• Late Summer

    by Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director LAc MSOM

    According to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory, the world is composed of 5 elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Because the ancient authors wanted everything to be neat and tidy with the theory, they divided everything up that way – flavors, colors, senses, and even the seasons. So, while in Western culture, we only embrace 4 seasons, TCM has added a 5th season: Late Summer, usually a shorter time between August to early September. It’s the time when its just plain hot and extra dry/humid depending on your location. The plants have peaked and are beginning to ripen their fruits. The ads for back-to-school are in full swing and no one even cares about their swimsuit body anymore. Nature is experiencing one last burst of transformation before we settle into the retreat and contraction of Fall and Winter.

    In TCM, Late Summer is the domain of the element of Earth. Its color is yellow, its flavor is sweet, its internal organs are the Spleen and Stomach, the organs of digestion, which transform the food we take in into our flesh and blood. The Spleen and the Stomach are associated with nurturing, grounding energy. 

    The Earth element’s direction is the Center. In Chinese, the country of China is called Zhong Guo中国 , or “Central Country,” meaning that to them, they are the center of the world. In fact, the name of the emperor who is credited as being the father of Traditional Chinese Medical theory, Huang Di 黄帝 (2711-2598 BCE), can be translated as Yellow Emperor, thus demonstrating his connection to central, Earth energy. 

    Late Summer is a time when people who have imbalances in their metabolism & digestion often experience increased symptoms: allergies, nausea, loose stools, low energy, weight gain, blood sugar instability, and other digestive and metabolic issues. 

    Here are a few ways you can help yourself stay in balance during the Late Summer season:

    1. Eat in moderation, especially when it comes to sweets. I find that writing down what you eat – whether in a simple journal style or with an app like Lose It or Weight Watchers – helps to keep you accountable for everything that goes through your lips.
    2. Avoid sweets, excessive simple carbohydrates (breads, pastas, baked goods, etc), excessive dairy, and greasy/fried foods. All of these are enemies of the Spleen (digestive function) and can “gum up the works” so to speak, especially at this time of year. Cold foods are also very tempting on a hot day, but can also slow digestion. Try keeping cold drinks separate from meals to aid in proper digestion.
    3. Reduce worries! Ok, that sounds much easier than it actually is sometimes, but the emotional manifestation of an imbalanced Spleen is WORRY. So, find the things that really bring you peace – it could be meditation, yoga, acupuncture, but it could also be hanging out with friends/family, taking a walk, sitting by the lake, listening to your favorite tunes. Do what works for YOU to find your center, your happy place to release (even if can only be temporarily) worry.
    4. Nurture yourself! Along the same line, take the time to give yourself your basic needs: sleep, good nutrition, exercise, relaxation. If you don’t have those things consistently, it is difficult for your body to remain in balance. 

    Happy Late Summer! Visit Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director at Pulling Down the Moon, in Highland Park on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays!  New hours available in Chicago on Mondays and Thursdays starting on Thursday, September 5th! Try something NEW and save with one of our monthly specials today!

  • 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!

  • Demystifying Insulin Resistance and the Impact on Fertility and Pregnancy

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Insulin resistance is a common component of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), but did you know many other women have insulin resistance as well. The presence of insulin resistance prior to pregnancy is associated with increased risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and having a large baby. How do you know if you’re at risk for insulin resistance? If you have PCOS, prediabetes, or are carrying extra weight, especially in the abdomen, you may have insulin resistance. An estimated 60-75% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance regardless of their weight. If you are concerned that insulin resistance may be an issue for your, talk to your doctor about labs test that can be done.

    What is insulin resistance? Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps transport glucose, which is broken down from the carbohydrates we eat, into the cells of our body to be used for energy. When insulin isn’t working effectively to get glucose out of our blood and into our cells, this is called insulin resistance. The pancreas tends to compensate for insulin resistance by pumping out even more insulin leading to elevated insulin levels. These elevated insulin levels seem to be at the root of the elevated androgen/testosterone levels commonly found in women with PCOS. Thus addressing the insulin resistance in PCOS may help lower insulin and testosterone levels and improve menstrual cycle regularity. 

    If you do have insulin resistance, the good news is that there is plenty you can do with your diet and lifestyle to help your insulin work more effectively:

    1) Lose weight if needed. Even a 7% weight loss can help your insulin work better. For example, if you weigh 200#, losing 7% of your body weight is losing 14#. You don’t have to lose weight into a “normal” BMI range in order to make a significant impact.

    2) Exercise. Exercise moves glucose from your bloodstream and into the cells of the body without the need for insulin. Ideally, if you can exercise at least 150 minutes per week, you can improve your insulin resistance. Getting some exercise, like walking, after meals, especially after high carb meals, is a great way to help manage blood sugar levels.

    3) Manage your carb intake. Minimize refined carbs and added sugar. Focus on low glycemic carbs like legumes, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Limit starches to ¼ of your plate at meals, and practice filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables.

    4) Include protein with all your meals and snacks. Including protein helps ensure your meals and snacks are satisfying and keep you full for at least a few hours. When protein is paired with carbs, it slows the absorption of carbs into the bloodstream leading to a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels.

    References: 

    Check out our upcoming webinar for more information on this topic with our NEW SERIES: Beyond the Blog!!  Join us on Monday, October 21st at 6pm CST for “Yoga and Nutrition for PCOS and Beyond”!

    Are you looking to manage your PCOS, weight, and/or insulin resistance? Make an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians today!

  • Tips for Enhancing Male Fertility

    By Robin Miller RDN

    The fertility journey can be an exciting time for many couples…until it’s not. After many months or even years of trying to conceive and often times deemed “fertility-challenged,” baby-making can become a stressful task for many couples. Newsflash! 1 in 8 couples struggles with infertility, you are not alone!

    Conventional wisdom suggests that infertility is primarily a female issue, however research shows that approximately 40% of infertility cases are due to male-factor. The good news is there is much research that highlights how certain changes in a male’s lifestyle, including diet, weight loss and intake of herbs and supplements have proven to enhance male fertility.

    Here are some things men can do to improve their fertility:

    • Lose weight. It is recommended that men maintain a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9 according to the CDC). Research suggests obesity may lower sperm parameters and testosterone. However, these effects may be reversible with gradual weight loss through diet and exercise, but not with bariatric surgery. Bring on the fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy and get moving!

     

    • Throw out the tobacco. Smoking tobacco has been linked with lower sperm concentration and impaired sperm motility and morphology. Use of chewing tobacco is dose-dependent, presenting a negative effect on sperm count, motility, morphology and viability.

     

    • Cut back on alcohol consumption. Studies suggest that heavy alcohol consumption can negatively impact many male fertility factors. However, moderate consumption of alcohol appears to have a limited effect on male fertility factors. Instead of drinking alcohol, try sparkling water or club soda with a slice of lemon or lime.

     

    • Start taking supplements and trying holistic therapies. Many supplements have been studied and show positive effects on male fertility, including: coenzyme Q10, L-carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and a combination of zinc and folate. Be sure to speak with a registered dietitian and your physician about your individual needs as it relates to supplements.  It can also help to add Acupuncture, TCM herbal medications, and Mind Body practice to your routine!

    REFERENCES: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26952957

    1 Al-Ali BM, Gutsxhi T, Pummer K, Zigeuner R, Brookman-May S, et al. Body mass index has no impact on sperm quality but on reproductive hormones levels. Andrologia 2014; 46: 106–11. by caffeine. Fertil Steril 1975; 26: 158–61. 30 Aitken RJ, Best F, Richardson DW, Schats R, Simm G. Influence of caffeine on movement characteristics, fertilizing capacity and ability to penetrate cervical mucus of human spermatozoa. J Reprod Fertil 1983; 67: 19–27. 31 Barkay J, Zuckerman H, Sklan D, Gordon S. Effect of caffeine on increasing the motility of frozen human sperm. Fertil Steril 1977; 28: 175–7. 32 Hammitt DG, Bedja E, Rogers PR, Syrop CH, Donovan JF, et al. Comparison of motility stimulants for cryopreserved human semen. Fertil Steril 1989; 52: 495–502.


    Want to learn more about enhancing male fertility, then book a Nutrition Consult with our registered dietitian today!  Try a Passport this summer and save as packages can be shared with your partner!!

  • Nutrition, Hormones, and Microbiome Diversity

    By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM

    I often get the question, “Why do I need a probiotic?” It is easy to take a probiotic and start to develop valuable high quality and diverse forms of gut bacteria.  All too often, that diversity in bacteria is lacking. Probiotics can help adjust that.

    Study after study shows correlations between gut health and vital system health throughout the body. Just recently, I read an article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that illuminates a relationship between PCOS and gut bacteria. In “Gut Microbial Diversity in Women With PCOS Correlates With Hyperandrogenism” the study revealed links between PCOS and a reduction in microbiome diversity. It also showed a possible correlation between elevated testosterone in women and decreased microbiome diversity. In a follow-up study, one of the same researchers, Varykina Thackray, Ph.D., stated, “Our new results suggest that altering the gut microbiome via prebiotic or probiotic therapies may be a potential treatment option for PCOS.” (Links to studies at end of blog.)

    What does the gut have to do with hormone balance? Glad you asked. Hormones are metabolized in stages as they trek through the body.  They travel to the liver, and then they go to the gut, where hopefully and ultimately, they are eliminated out of your system. At various points along the way, hormones can get tripped up in their metabolic process.  If hormones get to the gut, and there is an unhealthy microbiome balance, they can easily get stuck there. This is one way that hormones accumulate and mess with digestion, disrupt biofeedback signaling, and slow down healthy hormone production.

    I think about what probiotics have to do with Chinese Medicine a lot. Traditional diets across cultures use daily fermented foods to assist digestion. Ancient Chinese texts describe the digestive system as the earth element and the center.  “The Earth permits sowing, growing, and reaping.” This is a very important passage from the Shang Shu, translated by our beloved late teacher Giovanni Maciocia. You hear your acupuncturist talk often about “reducing damp” and “reducing sugary foods that cause damp accumulation.” As the stomach and spleen are the origin of qi and blood, this makes sense.

    If you are trying to get a certain amount of highly nourished blood moving, without hesitation, to the uterus, you need the digestive system to be on it. You need the Earth element. You need the Spleen and Stomach channels to not be overworked and bogged down.

    If you are trying to metabolize hormones, whether in a natural cycle,  a medicated cycle, postpartum, menarche, perimenopause, or menopause, you need your digestive tract working optimally.

    Unfortunately, most of us were not raised to have a diverse palate that intuitively steers us to foods, herbs, and spices that are bitter, sour, pungent, salty, AND sweet. We mostly enjoyed sweet and salty diets. This creates an environment that appeals to certain microorganisms in the gut and discourages microbiome diversity. Did you know that there are taste receptors in the lower GI tract? So, we need to balance the flavors we eat, if we want our bodies to outmaneuver the impact of our less than healthy choices.  

    What does a sour food do for us? Technically, it increases saliva, digestive enzyme secretion, stimulates metabolism, and encourages proper liver function. (By the way, the sour flavor falls into a TCM category with the liver and spring, so when you feel like heavy wintery foods are not working for you anymore, try adding sour foods into your menu with greens to aid in the digestive transition). Apple cider vinegar? Yes, add a splash to your lemon water in the morning, with your probiotic. It will help prep your system to start digesting. Add it to your greens, too, at lunch!

    What about the taste of bitter? Bitters increase saliva and digestive enzyme production. They enhance the movement of blood in the digestive system after meals. If you have been in our offices, you know HOW IMPORTANT it is to keep blood moving in the abdominal cavity. Bitters encourage more complete absorption of nutrients. This can protect the body from having to deal with stray food particles leaving the intestines through the bloodstream, otherwise known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Guess what that does? It reduces damp and clears heat. Where there is inflammation, there is fluid accumulation, and vice versa. Next time you go to buy your chocolate bar, go as dark as you can and think about how beneficial that bitter is!

    Pungent flavors are amazing. These are the wildcard friends that open you up and make you laugh your eyes out! They literally open up the orifices, again, when the tendency is to contract. These are things like onion, garlic, ginger, scallions, horseradish, mustard, mint. All of these plants are known across cultures as medicine.  Mint needs no introduction to my clients. It is cooling, vents pathogens, soothes the liver, motivates blood flow, and is uplifting. It is part of an essential formula in Chinese Medicine called Xiao Yao San, or Free and Easy Wanderer. Pungent flavors are medicine. Use them in your meals. A little goes a very long way.

    Empty nutrition is robbing us of systemic health. Non-functional food is fueling the growth of harmful bacteria that degrades gut health, leaves cells weakened, and entire body systems undernourished and in distress. And there is a lot that you can do. If you are on a mission to balance hormones, regulate a cycle, reduce bloating and promote healthy metabolism of hormones from a medicated cycle, or reduce anxiety, and you haven’t aimed your attention at your gut, start now! Take a breath, get in warrior pose, and start helping your gut be as strong as it can be. Come in and talk to us. Let us help you through it.

    Exciting stories often start in very tiny packages.  Microorganisms are an example of this. Our entire body is understood as an ecosystem in Chinese Medicine. I remember reading an article about salmon shortages affecting old growth trees. It said that more than 75% of the nitrogen the trees needed to thrive was provided by the remains of salmon dragged into the forest by animals.  It reminded me of the human digestive system, and how reliant it is on tiny, often understudied components.

    If you are not taking a probiotic, or eating fermented foods daily, consider it. If you are bloated, constipated, or experiencing brain fog and signs of hormone imbalance, come in and discuss what to do with your practitioner.  Probiotics, prebiotics, functional and balancing foods, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, exercise, working with a nutritionist, and supplements can help create a healthy structure for you to take your next step forward.

    Try acupuncture, nutrition, massage, and yoga during these summer months with passport savings! Pick-up a probiotic on your visit, too!

    Research Links:

    Pawelczyk L, Duleba AJ, Kelley ST, Thackray VG. 2018. Gut Microbial Diversity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome correlates with hyperandrogenism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 103:1502-1511. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-02153 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6276580/

    The Endocrine Society. “Improved PCOS symptoms correlate with gut bacterial composition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2019. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190323145201.htm

     

  • How to Support Healthy Estrogen Metabolism

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Do you struggle with conditions associated with estrogen excess, such as irregular cycles, fibroids, endometriosis or PCOS? Luckily there are some diet and lifestyle factors and supplements that can help you manage.

    Eat your fiber. Excess estrogen is detoxified by your liver and is excreted in your urine and stool. Eating plenty of fiber as staying well-hydrated helps ensure regular bowel movements, to remove estrogen from your body. Fiber also feeds your beneficial gut bacteria. Especially high fiber foods include legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and peas; berries especially raspberries and blackberries; fibrous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts; nuts and seeds like chia seeds, and almonds; and whole grains like barley, quinoa, and oats. Try something new at a local farmer’s market this season!

    Reduce exposure to environmental estrogens. Certain environmental toxins such like Bisphenol A (BPA), pesticides, and phthalates in personal care products are hormone disruptors acting like estrogen in our bodies. These chemicals are hormone disruptors that may alter hormone balance and reduce fertility. To limit exposure, use only BPA-free plastics. Better yet minimize use of plastic and use glass and stainless steel for food storage, eating, and drinking. Choose organic whenever possible, and choose phthalate and paraben free personal care products.  Check your products on the Environmental Working Group page!

    Try Female Balance. This vitamin and mineral fortified rice protein powder supplement contains fiber to support healthy digestion and removal of estrogen in the stool. It also contains phytoestrogens from flax and kudzu to help support healthy estrogen metabolism. Female balance also contains antioxidant nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, and zinc to help reduce oxidative stress. We usually recommend taking Female Balance supplement for a 2-3 week period after a miscarriage or unsuccessful ART cycle or while taking a break from fertility treatments. Female Balance should not be used while taking birth control or fertility medications.  Ask about this supplement option for you while in-center (Chicago, Highland Park) or schedule a nutrition consult today!

     

  • Staying Hydrated this Summer

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    We all know the importance of staying hydrated, but some of struggle more than others with this task. In the summer, it’s much easier to become dehydrated as we spend more time outside in the sun and heat. The Institute of Medicine recommends 91 oz (2.7 liters) fluids daily, and this requirement goes up to 100 oz (3 liters) during pregnancy. Of course, there are some variations in fluid needs based on body size with smaller bodies needing less fluid than larger bodies. These fluid requirements may seem high, but they include fluids from beverages and from food. About 80% of our fluid intake comes from beverages, so that means you should aim for about 72 oz fluid beverage when not pregnant and about 80 oz while pregnant. Monitoring the color of your urine and aiming for pale yellow urine is a good way to ensure you’re staying hydrated.  During the summer heat, we need to replace the fluids lost through sweating, so this further increases fluid needs.

    While trying to conceive or pregnant, our choices of fluids become somewhat more limited, as it’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine. Of course, water is always a great choice, but understandably sometimes we want other options. Try these tips to stay hydrated this summer:

    • Focus on naturally caffeine-free beverages like water or water infused with fresh mint, cucumber, or fresh fruit.
    • Unsweetened coconut water is a great source of electrolytes and can be helpful for making mocktails.
    • Eat more soups and fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally provide water.
    • As a substitute for alcohol, try drinking club soda or sparkling water with a splash of 100% fruit juice and a lemon or lime slice.
    • Instead of coffee or caffeinated tea, try unsweetened non-dairy milk like almond milk or flax milk with a little vanilla and/or cinnamon and/or cocoa powder. Add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup for a little bit of sweetness.
    • Peppermint and ginger tea (and our ARTeas in-center!) are safe herbal tea choices for trying to conceive and during pregnancy.  Drink them hot or iced.
    • If you have trouble drinking enough fluids, try using a straw and take small sips throughout the day.
    • If you’re having trouble getting in enough fluids, it can also be helpful to track your fluid intake with an app, or simply by using a water bottle of known size. For example, if you have a 16 oz water bottle, if you drink 4.5 water bottles, then you’ll meet your 72 oz from beverages.
    • It can also be helpful to divide the day into 2 sections. For example, try getting in half of your water needs before 2 pm. If you haven’t met your first half of the day goal by 1:30 pm, it’s time to drink up. This can help you be more consistent with spreading your fluids out throughout the day.

    Book a Nutrition Consultation to learn more!  Try a Passport this summer and save!

  • To Grill or Not to Grill?

    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

    1. Ricci-S. Al-Beitawi-S. Cipriani-A. Alteri-F. Chiaffarino-M. Candiani-S. Gerli-P. Viganó-F. Parazzini – Andrology – 2017

    Photo by Skitterphoto 

  • Thin Lining? Silver Lining!

    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)

  • Celebrating the Arrival of Spring Produce

    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:

    1. Add vegetables to your eggs at breakfast (or any time of day).
    2. Add cauliflower rice to chili, curry, or stir-fry.
    3. Add greens like kale to soups, chili, taco meat, or stir-fry toward the end of the cooking time.
    4. Have a big meal salad with protein.
    5. Add sautéed onions, mushrooms, and greens (like spinach, kale, or chard) to tomato sauce.
    6. Use spaghetti squash or oodles instead of pasta.
    7. Add cucumber, celery, and/or greens to a smoothie.
    8. Use cauliflower, spaghetti squash, or zucchini to make pizza crust.
    9. Use zucchini or eggplant instead of noodles in lasagna.
    10. Roast carrots, beets, broccoli, or cauliflower with olive oil.

    Check out some seasonal nutrition recipes! Learn more by consulting with a nutritionist!  Book today!  Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.