• Myo-inositol for Male Fertility?

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Myo-inositol is a supplement that we often recommend for lowering insulin and testosterone levels and promoting cycle regularity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). We also recommend it for egg quality. Now evidence is mounting that myo-inositol may have a beneficial effect for sperm quality in men as well!

    Myo-inositol is a molecule that your body makes from glucose. Myo-inositol is also found in foods in foods like fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. It has half the sweetness of glucose, thus if you mix myo-inositol powder into some water, you will taste a slight sweetness. Myo-inositol is critical for cell growth, cell membrane formation, lipid synthesis, and cell signaling in your body.

    According to the research, myo-inositol seems to have a beneficial impact on mitochondrial function. If you remember from high school biology, the mitochrondria are the “powerhouse of the cell,” meaning they are responsible for energy production. The idea is that supporting the mitochondria helps ensure the sperm have adequate energy production to support proper motility. In the research, incubation of sperm from men with low sperm count, motility, and/or morphology with myo-inositol resulted in higher sperm motility. Myo-inositol may also have antioxidant effects.

    A recent study of 100 men with low sperm count and/or low sperm motility looked at supplementation with myo-inositol, alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, betaine, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12 to determine the impact on sperm quality. After a 90-day treatment period, there was a significant increase in sperm concentration, progressive motility, total motile sperm count, and normal sperm morphology. Within 6 months of discontinuing the supplements, the partner became pregnant in 40 cases either naturally or via IUI of IVF. No adverse effects were reported in the 100 men following this supplement regimen for 90 days.

    This study has really striking results. Because multiple nutrients were used, we can’t be sure how much of the impact is due to myo-inositol compared to other nutrients. It would also be great to see a placebo-controlled trial with myo-inositol. For now, these results are looking promising for using myo-inositol to improve sperm motility in men with subfertility of unknown cause. Stay tuned as we learn more about this important topic! 

    References:

    1. Canepa P, Dal Lago A, De Leo C. Combined treatment with myo-inositol, alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, and vitamins significantly improves sperm parameters of sub-fertile men: a multi-centric study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2018;22:7078-7085.
    2. Condorelli RA, et al. Myo-inositol as a male fertility molecule. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017; 21(2 Suppl): 30-35.

  • Auricular Therapy for a Stress Free Holiday!

    By Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM
    When holidays are not the most wonderful time of year but in fact quite stressful you can turn to Chinese medicine for help. The main treatment modalities are acupuncture and herbs. There are also a number of different accessory techniques that can be used to help enhance a treatment. One that I find particularly useful in my practice, especially during the holidays, is auricular therapy, which is basically ear reflexology.
    At the time of your acupuncture session your acupuncturist can place a few ear seeds at specific points on the ear to help resolve stress. There is a band aid type adhesive that helps hold the ear seeds in place on the skin. They do not penetrate the skin like the acupuncture needles. You have to press on the seeds in order to stimulate the function of the ear points. I recommend patients press them at least twice a day if not more. I tell them you can make it like a little nervous habit pressing on them multiple times a day, not only for stress prevention but to also help treat it when it is happening. So when you are at that family holiday party and your sister just announces she’s pregnant while you have been struggling with infertility, you have the ear seeds to press to help you through the moment. One ear point I use frequently in this regard is called shen men, which is very effective at calming the spirit. If you have any questions in regards to auricular therapy and how it might help you during this holiday season do not hesitate to email me and ask at: anna@pullingdownthemoon.com or call the office (312)321-0004 to schedule a session with myself or one of our other skilled practitioners. My office hours are all day Tuesdays and Fridays.
    Be well,
    Anna

  • A Picture Says A 1,000 Words But Never Says It All

    Pulling Down the Moon, Guest Blog

    by Lindsay Housner

    This is a picture of my family; it’s one of my favorites. On more than one occasion people who don’t know me well see this and say things like, “Oh my gosh, Lindsay, your life is so perfect that even your dog is perfect?!” The comment on our dog would be the first thing they were wrong about. Adorable, yes. Perfect? Not even close. I think our veterinarian has classified him as neurotic… Nevertheless we couldn’t love him more!

    The truth is there’s so much behind the surface of this beautiful photo (which is likely true for many of the picture perfect moments we see daily). It could never reveal all the heartache, struggle and excoriating pain it took us to get to that moment, captured in time.

    You would never know from looking at it that on February 20, 2016 (the day before I turned 33 years old), our world came crashing down harder than I knew possible when our first son, Aidan James, was born still at nearly 37 weeks and 5 days. Or that as I sat in the hospital waiting to induce labor, I was sure I was the only woman in the world that had lost her baby this late in pregnancy. Or that after experiencing the devastating loss of our beloved baby boy, with little to no answers why, we would struggle to conceive again. You could also never know the crippling anxiety I experienced for the 37 weeks and 5 days in my next pregnancy. Or the insane emotional rollercoaster I rode the entire time because while I was finally pregnant again after struggling for so long, it was near impossible for me to be happy about it. No, that wouldn’t happen until I held my sweet baby girl and light of my life, safely in my arms.

    To say our road to parenthood has been tough would be the understatement of the century. It’s tested me beyond measure to the point of breaking. Each time I broke (and it happened a lot), I found new ways and things that helped me start to pick up the pieces again.

    First, I found my “people.”  My people are the women that I was connected with shortly after losing my son that had a similar story. These women were my lifeline, the only people that I felt fully understood by and endlessly supported. I wrote novels to them via email and they always responded with words of encouragement, understanding and compassion. They have become some of my closest lifelong friends whom I owe the world to. Each new person I met introduced me to new things that I grasped on to for dear life to help me through the day.

    In the early days it was books. Anything and everything I could read, I did. Elizabeth McCraken’s memoir, “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination” resonated with me best. It was heart wrenching but beautiful all at the same time. I recall highlighting sentences and then entire pages, and rereading them over and over because she had taken the exact words right out of my head. Feeling so understood when nothing else made any sense was very therapeutic for me.

    Then, once I built up the strength to leave my house, it was acupuncture, herbal supplements and yoga that were my savior. Which is what led me to walk through Pulling Down the Moon’s (PDtM) doors. From there my world as it exists today kept expanding when I was introduced to Beth Heller, one of PDTM’s founders, whose first daughter was also born still 16 years ago. Through an event Beth hosted one evening, I met a psychiatrist that quite literally brought me back to life. PDtM became a tranquil safe haven for me. Somewhere I always knew I would walk in feeling overwhelmed, defeated or just plain sad–and walk out with some sense of relief and hope.

    As the days, weeks and months passed, I continued looking for answers to big questions. Why/how could this happen and what are we as a country doing to prevent it from happening to more families? What I found was disheartening but who I found through the process was encouraging. The Star Legacy Foundation is one of the very few organizations I found that focuses its efforts on research and ultimately prevention of stillbirth, when possible. They are doing amazing work and have made great strides, but there is still a long ways to go. In the spring of 2018, we officially launched our Chicago Chapter of Star Legacy all thanks to one of the amazing women I’ve met on this journey, Lindsey Schmitz.  When I didn’t have the strength to get things off the ground, she did and she’s been an amazing and inspiring leader for our team here in Chicago.

    On October 15th, everything came full circle when Pulling Down the Moon hosted a beautiful yoga session in partnership with our Star Legacy Chapter in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I looked around the room and was comforted to see many of the same faces that helped get me to the family photo I shared (literally, my friend Jacqui even introduced me to the talented photographer who took it). But I was quickly reminded that there is still progress to be made and people to support as I saw many new faces.

    There are so many women and families, that while they may not have the same story as me, their journey has been anything but easy. If you’re reading this, you are probably one of them. Wherever you are on your road, I hope you know you are not alone. Whether you’re struggling to conceive, searching for answers or just looking to connect with someone who understands your pain, I am confident you can find something or someone helpful through PDTM or Star Legacy.

    There’s not a single day that goes by I don’t think about and miss Aidan. He led me to meet so many amazing people and I’ll spend the rest of my time trying my best to honor his short but beautiful life.

    To read more about Star Legacy or to get involved, please visit our Chapter website or get in touch with us at chicago@starlegacyfoundation.org.

    To read more about my story and Aidan, please visit his memorial page.

     

     

  • Managing Your Sugar Intake Over the Holidays

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    The onslaught of sweets usually starts at Halloween and doesn’t stop until the New Year. Going into the holidays, it’s helpful to have a game plan for how you’re going to manage healthy eating. Without a plan, we may end up falling down the slippery slope of excess sweets despite the best intentions. (This is true with all goal setting. It’s important to move beyond wanting to “eat healthier” or “be more organized,” and instead have a plan in the form of specific habits that we work on in order to achieve these goals. No judgment here. I am definitely been guilty of this in many areas!) When determining your own plan, try out some of these actionable habits to help you manage your intake of sweets over the holidays.

     

    • Focus on adding instead of taking away. Instead of focusing on cutting back on sweets or on deprivation, focus on adding. For example, eating fruit after lunch and dinner would be a great habit to focus on, or filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. When we add in lots of healthy foods, it’s helps to crowd out some of the less healthy stuff.

     

    • Have other “treats” that are unique to the season like citrus and pomegranates or walnuts or hazelnuts in the shell. These are fun treats that are nutrient dense and delicious. Of course, you’ll still have some other real treats, but swapping these in some of time helps.

     

    • Choose some lower sugar options. Sweets and desserts are meant to be indulgent, so I don’t recommend “healthy” sweets that are modified so much that they don’t feel satisfying. Even cutting the sugar by a third or half in many recipes still results in a delicious and indulgent treat. Try making treats with fruits like dates and bananas, which are whole fruits with fiber and nutrients and can help cut the amount of sugar/sweetener you need to add.

     

    • Use nuts and nut “flours.” Nuts contain healthy fat and are nutrient dense and provide your treat with flavor and the feeling of decadence without the refined carbs in white flour.

     

    • Focus on the treats you really love and forget the rest. You don’t have to try everything, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a polite “no thank you,” when offered a dessert or drink you’d rather skip.

     

    • Rethink your drink. Instead of overdoing it with pumpkin spice or gingerbread lattes or heavily sweetened hot chocolate, make your own at home. Combine warm milk or almond or flax milk, cocoa powder and/or cinnamon, vanilla, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Better yet, buy a milk frother to make your homemade beverage really feel like a treat!

    Want to learn more on this topic? I hope you will take advantage of the $75 Wild Card special this month to meet with our in-house Registered Dietitian, Elizabeth DeAvilla, for an initial nutrition consultation (save $50)! She can set-up a plan for you for the holidays and through the New Year whether for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, or just wellness!  She can provide this support in-person (Chicago, Highland Park), by phone, and/or video consult.  Call us at: 312-321-0004 to learn more today!

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM

    Bloomberg just reported a story that placed Americans in 64th place among 195 countries who are improving their life expectancy by the year 2040. In 2016, the US was ranked 43rd among those 195 nations.

     

    The 6 health factors that influenced these outcomes were:

    1. High blood pressure
    2. High body mass
    3. High blood sugar
    4. Tobacco use
    5. Alcohol use
    6. Air Pollution

    Take a look again at these 6 influences. Most clients at Pulling Down The Moon are managing ALL of these issues very well. It is important to discuss the life-long benefits that your commitment to self-care are providing. While the short-term goal is building a healthy family, the long term benefits will be reaped once this foundation of wellness is built upon.

    For those of you who have had your children and are not sleeping, not eating as well, not finding time for yoga, and imbibing in more alcohol than you feel honestly is good for you, remember to come in and get some support.

    For those of you who are still TTC, remember that every moment of self-care adds up. Your investment in yourself now is not futile if you have not reached your family goals, yet. I truly believe that the gentler, smaller, daily choices we make are the ones that create lasting health and wellness.

    Thank you all for your deep commitment to your health. You are the finest, most dedicated clients in the world, and we know it!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    And don’t forget we are here for you–before or after Thanksgiving–though we will be closed on Thursday, November 22nd in observance of the holiday! Call us at: 312-321-0004 to schedule some self-care today!

     

  • 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.

  • Tips to Manage Your Sweet Tooth

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    So many of us struggle with having a “sweet tooth,” reaching for sweets automatically after meals or struggling to say no to any sweets that happen to be in the break room at work or at events. When we rely on willpower in these situations, it’s very difficult to be successful. Instead, set yourself up for success by making sure to have healthy snacks on hand and managing your appetite. Anytime we become overly hungry, we’re much more likely to overeat, and it’s more difficult to make healthy food choices.

    It’s helpful to first determine the time of day that you’re working on cutting back on sweets. If it’s after dinner, get in the habit of having fruit for dessert after dinner. Don’t make having a real dessert off limits, since that sometimes makes us obsess about it more. Just add the fruit or a fruit smoothie as an experiment and see what happens. Sometimes you just might find that it’s enough, and you don’t need a “real” dessert afterward. The key is to pick fruits that you really enjoy and feel like a treat to you. Here’s a delicious and nutrient-rich smoothie to try, especially right now when peaches and blueberries are in season.

    Peach Blueberry Smoothie

    • 1 peach, peeled and pitted
    • 1 cup blueberries
    • ½ cup water or amount to achieve desired consistency.
    • Add all ingredients to blender or food processor.
    • Blend until smooth.

    Want to learn more?  Call us for a Nutrition Consult for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, as well as, health/wellness support at: 312-321-0004.

     

  • The VAGUS nerve, the “Commander and Chief” of the autonomic nervous system–promotes your fertility, gut, and health!

    By Dr. Amie Shimmel Handa, D.C., L. Ac., Dipl. Ac.

    The Vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve and one of the most powerful nerves in the body. It is a bundle of sensory and motor fibers that power the parasympathetic nervous system. It connects the brain to the heart, lungs, spleen and intestines. It also has branches that travels to the Female Fertility Organs (the uterus, cervix and vagina) besides to the neck, kidney and liver. This parasympathetic nervous system controls our unconscious body functions like breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc.

    Sometimes we “feel things” in our gut (good or bad) and it’s because of this vagus nerve–when it is sending messages from the brain to the gut!  This is why our “gut instincts” are good to follow. The gut is called the “second brain” because of the vagus nerve. The enteric nervous system (ENS) governs function of the G.I. tract. The ENS connects to the brain via the vagus nerve.

    How does the vagus nerve get damaged or stressed? There are a lot of reasons but the most common ones are injuries to the head or neck, accidents, stress,and even diet can interfere with firing of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (chemical messenger), to communicate with the brain. Studies have shown acetylcholine can be negatively affected by stress and diet.

    One of the main purposes of the vagus nerve is to calm down the body. It also helps with the growth and repair of nervous system. Researchers at Oregon University report that daily meditation activates the vagus nerve to create a relaxation respond. Research also points out that auricular (ear) Acupuncture creates a relaxation response and stimulates the hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis to help with balancing hormones for fertility. Once you know the importance of the vagus nerve below are some exercise and things you can do to keep your vague nerve healthy.

    1. *Singing Loudly
    2. *Gargling
    3. *Laughing
    4. *Cold showers
    5. *Massage
    6. *Yoga
    7. *Meditation, such as, this Heart-Opening Meditation
    8. *Acupuncture (especially ear acupuncture)

  • The Other Half: Male Factor Infertility

    By Christine Davis LAc, MSOM

    At Pulling Down the Moon, we primarily treat women’s fertility concerns. Sure, we can treat just about everything: allergies, digestive problems, pain, stress … you name it. Mostly, though, we see women who want to get pregnant and have a baby. We help reduce the impact of stress on her life, we work on regulating her cycle or combating the side effects of IVF meds, and even women who are trying to conceive still have headaches and back pain and allergies. We help her body be in it’s very best condition to be able to grow new life in her belly. But there’s one thing we don’t see very often, a critical missing element, an equally important part of the equation to creating that new life: Men!

    Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is a 5,000 year old tradition. Embedded within this long history is a strong theory and framework for treatment of fertility concerns. We are fantastic at helping to resolve known fertility concerns for both men and women. So, why are only women coming in to see us? This problem goes deep and it’s one that may continue to grow based on recent assessment of global infertility rates. A recent study of sperm analysis from 1973-2011 showed 50-60% decline in male fertility rates suggesting that by 2060, most men in the US and Europe could be infertile. And here’s the scariest part: scientists don’t know why (or at least they can’t agree on it).

    Much has been written about why there is such a dearth of information and focus on male infertility. Many men see even the suggestion that there may be something “wrong” with their side of the court as an attack on their manhood. They see it as an insinuation that they are somehow less virile, less capable, less manly. Just think of the language we use to describe a man who we consider manly: “He’s got big balls!” “Balls of Steel” or unmanly: “Don’t be a girl.” This isn’t just a generational thing. Historically, much of the research and treatment of infertility has focused squarely on the female.

    So, what can we do? Let’s start talking about it! Ladies, bring research to your partners/husbands. Get evaluated by a Urologist who focuses on fertility or a Reproductive Endocrinologist. If there are identifiable issues, consider an appropriate course of action. If you are in the “unexplained” camp, there are other things you can do to support male fertility including taking CoQ10, a multi vitamin, and possibly additional selenium (ask your doctor first before beginning a new supplement). Come experience Fertility Enhancing Massage at Pulling Down the Moon.

    Acupuncture has been shown to be more effective than Western medicine in improving sperm quality and quantity. Regular acupuncture treatment (once per week, generally), helps to reduce stress, eliminate pain throughout the body, and achieve wellness by balancing the body. It has been my experience that couples who both receive regular acupuncture see so much benefit and often achieve pregnancy sooner. The needles are teeny tiny and are placed mainly on the arms and legs, never in sensitive areas (none near the genitalia). The first visit takes about an hour or so because we go through a very thorough consultation of medical history and questions about symptoms. Follow ups can be performed in 45 min or less.

    We have to open this conversation up if we are going to find a way to resolve it. Women are currently doing so much to become pregnant – thousands of shots, thousands of doctor visits, emotional stress, fielding the comments about why you’re not pregnant yet. Men, please get involved (if you are not already!). Talk with each other about your goals, fears, desires, and plans about growing your family. Seek the help if you need it. We must keep the doors open to conversation to finding solutions to this growing problem.

    Learn more about Acupuncture and schedule your consultation today!

  • Summer Lovin’

    by Diana Zic RYT, RPYT

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

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

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

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

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

    How to practice Sitali:

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

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

    Be well,

    Diana Zic

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