• 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! 


     



  • 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!

     

  • Myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol for PCOS

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    In honor of PCOS Awareness Month, we’re sharing some of our best tips for managing PCOS with diet, lifestyle, and supplements. We love working with clients with PCOS, because there is so much you can do by changing your habits to positively impact PCOS. A PCOS diagnosis is based on the Rotterdam criteria, which includes 1) irregular menstrual cycles with absent or irregular ovulation, 2) cysts on the ovaries, 3) elevated androgen levels. Two of these 3 characteristics must be present for a diagnosis of PCOS. 

    Another common characteristic of women with PCOS is insulin resistance with 60-75% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance regardless of body weight. When you have insulin resistance, your insulin isn’t working as effectively as it should to get glucose out of your blood and into the cells of your body to be used for energy. The pancreas compensates by pumping out more insulin. 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. You can read more about managing insulin resistance here.

    So this is where inositol comes in as a really helpful supplement. Inositol is a nutrient found in beans, grains, fruit, and nuts that research has shown to be beneficial for PCOS. There are 9 different forms of inositol, but two forms have been shown to be beneficial for PCOS. These are myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol.  Myo-inositol in combination with D-chiro-inositol may help lower insulin and testosterone levels and increase menstrual cycle regularity in women with PCOS making it a very helpful tool in your PCOS management strategy. The body’s normal ratio of myo-inositol to D-chiro-inositol is 40:1, and a recent study has shown that this is the most effective ratio in supplemental form for restoring ovulation in PCOS. At Pulling Down the Moon, we carry Ovasitol, which contains the recommended 40:1 ratio of myo-inositol to D-chiro-inositol.

    Beyond PCOS, myo-inositol also may improve egg quality and may reduce risk for gestational diabetes when taken during pregnancy. Book a nutrition appointment today to further discuss ways to help manage your PCOS!

     

    Reference: Nordio M, Basciani S, Camajani E. The 40:1 myo-inositol/D-chiro-inositol plasma ratio is able to restore ovulation in PCOS: comparison to other ratios. Eur Rev Med Pharm Sci. 2019;23:5512-5521.

     

  • 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!

  • Navigating the Supplement Aisle to Support Your Fertility Journey

    By Robin Miller, RDN

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

  • Demystifying Insulin Resistance and the Impact on Fertility and Pregnancy

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    References: 

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

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

  • Tips for Enhancing Male Fertility

    By Robin Miller RDN

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

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


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

  • Nutrition, Hormones, and Microbiome Diversity

    By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Research Links:

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

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