• Healthy and Fertility Boosting Fall Produce

    Robin Miller, RDN

    I love this time of year, when the air turns cool and the trees blaze with color and pumpkin spice seems to take over the stores!  I look forward to loading my kitchen with the abundance of fresh foods that are ready to be harvested. Fall fruits and fall vegetables are not only delicious, they’re also are packed with nutrients that can help boost your fertility and keep your immune systems strong all winter long.

    So what produce are in season in fall? And what are the healthiest options for boosting immunity and fertility? Check the list below to help you navigate the farmers market and grocery store all season long!

    Apples and Pears: These sweet, crunchy fall favorites are packed with antioxidants and are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. To get that daily dose of fiber and to satisfy a sweet tooth, snack on the fruit whole or incorporate into recipes from filling breakfasts to a sweet treat!

    Beets: They may be available year-round, but beets are at their best in the fall. Besides the familiar reddish-purple color, you can also find golden, white, and even multicolored beets. A great source of vitamin C, folate and fiber, which are all important when it comes to fertility. Try tossing in salads or roasting!

    Broccoli: Packed with vitamin C, which has proven beneficial for fertility in both men and women! Try roasting or making a veggie-packed, hearty soup!

    Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage and Cauliflower:  These powerhouses contain indole-3-carbinol, a compound that helps the body manage estrogen.

    Carrots: Perfect for soups, stews, and snacking, carrots add plenty of sweetness in a low-sugar bite. A serving is also packed with twice your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which benefits vision, reproduction, and immune function. 

    Celery: Celery is an excellent source of vitamin K and a good source of vitamin A, potassium, and folate, which is very important for fetal development.

    Chard, Kale, and Spinach: Loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, folate and zinc, all key nutrients for women try to conceive. These dark leafy greens can be served raw in a salad or sautéed with garlic and a little crushed red pepper!

    Figs: This fall fruit is a solid source of fiber, which may help decrease cholesterol, promote blood sugar control, prevent constipation, and keep you feeling full longer. Figs are also packed with potassium, which helps control your blood pressure.

    Garlic, Onions and Shallots: Sulfur-rich foods, such as alliums like onions and garlic, can help increase your body’s level of the antioxidant glutathione, important for both male and female fertility. For men, it can improve sperm quality and health. In women, glutathione can help boost egg quality and the health of the embryo after conception.

    Leeks: Leeks contain B-vitamins including folate, which is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Good levels of Folate are essential before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

    Mushrooms: Full of prebiotics, that help nourish your gut’s microbiota, ultimately aiding in digestion and warding against inflammation. This fall veggie is supper versatile to cook with, try it sautéed in an egg scramble or cooked in soup!

    Pomegranate: An excellent source of flavonoids and polyphenols. They also contain vitamin C, folate, and fiber! These are all essential vitamins and minerals for conception and pregnancy. Try adding to your favorite salad or into your oatmeal for an extra dose of antioxidants!

    Pumpkin: A good source of fiber for hormone balance and beta carotene for egg health. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant known to protect the reproductive system from damage caused by excessive free-radicals. Remember to eat the seeds too! These are rich in zinc, which may boost sperm health.

    Squash: From acorn to butternut to delicata to spaghetti, all of these fall squash varieties are a great source of the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to protect egg and sperm DNA from damage by harmful free radicals, which can affect the quality of both the egg and sperm.

    Sweet Potatoes: Rich in carotenoids, pigments that have great antioxidant power. Research shows carotenoids can help with sperm health and motility in men, as well as aiding in hormone regulation and ovarian function in women.

    To learn more about foods that can boost your fertility and overall nutrition, join us for the FREE webinar on October 21st at 6pm CST, “Yoga and Nutrition for PCOS and Beyond” or schedule a nutrition consult today! 


     



  • Magnesium: An Essential Mineral for Fertility and Pregnancy

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Magnesium is an essential mineral in hundreds of reactions in the body involved in a variety of processes including deriving energy from food, DNA synthesis, and blood sugar regulation. In addition, magnesium is a mineral component of bone along with calcium and phosphorus. Along with these important functions, did you know that magnesium may play a role in fertility and pregnancy as well?

    Magnesium’s Role in Fertility and Pregnancy

    In a study of 33 women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), 23% of women did not meet their daily magnesium needs. (1) In another study comparing women with and without PCOS, women with PCOS consumed less magnesium than women without PCOS. In women with PCOS, lower magnesium intake was correlated with higher risk for insulin resistance and elevated testosterone, key hallmarks of PCOS. (2) There have been many studies investigating the impact of magnesium levels and magnesium supplementation on insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. These studies point to a significant role for magnesium for blood sugar regulation. (3)

    Magnesium supplementation may also help prevent muscle cramps in pregnancy, and may also be helpful for headache prevention. Research is ongoing around magnesium and its impact on risk for gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension.

    How much Magnesium do we need?

    According to NHANES data, the majority of Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diet. The daily requirement for magnesium is 310-320 mg for non-pregnant women. During pregnancy, magnesium requirements increase to 350-360 mg daily. 

    Food sources of Magnesium

    The best food sources of magnesium include: nuts and seeds especially Brazil nuts, cashews, and almonds; seaweed, leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, and dairy products.

    Magnesium Supplements

    Adding a magnesium supplement can be a helpful way to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium on a daily basis. Magnesium glycinate is the preferred form of magnesium, as it’s very well-absorbed and unlikely to cause digestive issues or loose stools like other forms of magnesium that are less well-absorbed like magnesium oxide.

    Unsure if you’re meeting your daily magnesium needs? Schedule a nutrition consultation for a comprehensive review of your diet and supplement regimen.  Supplements are available in Chicago, Highland Park, and via our online shop for your convenience!

    References

    1. Szczuko M, et al. Quantitative assessment of nutrition in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2016;67(4):419-426.
    2. Cutler DA, et al. Low intakes of dietary fiber and magnesium are associated with insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in polycystic ovarian syndrome: a cohort study. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;7(4):1426-1437.
    3. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Magnesium

     

     

  • Abdominal Massage During Stims…Is it Safe?

    by Meredith Nathan LMT

    Lately I’ve had an increasing number of clients raising a concern to me: is abdominal massage safe to receive during IVF?  Some have been warned by their doctors…others have seen precautions online.  And others may have intuitively wondered, as their own abdominal discomfort increased during stimulation.

    The concern is valid – during stimulation, the ovaries grow rapidly, sometimes even reaching the size of grapefruits.  With this increase in weight, ovarian torsion is more likely, and so any deep contact with the ovaries would be ill-advised.  Someone experiencing ovarian hyperstimulation, a condition whereby the ovaries over-produce follicles during stimulation, should be especially cautious.

    There isn’t a clear-cut yes or no answer to this question.  Certain types of abdominal massage should definitely be avoided: for instance, Mercier Therapy, which utilizes a deep raking technique to the uterus and direct massage to the ovaries, can be a wonderful modality in preparation for IVF, but should definitely NOT be received during stimulation.  Other forms of abdominal massage might be safe, but should probably be avoided if the Massage Practitioner isn’t an expert in the field of fertility (and especially in working with IVF clients).  Though their work *might* be helpful, without the proper levels of education and experience they might unknowingly put added stress on the reproductive organs during this delicate time.

    The FEM (Fertility Enhancing Massage) Protocol™ developed at Pulling Down the Moon, was actually created specifically to assist IVF patients as well as clients undergoing other forms of A.R.T.  Each abdominal technique was designed to decrease stress to the reproductive organs while simultaneously increasing circulation and lymph, and promoting organ oxygenation and alignment.  Direct pressure is never applied to the uterus or ovaries; rather, surrounding tendons, muscles, and ligaments are worked while the fascia and connective tissues surrounding these areas are warmed and stretched.  Additional techniques that don’t involve touching the abdomen are also used to boost blood flow to the reproductive organs.

    FEM Massage Practitioners are trained to stay in high communication with the client during any abdominal massage techniques, and to adjust their work if the client experiences any discomfort.  The work usually feels quite good (many clients fall asleep during it), and many clients report a decrease in bloating and abdominal discomfort after the work is done.  There has actually never been an incident of ovarian torsion or injury to the ovaries of any kind reported by a Pulling Down the Moon client after receiving a FEM massage.

    Clients who have a history of hyper-stimulating should only receive our Relax & Integrate session during stimulation, which is even gentler in its approach to working the abdomen (versus our Blood Builder sessions, which use more powerful techniques).

    When dealing with your fertility, the best approach is always to stay safe and do no harm.  If you have any questions or concerns, raise them with your FEM Practitioner, so you can create the most helpful and safest approach to your reproductive health.

    Learn more about FEM during our upcoming FREE webinar on Oct 16th at 6pm Finding the Silver Lining on Your Journey! then Book Your Appointment!

  • Acupuncture Explained

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM 

    The value of your practitioner
    Why do I need to come in to the office?

    One of the beautiful aspects of acupuncture is that your body is seen and understood as the complete instrument that it is. Your acupuncture point system is endlessly evolving. If you have graduated out of weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, or have fallen out of the habit of coming in to the office, this post if for you.  It is also for those who are at the end of their fertility focus, may be on a break, or are wondering if they can use acupuncture for different reasons. 

    What is important about coming to see your acupuncturist is that they will assess the current state of your health and choose point combinations that will tune your instrument, or all out repair it. It needs to be done in the office every now and then, even though we send you home more educated, with homework, or with goals accomplished.  

    There are ways to make this easier and less stressful. Pull out your calendar!  As you assess your healthcare plan for the next year, look at the entire year ahead. Break it down into quarters, seasons, and peak stress times. Book a sequence of appointments for at least 2 weeks before an event like a holiday, a change in season, or as the quarter winds down. Book 2 appointments the week before tax season or school starts.  It is great to touch base with your wellness team to be reminded of how to stay on track. This will help you be at your best.

    Women have the opportunity to use their menstrual cycle, also, for scheduling structure. The frequency of office visits depends on what is going on for you, and what your cycle or the year is like. Talk to your acupuncturist to find out what fits best for you. For some, it could be coming during your period, to help keeps things moving. For others, it could be better to come in before you ovulate.  Reach out and ask us how we can help recharge your wellness routine.  

    Come in and see us then have a great Fall!  Book and save in October with our BOO-GO special that includes a FREE follow-up session ($95 value)!

  • It’s Time for a Prana Party

    By Alece Demaray, RYT500 + CPYT

    I have a question and I want you to be honest (and not judge yourself for your answer)!  How do you feel at the end of the week? Do you feel exhilarated …exhausted…fulfilled…or like you could dive into a large pizza?  Forget about a week, what about in a day? Does the day leave you feeling happy and whole OR empty and broken (or somewhere in between)?

    Life has a pace to keep up with.  There are appointments to make, deadlines to meet and challenges to tackle.  The constant hustle can drain you of your vigor. The fertility journey can be especially depleting.  The stress can rob you of joy and the worry can overwhelm your sense of peace. Prolonged imbalance of your energy can lead to anxiety, depression, physical pain and even sickness.  Not ideal for anyone, especially those trying to conceive. 

    Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely eliminate stress from our lives.  That would be unnatural and out of balance. It is possible, however, to COUNTER the drain of energy OUT with replenishing energy IN.

    In demanding times, it’s easy to forget that you are in the driver’s seat of your life.  You control the speed and can pump the brakes as needed.  You have the personal power to enhance your vibration in the world and boost your PRANA.  Prana is a Sanskrit word that means your vital energy, a.k.a. your gas in the tank, the strength of your blood flow, the fullness of your breath, your will to thrive!  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, prana is the same concept as “chi” or “qi”.  

    Prana is ESPECIALLY important when on the path to conception.  Not only do you need enough energy to sustain yourself, but you also need enough energy to grow a human!  So how can you boost your prana?

    We gain prana by doing things that nourish us, both physically and spiritually.  For me, that means eating vegetables and lean proteins, to stabilize my blood sugar.  It means going to the lake to be by water, so I feel more balanced. It means taking a bath on a Thursday night with my favorite essential oil and meditating in the morning, before the activity of the day picks up.

    What boosts my prana is not necessarily what will enhance yours, as we are all unique individuals.  Here are some ideas that could help to nurture your vital essence. Which resonate with you? 

    • Being in nature
    • Eating well – lots of vitamin rich food
    • Moderate exercise that leaves you energized – NOT depleted
      • YOGA is WONDERFUL 😊
    • Deep Breathing
    • Journaling
    • A cup of tea with a good friend (grab a FREE cup of a caffeine-free blend for your journey while at our center!) 
    • A cup of tea by yourself 
    • Listening to music that soothes you
    • Taking a rest
    • Getting good sleep
    • Treat yourself to a massage
    • Meditating
    • ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL MORE WHOLE, REFILLED AND REPLENISHED WITH YOU.

    You can call it Self Care, you can call it a Prana Party…  they are the same wonderful thing: Taking time to slow down and take care of YOU.  Build your energy reserves so you are capable, creative and authentically you – radiating out in the world, with a sense of balance and ease.

    If you are inspired by this concept of Prana and harnessing it to support your fertility journey, inquire about the next Yoga for Fertility series at Pulling Down The Moon!

    • Try a FREE Yoga for Fertility class in Chicago or Highland Park on Monday, October 21st at 7pm!
    • Interested in joining the series?  New sessions are starting: Thursday, October 10th at 6pm for Online Yoga for Fertility; in Chicago on Saturday, October 12th at 12:15pm and Wednesday, October 30th at 7pm (with me)!  For Highland Park, the new session will start on Monday, October 28th at 7pm!

     

  • Finding Calm

    by Christine Davis, LAc MSOM

    With each passing year, things seem to get busier. More appointments, more work requirements, more life events, more things to do. Then there’s the well meaning family members and friends: why aren’t you pregnant yet? My friend tried This Thing and it worked for her, so you you should try it, too! Then there’s social media and the internet: EVERYONE seems to be happier and more successful than you – here’s what you SHOULD be doing to do to be happy ALL THE TIME. It’s all a never ending stream of NOISE. Where does it stop? How can you simmer down and quiet the stream of mental debris that constantly stimulates worry, fear, anxiety, and frustration?

    Here are my suggestions. They aren’t a complete list, but these are the important ones. It may take time to incorporate them all: 

    1. Say it with me: “No.” “I’m sorry, I’m not available.” It’s ok to put yourself first and say “no” when what is being asked of you will compromise your wellness. Clear a path for your ability to think clearly, breathe, and do the things you need to do to feel balanced. Much like Marie Kondo’s method for clearing physical clutter, you need to decide what’s important in your life mentally and emotionally. Say YES to the things that create the life you want (even though they may be difficult, too, sometimes) and NO to the things that are holding you back from that life.
    2. Disconnect. Social media has been fun over the past couple of decades, right? There are some good and some (really) bad parts, but study after study emerges showing the negative impact that it can have on your mental and emotional state. If you are having trouble completely disconnecting – especially if work or other interests require you to connect with SM – limit your interactions with these apps/websites. Give yourself a specific time frame in which you allow yourself to use them in a positive, uplifting manner.
    3. Get help. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional if you need help with mental wellness. This could be a mental health professional, a religious guide, etc. Someone who you trust, who is impartial, who has training in helping to guide you is ideal. This doesn’t mean you are signing up forever – sometimes a few sessions can really help to clarify and ground you. I feel like the best therapists are the ones who hold a “mirror” up, so to speak, so that you can see things as they are, then help you to appreciate the beauty that you see.
    4. Center yourself. This could be with meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling, long walks by the lake – whatever helps you to focus on one, two, or ten things–instead of the thousands of thoughts that are constantly flooding in otherwise. I like to think of Georgia O’Keefe’s “Sky Above Clouds” painting – the thoughts are just clouds floating past. Try not to hang on to them and instead just observe them and let them float past. There are some amazing smartphone apps: FertiCalm and FertiStrong, Insight Timer, MindfulIVF, Headspace, etc. that have tons of guided meditations for everything from general anxiety to trouble sleeping to going through an IVF cycle.
    5. Find gratitude. Keeping a Gratitude Journal helps with this. Write just a line or two each day about something you are grateful for. It could be the delicious muffin you had for breakfast, the painless phlebotomist experience, your favorite song coming on the radio, the friend who went out of her way to give you the support you needed. Many studies have shown that focusing on the positive aspects of life actively literally rewires the brain to feel happier and more positive.
    6. Try Acupuncture. A modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a therapy for the mind, body, and spirit. With regular (once or twice per week, usually) treatment, you will see many aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional self come into balance. Acupuncture is known to be helpful for everything from pain to allergies to digestive stuff to fertility, but it can also be helpful for balancing the mental state and emotions.

    Firstly, an acupuncture visit is usually very relaxing! Most who haven’t tried it don’t believe me when I say that, but when else do you take 30 min to just lie still, no phone, not going to sleep (although it’s ok if you do!), not talking or listening (except to quiet music)? This is a deeply restorative time to be quiet, soft, grounded.

    Acupuncture has mounting  scientific evidence showing that regular treatment can help with reducing anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM, there is a strong connection between the physical state and the emotional state. By creating a state of harmony throughout the physical body, balanced mental/emotional wellness is the natural outcome. 

    In TCM, fertility is associated with the element of Water. When water is too abundant or too scarce, the earth and all forms of life suffer, including our own bodies. The element of Water shows its emotional imbalance in the form of Fear/Anxiety. When we are in a constant state of stress (life, work, family, infertility, etc), we put ourselves into a constant state of “fight or flight.” This creates a situation in which our bodies focus only on staying alive for the moment rather than long cycles like those required for fertility. By using acupuncture, we are able to break that constant loop of stress, find grounding, and reconnect with our natural cycles which can lead to improved fertility.

    Choosing to find serenity in this life takes effort. Just think about when someone says, “Calm down!” or “Relax!” Has anyone ever calmed down or relaxed just by hearing that? I don’t think so. By regularly making the choice to build the space for quiet, for reflection, for balance, you are creating a foundation for the life you are searching for. 

    Learn more during our upcoming webinar “Acupuncture for a Medicated Cycle” on Tuesday, September 17th at 6pm! Click here to register to view it live or watch the replay at your convenience!

    Ready to get started? Book your appointment now and save with the You Pick Two special this month!

  • PCOS and Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation

    By Robin Miller, RDN

    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, affecting up to 10% of women of childbearing age. Despite what the name suggests, it is actually a disorder of the endocrine system–think hormones! You can even be diagnosed with PCOS even without having ovarian cysts. 

    PCOS is characterized by high levels of androgens (“male” hormones), including testosterone, androstenedione, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), dehydroepiandrosteron (DHEA) and DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S). Higher than normal levels of insulin are also common due to to insulin resistance (much like that seen in type 2 diabetes) over time. When you have insulin resistance, your insulin isn’t working as well as it should to signal for glucose to be transported out of the blood and into the cells of the body to be used for energy. To compensate, the pancreas produces more insulin leading to high insulin levels, which seem to drive the higher testosterone levels in PCOS.

    A recent study suggests that supplementation of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), has beneficial effects on glucose metabolism as well as serum total and LDL cholesterol levels in people with PCOS. In this study subjects took 100 mg of CoQ10 daily for a 12-week period at the conclusion of the study a notable improvement in overall fasting glucose, insulin resistance, and total and LDL cholesterol was observed in subjects. 

    So, what is Coezyme Q10?  Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutrient that occurs naturally in the body. CoQ10 is also in many foods we eat. CoQ10 is involved in energy production and acts as an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage and plays an important part in the metabolism.  

    Unfortunately, as we age, naturally occurring levels of CoQ10 in our body decline. Evidence suggests that supplementing CoQ10 may help many different conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure and most recently PCOS. 

    Want to learn more about how supplements can help you? Schedule a  nutrition consult and work with one of our Registered Dietitians to develop an individualized supplement and treatment plan specifically designed for you!

  • Folate vs. Folic Acid for Male Fertility

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Many women thinking of getting pregnant have heard of folic acid or folate, as we know that adequate amounts help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida when taken in early pregnancy. Folate is vital for DNA synthesis and for DNA methylation. Folic acid generally refers to a synthetic form of folate that is found in many prenatal vitamins and supplements and fortified foods. Folate refers to the natural form found in food. Some supplements include folate instead of or in addition to folic acid. 

    While the impact of folate on pregnancy in women gets a lot of press, the impact of folate on male fertility doesn’t get much attention. Ensuring adequate folate intake in men may have a beneficial impact on sperm quality and pregnancy. Folate is thought to be vital for sperm production due to its role in DNA synthesis and methylation. For example, in one study, men with the highest folate intake from both food and supplements had lower frequencies of aneuploidy (DNA abnormalities) in their sperm compared to men with lower folate intake.

    An additional factor that may impact folate status in men is MTHFR polymorphisms. A MTHFR polymorphism is a change to the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme rendering it less effective at producing the active form of folate called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). In men with MTHFR polymorphisms, supplying 5-MTHF directly may be more effective for improving sperm parameters and pregnancy rates based on some interesting new case series.

    The impact of 5-MTHF is demonstrated in a case series of 30 couples each with a 4-year history of fertility issues with at least one partner in the couple having a MTHFR polymorphism. Most of the women were treated with high dose folic acid without success. The couples were then treated for 4 months with 600 mcg 5-MTHF, and 13 couples were able to conceive spontaneously without IUI or IVF. 

    In another case report, a couple had a history of 6 failed IVF cycles. The woman was found to have an MTHFR polymorphism, and the couple underwent egg donation and had a successful pregnancy and birth. In trying to conceive a 2nd child, she started a series of failed donor egg cycles. She was then started on 5-MTHF (400 mcg) and did another donor egg cycle, which ended in miscarriage at 8.5 weeks. Her husband had normal sperm parameters, but tested positive for 2 copies of the MTHFR polymorphism and was started on 400 mcg 5-MTHF. The couple conceived spontaneously 8 weeks later and gave birth to a baby girl at 38 weeks. The authors conclude that his really underscores the importance of methylation in egg development and sperm production, and that when either the male or female has a MTHFR polymorphism, 5-MTHF if required as high dose folic acid will not allow the embryo to develop properly.

    It is often the case that men don’t know if they have a MTHFR polymorphism, and if testing is unavailable, it makes sense to take a 5-MTHF supplement to ensure adequate folate in the active form is available for DNA synthesis and methylation to promote conception and a healthy pregnancy.  Learn more about how nutrition and supplements can support male fertility by meeting with our Nutrition Team and book your consult today!

    References:

    • Young SS, et al. The association of folate, zinc, and antioxidant intake with sperm aneuploidy in healthy non-smoking men. Human Reproduction. 2008;23(5): 1014-1022. 
    • Servy EJ, et al. MTHFR isoform carriers. 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) vs folic acid: a key to pregnancy outcome: a case series. J Assist Reprod Genetic. 2018;35(8): 1431-1435.
    • Jacquesson-Fournols L, et al. A paternal effect of MTHFR SNPs on gametes and embryos should not be overlook: case reports. J Assist Reprod Genetic. 2019;36(7):1351-1353.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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