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!
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Now that late summer is here, the local produce is abundant. Visit your local farmer’s market for the best tomatoes of the year, and stock up on some raspberries and zucchini. These summer fruits and vegetables can help support your overall health and fertility. Check out some specific items to emphasize below:
Summer Fruit: Berries pack a strong antioxidant punch and tend to be high on the priority list of farmer’s market shoppers. Watermelon, cherries, and peaches also grow here in the Midwest, and the juicy summer sweetness makes for great desserts without the added sugar.
Broccoli and Kale: These cruciferous vegetables may help balance estrogen levels and contain important nutrients like calcium, folate, and vitamin C.
Zucchini: Zucchini tends to be abundant and cheap at the farmer’s market. Use a spiralizer to make zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) and top with chicken or white beans, pesto, fresh tomatoes, and sautéed kale for a nutrient-rich summer meal.
Herbs: Don’t forget the herbs like chives, cilantro, oregano, basil, and dill. Herbs are antioxidant-rich and thus may help to prevent free radical damage to eggs and sperm. Add any of these herbs to salads, salad dressings, or eggs for extra flavor. Use basil to make pesto or in Thai dishes with cilantro. Use cilantro in tacos or other Mexican dishes.
Eggs: You can get some of the best eggs at the farmer’s market – the kind of eggs that come from chickens that have been running around eating bugs and vegetable scraps. These eggs have a deep orange yolk, due to higher levels of beta-carotene. Eggs are a healthy and nutrient-rich protein source and are great way to ensure you get enough protein at breakfast.
Learn more about healthy exercise and nutrition while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and beyond at the Two Week Walk with co-founder, Beth Heller! Reserve your spot here.
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
It’s both easier and harder to eat healthy during the summer. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant, especially leafy and greens and berries, which are nutritional powerhouses. On the other hand, there are also lots of opportunities for less healthy options due to eating more meals out on vacations and attending more parties and barbecues.
The key is not to take the enjoyment of these events, but to make choices that are consistent with your goals with the knowledge that there is no such thing as the perfect diet, and that it’s perfectly fine and normal to indulge sometimes. That being said, what’s the best way to handle events during the summer? Follow these tips, and see what you can apply to your life:
Have a plan in mind for events or meals out. Often when we’ve decided ahead of time what we plan to eat, it goes better than when we make decisions in the moment. When eating out at restaurant, check the menu online ahead of time. At other events, try to load up your half your plate with vegetables.
Bring a healthy dish. Potlucks tend to be light on the veggies, so bring a veggie dish if you can. Alternatively, bring fruit or a healthy protein.
Manage your appetite. Make sure you don’t arrive to restaurants, parties, or events ravenously hungry. When we’re overly hungry, it’s SO much harder to make healthier food choices, and it’s much easier to overeat.
When you’re on vacation, rent a place with a kitchen. That way, you can prepare some of your own meals. Seek out a local farmers market for fruits and vegetables, and pick up some local fresh fish if you’re somewhere on the water. Make a point of prepping 1-2 meals per day where you’re staying, so that you can have healthier options and feel your best.
On road trips, you use apps to find restaurants nearby. Using the signs on the freeway pretty much ensures you’ll be eating at fast food restaurants. Apps like Yelp will show you what restaurants are nearby, and you can even peruse menu from the car (not while you’re driving, of course) and get directions.
Remember to keep it all in perspective. What you eat most of the time is what matters the most to your health and fertility. Eating also shouldn’t be a source of stress in our already stressful lives, so do your best and let the rest go. It’s ok and totally normal to indulge and eat more meals at restaurants on vacation. Choose healthier options most of the time, indulge sometimes, and eat until your satisfied, but not overly full, and make peace with your decisions without guilt.
Looking for more ways to use your diet to positively impact your fertility or to fit healthy eating into your busy life, book a nutrition appointment today!
Anyone who has struggled with infertility can attest to the physical and emotional strain that accompanies this path to parenthood. The rollercoaster of hormones, hope and disappointment, comments made by others, and grueling medical schedule makes anxiety nearly universal to the treatment process.
As a result of this increase in anxiety I would encourage you to consider self-care as a fundamental tool to cope with the anxiety that is inherent to the process. Self-care includes:
- Pamper yourself. Between the daily hormone injections, the blood draws and ultrasound of an IVF cycle, your body takes a beating! Be sure to give yourself a little extra TLC. Get a massage, make time for yoga or take a nap. Treat yourself to what you enjoy. You’ve earned it.
- Find support. Though you may feel alone in this process at times, infertility is quite common. You may already know friends or family members who have struggled with infertility. Talk to them. If you don’t know anyone look for a local support group or a mental health provider who specializes in reproductive health.
- Stay rooted in the present. It can be overwhelming to deal with the countless details of IVF: the medication regimen, the monitoring, the instructions, the potential outcomes. Sometimes it is too much to take in all at once. If you find yourself stressed about the process, bring yourself back to the present. What is happening in this moment? What do you need to do today, not tomorrow or next week? Focus only on the next step and then the next step, one step at a time.
- Ease up on your schedule. Cut obligations where you can. Delegate work or chores if possible. Ask for help from friends, family, colleagues or neighbors. Fertility treatment is a time-intensive process–letting go of any extra responsibilities will give you the time take care of what is really important while decreasing the stress of trying to juggle too much.
- Remember your life outside of fertility treatment. It is easy to get swept up in the process so that conceiving becomes your sole focus. What did you like to do before you began treatment? Paint? Walk? Read? Do it again! What in your life is going well? Do you have great friends? A good husband? A job you like? Focusing on those good areas in your life doesn’t mean that getting pregnant isn’t a priority, it simply helps to balance out your attention and lower anxiety while you undergo treatment.
- Get help if you need it. If you find that your anxiety becomes unmanageable or if you’re struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Many women need a little extra help during this difficult time.
Ariadna Cymet Lanski, Psy.D
Clinical Psychologist, Wellbeing Chicago
Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski is a clinical psychologist who offers a wide range of psychological services to meet the unique needs of individuals and couples coping with fertility challenges. Her services include consultation and support during various stages of fertility treatment, consultation for individuals using egg/sperm donor or gestational carriers. Additionally, Dr. Cymet Lanski conducts egg donor, gestational carrier, and Intended Parents assessments.
Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski’s clinical practice specializes in reproductive health issues -from preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum adjustment to parenthood. Through the years, Dr. Cymet Lanski has provided support and assistance in understanding the psychological impact of fertility issues and other reproductive crises. She has helped many patients to manage stress and feel empowered about their choices. To this end, Dr. Cymet Lanski frequently utilizes mindfulness concepts and is a strong believer in the relationship between emotional and physical wellbeing.
Since 2011, Dr. Cymet Lanski has been an active member of RESOLVE and the ASRM Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG), having served and then chaired the MHPG Membership committee. She has presented in various national and international medical conferences including various presentations at the ASRM annual congress.
Well Being Chicago
Ariadna Cymet Laski, PsyD
by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT
Over dinner a few weeks ago, a friend and I chatted about her attendance at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Chicago. I unfortunately had not been able to make it which was a big bummer. My girlfriend had recently been through some big, not so great, life changes and had said that spending the day at the yoga festival was very healing for her. She shared a quote with me that one of the Wanderlust teachers had started their class with that really resonated for her life and current situation. The quote by an unknown author read “It was never mine carry, so today I lay it down”.
This is where the beautifully simple, yet abstract and often elusive idea of “letting go” comes in. As a yoga teacher, I use this phase often during my classes and for many of us, hearing the words “let it all go,” may be one of the reasons why we step on our mats. These comforting and supportive words ease our minds both off and on the mat. Fully letting go to create more space takes courage, trust, and faith. This 100% translates to life off of our mats and igniting the strength to tackle head on whatever struggles we are facing.
As we practice yoga, we connect with our divine nature and our higher selves. Letting go may feel different each day. Sometimes it feels active and moves forward into more knowledge. Other times letting go feels like acceptance, sometimes it feels like a release. It can mean a celebration, while other times it feels like surrender or a rest. However it feels to you, it is important to remember that this practice of letting go evolves and grows deeper the more you do it. It’s a practice and it’s not meant to be perfect right off the bat and you can’t expect it to be.
The lack of control that we have while trying conceive can seem very unfair. The waiting game is frustrating, isolating, tiring, unpredictable, expensive, and lengthy. Increased ease through our fertility journeys can be found if we work on and practice ‘letting go’. Once we start to channel our ability to ‘let go’, we find that we can transfer this skill to be useful in other parts of our worlds; work stresses, relationship issues, time management, parenting, financial fears, and health management, just to name a few. Come check out Yoga for Fertility or the Two Week Walk to work on ‘letting go’.
“It was never mine to carry, so today I lay it down.”
by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT
Join Ali in her new series of Yoga for Fertility on Mondays at 5:30pm! Questions? Call us at: 312-321-0004.
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
A recent study looked at women’s diets while they were trying to conceive and found that certain aspects of their diet impacted their fertility. 5628 women with no previous pregnancies recalled their intake of certain foods leading up to conception when they were 14-16 weeks pregnant. The two factors that were found to impact time to pregnancy (how long it took to get pregnant) were fast food intake and fruit intake.
Eating fruit 1-3 times per month as compared to 1-6 times per week was associated with an 11% increase in time to pregnancy. Eating fruit 1-3 times per month compared to 3 times daily was associated with 19% longer time to pregnancy.
Eating fast food at least 4 times per week was associated with a 24% increase in time to pregnancy as compared to women who eat no fast food. Risk of infertility was 41% higher in the group of women who ate fast food at least 4 times per week compared to those who ate no fast food.
It’s important to keep these results in perspective, as the time to pregnancy increase with high fast food intake or low fruit consumption was only about 0.6-0.9 months, which isn’t a huge difference. The increase in risk of infertility is definitely concerning. The bottom line is that we already know that fast food is harmful to our overall health, but it is also seems to impact fertility, which could be through the intake of unhealthy fats in fried foods and just a generally nutrient poor diet high in refined carbs and added sugars.
It’s important not to stress when you read these studies! Fertility is affected by many factors, so worrying about your fast food intake or lack of fruit intake is definitely counterproductive. Instead look forward and work on small changes that that will improve your overall health and potentially your fertility moving forward.
If you are eating fast food regularly, focus on one step you could make towards healthier eating. It could be cooking up 1 one-pot meal with leftovers per week, such as soup or chili that you could eat for multiple meals during the week. Alternatively, it could be choosing healthier fast food options with more whole foods such as tacos, a salad with protein, or a burrito bowls that include vegetables and omits fried foods. Adding some fruit can be as simple as taking the step of bringing an easy fruit with you to work or adding a fruit after dinner in the evening. Clementines, bananas, and apples are all pretty easy and portable. Berries pack a good antioxidant punch and would also make a great addition.
Need help making changes to your diet to maximize your fertility? Schedule a nutrition appointment today! Get outside this summer with others TTC and learn more about nutrition for fertility with Mia Zarlengo at the FREE Two Week Walk event in Chicago on July 21st!
By Amanda Hofbauer MA, AMFT
By Mia Zarlengo, MS RD
Do you know the different types of healthy fats that support a diet that fights off inflammation in the body ? Since science has begun to debunk the myth that a “low-fat diet” is the healthiest diet, we can look to focus more on which fats are actually healthy that we should include in our daily intake.
One of the key components of a diet that supports reproductive health is being anti-inflammatory. Many sources of fats can support fighting inflammation, while some are actually pro-inflammatory. Navigating these different choices is a great first step in adopting a more anti-inflammatory, fertility friendly diet.
Fats to avoid that can cause inflammation:
Trans-fats: Luckily, trans-fats for the most part have been taken out of our food system in America. However, it’s still important to always check your food labels and be sure there are 0 grams of trans fats!
Corn and Soybean oil: These oils are often used as cheap fillers in processed foods. However, these processed vegetables oils are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids; when our omega-6 levels exceed omega-3’s, the result is an increase in inflammation. Swap out processed vegetable oils with some of the healthy options below!
Healthy fats that support an anti-inflammatory diet:
Avocados: One of the easiest anti-inflammatory foods I tell patients to add to their plate are avocados! They are easy to pack on the go, go well with all sorts of meals, and are a nutrient-dense source of healthy fats to help fight off inflammation! They also provide fiber, potassium, and many other micronutrients essential for health.
Olive oil: Olive oil, especially in its raw state, is a great source of healthy fats. I suggest using this as a salad dressing or a finishing sauce, to avoid burning off the healthy properties of the oil that can happen at high temperatures.
Salmon: This fish is packed with omega-3’s, great for fighting off inflammation in the body. This is a great source of protein that will also add a healthy dose of good fats to your plate!
Walnuts: Walnuts are especially high in omega-3’s for a nut, and a great addition to salads, snacks, and smoothies! They also provide fiber, another essential nutrient for a fertility-friendly diet.
Chia Seeds: These tiny little seeds pack a mean punch of nutrients! They are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Try adding these to your smoothie, oatmeal, or yogurt to create a more nutrient-dense meal!
In addition to a diet filled with antioxidants from vibrant, colorful vegetables and fruits, fiber from vegetables and whole grains, and foods low in added sugars, healthy fats are a great addition to your diet to help support reproductive health and fight off any internal inflammation. Trying adding a healthy fat source to all of your meals today and notice how you feel!
Book a nutrition appointment today to learn more ways to adopt an anti-inflammatory lifestyle through diet and supplementation to support hormonal health! Don’t miss your chance to meet Mia in-person at our Chicago office for the FREE Two Week Walk event July 21st!
By Meredith Nathan, Massage Director LMT
Castor oil, derived from the Palma Christi plant, has been heralded for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as early Chinese, Persians, & Egyptians used this oil in balms and ointments. During the Middle Ages, it was used throughout Europe for treating skin ailments. And there’s a good chance you may remember your grandparents recommending it be taken orally to relieve constipation.
Castor oil can also been a wonderful tool to increase fertility. It can help to detoxify your reproductive organs and tonify your blood cells. Castor oil affects three systems within the body:
- The Lymphatic System: think of lymph as the garbage collectors of our bodies. It finds the ‘garbage’ (i.e. toxins, excessive hormones, and waste) and brings it to our lymph nodes, where it is processed and purified. However, our lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own pump like the circulatory system does. It gets it’s movement from exercise, heat, and stretching. Castor oil packs can also benefit and stimulate the lymph, promoting detoxification and cleansing when applied to the pelvic region.
- The Liver: The liver, your body’s lymphatic powerhouse, stores & processes toxins and hormones in the body. Stagnation in the liver can lead to hormonal imbalance. Castor oil packs can also be applied to the liver to help it decongest, which may promote hormone balance.
- The Circulatory System: Blood is the body’s natural healing agent. Castor oil packs stimulate circulation in the body, helping to bring fresh, oxygenated, untried rich blood to the reproductive organs. This enables healing of scar tissue, the breakdown of adhesions, and provides nutrition to the ovaries and uterus.
Castor oil packs should not be used during after ovulation or if you could be pregnant, but they are a fantastic way to nurture your fertility during the follicular phase of your cycle. Castor oil packs are used during specific Fertility Enhancing Massage sessions, and can also be used for self care at home.
To create your own castor oil pack you’ll need:
- One flannel cloth (without colors as the castor oil will make it run)
- One bottle of castor oil
- Plastic wrap cut one to two inches larger than the flannel
- One towel
- Hot water bottle
- Container with lid
- Old clothes and sheets as castor oil stains clothing and bedding
Soak the flannel in castor oil until it’s saturated. Place it over your lower abdomen, cover it with the plastic sheet and apply the hot water bottle. Cover with a towel, lay back and relax for 30-45 minutes. Remove the pack and clean your tummy. Store the pack in a container in the fridge and reuse the same flannel up to 30 times.
Or if that seems to complicated, you can apply castor oil like your Fertility Enhancing Massage Practitioner: rub castor oil directly on the lower belly, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap or an oid sheet, and apply a non-electrical heat source on top.
An added benefit of using castor oil is it gives you time to relax and meditate, pray, and generally think good thoughts!
Learn more about Fertility Enhancing Massage here!
Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM
Summer is here, in Chicago! It is time to get out, play, and stay cool. While trying to conceive in the heat, there are a few things to remember, and they are not new ideas.
- Cotton is queen! Organic cotton is even better, especially down there. For guys and girls, it is important to stay cool and non-toxic where it counts, so wear loose clothes made of organic materials.
- Use peppermint essential oil in your diffusers at home, and look for cooling, non-toxic deodorants. They are stronger than ever, and last much longer than cheaper versions.
- Diet and fluids are vital. Keep your barbecues sensible. If you are charring meat, know that you are creating heat and inflammation. So add greens, add cucumber and watermelon, and add water to drink, even if it is in between alcoholic beverages. Alcohol creates heat, so if you imbibe, hydrate smart with coconut water, electrolyte water and lemon and cucumber water, and fresh fruit and watery vegetables.
- Keep your distance at night. If you can, sometimes it’s relaxing to sleep alone and rendezvous with your partner in the middle of the night. Two bodies lying next to each other on a hot night creates a lot of heat. Studies show that birth rates are lower 8-10 months after hot days. (https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/375/pdfs/does-hot-weather-affect-human-fertility.pdf?v=1) What is more important about this study is that the discomfort leading to a lack of intercourse was not the primary contributing factor to the lower birth rates. It was more likely a decline in reproductive health—lower sperm production in males, and potential embryonic development issues, once fertilization occurred, in females.
- Play with air conditioning wisely! The environmental costs of air conditioning are pretty high. So use it, and use it wisely if you’re TTC. It’s a tough call, because do you keep your air on all day? It takes more energy to re-cool a warm room, than it does to lower the temp in an already cool room. You make the call, but air conditioning is going to help humans keep making babies as temperatures rise, and it will do it an environmental cost. Experiment to find the sweet spot with your energy use.
- Find your local watering hole and enjoy it. The closer you are to a body of water on a hot day, the cooler the temps will be. If you are on the water, you will stay cooler throughout the warmest part of the day. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
- Iced Beverages—when hydrating, keep it simple. Filtered water in a stainless water bottle is your best friend. Add ice, lemon, cucumber, crushed mint leaves to it. To add variety to your fluids, ice some matcha green tea and add some mint.
- Disconnect your devices, and keep them out of the bedroom, at night. It is not always easy to keep your phone off your person, but at night, definitely do it. It will serve you. Keep your devices off your laps, in general, and especially out of your front pockets.
- Emotions! In Chinese Medicine, all emotions eventually create qi stagnation and heat accumulation. How it does this is fascinating, and can help you manage your response to all of your emotions. Imagine an event or encounter stimulates an emotion in you. When we have the capacity to witness that emotion, it is easier to let go. But more often than not, because of the sheer volume of stimuli, we do not let go of every emotion we experience in a day. These emotions that linger, sometimes get stuck. That stuck emotional energy blocks free flow of other energy and the stagnation builds. When stuck energy builds in one channel or body area, it creates heat. I love to describe this in the terms of a party. Imagine this: You are having a party. Your house is all set. You are a little chilly in the living room so you’re wearing a sweater. Joy arrives early. You two chat and then Sorrow arrives. They start catching and then Excited arrives. The party is starting to get lively. Anger and Anxious arrive together and the room is really filling up and WARMING UP. You take off your sweater. Sympathetic and Loving arrive and it is really starting to heat up. You hydrate, and go the other room to cool off and get some space. By the time Mopey and Kind show up, you don’t want to be in the living room anymore because you can barely move and it is so hot. This is how emotions build up and stagnate in the body, and lead to heat. So remember to manage your emotional life, so that things keep moving.
- Come in and get acupuncture and herbs! There are many things we can do in the office to help you clear heat and cool down, so ask your acupuncturist if you have heat signs and if you should amp up your heat clearing at home.
Things are getting hotter, and we want you to enjoy it!
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