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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
The anticipation, anxiety, the loss of control and not knowing what to expect can be especially difficult during the “two-week wait.” The two-week wait – between ovulation and when your next cycle is due to start – can feel as if you are in limbo as there is no way to tell if you’re pregnant.
You may find yourself watching for signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Each twinge in your belly, tenderness in your breasts and feeling of fatigue, asking yourself, “Does this mean I’m pregnant? Or am I getting my period?”
The questions, the “what if’s,” the TIME all feels endless and one seems to build upon the other until what you’re left with is a gigantic ball of anxiety and feeling a loss of control.
What if instead of “getting through” the two-week wait, we were intentional and mindful of nurturing ourselves by creating a plan? This holistic guide to self-care will provide you with a plan for nurturing yourself in four areas: physical, social, emotional and spiritual.
Sleep is not only necessary and restorative for our bodies, it also allows us to cope with our feelings of anxiety and overwhelm in a more manageable way. If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, here are a few helpful tips:
- Keep a journal or notepad next to your bed and write down the thoughts, worries or items on your ‘to-do’ list. Say to yourself, “This will be here for me if/when I need it.” Sometimes the act of writing something down allows for a cathartic release of whatever we’re feeling preoccupied with.
- Listen to a guided meditation app before bed to relax into sleep and take your mind off of the two-week wait. Bonus: the more you practice, the more this cues your body and mind that it’s time to sleep.
Gentle exercise such as planning a walk to a scenic place, a lake or forest preserve. Getting outside can have a calming, centering effect while you are present in nature. Try Yoga for Fertility poses on your own or building community through practice with others. Schedule an Unwind the Mind Massage, “This session was created to be a safe oasis from post-ovulation stress, boosting immune and endocrine function, while supporting a potential pregnancy.” (Pulling Down the Moon, Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM)
- Plan a social outing with your partner or friends. Socializing provides an outlet for connection as well as a distraction from the thoughts and feelings you maybe preoccupied with. And, it’s fun! What activities do you enjoy doing? Want to try something new? Try being intentional about planning enjoyable activities, especially during the two-week wait.
- Create a list of friends, family members or supports you can reach out to check in with during the two-week wait. Is there a fellow member of your support group, a friend or family member who has an understanding of what you’re going through? Who acts as a sounding board, offers encouragement or provides a fun distraction? Write these supports down so that when you’re feeling especially alone or overwhelmed during your journey you have a few go-to people you feel safe reaching out to.
- Mantras can have a powerful and empowering impact. Choose a word or short phrase you would like to be the focus during your two-week wait. How would you like to feel and respond to yourself and others? Write the mantra on a post-it note or schedule it as a daily event on your phone to be reminded of your intention.
Nurture ~ Empower ~ Peace ~ Joy ~ Warrior
- Practicing meditation & mindfulness “Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment… Being present is the most powerful place to be.” Thich Nhat Hanh. Bringing your attention back to the present moment can help decrease feelings of anxiety and increase self-awareness. New to meditation? Try a guided meditation app. There are guided meditations specific to fertility, sleep, anxiety and grief that you may find especially helpful in starting or ending your day.
In summary, while creating a plan doesn’t take away the uncertainty, it may allow you to feel a sense of control with how you choose to meet this part of your fertility journey. Creating a plan for the two-week can be a nurturing way to care for yourself during a time when your thoughts and feelings may be overwhelming. Take this time to connect with yourself, your partner and those you enjoy spending time with who play a supportive role in your journey.
- Yoga for Fertility – https://www.pullingdownthemoon.com/services/yoga-classes/
- Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM) – https://www.pullingdownthemoon.com/services/therapeutic-massage/
- Meditation Apps:
- Calm – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/calm-com/id571800810?ls=1
- Insight Timer – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/zen-timer-meditation-timer/id337472899
- Meditation Studio: Fertility Collection – https://www.meditationstudioapp.com/fertility
- Fertility Mantras & Positive Affirmations – https://fertility-news.rmact.com/path-to-fertility-blog/infertility-mantras-fertility-mantras-your-choice
Emily Heilman is the founder of Flourish Counseling & Wellness. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Perinatal Mental Health specialist (PMH-C), she specializes in perinatal mental health and wellness, supporting women and their families navigate their fertility journey, the pregnancy and postpartum period, and throughout motherhood. Her experience in the field of women’s and perinatal mental health spans the past 13 years where she has worked in community mental health, hospital settings and private practice. Emily offices are located in the Chicago Loop & Oak Park. To learn more, visit: https://flourishcounselingltd.com/
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!
by Cassie Harrison RYT
When I think of July, I think of baseball. I imagine it has to do with hoping a few of my favorite players make it to the All Star Team and that my team will be over .500 by then. So it’s no surprise to me that a Baseball analogy found its way into my teachings during my online Yoga for Fertility class. I used it to demonstrate the power of being present. So grab the peanuts and join me in an at bat experience of past, future and present through a batters mind.
A batter’s at bat, they adjust their grip and the pitcher gets ready to throw the first pitch. The batter’s lost in thought, thinking about the last time they faced this pitcher, remembering how bad it went, would it happen again? A feeling of dread overcomes them, the batter begins to feel helpless, powerless, and decides they can’t can’t get a hit when, Whoosh! A fast ball whizzes past them. The batter didn’t even see it coming.
A second batters at bat, takes a few practice swings, steps up to the plate, and eyes up the pitcher. The pitcher throws the first pitch, a curve ball, the batter swings and misses. The batter regroups, steps back up to the plate, starts to think about what the pitcher will throw. Will it be another another curve ball? Maybe a fast-ball? What should I be ready for? Adjusting their stance, fidgeting with their hat, glove, trying to anticipate what’s coming, and trying to be ready for it all.They worry about what’s coming next, the pitchers throws, the batter still trying to decide what’s coming when another curve ball bends past them. Strike!
A third batters at bat, they take a few practice swings, feels the weight of the bat in their hands. They adjust their helmet and gloves until they feel snug and right. They walk towards the field, listening to the roar of the crowd. Excitement begins to fill them as they get closer to the plate. Stopping just short, they take a few more swings, knock the dirt off their cleats, and take their stance. They look at the pitcher and can see them spinning in ball in their hand. They hear the catchers breath next to them, and in their peripheral they see the infield moving closer. They feel the energy changing. They wait, watch, eyes sharp, mind quiet. They squeeze the bat, kick the dirt, and listen for what the pitcher is about to throw. The pitcher gets the call, whoosh…crack, the ball flies deep to center…
Which batter are you in your fertility journey? Are you like the batter lost in thought reviewing the past? The past are our memories, it happened, it might feel like you are reliving it, but it’s done. Like the batter, if are you lost in what happened and unable to move forward, the world will continue and you will miss it. Maybe you identified with the batter worrying about the future? You are so busy trying to figure it all out and anticipate everything that instead you’re missing what is happening now, unable to react to your current circumstances. Are you afraid to step out of your thinking mind, fearful that what you’re working towards won’t happen if you’re not constantly thinking about it? This could result in living in fear. Fear of making a mistake, not doing everything, not staying on top of current procedures, etc… you name it! The future is yet to come, not set in stone. The only thing real is what’s happening at this very moment. Are you missing it, because you are numb with thought? The more your mind is here, present, the more you will be free from thoughts that don’t serve you and cause the constant chatter, mind stuff (in yoga we call it citta). Sometimes those thoughts are painful and we escape them by planning ahead or reviewing the past. I’m asking you to be present with them. By facing them makes this present moment not only real, but may give you an opportunity to heal. If your thoughts are mostly those in past or future, your mind has sabotaged your time and taken you away from the present. We aim to be the third batter, in tune with what’s around you, finding your center. The power of presence calms and quiets the mind, taking away our state of worry or panic. We surrender to the present moment and tune in to our true selves. In the present we are not being driven by the emotions behind the thoughts. We’re here and now, the mind is quiet. We are present with what is around us. Not reacting to the emotion, the fear behind the thoughts. Do and plan the schedule of what you need to stay on track on with your fertility journey this summer, but then step away from the clock and be present. Swing into now and hit your center. Don’t let the fear of striking out, stop you from playing the game!
See how Yoga for Fertility can shift your summer at our FREE workshop on Monday, July 15th at 7pm. There will be a special REI Q&A at the start of the workshop! Then join our next Yoga for Fertility Series in Highland Park starting on Monday, July 22nd!
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!
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.
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!
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
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!
By Meredith Nathan LMT
When we discuss fertility massage, it’s often assumed this practice is designed only for women. It’s true that the benefits for women are vast, but men shouldn’t feel left out! The male reproductive system completely mirrors the female reproductive system (in function if not in location). The Fallopian tubes are comparable to the vas deferens, as both are systems of transportation in the body. The ovaries are comparable to the testes, both producing the carrier’s ‘seed’. The uterus and the penis both allow the safe passage of that ‘seed’. And though the hormones dominating men and women are different, both can be negatively impacted by stress.
Abdominal and sacral massage can positively impact circulation, lymphatic flow, and digestive congestion in both men and women. Keeping in mind that restricted blood flow can impact nerve function (including the nerves of the reproductive organs), lymph movement helps the body’s systems of detoxification (and toxicity can impact sperm quality) and digestive stagnation can actually affect hormonal balance, the connection between massage and fertility for men becomes clear. And since the sperm live for 60-70 days, receiving fertility massage while making positive lifestyle choices for several months is ideal!
Lastly, who can argue with the benefits of a stress-reducing massage during a highly stressful time? Lowering cortisol levels, the stress hormone, can boost libido, increase energy, and help promote hormone balance. And perhaps most importantly, it can increase your sense of well-being during an often tense and emotional time. Our culture doesn’t often celebrate or create space for men’s emotions, or their need for self-care…but during a fertility journey, both are vital to creating the endurance that will go the distance.
Try a Fertility Enhancing Boost today!
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 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)
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