap fillers in processed foods. However, these processed vegetables oils are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids; when our omega-6 levels exceed omega-3’s, the result is an increase in inflammation. Swap out processed vegetable oils with some of the healthy options below!

Healthy fats that support an anti-inflammatory diet:

Avocados: One of the easiest anti-inflammatory foods I tell patients to add to their plate are avocados! They are easy to pack on the go, go well with all sorts of meals, and are a nutrient-dense source of healthy fats to help fight off inflammation! They also provide fiber, potassium, and many other micronutrients essential for health.

Olive oil: Olive oil, especially in its raw state, is a great source of healthy fats. I suggest using this as a salad dressing or a finishing sauce, to avoid burning off the healthy properties of the oil that can happen at high temperatures.

Salmon: This fish is packed with omega-3’s, great for fighting off inflammation in the body. This is a great source of protein that will also add a healthy dose of good fats to your plate!

Walnuts: Walnuts are especially high in omega-3’s for a nut, and a great addition to salads, snacks, and smoothies! They also provide fiber, another essential nutrient for a fertility-friendly diet.

Chia Seeds: These tiny little seeds pack a mean punch of nutrients! They are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Try adding these to your smoothie, oatmeal, or yogurt to create a more nutrient-dense meal!

In addition to a diet filled with antioxidants from vibrant, colorful vegetables and fruits, fiber from vegetables and whole grains, and foods low in added sugars, healthy fats are a great addition to your diet to help support reproductive health and fight off any internal inflammation. Trying adding a healthy fat source to all of your meals today and notice how you feel!

Book a nutrition appointment today to learn more ways to adopt an anti-inflammatory lifestyle through diet and supplementation to support hormonal health!  Don’t miss your chance to meet Mia in-person at our Chicago office for the FREE Two Week Walk event July 21st!

Castor Oil: Your Fertility Friend

By Meredith Nathan, Massage Director LMT

Castor oil, derived from the Palma Christi plant, has been heralded for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.  Ancient civilizations such as early Chinese, Persians, & Egyptians used this oil in balms and ointments. During the Middle Ages, it was used throughout Europe for treating skin ailments.  And there’s a good chance you may remember your grandparents recommending it be taken orally to relieve constipation.

Castor oil can also been a wonderful tool to increase fertility.  It can help to detoxify your reproductive organs and tonify your blood cells.  Castor oil affects three systems within the body:

  • The Lymphatic System: think of lymph as the garbage collectors of our bodies.  It finds the ‘garbage’ (i.e. toxins, excessive hormones, and waste) and brings it to our lymph nodes, where it is processed and purified.  However, our lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own pump like the circulatory system does. It gets it’s movement from exercise, heat, and stretching.  Castor oil packs can also benefit and stimulate the lymph, promoting detoxification and cleansing when applied to the pelvic region.
  • The Liver: The liver, your body’s lymphatic powerhouse, stores & processes toxins and hormones in the body.  Stagnation in the liver can lead to hormonal imbalance. Castor oil packs can also be applied to the liver to help it decongest, which may promote hormone balance.
  • The Circulatory System: Blood is the body’s natural healing agent.  Castor oil packs stimulate circulation in the body, helping to bring fresh, oxygenated, untried rich blood to the reproductive organs.  This enables healing of scar tissue, the breakdown of adhesions, and provides nutrition to the ovaries and uterus.

Castor oil packs should not be used during after ovulation or if you could be pregnant, but they are a fantastic way to nurture your fertility during the follicular phase of your cycle.  Castor oil packs are used during specific Fertility Enhancing Massage sessions, and can also be used for self care at home.

To create your own castor oil pack you’ll need:

  • One flannel cloth (without colors as the castor oil will make it run)
  • One bottle of castor oil
  • Plastic wrap cut one to two inches larger than the flannel
  • One towel
  • Hot water bottle
  • Container with lid
  • Old clothes and sheets as castor oil stains clothing and bedding

Soak the flannel in castor oil until it’s saturated. Place it over your lower abdomen, cover it with the plastic sheet and apply the hot water bottle. Cover with a towel, lay back and relax for 30-45 minutes. Remove the pack and clean your tummy. Store the pack in a container in the fridge and reuse the same flannel up to 30 times.  

Or if that seems to complicated, you can apply castor oil like your Fertility Enhancing Massage Practitioner: rub castor oil directly on the lower belly, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap or an oid sheet, and apply a non-electrical heat source on top.

An added benefit of using castor oil is it gives you time to relax and meditate, pray, and generally think good thoughts!

Learn more about Fertility Enhancing Massage here!

Summer Lovin’

by Diana Zic RYT, RPYT

June marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. All things nature are in full swing of growth and the heat of summer starts blessing us for the first time since September last year.  Frankly, it’s my favorite time of the year! For most the agendas at work start to slow down, schools are out of session and people begin to take vacations. It’s truly the perfect time to allow yourself time to pull back from the consistent go-go-go and take in nature’s beauty. Which can also means taking your yoga practice outside!

I find in the warmer months my yoga practice not only gets outside more, it changes as I find myself outside more doing outdoor activities (walking, biking, swimming, and gardening) and due to the summer heat, I find a vigorous practice/exercise is not what I need as it tends to exhaust me rather than my intent to feel nourished after my exercise, especially while trying to conceive. So if I’m limited on time or energy due to other summer activities my go-to pose is Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).

I chose this pose because it’s a pose that’s a one stop shop, it stretches my shoulders, hamstrings, calves, feet and hands.  It strengthens my arms, legs, wrists, belly and muscles along my spine. It energizes my body, mind and often my digestion if it’s stagnant.

If you’re new to yoga or this pose you can modify the pose by placing your hands at the wall until you build more strength in your body. Click on hyperlink link above for video instructions of the pose.

Lastly, when your body temperature is up from the summer heat or maybe your flushed with anxiety or anger and need some settling in your body and mind. Try out Sitali Breath (cooling breath) below.

How to practice Sitali:

  • Start seated comfortably with a head, neck and spine in alignment;
  • Close your eyes and take a few natural breaths in and out of the nose;
  • Make an “O” space with your mouth;
  • If you can curl the tongue into itself and stick it out of the mouth (no worries if you cannot, not everyone is able);
  • Inhale deeply like drinking through a straw (bring in the cooler air through the tongue as your belly, ribs and chest fill up);
  • Exhale completely through the nose, closing the mouth.
  • You can practice this for 2-3 minutes. Come back to the natural breath and try again if needed.

I hope you’re able to enjoy your summer outside as much as possible. Yoga for Fertility and Prenatal Yoga After Infertility classes will still be held at the Moon this summer so don’t forget to visit us! Get outside with us for the Two Week Walk in Chicago in July and learn more at our Yoga for Fertility: Solution or Stretch? in August in Chicago and Highland Park as part of our FREE patient events!  

Be well,

Diana Zic

Stay Cool While TTC

 

Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM

Summer is here, in Chicago! It is time to get out, play, and stay cool. While trying to conceive in the heat, there are a few things to remember, and they are not new ideas.

  • Cotton is queen! Organic cotton is even better, especially down there. For guys and girls, it is important to stay cool and non-toxic where it counts, so wear loose clothes made of organic materials.
  • Use peppermint essential oil in your diffusers at home, and look for cooling, non-toxic deodorants.  They are stronger than ever, and last much longer than cheaper versions.
  • Diet and fluids are vital. Keep your barbecues sensible. If you are charring meat, know that you are creating heat and inflammation. So add greens, add cucumber and watermelon, and add water to drink, even if it is in between alcoholic beverages. Alcohol creates heat, so if you imbibe, hydrate smart with coconut water, electrolyte water and lemon and cucumber water, and fresh fruit and watery vegetables.
  • Keep your distance at night. If you can, sometimes it’s relaxing to sleep alone and rendezvous with your partner in the middle of the night. Two bodies lying next to each other on a hot night creates a lot of heat.  Studies show that birth rates are lower 8-10 months after hot days. (https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/375/pdfs/does-hot-weather-affect-human-fertility.pdf?v=1) What is more important about this study is that the discomfort leading to a lack of intercourse was not the primary contributing factor to the lower birth rates. It was more likely a decline in reproductive health—lower sperm production in males, and potential embryonic development issues, once fertilization occurred, in females.
  • Play with air conditioning wisely! The environmental costs of air conditioning are pretty high. So use it, and use it wisely if you’re TTC. It’s a tough call, because do you keep your air on all day? It takes more energy to re-cool a warm room, than it does to lower the temp in an already cool room. You make the call, but air conditioning is going to help humans keep making babies as temperatures rise, and it will do it an environmental cost. Experiment to find the sweet spot with your energy use.
  • Find your local watering hole and enjoy it.  The closer you are to a body of water on a hot day, the cooler the temps will be. If you are on the water, you will stay cooler throughout the warmest part of the day. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
  • Iced Beverages—when hydrating, keep it simple. Filtered water in a stainless water bottle is your best friend. Add ice, lemon, cucumber, crushed mint leaves to it. To add variety to your fluids, ice some matcha green tea and add some mint.
  • Disconnect your devices, and keep them out of the bedroom, at night. It is not always easy to keep your phone off your person, but at night, definitely do it. It will serve you.  Keep your devices off your laps, in general, and especially out of your front pockets.
  • Emotions! In Chinese Medicine, all emotions eventually create qi stagnation and heat accumulation. How it does this is fascinating, and can help you manage your response to all of your emotions. Imagine an event or encounter stimulates an emotion in you. When we have the capacity to witness that emotion, it is easier to let go. But more often than not, because of the sheer volume of stimuli, we do not let go of every emotion we experience in a day. These emotions that linger, sometimes get stuck. That stuck emotional energy blocks free flow of other energy and the stagnation builds. When stuck energy builds in one channel or body area, it creates heat. I love to describe this in the terms of a party. Imagine this: You are having a party. Your house is all set. You are a little chilly in the living room so you’re wearing a sweater.  Joy arrives early. You two chat and then Sorrow arrives. They start catching and then Excited arrives. The party is starting to get lively. Anger and Anxious arrive together and the room is really filling up and WARMING UP. You take off your sweater. Sympathetic and Loving arrive and it is really starting to heat up. You hydrate, and go the other room to cool off and get some space. By the time Mopey and Kind show up, you don’t want to be in the living room anymore because you can barely move and it is so hot. This is how emotions build up and stagnate in the body, and lead to heat. So remember to manage your emotional life, so that things keep moving.
  • Come in and get acupuncture and herbs! There are many things we can do in the office to help you clear heat and cool down, so ask your acupuncturist if you have heat signs and if you should amp up your heat clearing at home.

Things are getting hotter, and we want you to enjoy it!

 

 

CoQ10 Improves Egg and Embryo Quality

 

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

An exciting new study shows promising results for CoQ10 supplementation in women with poor ovarian reserve doing IVF. In the study, 186 women under age 35 with poor ovarian reserve, defined as Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) < 1.2 ng/mL, and antral follicle count (AFC) < 5, were randomized to receive either treatment with 600 mg CoQ10 (200 mg 3 times per day) or control (no treatment) for 60 days leading up to their IVF cycle.

The results were pretty striking. The CoQ10 group had significantly more high quality day 3 embryos (1 vs. 0 in the control group), significantly less gonadotropins needed for stimulation, significantly more eggs retrieved (4 vs. 2 in the control group), and significantly higher fertilization rate (67% vs. 45% in the control group). In addition, significantly more patients who took CoQ10 had embryos to freeze (18.4% vs. 4.3% in the control group). The CoQ10 group also had higher pregnancy rates (32% vs. 17% in the control group) and higher live birth rates (29% vs. 16% in the control group), but these results were not statistically significant.

CoQ10 is an antioxidant and plays an essential in energy production in our body cells, including maturing eggs. CoQ10 is thought to exert its beneficial effects by neutralizing free radicals that could damage the DNA or other structures within the egg. Damage to DNA can prevent fertilization or result in a nonviable embryo. In addition, because of CoQ10’s role in energy production, CoQ10 likely also supports the energy needs of maturing eggs, thus leading to better quality eggs and embryos.  CoQ10 tends to be a safe and well-tolerated supplement, and in this study, there were no adverse effects reports from supplementing with CoQ10.

Absorption of CoQ10 is best when the dose is divided into 3 doses with meals during the day. Because CoQ10 is fat-soluble, having fat with CoQ10 increases the absorption. Learn more about our CoQ10 supplement here.  

Reference: Xu Y, Nisenblat V, Cuiling L, et al. Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2018;16:29.

**Save 25% off CoQ10 in June with the promo code EGG25! Available in-center and online while supplies last.

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