by Meredith Nathan, Director of Massage at Pulling Down the Moon, LMT
Fertility massage is a cutting edge field, with far-reaching benefits that are still being explored. At Pulling Down the Moon®, we’ve developed researched-informed and results-oriented techniques for working with the body after seeing thousands of fertility clients for over fifteen years. Our award winning, nationally recognized FEM Protocol™ is a five-part series using massage and related techniques to enhance the health and functioning of the pelvic and abdominal organs, and to promote the client’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
The five parts of the protocol focus on cleansing and detoxification, enhancing reproductive circulation, oxygenating the pelvic organs, encouraging pelvic alignment and combating stress. Benefits may include:
* promoting egg quality by improving the follicular environment and increasing it’s supply of oxygen-rich blood
* lowering hormone disruption through stress management and clearing lymphatic congestion (a common storehouse for excess hormones and toxins)
* supporting uterine lining and alignment through melting abdominal scar tissue, clearing circulatory pathways, and releasing structural tension patterns
* encouraging relaxation and an overall sense of well-being during your fertility journey
Learn more about why this protocol has caught the attention of the American Massage Therapy Association, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, and thousands of patients-turned-parents at The FEM SEM, a seminar geared towards helping you understand if The Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol could assist your fertility journey. The replay of the free webinar is available here.
So many of us struggle with having a “sweet tooth,” reaching for sweets automatically after meals or struggling to say no to any sweets that happen to be in the break room at work or at events. When we rely on willpower in these situations, it’s very difficult to be successful. Instead, set yourself up for success by making sure to have healthy snacks on hand and managing your appetite. Anytime we become overly hungry, we’re much more likely to overeat, and it’s more difficult to make healthy food choices.
It’s helpful to first determine the time of day that you’re working on cutting back on sweets. If it’s after dinner, get in the habit of having fruit for dessert after dinner. Don’t make having a real dessert off limits, since that sometimes makes us obsess about it more. Just add the fruit or a fruit smoothie as an experiment and see what happens. Sometimes you just might find that it’s enough, and you don’t need a “real” dessert afterward. The key is to pick fruits that you really enjoy and feel like a treat to you. Here’s a delicious and nutrient-rich smoothie to try, especially right now when peaches and blueberries are in season.
Peach Blueberry Smoothie
1 peach, peeled and pitted
1 cup blueberries
½ cup water or amount to achieve desired consistency.
Add all ingredients to blender or food processor.
Blend until smooth.
Want to learn more? Call us for a Nutrition Consult for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, as well as, health/wellness support at: 312-321-0004.
By Dr. Amie Shimmel Handa, D.C., L. Ac., Dipl. Ac.
The Vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve and one of the most powerful nerves in the body. It is a bundle of sensory and motor fibers that power the parasympathetic nervous system. It connects the brain to the heart, lungs, spleen and intestines. It also has branches that travels to the Female Fertility Organs (the uterus, cervix and vagina) besides to the neck, kidney and liver. This parasympathetic nervous system controls our unconscious body functions like breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc.
Sometimes we “feel things” in our gut (good or bad) and it’s because of this vagus nerve–when it is sending messages from the brain to the gut! This is why our “gut instincts” are good to follow. The gut is called the “second brain” because of the vagus nerve. The enteric nervous system (ENS) governs function of the G.I. tract. The ENS connects to the brain via the vagus nerve.
How does the vagus nerve get damaged or stressed? There are a lot of reasons but the most common ones are injuries to the head or neck, accidents, stress,and even diet can interfere with firing of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (chemical messenger), to communicate with the brain. Studies have shown acetylcholine can be negatively affected by stress and diet.
One of the main purposes of the vagus nerve is to calm down the body. It also helps with the growth and repair of nervous system. Researchers at Oregon University report that daily meditation activates the vagus nerve to create a relaxation respond. Research also points out that auricular (ear) Acupuncture creates a relaxation response and stimulates the hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis to help with balancing hormones for fertility. Once you know the importance of the vagus nerve below are some exercise and things you can do to keep your vague nerve healthy.
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!
June marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. All things nature are in full swing of growth and the heat of summer starts blessing us for the first time since September last year. Frankly, it’s my favorite time of the year! For most the agendas at work start to slow down, schools are out of session and people begin to take vacations. It’s truly the perfect time to allow yourself time to pull back from the consistent go-go-go and take in nature’s beauty. Which can also means taking your yoga practice outside!
I find in the warmer months my yoga practice not only gets outside more, it changes as I find myself outside more doing outdoor activities (walking, biking, swimming, and gardening) and due to the summer heat, I find a vigorous practice/exercise is not what I need as it tends to exhaust me rather than my intent to feel nourished after my exercise, especially while trying to conceive. So if I’m limited on time or energy due to other summer activities my go-to pose is Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
I chose this pose because it’s a pose that’s a one stop shop, it stretches my shoulders, hamstrings, calves, feet and hands. It strengthens my arms, legs, wrists, belly and muscles along my spine. It energizes my body, mind and often my digestion if it’s stagnant.
If you’re new to yoga or this pose you can modify the pose by placing your hands at the wall until you build more strength in your body. Click on hyperlink link above for video instructions of the pose.
Lastly, when your body temperature is up from the summer heat or maybe your flushed with anxiety or anger and need some settling in your body and mind. Try out Sitali Breath (cooling breath) below.
How to practice Sitali:
Start seated comfortably with a head, neck and spine in alignment;
Close your eyes and take a few natural breaths in and out of the nose;
Make an “O” space with your mouth;
If you can curl the tongue into itself and stick it out of the mouth (no worries if you cannot, not everyone is able);
Inhale deeply like drinking through a straw (bring in the cooler air through the tongue as your belly, ribs and chest fill up);
Exhale completely through the nose, closing the mouth.
You can practice this for 2-3 minutes. Come back to the natural breath and try again if needed.
Did you know there a number of nutrients required for your thyroid to function properly? At Pulling Down the Moon, we’re interested in helping you ensure your thyroid is functioning optimally, because thyroid health is integral to fertility. Here are some of the key nutrients to focus on to support thyroid health:
Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production, and 30% of women of childbearing age are iodine deficient. A recent study also noted that women with sub-optimal iodine levels had reduced fertility. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine. To learn more about the impact of iodine on fertility, read this post . Food sources of iodine include seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt.
Selenium is another essential mineral required for the conversion of T4 to T3. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone. In addition, a few studies have shown that supplementation with selenium reduced the levels of antibodies in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism. Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, meat, and seafood.
Iron is also essential for thyroid hormone production. Iron requirements for women of childbearing age are quite high at 18 mg and even higher at 27 mg during pregnancy. Given iron needs are so high, it’s not that difficult for iron stores to become depleted, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, because iron isn’t as well-absorbed from plant sources as from animal sources. In addition, heavy periods can make it more likely that your iron stores become depleted. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, fish, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
It can be difficult to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis, thus it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive and during pregnanct that covers your bases. The Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins ( Supplement Pack while trying to conceive and the Prenatal Pack once pregnant) contain 175 mcg iodine, 200 mcg selenium, and 30 mg of iron to help support your thyroid along with a healthy diet.
Looking for more ways to support your thyroid with nutrition? Make a nutrition appointment today!
Did you know that there are a variety of vitamin and minerals that may impact your fertility? Our bodies require 27 vitamins and minerals to function properly. These vitamins and minerals are involved in a wide variety of processes in our bodies including breaking down our food for energy, allowing cells to communicate with each other, contracting our muscles, as well as bone and skin health. Specific nutrients may also impact fertility and pregnancy, including folate (important for DNA integrity), iodine (essential for thyroid hormone production), and vitamin D (thought to be involved in embryo implantation), just to name a few!
It can feel overwhelming to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis. Instead of trying to track how much you’re getting of each nutrient, it’s helpful to focus on eating a nutrient dense diet. Nutrient density refers to the concentration of vitamins and minerals per calorie of food. In order to maximize the nutrient density of your diet, start by focusing on these tips:
Eat whole, real, and minimally processed foods.
Limit refined grains and added sugars.
Maximize your vegetable intake by including at least 5 servings of vegetables per day. Work on including a variety of different vegetables. Does 5 servings per day seem too daunting? Start where you are, and set a goal of increasing your vegetable intake by 1 serving per day.
Include especially nutrient dense foods like leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and nuts and seeds.
Would you like to dig deeper and make sure you’re meeting your daily nutrient needs? Are you a vegetarian or vegan, or do you have other food intolerances or allergies that mean you’ve had to eliminate foods or food groups? Schedule a nutrition appointment today to ensure that you’re meeting your daily vitamin and mineral needs to maximize your fertility. Try our FREE special event for National Infertility Awareness Spring Cleaning: Using Yoga and Nutrition to Cleanse !
In the United States alone, more than 5 million people of childbearing age have struggled or are struggling with infertility. That’s larger than the population of Los Angeles. In fact, it’s larger than the population of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Cincinnati combined. It also means that one in every ten couples of childbearing age is struggling or has struggled to conceive. That’s a LOT of people.
Of course we all have that friend that got pregnant on her honeymoon, or became pregnant with her second by the time her first was 6 months old, or has three kids under the age of five. Sure, there are those that can’t even flirt with their spouse without getting pregnant. But the group of people who have dealt with the frustration and sorrow of infertility is larger than you’d think.
As I first entered this field, I remember reading that the grief levels of couples struggling to conceive rivals the grief levels of cancer patients. So why does no one seem to talk about it? Because to most people it’s a private matter, only to be shared with their partner or perhaps their mother or a best friend. But this very privateness seems to compound the grief – because in addition to all the doubts, fears, marital stress, financial stress, questions of self worth and feelings of insecurity that often comes with the territory, it’s easy to feel so very, very alone.
In honor of infertility awareness month , I want everyone to know that you are most definitely NOT alone. That many people have shared in your struggles. And that their’s more information, resources, and solutions available now than ever before. That there is a community available now that decades ago wouldn’t have been. This is why centers like Pulling Down the Moon exist – to support our clients, to give them community if they are looking for it, and to encourage a successful outcome to their journey.
Please know that you are not alone. And that you don’t have to give in to doubt. There are literally millions that have come before you, many of whom had been through the ringer and were at the end of their hope, but ultimately found their happy ending. Some have even expressed how much they learned through the process, how they felt they grew and changed through the process, and how the prize was most definitely worth the wait. Nothing compares to the love a parent has for their child. And nothing can even touch the passion of a parent who has fought for that child.
Medical research shows that acupuncture can influence hormone secretion from the pituitary hypothalamus and ovaries, collectively called the (HPO) axis. One of the most recent studies was conducted at Georgetown University Medical Center, July 2015; they found that acupuncture balances this HPO axis.
When an acupuncture needle is inserted into a specific acupuncture point this triggers the release of prostaglandins and opioid peptides into the bloodstream which lead to the production of a substance that transmits messages to the hypothalamus and pituitary and then transmits to the ovaries.
The acupuncture normalizes the secretion of the hormones such as (GrRH), (FSH), and (LH). This improves ovarian function creating more follicles and better egg quality.
The (HPO) Hypothalamus pituitary ovarian axis can be disrupted by stress, poor diet, age, etc. However this (HPO) axis can be positively influenced by many things, especially acupuncture.
The bottom line; women’s follicles and egg development can be enhanced by the balance of the endocrine system. Acupuncture balances the endocrine system.
We, at PDtM, recommend weekly acupuncture sessions to get the hormones in better balance and to help get the body as relaxed as possible. Acupuncture is accumulative therefore regular sessions can help shift the body in the direction the patient is looking for.
Infertility is a trauma that impacts 1 in 10 people. Since it’s so prevalent, then it must be easy for friends and family to understand your feelings, right? Well, as you may have experienced, it’s not.
Often the people you love most, say just the wrong thing. Those who have experienced the pain of infertility often hear things like, “Just relax. Then it’ll happen;” “You should enjoy your time without kids. I’ve got kids and I can’t tell you the last time I got to sleep in or go out to dinner.”
Not only are these types of responses angering, they can be painful. These comments often lead to not sharing feelings in the future. Thus, feeling more and more isolated. Going through infertility is traumatic and just the kind of situation where one needs the most support and care possible. Learning to communicate your feelings with those you trust is an essential skill for surviving infertility.
Here are 8 Keys to Communication During Infertility:
Build awareness of your feelings . This is the very first step to open, productive communication. Understanding oneself and one’s feelings allows for communicating those feelings and needs.
Practice breathing skills. It may sound simple, yet it’s crucial. When communication breaks down it’s often due to at least one person being flooded with emotion. We’ve all been there! Something a person says strikes a nerve and we fire back with a harsh or passive aggressive statement. When we can bring our focus to our breath even for a few seconds, we have a better chance of responding vs. reacting. This leads to a more productive conversation. Try meditation, practice mindfulness , or try Yoga for Fertility to get started.
Talk with someone you trust about your feelings. Perhaps it’s a friend who has always been there for you and is sensitive to your feelings. It can be a parent or a therapist. Just make sure it’s a person that you feel safe talking to. Find your community.
It’s ok to acknowledge hurtful comments. Using simple language like, “When I hear ‘just relax and it’ll happen,’” I feel hurt and frustrated. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.”
Use “I” statements & avoid critical labels. Instead of “You can be so insensitive” try something like, “This is a very painful time for me and I want nothing more than to have a child. So, hearing that I should just enjoy the time feels like a minimization of how important having a family is to me.”
Tell people what you need. A good friend wants to be there for you. She just may not know how. The friend might think that bringing up the topic will make you sad. And maybe you desperately want to talk about it, but expect the friend to ask if she cares. Whether you need her to ask how you’re feeling or to not bring up the topic of kids, let her know.
Vent your feelings to a confidant. Or if you prefer to write your feelings, get a journal and let loose! As you know, it’s important to express your feelings because feelings seep out either directly or indirectly. When we understand our feelings we can respond in a direct way vs. letting our feelings control us.
Know that you can always revisit a conversation. If a conversation didn’t go how you wanted, go back to it. None of us are perfect! There are bound to be miscommunications, hurt feelings, and things left unsaid. Know that you can always try again with a fresh perspective.
If you’d like to work on these skills more or have a particularly challenging dynamic with a friend or family member, feel free to contact me. You are going through one of the most painful experiences in life and are growing stronger through it.
Alison Moran, MA, LCPC
Founder & Psychotherapist
Evolve Counseling & Wellness, Inc.
53 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1119, Chicago, IL 60604