• Navigating the Supplement Aisle to Support Your Fertility Journey

    By Robin Miller, RDN

    It is daunting to see how many nutritional supplements are available in grocery stores, pharmacies, health food shops, and internet retailers these days. Finding the right supplement when you are pregnant, struggling with infertility, and for preconception can definitely be a challenge when looking at all the countless products on the crowded shelves. 

    Even as a registered dietitian, I find myself scouring the shelves to determine which supplements are worth taking and which are made by a company who has a very creative marketing team. The reality is most people do not know what to look for when selecting supplements, and unfortunately may end up paying a premium price for an under-performing product.  

    Here at Pulling Down the Moon, not only do our team of registered dietitians evaluate a clients’ supplementation regimen, we also ensure that all supplements we recommend adheres to certain standards deeming them safe and effective. We often find many people make supplement decisions based on pretty label claims vs. evaluating what the actual supplement contains and how it is regulated. Most clients get very general advice from their doctors regarding a prenatal vitamin at best and specific brands and ingredients are not discussed.  That is where we come in!

    Here are some things we look for at Pulling Down the Moon, when we evaluate supplements:

    • The supplements must be third-party tested.  Since supplements in the US are not regulated, one cannot assume that what you are paying for is what you are actually getting. It is important to see some kind of indication that the supplement was verified by a third party for quantity and purity, undergoing rigorous examination. Look for are the USP seal and the NSF seal. 
    • Be wary of choosing supplements that provide a “proprietary blend” of ingredients when dosages are not listed on key ingredients.  It is essential need to see the quantity of the nutrients that are included in the supplement.  A proprietary blend often combines multiple ingredients together, and the amount of each ingredient is not shared on the label.  
    • There must be studies about the nutrient or supplement that is not funded by the manufacturing company. Our registered dietitians base all of our recommendations on what the research and medical literature suggests.  Many supplements claim that they are “clinically proven”, but when you look a little closer, the studies that they use to make this claim may be funded by the company who makes the supplement.  It is not an independent study, and therefore bias cannot be ruled out.   
    • Choose certain versions of nutrients over others, and often it costs more. Whether you are trying to conceive or pregnant, we believe that quality matters.  In many cases, certain nutrients are better absorbed and utilized in one version vs. another or are available in a natural form instead of a synthetic for.  A version of nutrients that we prefer is:  Methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin when Vitamin B12 is being supplemented. Cyanocobalamin is the synthetic form of Vitamin B12.
    • If probiotics are being mail-ordered, make sure they are being delivered appropriately if the supplement is not heat-resistant.  Many probiotics are heat-sensitive and will essentially die if they are heated beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure that you are ordering from a company that offers quick delivery and will ship with an ice pack.  Otherwise, having your probiotics sitting in the hot delivery truck may cook them to the point that they are essentially useless to your body. 

     

    Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the aisles a little easier the next time you are shopping for supplements.  We believe choosing high-quality supplements with high-quality nutrients is 100% worth it in the long run, especially when pregnant or trying to conceive. 

    Want to get your supplement regimen evaluated by one of our Registered Dietitians? Make an appointment today and come check out the supplements we have available for purchase to support you and your partner on your fertility journey!

  • Fertility Break?  Fertility Boost!

    Many experience needing a break from their fertility journey, and choose to take one after consulting with their doctor.  Summer travel, the holidays, too many personal life transitions, or even just needing a mental health break are all valid reasons some choose to postpone their next fertility cycle for a month or two.  But a break from A.R.T. doesn’t need to mean a break from your body, or a break from your overall health.

    I was shocked when I first learned that the lifespan of an egg is actually around 90 days, and the lifespan of sperm is 60-70.  Previously I had assumed whatever you did prior to the month of conception really didn’t affect an embryo’s viability all that much…likewise the common notion that age is the only factor affecting egg quality is incomplete. Though age is a factor, the environment of the egg plays a profound role in it’s health and development.

    Several months before ovulation, many different factors are either adding to or subtracting from an egg’s health: the nutrients present in the body, stress and inflammation, hormone balance, pelvic blood flow and ovarian oxygenation.  In fact, researcher Jonathan Van Blerkom of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder concluded that “Findings from several studies indicate that embryos with the highest implantation potential originate from follicles that are well-vascularized and oxygenated.”  Likewise, sperm travels for 6-8 weeks through the body from the time of birth – and the overall health of the body impacts it at every step along the way.

    Though taking a break (for whatever reason) can cause impatience and stress, having one may actually be an opportunity in disguise!  Whether a month or two or even three, being proactive during this time can have a profound impact on your health, your mood, and your fertility.  So schedule in some relaxation time, good foods and supplements, acupuncture, and a detoxifying or blood-building massage.  

    Learn how the Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol , or ‘The FEM Protocol can help you prep for the next cycle!

  • Endometriosis Awareness Month: Decreasing Endometriosis Symptoms

    Diana Zic, RPYT, CHC

    I am extremely empathetic to those women with endometriosis as I used to suffer from pelvic pain, heavy menstrual flow, and at times vomiting and constipation dating back to the age of 12. Although I haven’t been diagnosed with the disease, I’m pretty sure the rupture of my appendix when I was in 3rd grade paved the way for my discomfort around my menstrual cycle.

    For those reading this and are unsure of what endometriosis is exactly, according to Mayo Clinic, “it is often a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus – the endometrium – grows outside your uterus. Often times it spreads to the Fallopian tubes, ovaries and the ligaments that hold the organs in place which may cause trouble when trying to conceive and cause pain.

    Many women do not realize that they have it until they are trying to conceive. As it’s hard to diagnose without laparoscopic surgery  (which I’ve done and it’s not the greatest experience as you can imagine) though it can help clean up scar tissue temporarily which can relieve discomfort and offer a window to try to conceive, but it’s likely to come back if the root cause isn’t found.

    Also, I believe because so many women are suffering from pelvic pain and PMS symptoms it’s become seen as a cliché to have these symptoms so they are brushed off as “normal”.

    The symptoms of endometriosis are typically associated with the menstrual cycle and unique to each woman and may include: Pain during sex, extreme cramps that don’t go away with anti-inflammatory support or that impede daily life, bowel and urinary disorders, periods that last longer than seven days, heavy cycle (changing pad or tampon every hour) and nausea or vomiting. YUCK!

    Good news! There are ways to decrease symptoms in a non-invasive way FIRST!

    • Be mindful. Start to track your symptoms daily: mood, stress levels, diet and exercise to see if there’s a pattern to your pain.
    • Try an elimination diet. Certain foods may be triggering inflammation in your body. Read about some recommendations here from our nutrition team.
    • Balancing your hormones. High levels of estrogen is connected to endometriosis. Studies show when estrogen is dominant over progesterone, or progesterone is too low, it can set a woman up for pelvic pain. Yoga can ease menstrual pain, improve fertility, and aid in hormonal balance.
    • Seek out a pelvic physical therapist with expertise in women’s health and a massage therapist specializing in fertility. This can alleviate pain, symptoms, and aid in hormone balance.

    Do you have or think you have endometriosis and are trying to conceive? Do you want support to help guide you to the root cause of your pain and heal your body?  Join Diana for Yoga for Fertility with rolling enrollment on Wednesdays in Chicago (through April 10th) and the NEXT SERIES will start on Monday, March 25th at 7pm at Pulling Down the Moon or learn about our March fertility health coaching special with Diana at: 312-321-0004 today!

    Be well,

    Diana

  • Can Acupuncture Help Treat My Endometriosis?

    Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrial tissue that normally makes up the uterine lining, is displaced and found outside the uterus. This can present with an array of symptoms which includes painful periods, ovarian cysts, heavy periods, spotting before the period, and/or even infertility. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very effective in treating it.
    According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) endometriosis is a condition that is termed as “blood stagnation”, and your acupuncture practitioner will determine the cause of it after your initial consultation. It can arise from the body’s inability to properly absorb the old stuck blood that is lingering in body. There are a myriad of acupuncture points and herbs which help break up this stagnant blood as well as strengthen the body so that it can deal effectively with the problem. The general recommendation is to come in for weekly acupuncture for at least 3 menstrual cycles. Herbs help accent the acupuncture’s therapeutic effect and treat on another level. The most notable changes that are observed, is a reduction or elimination of painful periods, regulate cycles so that there is no spotting before the onset of the period, shrink ovarian cysts, reduce the excessive flow of blood during the period, and helps increase the odds of pregnancy in those trying to conceive.
    In addition to acupuncture and herbs, it is highly recommended that the patient seek a nutrition consultation with us. In TCM we advise patients with endometriosis to have an anti-inflammatory diet, which means avoiding foods that are spicy, deep-fried, dairy, ice-cold foods/drinks, beef, grapefruits, raw foods, and do not over-eat. Include foods like dark leafy greens, chicken, pork, mint or jasmine tea, beets, seaweed, zucchini, asparagus, berries, apples, eat until you feel 80% full, to name a few helpful tips. Please feel free to email me with any questions in regards to acupuncture and the treatment of endometriosis at anna@pullingdownthemoon.com. I am available Tuesdays and Fridays at the Chicago location, but our office is open everyday of the week in the city for acupuncture appointments.  We have Acupuncture, Massage, Nutrition, Yoga available in Chicago, Highland Park, and Buffalo Grove.  Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 today!
    Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM

  • Nutrition Strategies for Endometriosis

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and today we’re sharing some nutrition tips to support endometriosis. If you have endometriosis, work with your doctor on an appropriate treatment plan, but try these lifestyle tips to help manage your endometriosis as well:

    The omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have anti-inflammatory properties and thus may help reduce inflammation in endometriosis. Cold water fatty fish and fish oil supplements are the best sources. In addition, taking omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy may help to prevent preterm labor and are important for baby’s developing brain and vision. Fish oil is great, but we shouldn’t forget about also eating seafood, which is very nutrient rich and supportive of fertility and a healthy pregnancy. It’s just important to focus on low mercury fish and limit to 12 oz per week. Some good choices include wild salmon, sardines, whitefish, herring, and oysters.

    Consider a trial of a gluten free diet. One study showed that a gluten free diet helped to reduce endometriosis pain. Gluten is in wheat, rye, and barley and relatives of wheat like spelt and kamut. Instead substitute naturally gluten free grains and starches like quinoa, sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut/acorn squash, brown rice, and legumes.

    Maximize your fruit and vegetable intake. This one is a no-brainer, as high fruit and vegetable is associated with better overall health and reduction in risk for many chronic diseases. Aim to include vegetables with both lunch and dinner and breakfast when possible. Include fruit to satisfy sweet cravings after meals or paired with protein at snacks.

    Want to learn more?  Schedule with a nutritionist today!

    Sources:

    1. Halpern G, et al. Nutritional aspects related to endometriosis. Rev Assoc Med Bras. 2015; 61(6): 519-23.
    2. Marziali M, et al. Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of painful endometriosis related symptoms? Minerva Chir. 2012;67(6): 499-504.

     

  • The FEM SEM

    by Meredith Nathan, Director of Massage at Pulling Down the Moon, LMT
    Fertility massage is a cutting edge field, with far-reaching benefits that are still being explored.  At Pulling Down the Moon®, we’ve developed researched-informed and results-oriented techniques for working with the body after seeing thousands of fertility clients for over fifteen years. Our award winning, nationally recognized FEM Protocol™ is a five-part series using massage and related techniques to enhance the health and functioning of the pelvic and abdominal organs, and to promote the client’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
    The five parts of the protocol focus on cleansing and detoxification, enhancing reproductive circulation, oxygenating the pelvic organs, encouraging pelvic alignment and combating stress. Benefits may include:
    * promoting egg quality by improving the follicular environment and increasing it’s supply of oxygen-rich blood
    * lowering hormone disruption through stress management and clearing lymphatic congestion (a common storehouse for excess hormones and toxins)
    * supporting uterine lining and alignment through melting abdominal scar tissue, clearing circulatory pathways, and releasing structural tension patterns
    * encouraging relaxation and an overall sense of well-being during your fertility journey
    Learn more about why this protocol has caught the attention of the American Massage Therapy Association, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, and thousands of patients-turned-parents at The FEM SEM, a seminar geared towards helping you understand if The Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol could assist your fertility journey.  The replay of the free webinar is available here.

  • Focus on Nutrient Density to Optimize Your Fertility Diet

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Did you know that there are a variety of vitamin and minerals that may impact your fertility? Our bodies require 27 vitamins and minerals to function properly. These vitamins and minerals are involved in a wide variety of processes in our bodies including breaking down our food for energy, allowing cells to communicate with each other, contracting our muscles, as well as bone and skin health. Specific nutrients may also impact fertility and pregnancy, including folate (important for DNA integrity), iodine (essential for thyroid hormone production), and vitamin D (thought to be involved in embryo implantation), just to name a few!

    It can feel overwhelming to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis. Instead of trying to track how much you’re getting of each nutrient, it’s helpful to focus on eating a nutrient dense diet. Nutrient density refers to the concentration of vitamins and minerals per calorie of food. In order to maximize the nutrient density of your diet, start by focusing on these tips:

    Eat whole, real, and minimally processed foods.

    Limit refined grains and added sugars.

    Maximize your vegetable intake by including at least 5 servings of vegetables per day. Work on including a variety of different vegetables. Does 5 servings per day seem too daunting? Start where you are, and set a goal of increasing your vegetable intake by 1 serving per day.

    Include especially nutrient dense foods like leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and nuts and seeds.

    Would you like to dig deeper and make sure you’re meeting your daily nutrient needs? Are you a vegetarian or vegan, or do you have other food intolerances or allergies that mean you’ve had to eliminate foods or food groups? Schedule a nutrition appointment today to ensure that you’re meeting your daily vitamin and mineral needs to maximize your fertility. Try our FREE special event for National Infertility Awareness Spring Cleaning: Using Yoga and Nutrition to Cleanse !

  • Reducing Endo Pain Naturally with Diet

    by Mia Zarlengo, MS, RD

    The pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis can at times be overwhelming and seem just unbearable. Fortunately, there are many areas we can address in our diet to help to relieve these symptoms naturally! With endometriosis being a state of inflammatory pain, an anti-inflammatory diet is our best approach to nutritional support. A few small, realistic shifts in our diet can make quite a large difference on our reproductive health!

    When attempting to relieve the symptoms of endometriosis naturally, there are a few areas in our diet where we can address -especially in the Standard American Diet. The biggest culprits that promote inflammation include processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates.

    In addition to eliminating some unhealthy foods from our diet, we can support the healing of inflammation through the addition of some healthy foods. For example, increasing our omega-3’s from foods like fatty salmon or sardines is a simple way to help to reduce inflammation. Additionally, adding more vegetables to our diets help to increase fiber, which has also been shown to reduce markers of inflammation in the blood. The My Plate method recommends ¼ of your plate to be protein, another ¼ to be a whole grain or starchy vegetable, and the rest of our plate to be filled with a variety of vegetables. Aiming for half of our plate to be filled with veggies, and always including a high quality protein source is a simple way to visualize our plate and ensure we are filling up on the right foods!

    Follow these few simple guidelines to help reduce any ongoing inflammation:

    1. Limit added sugars to less than 24g each day

    • Reading ingredient labels is key! Look for words like cane sugar, cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, etc. in an ingredient list.

    • Added sugars can show up in mysterious places- don’t assume “health” foods are perfect- check the labels on things like protein bars, cereals, and oatmeal packets.

    • This does not include natural sugars occurring in fruit! Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are packed with antioxidants and low in sugar- making them a great addition for an anti-inflammatory diet.

  • Eat an antioxidant-rich diet

    • The more color, the better! Fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors provide us with tons of inflammation fighting antioxidants!

    • “Eat the rainbow!” Eating a variety is so important. Every fruit and vegetable has a unique nutrient profile, providing us with their own unique benefits!

    • Antioxidants are powerful tools for reproductive health in general.

  • Increase fiber

    • The average woman gets around 10-13 g of fiber per day- when we should be aiming for around 30 g!

    • Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens and carrots are high in fiber and packed with beneficial nutrients for reproductive health and reducing inflammation.

  • Eat healthy fats every day!

    • Incorporate more healthy fats into your diet with foods like salmon, walnuts, olive oil, avocados, and chia seeds.

    • Change it up! It’s important to get variety in our diet, including the fat sources we take in!

    • Avoid pro-inflammatory fats like trans fats, corn fed beef, and highly processed vegetable oils.

    Learn more about Mia here . Book a nutrition consult to get started today!