• The VAGUS nerve, the “Commander and Chief” of the autonomic nervous system–promotes your fertility, gut, and health!

    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.

    1. *Singing Loudly
    2. *Gargling
    3. *Laughing
    4. *Cold showers
    5. *Massage
    6. *Yoga
    7. *Meditation, such as, this Heart-Opening Meditation
    8. *Acupuncture (especially ear acupuncture)

  • The Other Half: Male Factor Infertility

    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!

  • 3 Tips for Staying Together While Navigating Infertility

    By Amanda Hofbauer MA, AMFT

    Infertility can wreak havoc on a relationship. Trying to get pregnant may begin as an exciting journey to bring a new life into the world together, but it can quickly become a steep climb filled with painful procedures, blame, shame, difficult decisions, and financial burdens. At some point you may look over and no longer recognize your climbing partner.
    Here are 3 tips for maintaining your relationship with your partner while you climb:
    1. Acknowledge your losses: The path of infertility is fraught with loss and grief in many forms. Disenfranchised grief happens when we experience a loss that is not socially recognized. For instance, there are not funerals for miscarried babies or sympathy cards for unsuccessful IVF attempts. Not only are these losses not formally recognized, they are often not even spoken. Couples suffer silently, often without the support of their friends and family. Anticipatory grief happens when we begin to grieve the seemingly impending loss. We begin to think we will never have a biological baby, and we start to grieve in preparation for that loss.
    Take time to acknowledge these losses as a couple. Share your grief with your
    partner (even if your experiences of grief are different) and find ways to mourn
    together. This may mean creating your own ritual to mark a loss.
    2. Act as a team: Don’t let infertility become one person’s problem or responsibility.
    Share the logistical burdens like scheduling appointments as much as possible. Go
    to appointments together whenever you can, even if the appointment is only
    medically “for” one of you. Try to be together when you receive results of tests or
    procedures – even if it’s through a conference call – so that one person doesn’t have
    to be the bearer of heavy news. Be curious about your partner’s experiences that
    may differ from yours, such as how it felt to go through a certain medical procedure
    or what kind of emotions they are experiencing each step of the way.
    3. Create infertility-free spaces: Infertility can easily engulf an entire relationship.
    Go on a date night where you’re not allowed to talk about anything infertility related. Rediscover activities you used to enjoy that have fallen by the wayside since you starting dealing with infertility. Reclaim your sex life by taking a short break from baby-making sex by only having sex at times when fertilization cannot occur. Infertility does not have to define your relationship.
    The climb is exhausting, unpredictable, and may or may not end with a successful pregnancy. But by prioritizing your relationship amidst the chaos, you can ensure that you will still be together when the journey ends.
     
    Couples therapy can also be a helpful resource while navigating infertility. Contact me to set up an appointment and start the process today. I can be reached at amanda@relationshipreality312.com or 312-857-6270. Amanda is a Couple and Family Therapist at a private practice in downtown Chicago. She specializes in helping couples who have experienced or are currently experiencing infertility. Find out more at amandahofbauermft.com.
     Resources: Diamond, R., Kezur, D., Meyers, M., Scharf, C., & Weinshel, M. (1999). Couple therapy for infertility. New York, NY:
    The Guilford Press.; Humphrey, K. (2009). Counseling strategies for loss and grief. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

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