by Stephanie Marynus LAc
Summer Solstice is just around the corner! YAY! Street festivals, concerts, grilling and vacation – the last thing you want to think about is health. Summer is one of the times of year that most people fall off track with their routines the most, aside from the winter holidays. However, I believe in giving yourself some leeway here and there so you can enjoy life. As an acupuncturist, we believe it’s all about balance.
You don’t have to deprive yourself, especially if you tend to be more active during the summer months. There are simple things you can do to keep yourself from going overboard during summer. These things will help you stay on track this summer, so that you don’t have to start over at square one when September rolls around.
- Stay Hydrated
If you have seen me for acupuncture you know I am a stickler for water. Being hydrated cleanses the body and gets it ‘moving’, so to speak. This is a simple method to reduce the side effects of fertility drugs that, energetically speaking, “dry” you out. It improves your mood, reduce aches and pains, prevents constipation and bloating, and increases your energy. Click Here to see what happens after drinking 1 gallon of H20 everyday for a month! The general guidelines for water intake state that you should drink at least half an ounce for every pound you weigh. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds you should be drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day. Strategically set water bottles around the house and at work to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day.
- Get Moving
It’s time to get moving and release that energy that you built up during winter. Not only will workouts counteract any of your splurges over the summer holidays but they can also improve your happiness. According to the international best seller, The Happiness Equation, by Neil Pasricha, “Pennsylvania State researchers reported in the Journal of Sports & Exercise Psychology the more physically active people are the greater their general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm.” It doesn’t take much: Half an hour of brisk walking three times a week improves mood. That is great news for a woman who can not exercise while undergoing stimulation. Something as simple as a daily stroll to check out the neighborhood’s new hip restaurants can keep you on track.
I am not going to tell you that you should skip every ice cream outing that you are invited too. Life is all about balance and eating right a majority of the time. The key is knowing when to allow yourself a treat and when you should make healthy choices. Simple things like swapping out unhealthy choices for healthier ones can make a huge difference. When grilling out, instead of choosing that bacon cheeseburger, swap it out for grilled chicken. Instead of potato chips choose carrots and celery. In choosing healthy alternatives you won’t feel so bad about having that ice cream snack later on. Food was made to fuel our bodies, but treating yourself every now and then is not a crime.
Ferris Bueller, a Chicago favorite, once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Let your hair down and enjoy yourself this summer. After all, you have been waiting for this time all year. Keep your goals in the forefront so when fall comes around you won’t be regretting 3 months of slacking. Just remember the 80/20 rule, and keep your body moving. If you follow these easy tips, you will not have a problem staying on track with your health.
Try our Summer Passports this season to make the most of the season and save!
by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD
It’s finally (almost!) summer time, so you know what that means! Backyard BBQs with family and friends, picnics, and this dietitian’s favorite way to eat, alfresco! Many of us will turn to not only dining outside, but do cook our meals outside too, which means it’s time to fire up the grill. But before we do, let’s take a step back and make sure we’re still on the path to our optimal fertility.
While we all know that certain foods may affect our fertility outcomes, one to definitely keep in mind, especially with our guys out there, is that of the correlation between some of the more commonly grilled foods, and that of semen quality. In a recent study published in 2017 processed red meat was negatively associated total sperm count in young healthy men. Organ meat (liver from beef, calf, pork, chicken, and turkey) consumers were reported as having more normal sperm. Chicken however, did not relate to any sperm parameter in young men. So what does this all mean? The more processed meats, the worse off they are for our guys, chicken however, can have either no effect, while those organ meats can actually have a positive effect!
Now let’s get to the more important question, how are we cooking that meat? Most commonly, especially in the nicer weather nights, you’ll find the guys all huddled around the grill and this is where is can get tricky. Research has shown that the consumption of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals considered to be “genotoxic” or highly damaging to our genetic material. Studies have shown that higher levels of PAHs in the urine are associated with poor sperm quality and cancer in men, and sadly, grilling is one of those cooking methods that can create them. This is formed from the combination of not only the amino acids from the meat, but the addition of sugars and an extremely high temperature (think open fire!)
So does this mean I’m done with our Weber forever? No, no, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet.
- While we don’t recommend grilling on a daily basis, once or twice a week is a much better option.
- Consider adding a healthy vegetable, filled with those great antioxidants that can work to protect our cells and combat those nasty PAHs.
- Discard the charred! When meat becomes charred, increased PAHs are found.
- Control your temps while cooking. Many times, a drip of sauce or fat from the meat can cause a flare up of flame, this only raises the likelihood that PAHs will be formed.
- Avoid smoking meats, which prolongs the cooking process and adds to the PAHs found in the prepared meats.
Enjoy your summers, All! Try to keep those alfresco dinners healthy and fertility-friendly!
Want to learn more? Meet with a nutritionist today! (Elizabeth is available Tuesday evenings and every other Saturday, while Robin is available on Wednesday evenings.) Questions? Call us at: 312-321-0004!
Dietary habits and semen parameters: a systematic narrative review
- Ricci-S. Al-Beitawi-S. Cipriani-A. Alteri-F. Chiaffarino-M. Candiani-S. Gerli-P. Viganó-F. Parazzini – Andrology – 2017
Photo by Skitterphoto
By Christina Thompson Olson, RYT
Has your fertility journey created a disconnect between you and your partner or loved one? Whether you’re going through this together or on your own, trying to conceive can feel isolating and lonely. Partners, family members and/or friends may have the best intentions of supporting us on our TTC journey, but sometimes it takes a little creativity to find ways to reconnect with our loved one — consider partners yoga!
Keep It Simple
If you hear partners yoga and immediately picture yourself trying to balance in the air on your partner’s legs, not to worry. I’m not talking about acro yoga; just some simple yoga poses you can practice with a partner to enjoy a relaxing time together. These are safe during most times of your cycle or treatments, but always check with your doctor if you’re unsure. Try these poses in your living room or maybe even outdoors now that the weather is getting nicer! Start by sitting cross legged with your back against your partner’s back, noticing your breath and your partners breath, and feeling the support of their back against yours.
Partners yoga can build intimacy and trust by opening the lines of communication. Even just the simple and honest communication required while coordinating movements can help us reconnect with ourselves and our partner, no matter what else is going on that day/week/month. For the next pose, stay seated back and extend your legs out in front of you for a supported forward fold. One partner will fold forward towards their legs while the other partner gently leans back; then come back through center, maintaining contact as you switch. Move slowly with your breath, making sure to communicate your comfort level during this one!
In yoga we link breath and movement which helps to relieve stress and tension in the body and mind. Practicing yoga poses with a loved one allows you both to feel the centering, grounding effects of yoga. One more seated pose where you’ll reap these benefits is the gentle seated twist, practiced back to back. You and your partner will each start by placing your right hand on your left knee and reaching your left hand back to your partner’s leg or hip; lengthen up through the crown of the head on your inhale and twist a little deeper to the left on your exhale, looking over your shoulder if it’s comfortable for your neck. Continue to breathe, coming back through center when you’re ready, then take this twist to the right.
Support during TTC and beyond
Practicing yoga with your partner is a great way to connect and feel supported during your TTC journey, after getting pregnant, and beyond. Make your way to a standing position, allowing your partner to help you up from the floor, and face each other standing within arms reach. Step your feet out wider than hip-width distance, taking the toes out and bending the knees into a goddess squat. Ground down through the feet as your shoulders stack over your hips, then reach your arms towards your partner and clasp forearms. You can decide how intense to make this squat by bending more deeply, or lessen the intensity by gently swaying side to side, straightening one leg and the other as you maintain eye contact.
Don’t forget to have fun with these poses and try others from your yoga practice! Balancing postures are a great reminder to not take ourselves too seriously. Try a tree pose standing next to your partner, balancing on one foot as you draw the sole of the other foot towards your calf or upper thigh, and offering support with an arm behind your partners back, or interlacing the hands closest to each other as you reach overhead. Feel your standing feet rooting into the earth as your arms reach tall overhead, and enjoy this shared experience together!
Try one of our FREE summer events while space is available and our current Yoga for Fertility schedule on our Calendar today! Call us to schedule a private yoga session in Chicago or Highland Park for you and your partner at: 312-321-0004.
by Rickie Kostiner RYT, Clinical Intern
I took a good hard look one morning at the piles of stuff that had accumulated between my jeans and sweaters. It was a misshapen pile that had peculiar characteristics including big dark spots and glimpses of shimmer, it was hard and jagged around the edges but soft and mushy inside. No, it wasn’t loose socks, empty boxes, or unopened mail, it was me. I wasn’t dreaming, but I swore that I could see myself in physical and metaphysical form in my closet that day. My heart sank and slouched to the ground. Knees to chin I rocked back and forth for what seemed like an entire day wondering how I got there. How did I end up on that shelf and how could I find my way back into my own body. My body, I shrieked. What. Is. A. Body and why can’t I feel any part of mine? I touched my toes, not painted calloused soles. I licked my lips, cracked, and broken. I ran my fingers through my hair, rough and thin. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe but every breath stopped short in my chest. What was happening? How did I get this way? I somehow managed to pull myself off the dirty carpet that day and I continued to move through the rest of my day. That’s all I did, I moved through places, interactions, workouts, meals. There were no feelings, because I wasn’t there. I was still on that shelf.
How do I get off the shelf? Am I ever going to feel anything ever again. I walked past a yoga studio everyday to get on the train. One day a sign out front of the studio read, “come inside and feel your body! Baby, it’s cold outside.” Okay, I thought, this is it, I’ll try it. That first yoga class was weird, I couldn’t explain how it made me feel but I went back. I went back three more times and then five more times after that and pretty soon I was practicing six times a week, but I still couldn’t tell you why. I practiced for two years, completed my first 200 hour teacher training, and had started teaching and I still couldn’t tell you why.
It was a Sunday, I had been teaching yoga for about four months. A dear friend and fellow yoga instructor told me she was going to take my class. Immediately, I felt shocks of nerves zooming through my body. “I’m nervous!” I said to her. She replied, “Rickie, I am here for whatever you have to give.” Wow. Right? Think about it, I am here for whatever you have to give. That level of flexibility is something I could only dream about achieving. For the first time since I started practicing yoga I felt something other than those adjectives that I was “supposed” to be feeling (tired, strong, healthy etc.) I felt safe. I went home that day and opened my closet to see that the pile of stuff was smaller. The parts that were black began to fade and the parts that were shimmering glistened a little more. As I continued to take in what my friend had said, ideas began to click in my head. In teacher training our leaders told us that yoga was much more than the physical practice, it is a much deeper and broader philosophy that encourages and encompasses a way to live, a way to treat one another, and most importantly, a way to treat the self.
I started to listen, and I started to observe. I took a step back from the rigid expectations I had of myself as a teacher and student and allowed the philosophy to manifest within. The true intention behind the practice and philosophy of yoga is to find stillness, both in the mind and body. The physical, asana, practice of yoga is done in order to help the body sit still. Handstand means nothing if the body cannot rest. Slowly, yoga finally began to make sense. The reason I came to yoga each day was because I was allowed simply to be.
Everyone has their unique reasons for finding and pursuing yoga. If you approach your practice with intention that is truth and that is real. Yoga changed my life by giving me a safe space to uncover layers of myself and were buried beneath many years of neglect. Today, as I continue my studies and research further into the dimensions of counseling and psychology, I am reminded every time I step on my mat that I have everything I already need within to heal. A perspective that took me a long time to actualize, but once I did, other pieces of my life fell into place. The piles of stuff in my closet slowly transformed into significant pieces of my life that I began to recognize as relationship, family, self. I was there all along, buried beneath the layers of stuff, patiently waiting to be uncovered. As you begin to uncover layers of self that have been buried remember to trust in the process that the practice of yoga can bring. Now, I practice both on and off my mat with the intention of, I am just a voice, the yoga does the work.
During Mental Health Awareness, we encourage finding support in whatever format works best for you-whether yoga, acupuncture, visiting a support group specific to your needs for infertility support, trying again after loss, or single parenthood), meditation, and/or speaking with your doctor. Resources, such as, Resolve (866-NOT-ALONE), Star Legacy Foundation, and the Women’s Professional Health Networking Group of clinicians supporting patients going through fertility treatments, pregnancy after loss, struggling in their relationships on the journey, perinatal anxiety, depression, and more (consult with your practitioner at PDtM for more information about these trusted contacts including Alison Lautz below).
Join Pulling Down the Moon for the FREE Webinar Hope & Healing: Simple, Practical Techniques for Coping with Disappointment & Loss on June 3rd at 6pm CST.
Author: Rickie Kostiner RYT, Clinical Intern Supervisor: Alison Lautz, LCSW Therapist & Life Coach www.alisonlautz.com 815-341-9244 firstname.lastname@example.org
by Meredith Nathan LMT
A common setback to a successful fertility cycle is a thin endometrium, or uterine lining. In the case of IVF, some cycles never make it to transfer because the endometrium is too thin. Reproductive Endocrinologists usually like to see the lining at least 7-8mm by the time of transfer, with a ‘trilaminar’, or three-layered appearance on an ultrasound. Why does the uterine lining sometimes not grow and thicken throughout the follicular phase as it should?
A few common causes include:
- – poor pelvic blood flow
- – pelvic blood stagnation
- – low BMI
- – estrogen deficiency
- – uterine fibroid(s)
- – adhesions or scar tissue in the uterus
- – endometritis (infection of the endometrial cells) or adenomyosis (a condition whereby the uterine lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus)
Pelvic blood flow and blood stagnation are two sides of a coin: closely related in some ways, and in other ways complete opposites. For example, someone who never exercises and works a desk job may suffer from blood stagnation; her sedentary lifestyle keeps the pelvic cavity ‘swampy’ in it’s consistency. On the other side of the ditch, the high-intensity, cross-fit, marathon-running athlete is sending much of her blood flow to her extremities (not to mention flooding her body with adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones that may interrupt her hormone balance). Both of these women might end up with a thin uterine lining, for the exact opposite reason.
In other cases blood stagnation can actually CAUSE poor blood flow. Adhesions in the uterus can be the result of trauma or internal infection, but can also be the result of a sedentary lifestyle and blood stagnation. These adhesions can result in lowered circulation, and a thin uterine lining.
Other causes of thin lining can also be related, where one causes the other or several cluster together in a constellation of symptoms. For instance, uterine fibroids are more common in an environment with poor circulation. But, the scar tissue that can result from uterine fibroids can create more blood stagnation and circulatory challenges, resulting in: poor circulation. Likewise, low BMI may cause estrogen deficiency and other hormonal imbalances. Low estrogen may also create other body weight challenges.
Mind boggled? I don’t blame you. But if any of these scenarios sound familiar, take heart. First of all, you do not need to have the ‘perfect uterus’ (if such a thing exists) to get pregnant. I’ve personally had clients with a lining as thin as 4mm achieve a successful implantation and pregnancy (and who now have healthy babies).
And the silver lining is that there are a number of positive, holistic choices you can make to give your endometrium a boost:
- – if you’re concerned about a low BMI, consider gaining weight. Fat cells produce estrogen, and estrogen helps build the lining! That’s not an invitation to gorge yourself on milkshakes and cheetos (wouldn’t that be nice?) – see a nutritionist to help guide you to a healthy BMI, using a anti-inflammatory diet filled with healthy fats.
- – while you’re at it, ask that nutritionist about things to avoid, and also supplements that can support your lining. Some research suggests Vitamin E (included in a good prenatal vitamin) and L-arginine may support a thick uterine lining, while substances such as caffeine and nicotine are known to restrict blood flow, possibly thinning it.
- – choose low-intensity, moderate exercise options, such as gentle (non-heated) yoga, swimming, walking, or the elliptical machine.
- – thermal therapy, hip stretches/openers (including some fertility yoga poses you can use now!), femoral massage, and other self care techniques can help improve pelvic blood flow
- – receive a manual therapy, such as, Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM), or Mercier Therapy (available at PDtM from Meredith Nathan), to reduce adhesion in the abdomen and increase pelvic blood flow. Your FEM Practitioner, exclusively at Pulling Down the Moon, can also teach you further self care techniques to help boost your blood everyday! Try a sample of these self-care fertility massage techniques today!
(Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric)
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Spring is finally here in the Midwest, and things are starting to get greener. Crocuses and daffodils are blooming, and it seems people are starting to have a little more of a spring in their step as the promise of summer and warmer weather approaches. That also means that soon we will have local fruits and vegetables once again.
Focusing on increasing fruits and vegetables, especially from local sources is a great way to focus on improving your overall health and fertility. Certain fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, avocados, and oranges are rich in folate, which is important for preventing neural tube defects. In general, fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and potential anti-inflammatory compounds. These may be supportive of both female and male fertility. Did you know that women going through ART have higher levels of oxidative stress that may be offset with antioxidants? Loading up on the fruits and vegetables is a great way to do this. Increasing fruits and vegetables also increases your fiber intake, which feeds your beneficial gut bacteria (fertility nutrition starts in the gut!). Try to choose organic when possible, as eating higher pesticide fruits and vegetables has been linked to longer time to pregnancy.
Farmer’s markets are great way to work eating more fruits and vegetables, as the freshness and quality is often superior to the produce found in grocery stores, where it may have been shipped many miles. At the farmer’s market, your produce may have been picked just that morning or the previous day! Another great option is gardening if you have the space. Studies on gardening show that it may help combat stress, boost your mood, and it’s good exercise! Live in an apartment or condo and don’t have outside space? Seek a community garden, or try growing some herbs in your window or in a pot on your balcony. Other options for a deck or balcony could be salad mix in a pot.
Eating more vegetables is a great way to boost your overall health and fertility, by increasing fiber and nutrient density of your diet.
Try these tips to increase the amount of vegetables you’re eating:
- Add vegetables to your eggs at breakfast (or any time of day).
- Add cauliflower rice to chili, curry, or stir-fry.
- Add greens like kale to soups, chili, taco meat, or stir-fry toward the end of the cooking time.
- Have a big meal salad with protein.
- Add sautéed onions, mushrooms, and greens (like spinach, kale, or chard) to tomato sauce.
- Use spaghetti squash or oodles instead of pasta.
- Add cucumber, celery, and/or greens to a smoothie.
- Use cauliflower, spaghetti squash, or zucchini to make pizza crust.
- Use zucchini or eggplant instead of noodles in lasagna.
- Roast carrots, beets, broccoli, or cauliflower with olive oil.
By Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director
Everyone has advice for you: Do this, do more of this, don’t do that, do less of that. This is the only thing that works. Everyone is different, so nothing works for everyone. Eat more of this. Eat less of that. Exercise more. Exercise less. Weigh more. Weigh less.
I think that, particularly because of the internet, you can find information to support every theory out there on literally everything. It’s hard to know what to trust, what is actually true. While it can take some time to find the things that work for us to stay healthy or find balance, I do think there are a few things that we can universally take as truth.
Here’s what I’ve found:
- Slow Down. I started with this one because it helps to make all the rest possible. We hear this a lot, right? Take time for yourself, relax, find ways to unwind. But how do YOU do that? I think it’s necessary to take some time every single day to be quiet and listen to what your body, your mind, and your heart are telling you. Some days, you might have more time, some days, it’s only 2 minutes. But this has to be a priority like any other. When you take time to be still, whether in meditation, taking a walk, listening to quiet music, doing yoga, or even in an acupuncture session, this is time to hear yourself: your thoughts, how your body feels, where your mind is. What works for one person may not work for another. Remember there’s a reason that we call meditation a “practice.” It’s a process, not a destination. It recharges you, helps you find yourself and your goals, and strengthens your ability to cope with the challenges that life throws your way.
- Eat Well. There are so many theories out there about how to eat, what to eat, where to eat. It can all get very confusing! But I think we all know what things don’t feel right – whether it’s refined sugars/carbs, greasy/fried foods, too much salt, portions that are too large, etc, so staying clear of those as much as possible is critical. The more I go through life and doing the work I do, the more I realize just how important these things are. A study that came out last month showed that unhealthy diets are responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide. Even if our diets are only “kind of” unhealthy, those foods could be contributing at the very least to inflammation, endocrine dysfunction, and thereby problems with fertility. If you are feeling lost in the woods about where to start, make an appointment for Nutritional Counseling with one of our amazing Dietitians.
- Sleep. Oh this is a hard one. We all think we can get away with sleep deficiency, but it always catches up to us in the end! The key is to try to stay consistent, even if you can’t be perfect every night. Aim for 7-8 hours, as close as possible to the same time to bed every night and wake up every morning. Of course, you will have special events, travel, and other things that try to throw a wrench in the works, but the more you condition yourself to stay consistent, the more your body will be prepared to sleep well when it’s time. Other things to try:
- Stop drinking anything caffeinated after 10am if you plan to go to bed by 10pm. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 16(!!!) hours, so plan accordingly.
- Try a simple chamomile tea about 30-45 min before bedtime – steep in 4oz or less of water so you won’t have to get up to use the restroom during the night.
- Stay away from devices 45-60 min before bed. It’s tempting to try to catch up on emails, surf Instagram or space out to some Netflix, but trust me on this, sleep is way more important!
- Clear clutter from your house in general, but definitely from around your sleeping area. There should be nothing that reminds you of stressful situations or work. Keep your sleeping area as simple and comfortable as possible to invite relaxation and rest.
- If you are still struggling to fall and stay asleep, try acupuncture to help regulate your diurnal cycle.
- Exercise. This is another one that gets pretty complicated, but the bottom line is that you need to move your body on the regular. Medicated IVF cycles notwithstanding (when walking and gentle yoga are safe, as well as, recommended), getting your heart rate up and doing some resistance (free weights, muscular isolation, etc) exercise are necessary for us as humans. Our driving, sitting lifestyle has caused us to not have to do these things for basic needs, so we have to go out of our way to find them. If you love going to the gym, then do it! If you hate going to the gym, then find what works for you – yoga, martial arts, ballroom dancing… If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stay with it. I had a personal trainer as a patient one time. I remember asking him what the best kind of exercise was. Do you know what he said? He said, “The best kind? That’s the one that you DO.” 100% accurate. If you are someone who has strayed away from exercise or maybe never had a regular practice, it’s time to make friends with the feeling of moving your body to make it strong and healthy. Find what works for YOU.
- >I want to make one side note here to say that you may be someone who exercises TOO much which can also have adverse effects on your body. It can be difficult to let go of an ideal of weight, shape, or status. If you are dealing with a BMI that is below optimum, consider discussing what’s going on with your MD, Dietitian, and acupuncturist.
That’s it. That’s all I know. None of this is new. But this stuff does work – tried and true. Some of it takes real willpower, but setting the wheels in motion now can help you find your healthiest self for life.
Try Acupuncture for only $75 in May! Learn more about holistic health options for the journey for you and your partner at the Shine Together In Person Meet-up with Pulling Down the Moon’s very own Christine Davis presenting on Tuesday, June 11th at 6:00-7:30pm at our Chicago office. Register to save your spot today!
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