• 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.

  • Guest Blog Feature: Considering Single Parenthood

    By Tiffany Edwards, PhD, MPH

    In my clinical practice, I see a fair number of single individuals desiring to be parents but also feeling ambivalent in their feelings of wanting to do it alone. Their desire for a child is very real and many times combined with a sense of urgency, as many feel that they have spent considerable time trying to find a partner and now have reached an age or space in their life where time is of the essence. In these conversations, there are often common thoughts, questions and concerns that come up. In this post, I want to address two of the more common topics, namely 1) feelings of regret or ambivalence; and 2) concerns about the impact of their choice on the child.

    It is not uncommon for many single individuals desiring parenthood to feel and express frustration and resentment for not having been informed and educated about their fertility options sooner and several will share feelings of regret for not having given more thought to or prioritized their desire to have a child earlier in life. Some will question if they should have worked harder in maintaining or salvaging old relationships or made different career or life choices. Much has been written about the concept of regret and this alone could be its own blog series, but I will share a brief thought on it and attempt to summarize what others have shared as well.

    • *It is important to realize that regret, remorse, guilt, whatever you might be feeling are all normal cognitive/emotional responses.
    • *Often what you are feeling is a sign that you are more keenly aware now, of your desires, needs and wants and what matters to you most.
    • *These feelings can serve to motivate you to take action, which is often when many single individuals seek out information or take the necessary first steps in considering parenthood.
    • *Avoid romanticizing the past and the “what ifs” and instead reflect on and appreciate your own unique lived experiences. Similar to the choice you may be facing now, you were once faced with opportunities and choices in your past and undoubtedly you gave the same care and consideration in making those, as you are doing now, and made decisions that were right for you at that time.

    Some intended single parents worry about how growing up in a single parent household may impact their child. They wonder if the child’s adjustment will be stunted or if there will be parent-child relational issues, both at a young age and into young adulthood, when feelings of resentment or who and why questions may be posed. Not surprisingly, much of the current literature indicates that there are often no significant differences found between children conceived through third party (donor or surrogate) and/or reared in single parent, same-sex or heterosexual households. You can find more detailed information and references for these research findings here.

    Of course, the decision for anyone thinking about parenthood is important, whether you are single or not. Feeling comfortable and confident in your decision is key. If you are struggling with this decision or simply want to be well informed as your move forward in your plans, there are a host of support options available to you. One such is Fertility Centers of Illinois’ No Partners Needed Support Group. This group provides women the opportunity to discuss and share their thoughts, questions, concerns and experiences in their attempt to create their family.

    I hope this information is helpful to you as you think about and move forward on your desired path!

     

    Tiffany Edwards, PhD, MPH

    Clinical Psychologist

    Fertility Centers of Illinois

    https://fcionline.com/

    tiffany.edwards@integramed.com

     

  • Managing Your Sugar Intake Over the Holidays

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    The onslaught of sweets usually starts at Halloween and doesn’t stop until the New Year. Going into the holidays, it’s helpful to have a game plan for how you’re going to manage healthy eating. Without a plan, we may end up falling down the slippery slope of excess sweets despite the best intentions. (This is true with all goal setting. It’s important to move beyond wanting to “eat healthier” or “be more organized,” and instead have a plan in the form of specific habits that we work on in order to achieve these goals. No judgment here. I am definitely been guilty of this in many areas!) When determining your own plan, try out some of these actionable habits to help you manage your intake of sweets over the holidays.

     

    • 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.

     

    • 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!

    Want to learn more on this topic? I hope you will take advantage of the $75 Wild Card special this month to meet with our in-house Registered Dietitian, Elizabeth DeAvilla, for an initial nutrition consultation (save $50)! She can set-up a plan for you for the holidays and through the New Year whether for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, or just wellness!  She can provide this support in-person (Chicago, Highland Park), by phone, and/or video consult.  Call us at: 312-321-0004 to learn more today!

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM

    Bloomberg just reported a story that placed Americans in 64th place among 195 countries who are improving their life expectancy by the year 2040. In 2016, the US was ranked 43rd among those 195 nations.

     

    The 6 health factors that influenced these outcomes were:

    1. High blood pressure
    2. High body mass
    3. High blood sugar
    4. Tobacco use
    5. Alcohol use
    6. Air Pollution

    Take a look again at these 6 influences. Most clients at Pulling Down The Moon are managing ALL of these issues very well. It is important to discuss the life-long benefits that your commitment to self-care are providing. While the short-term goal is building a healthy family, the long term benefits will be reaped once this foundation of wellness is built upon.

    For those of you who have had your children and are not sleeping, not eating as well, not finding time for yoga, and imbibing in more alcohol than you feel honestly is good for you, remember to come in and get some support.

    For those of you who are still TTC, remember that every moment of self-care adds up. Your investment in yourself now is not futile if you have not reached your family goals, yet. I truly believe that the gentler, smaller, daily choices we make are the ones that create lasting health and wellness.

    Thank you all for your deep commitment to your health. You are the finest, most dedicated clients in the world, and we know it!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    And don’t forget we are here for you–before or after Thanksgiving–though we will be closed on Thursday, November 22nd in observance of the holiday! Call us at: 312-321-0004 to schedule some self-care today!

     

  • 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.