• Endometriosis Awareness Month: Decreasing Endometriosis Symptoms

    Diana Zic, RPYT, CHC

    I am extremely empathetic to those women with endometriosis as I used to suffer from pelvic pain, heavy menstrual flow, and at times vomiting and constipation dating back to the age of 12. Although I haven’t been diagnosed with the disease, I’m pretty sure the rupture of my appendix when I was in 3rd grade paved the way for my discomfort around my menstrual cycle.

    For those reading this and are unsure of what endometriosis is exactly, according to Mayo Clinic, “it is often a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus – the endometrium – grows outside your uterus. Often times it spreads to the Fallopian tubes, ovaries and the ligaments that hold the organs in place which may cause trouble when trying to conceive and cause pain.

    Many women do not realize that they have it until they are trying to conceive. As it’s hard to diagnose without laparoscopic surgery  (which I’ve done and it’s not the greatest experience as you can imagine) though it can help clean up scar tissue temporarily which can relieve discomfort and offer a window to try to conceive, but it’s likely to come back if the root cause isn’t found.

    Also, I believe because so many women are suffering from pelvic pain and PMS symptoms it’s become seen as a cliché to have these symptoms so they are brushed off as “normal”.

    The symptoms of endometriosis are typically associated with the menstrual cycle and unique to each woman and may include: Pain during sex, extreme cramps that don’t go away with anti-inflammatory support or that impede daily life, bowel and urinary disorders, periods that last longer than seven days, heavy cycle (changing pad or tampon every hour) and nausea or vomiting. YUCK!

    Good news! There are ways to decrease symptoms in a non-invasive way FIRST!

    • Be mindful. Start to track your symptoms daily: mood, stress levels, diet and exercise to see if there’s a pattern to your pain.
    • Try an elimination diet. Certain foods may be triggering inflammation in your body. Read about some recommendations here from our nutrition team.
    • Balancing your hormones. High levels of estrogen is connected to endometriosis. Studies show when estrogen is dominant over progesterone, or progesterone is too low, it can set a woman up for pelvic pain. Yoga can ease menstrual pain, improve fertility, and aid in hormonal balance.
    • Seek out a pelvic physical therapist with expertise in women’s health and a massage therapist specializing in fertility. This can alleviate pain, symptoms, and aid in hormone balance.

    Do you have or think you have endometriosis and are trying to conceive? Do you want support to help guide you to the root cause of your pain and heal your body?  Join Diana for Yoga for Fertility starting March 6th in Chicago at Pulling Down the Moon or learn about our March fertility health coaching special with Diana at: 312-321-0004 today!

    Be well,

    Diana

  • Tips for Spring Restoration

    By Cathy McCauley, LMT

    Spring arrives this month, and with it, more cold days (perhaps even snow)!  But March also brings the promise of new life. I love this time of year. The ground starts to smell fresh and ripe. Small green buds begin to swell from the earth reaching up, up, up. Birds chatter in the trees. The sun stays in the sky a little longer each day. After a long, cold winter of hibernation, spring restores nature’s beauty.

    Spring inspires us to restore ourselves, too and these self-care techniques will lead you to restoration of mind, body and spirit.  

    Hydrate. Drink a glass or two of water first thing in the morning. Keeping yourself hydrated helps boost your mood, improves brain power and protects you against disease.

    Make a gratitude list. Spending just a few minutes a day writing down what you are grateful for can dramatically shift your day. The more gratitude you have, the more open to abundance you become.

    Breathe. Set aside a few minutes each day to practice breathing. There are so many benefits! Among them, diaphragmatic breathing alleviates stress, reduces pain, strengthens internal muscles and moves blood to organs and tissues. If you’re not sure how to get started, schedule an Open the Breath (™) massage to receive some hands-on breath work coaching.

    Stretch. Five to 10 minutes of stretching in the morning increases energy levels, enhances circulation, reduces injury and centers your mind. Even better is a regular yoga practice. Pulling Down the Moon’s yoga classes can give you a jump start!

    Eliminate something from your diet that isn’t serving you. Instead of overhauling your entire diet, start by taking out one food that doesn’t nourish your body. Replace it with a different item that supports your desire for restoration. Learn even more by working with a nutritionist!

    Do you have ideas on how to restore yourself or tips for others? Please share them! I look forward to seeing you in the center. Many wishes for a beautiful spring!

    – Cathy

    Cathy is available for Fertility Enhancing, Therapeutic, Prenatal, and Postpartum Massage services at our Highland Park and Buffalo Grove offices!  Schedule with her at: 312-321-0004 today!

  • Vitamin A: Are you getting the right amount?

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for reproduction, vision, immune system function, and embryo and fetal development. There are two main types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A known as retinoids, which are found in animal products, and are converted to retinoic acid, which regulates transcription of a number of genes. The second type of vitamin A is called carotenoids, which includes beta-carotene and hundreds of others. Only about 10% of carotenoids are capable of being converted to retinol and further to retinoic acid. Beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin are all capable of being converted to retinoic acid, though only small amounts are converted.

    Most women hear about vitamin A in terms of toxicity – that you shouldn’t take too much vitamin A prior to and during pregnancy, as it may cause birth defects, which is true. We recommend limiting the amount of preformed vitamin A from supplements to no more than 5000 IU (which is equivalent to 1500 mcg RAE). RAE stands for Retinol Activity Equivalents and is the standard way of expressing vitamin A requirements and amounts in food, as it accounts for the differential bioavailability of preformed vitamin A and carotenoids. Supplement labels usually use International Units (IU) to list vitamin A doses, which can sometimes make sorting out your vitamin A intake confusing! There is no limit for carotenoids like beta-carotene, as they haven’t been shown to be capable of causing vitamin A toxicity or birth defects. Some prenatal vitamins do contain preformed vitamin A, such as retinal palmitate, which is fine and maybe helpful if you struggle to meet your vitamin A needs, as long as the preformed vitamin A is less than 5000 IU. Make sure to check all of your supplements for vitamin A, as other combination formulas aside from your prenatal vitamin may contain vitamin A.

    The daily recommendation for vitamin A is 700 mcg RAE and increases to 770 mcg RAE in pregnancy. In the US, women are getting on average only 580 mcg per day – in other words, US women are not getting enough vitamin A. So while it’s important to make sure you’re not taking in excess vitamin A from supplements, it’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A due to its essential role in reproduction, embryo development, and organ formation during fetal development.

    Your best sources of preformed vitamin A include liver, fish, dairy, kidneys, eggs, poultry skin, butter, and dark meat chicken. Your best (plant) sources of carotenoids include: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, kale, collards, and butternut squash. Absorption and conversion of carotenoids to active vitamin A is variable based on the food it’s contained in, and an individual’s ability to digest and absorb it. Because of the variable in absorption, it makes sense to include a mix of preformed vitamin A and carotenoids to meet your vitamin A needs.

    Need some help sorting out your vitamin A intake. Book a nutrition consult today!

     

  • Nutrition Strategies for Endometriosis

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and today we’re sharing some nutrition tips to support endometriosis. If you have endometriosis, work with your doctor on an appropriate treatment plan, but try these lifestyle tips to help manage your endometriosis as well:

    The omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have anti-inflammatory properties and thus may help reduce inflammation in endometriosis. Cold water fatty fish and fish oil supplements are the best sources. In addition, taking omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy may help to prevent preterm labor and are important for baby’s developing brain and vision. Fish oil is great, but we shouldn’t forget about also eating seafood, which is very nutrient rich and supportive of fertility and a healthy pregnancy. It’s just important to focus on low mercury fish and limit to 12 oz per week. Some good choices include wild salmon, sardines, whitefish, herring, and oysters.

    Consider a trial of a gluten free diet. One study showed that a gluten free diet helped to reduce endometriosis pain. Gluten is in wheat, rye, and barley and relatives of wheat like spelt and kamut. Instead substitute naturally gluten free grains and starches like quinoa, sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut/acorn squash, brown rice, and legumes.

    Maximize your fruit and vegetable intake. This one is a no-brainer, as high fruit and vegetable is associated with better overall health and reduction in risk for many chronic diseases. Aim to include vegetables with both lunch and dinner and breakfast when possible. Include fruit to satisfy sweet cravings after meals or paired with protein at snacks.

    Want to learn more?  Schedule with a nutritionist today!

    Sources:

    1. Halpern G, et al. Nutritional aspects related to endometriosis. Rev Assoc Med Bras. 2015; 61(6): 519-23.
    2. Marziali M, et al. Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of painful endometriosis related symptoms? Minerva Chir. 2012;67(6): 499-504.

     

  • Couples Guide to Holistic Health

    by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD

    While becoming parents as a couple takes two, preparing your bodies is definitely an experience that takes both teamwork as well as some independent actions.

    Know that everyone has different needs

    We all know that men and women have different needs, that’s a given, and we also know that reasons of infertility can be very different as well, I mean, our bodies are built differently, thankfully! Let’s say that we need to increase or decrease a certain hormone, well, in our partner’s case it may be the same story, but with a whole different food group! Being able to understand where certain problems lie, could lead to very different solutions. While there are definitely foods and supplements that work wonders for both, no matter the gender, just know that what one partner is following for treatment may not be applicable, or even supportive of the others.

    Exercise together

    I used to hate running with my husband, he was so competitive, and I found myself trying to race him all the time. I bit the bullet and finally let him in on how I was feeling and he had a great response, “Oh, I thought that was your pace!” It was something that we had never talked about, and never set that game plan. Now we’re able to go out, set a good, (tolerable!) pace and have an enjoyable time. We are able to act as a cheerleader, as well as give accountability when that couch looks oh so tempting as well!

    Be that Cheerleader

    We all could use that high five every once in a while, and who better to give it than the one working towards the same goal? In fertility journeys there are many hurdles, as well as small successes when you look for them. Following treatment plans, taking our supplements/medications, completing medical/therapy appointments, procedures, positive results for one/both partners are all great ways to celebrate when you can!

    Want to learn more about how nutrition can help you and/or your partner?  Schedule a nutrition consultation today! Save in February with our $99 Wild Card special for an initial nutrition consultation!

    Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.  Elizabeth is available on T/R evenings in Chicago and alternating weekend days including Highland Park.  She is available for phone consults as well for your convenience.

    .  

  • Setting New Goals for 2019

    by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD

    When it comes to setting goals for the new year, especially nutrition goals, there’s some tricks of the trade to keep in mind to help ensure success.

    Making Positive Goals

    When I set out to make goals for myself, I always get excited. it’s a new opportunity to take steps in health, education, fitness, emotional health, all for the better. One thing that I do try to keep in the back of my mind is what can I add to my life. I find that positive goals work best, not deprivation goals. Think of the feelings that you have when you make the goal of exercising for 20 minutes/3 days a week. I get excited about new workout clothes, about positive body image. Now think of the goal of giving up pizza. Not the same warm fuzzy feelings! Even as a registered dietitian, that “goal” sounds awful. Know that while we’re all trying to move in a positive direction, when we talk about giving up things that are commonly staples, even if just weekly staples, this can have a negative impact on our views, especially when it comes to food. If it’s something that weighing on you, maybe change that goal to incorporating more vegetables as pizza toppings, and everyone wins.  

    Making Smart Goals

    We’ve all asked ourselves what can I do to give myself the best chance of achieving what I’m setting out to do? Start with changing the goal you’re setting. When our goals are ones that are commonly called Smart Goals, this can provide us with the structure to make even the most difficult tasks, a bit easier.

    Specific: What is the exact goal that you’re looking to accomplish? When people come to me with the end goal of “being healthy” I have to take a step back. As a practitioner, my ultimate goal for patients is always health, but that is such a broad term. Is it achieving a healthy BMI? Is it lowering a certain laboratory value? Is it to finish a 5k? by setting a specific goal, this will help you and your team of experts devise the best game plan for success.  

    Measurable: Lets go back to the goal of “being healthy.” What does that even mean? Is it fitting into the pants we wore in high school? Bringing our blood pressure down to a healthy number? Take what you would like to achieve and put a number to it, a time line, give yourself some accountability. By this February 28th, I will have incorporated breakfast into my daily meals at least 5 days a week. Small supportive actions such as purchasing a calendar to track all the successes would make your successes even more visible.

    Attainable: I once had asked a small child what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said a unicorn. Now in her head, as a 6 year old, this was totally attainable–in my current lifetime, not so much. When setting goals, we need to make sure that what is desired is actually something that we can accomplish, and do so in a healthy manner. Is it obtainable for me to grow 5 inches and become the next big super model, probably not, but achieving a healthy weight loss goal of 10lbs over the next 3 months? Totally do-able in my case.

    Time Bound: Sometime in the next year, I’m going to run a 5K. We all remember how long a year is, right? 365 days to make a change, and lets be honest, “Tomorrow” is a pretty common date when we’re trying to make some changes. By changing that date to April 30th, this then allows for us to make that plan, and take the steps necessary with respect to time to allow for success.

     

    Making Permanent Goals

    They say it takes 2 weeks to make a habit, right? Well… sort of, first we have to get to where we want to be. In terms of that breakfast goal, yes, after a few weeks of incorporating that first meal of the day, your body will adjust, and you’ll being to feel those hunger cues bright and early. That “being healthy” goal? We’re going to have to establish a new baseline first. By taking the small steps that we outlined earlier, this will have the best chance of becoming a success. Lets start with incorporating more vegetables on our pizza, then maybe adding in those workouts a few times a week, then voila, we ran that 5k in April, and by May, we’re proud of our success! But it doesn’t end there! We need to keep up with our new health(ier) lifestyle, and this means maintenance. Maybe this would be continuing with the workouts (try a FREE Yoga for Fertility community class!) as we would with any other appointment that we make, by adding more vegetables to our grocery list every time we shop. Pretty soon these are all going to be more habitual and for that we all deserve a pat on the back.   

    Set yourself up for success and support with the ART Recovery Prep ProgramStart in January and save!

  • Supplements for Immune Support: Separating the Research from the Hype

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    It’s January, which means it’s officially cold and flu season. When you’re trying to conceive or pregnant, you have to be extra conscious of what you’re putting in your body. Certain over-the-counter medicines may not be appropriate during this time; so it’s important do what you can to stay healthy. Hand washing, getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and managing stress are all helpful ways to do that. What about supplements? There’s plenty of info online about miracle immune support supplements, but what does the research really show? Here’s a quick summary of some popular immune support supplements and the ins and outs of what you should know while trying to conceive or pregnant:

    Vitamin D: Vitamin D supplementation may help prevent upper respiratory infections, though the evidence is mixed. Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system, so you definitely want to avoid vitamin D deficiency as this may impair immune system function. Vitamin D also may affect fertility, so it’s a good idea to have your vitamin D level tested, so you can supplement at an appropriate level. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be toxic at very high doses, so make sure to discuss an appropriate dose with your healthcare practitioner.

    Vitamin C: While there is currently no evidence that taking vitamin C once a cold starts helps reduce severity, people who take vitamin C regularly tend to have colds that don’t last as long as people who don’t take vitamin C. Also people who take vitamin C regularly and are under lots of physical stress (marathon runners, skiers, etc.) had lower incidence of colds in one study. Vitamin C is generally well tolerated and safe to take while try to conceive or pregnant, though high doses of vitamin C may cause diarrhea. Vitamin C supplementation is not recommended in people with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones.

    Zinc: Zinc deficiency makes it more likely that you’ll catch a cold or other infection, so ensuring adequate zinc intake is important. Make sure to avoid oversupplementing zinc. The daily upper limit is 40 mg. You should not take more than 40 mg daily except for short time periods as directed by a healthcare practitioner. Make sure to check all supplements for zinc content when determining your daily intake, as some prenatal vitamins have as much as 25 mg zinc.

    Sources

    1. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin D: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-D#immunity

     

    1. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin C: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C#common-cold-treatment

     

    1. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Zinc: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc

     

  • Kidney 3: My Favorite Acupuncture Point for Fertility

    By Christine Davis LAc
    My first exposure to the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) happened after I had been hit by a car on my bicycle. It was a bad accident, could have been worse. As I was healing, I was introduced to a practitioner of reflexology who told me about the connections of his work to TCM. I picked up a book about reflexology, then another, then a third. I started practicing on myself, my family, and my friends. I was able to get rid of headaches, reduce allergies, aid digestion, relieve pain … all by touching someone’s feet! I was hooked. If you’ve ever seen or perhaps experienced reflexology, you know that there are zones, like a map, on the hands and feet (I later learned that the ears and even the whole body can be used similarly) that are a microcosm or imaging of the whole body. You can treat these zones with massage, acupuncture, and many other techniques to affect other areas in or functions of the body to achieve relief from symptoms and whole body wellness. Like a reflex, by stimulating one area, you get results in another.
    The reflex area that is most closely related to the reproductive organs in men and women is the inner ankle and around the inner heel of the foot. But let’s back up a second …. If you’ve experienced acupuncture before, you know that there are tiny needles inserted into specific points on the body to allow healing and wellness to be achieved. Did you know that those points are on pathways (we call them channels or meridians) that flow like a network throughout the body? The points themselves are known as access or entry points into the channel (the word for acupoint in Chinese is xuéwèi 穴位 which literally means “tiny hole.” So, when we stimulate these points, we are accessing that pathway that flows throughout the body to get blood and qi (pron “chee” – meaning function and energy) to move and regulate any problem that might be occurring on that pathway and it’s connections. The pathways/meridians are named for the primary organ that they connect with in the torso, that performs specific activities and functions in the body. The one that goes to the heart is called the Heart Meridian; the one that goes to the Lungs is called the Lung Meridian, etc.
    In TCM, the ability to reproduce is determined to by the health of the Kidney organ. Notice that I use a capital ‘K’ because in TCM, the Kidney is responsible for much more that detoxification and maintaining fluid balance as it is in Western-style physiology. In TCM, Kidney is kind of like your batteries. It contains your genetic material (not referring to DNA – this is TCM terminology, not Western), your fire. It’s what was received by you from your parents and what you pass on to your offspring. It is also your foundation energy source. When the Kidney is depleted, you might feel fatigue, difficulty sleeping, lethargy, low libido and might experience things like extreme weight loss or weight gain. When Kidney is not working correctly, you might have trouble with the emotions of fear or an overactive flight/fight response. Because the Kidney is your foundation/fire/most primal energy source, struggles with fertility are not uncommon when it is out of balance.
    Like a battery, you cannot get more material once it has been depleted and you were only given a certain amount to begin with. In TCM, we describe the process of aging by how the Kidney is functioning. How you live – getting enough rest, eating well, reducing stress, not abusing drugs/alcohol, having sex (but not too much!) etc – will impact how you preserve this material. However, TCM is an excellent way to help protect and preserve this material and to help it to be best expressed, particularly during the time while you are trying to conceive.
    So, this brings me to my favorite acupuncture point for fertility: Kidney 3. In the West, we use a numerical demarcation for each acupuncture point, but in China (and other Asian countries), there is a poetic name for each point. In Chinese, Kidney 3 is called Tai Xi 太谿 which means Great Ravine. It’s called that because it is in a depression between the medial malleolus (your ankle bone on the inside) and your Achilles tendon. Kidney 3 is located in the inner ankle, the reflex area for the organs of reproductive function and fertility. This point is known as the Yuán 源 or source point on the channel. Yuán points are critical for accessing the power of the organ for which the channel is named, addressing the root cause of the problem. While it is misleading to say that certain points are “good for” specific ailments or disease, we can say that the yuán point on the Kidney channel, Kidney 3, is very effective for all things Kidney – including fertility.
    I use Kidney 3 in almost every acupuncture treatment that I do for fertility. It’s that important! So, what can you do between treatments to help benefit this point and the Kidney channel / organ? It’s easy! Just gently massage the point each day. You can grab around to the other side of the ankle and get it from both sides if that’s easier. Use the pad of your thumb to perform gentle, rhythmic circles on the point. You can use a little bit of pressure, but not too hard. If you come for acupuncture treatment, you may also receive treatment with moxa on this point, an herb that has been charcoal-ized and is burned and held over the acupoint to warm it up.
    So, for trying to conceive or just wanting to get a boost of energy and help to promote longevity, make sure to include stimulating Kidney 3 a little bit each day! Learn more about the benefits of Acupuncture or schedule an appointment today!

  • Fertility Friendly Holiday Recipes!

    by Margaret Eich MS, RDN & Elizabeth DeAvilla RDN

    The holidays can be an especially challenging time for eating healthy. It’s easy to get off track even with the best of intentions when we’re constantly surrounded by sweets. We created this recipe packet to help you have some healthy go-to sides, desserts, and beverages to help you continue to eat nourishing and also delicious food during this time of year. All recipes are gluten free and dairy free or have a dairy free option. Before you dive into the recipes, here are a few tips to help you enjoy the holidays while still enjoying the foods you love:
     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

    Table of Contents

    Side Dishes

    Cooked red cabbage with apples

    Red cabbage slaw with pecans

    Roasted root vegetables

    Black bean dip

    Roasted cauliflower

    Desserts

    Cocoa coconut balls

    Broiled grapefruit

    Candied pecans

    Beverages

    Healthier hot chocolate

    Peppermint nettle tea

    Side Dishes

    Cooked Red Cabbage with Apples

    This antioxidant-rich dish and is a great accompaniment to a holiday meal or just an easy side dish to reheat along with the protein you’re having during the week. Cabbage is fiber-rich and is in the fertility-friendly cruciferous vegetable family.

    Serves 6

    1 small head (or 1/2 larger head) of red cabbage
    3 medium apples
    1 medium onion
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons water

    Cut red cabbage in half and remove the core. Coarsely chop and place into a large pot. Peel, core, and slice apples, dice onions, and add to pot along with cabbage. Stir to mix with a wooden spoon. Add apple cider vinegar and water. Heat over medium heat with cover on the pot until you hear the liquid boiling – about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to simmer, and cook for 1 hour or until vegetables are cooked down and soft. Enjoy!

    Red Cabbage Slaw with Pecans


    The gentle sweetness of the pecans nicely balances the flavor of the red cabbage. This is a great salad to make on Sunday and eat throughout the week. It’s also great for parties and potlucks. Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in indole-3-carbinol, which may have a beneficial effect on hormone balance. Cruciferous vegetables are especially beneficial if you struggle with estrogen dominance, endometriosis, PCOS, or fibroids.

    3/4 cup candied pecans (see recipe below)

    1/2 medium head or 1 small head of red cabbage
    juice of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup olive oil

    Make the candied pecans first following the recipe below. While the pecans are cooling, cut the core out of the red cabbage and shred using the food processor shred attachment. You can also finely chop my hand. Finely chop the pecans, and add to the cabbage and stir until evenly distributed. Add lemon juice and olive oil, and stir until cabbage is coated with dressing. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

    Roasted Root Vegetables
    Serves 6-8


    This nutrient-rich side is loaded with beta-carotene, which is a vitamin A precursor and potent antioxidant. Butternut squash and carrots are also a good sources of vitamin E.


    ½ onion, chopped
    2 medium-sized beets, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
    6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
    2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Salt and pepper
    Herbs (optional)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add all vegetables to 9×13-inch pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and your favorite fresh or dried herbs, if desired. Roast for about 45 minutes, tossing every 10 to 15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.

    Black Bean Dip
    Adapted from “Hurry-up Black Bean Dip” on epicurious.com

    Use this flavorful dip for vegetables, or spread on whole grain or nut-based crackers. Black beans are rich in folate, which helps prevent neural tube defects.

    15-oz. can of black beans (preferably organic beans in BPA-free cans), drained
    1 tablespoon onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, pressed
    2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1 tablespoon minced chopped cilantro
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Roasted Cauliflower

    Adapted from allrecipes.com. Herbs and spices contain potent antioxidants that may help protect eggs and sperm from free radical damage. This dish is also a great way to load up the holiday table with non-starchy vegetables. Emphasizing vegetables is a great way to optimize digestion and gut health.

    14 cup butter, softened, or ghee, or olive oil
    1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
    12 teaspon ground cumin
    14 teaspoon sea salt
    14 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
    1 head (large) cauliflower, leaves trimmed

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix butter, ghee, or olive oil, dill, garlic, lemon zest, cumin, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Cut the cauliflower stem flush with the rest of the head so it stands upright. Spread seasoning mixture evenly over the top and sides of the cauliflower, place in a casserole dish, and cover with foil. Roast cauliflower until tender and cooked through, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer to a platter and spoon any liquid in the casserole dish over the cauliflower.

    Desserts

    Cocoa Coconut Balls

    These low sugar treats are a great way to keep the added sugar low, while still getting to have a treat. Nuts are a great source of satisfying healthy fats and cocoa powder provides an antioxidant punch!


    Makes about 20 one-inch balls

    1 cup pecans
    cup pitted dates (about 8 deglet noor dates)
    2 tablespoons coconut oil
    ¼ cup cocoa powder
    ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    1 tablespoon maple syrup
    ½ teaspoon salt

    Add all ingredients to the food processor or blender, and process for about 30-60 seconds until mixture sticks to the sides of the food processor. Roll into about one-inch balls. Store in the refrigerator.

    Broiled Grapefruit
    Adapted from williams-sonoma.com. Desserts don’t have to be all about sweets. Winter is a great time for citrus, and adding cinnamon to grapefruit provides a warming quality and may help lower blood sugar levels.


    Serves 1-2

    1 grapefruit
    ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

    Turn on oven broiler. Cut grapefruit in half and remove any seeds. Loosen grapefruit sections by using a small knife. First cut between the fruit and peel and then cut alongside each segment to loosen. Sprinkle cinnamon over grapefruit halves, and place under the broiler for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

    Candied Pecans


    Makes ¾ cup candied pecans

    1 teaspoon coconut oil
    ¾ cup raw pecan halves
    teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon maple syrup

    Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a small pot until melted. Add pecans and stir to coat pecans with coconut oil. Sprinkle salt onto pecans. Add maple syrup, and mix to coat pecans in maple syrup. Immediately remove from heat. (If you leave the pecans on the hot burner, they will likely burn.)

    Beverages

    Healthier Hot Chocolate

    This easy homemade hot chocolate recipe cuts the sugar from about 12 grams per packet of cocoa mix to 4 grams. This is a great way to keep the caffeine very minimal and still feel like you’re having a beverage that’s a treat. Higher caffeine intake has been associated with longer time to pregnancy among women trying to conceive.

    3⁄4 cup water


    1⁄2 cup whole milk or non-dairy milk

    1 tablespoon cocoa powder


    1 teaspoons maple syrup

    Combine water and milk, and heat until almost boiling in the microwave or on the stove. Stir in cocoa powder and maple syrup. Enjoy!

    Peppermint Nettle Tea

    Here’s another nourishing caffeine-free tea option.

    Dried nettle leaf

    Dried peppermint

    Mix nettle and peppermint in a glass Mason jar with 1:1 ratio for a supply that will last from weeks to months. Cap tightly and shake to mix. Use about 1 tbsp of tea leaves per cup of tea. Adjust based on flavor preference.

    We hope you enjoy these recipes these season! If you want to learn more about how nutrition can aid your journey, call us at: 312-321-0004.

     

  • Myo-inositol for Male Fertility?

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

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

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

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

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

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

    References:

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