By Robin Miller RDN
There seems to be so much information out there about diets and foods to consume and not consume while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. But what really is the best diet when it comes to fertility?
We know that food likely plays a role in fertility and our ability to conceive, but is there a specific diet per se, that will lead to pregnancy? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, however the research does suggest that including specific food groups and foods, while eliminating others can increase chances of pregnancy.
One recent study* showed that couples undergoing IVF, in vitro fertilization, had almost three times the chance of a successful pregnancy when they closely adhered to the Mediterranean Diet, which is consists on a high intake of whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and a low intake of red meat. Let’s dig deeper and look at specific foods to include in our daily diets to help improve overall fertility.
- Berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are filled with antioxidants that limit inflammation in the body as well as protect our cells from aging and environmental damage.
- Cruciferous Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnip greens, turnips and rutabaga. These vegetables contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol that regulates estrogen metabolism and helps convert “bad estrogens” into good ones.
- Healthy Fats: The fats we eat play a very important role in fertility. They are incorporated into our cell membranes (think egg and sperm) and make up the backbone of many important molecules in our body. Monounsaturated fats help to lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and are found in olive oil, avocado and most nuts. Omega-3 fats are key to lowering the level of inflammation in our body and are found in fatty fish, dark leafy vegetables, walnuts, chia and flax seeds.
- Beans/Lentils: Besides being a good source of protein, beans and lentils contain soluble fiber, which helps bind excess hormones and remove them from the body.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains are a rich source of fiber and B-vitamins. B-vitamins are crucial for optimal egg development and ovulation.
- Lean Protein: Choose lean proteins like organic chicken, turkey, grass-fed red meats, and organically raised eggs.
To learn more about specific foods and food groups to include in a fertility-friendly diet and improve your overall nutrition; schedule a nutrition consult online here or call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 today!
Robin Miller, RDN
I love this time of year, when the air turns cool and the trees blaze with color and pumpkin spice seems to take over the stores! I look forward to loading my kitchen with the abundance of fresh foods that are ready to be harvested. Fall fruits and fall vegetables are not only delicious, they’re also are packed with nutrients that can help boost your fertility and keep your immune systems strong all winter long.
So what produce are in season in fall? And what are the healthiest options for boosting immunity and fertility? Check the list below to help you navigate the farmers market and grocery store all season long!
Apples and Pears: These sweet, crunchy fall favorites are packed with antioxidants and are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. To get that daily dose of fiber and to satisfy a sweet tooth, snack on the fruit whole or incorporate into recipes from filling breakfasts to a sweet treat!
Beets: They may be available year-round, but beets are at their best in the fall. Besides the familiar reddish-purple color, you can also find golden, white, and even multicolored beets. A great source of vitamin C, folate and fiber, which are all important when it comes to fertility. Try tossing in salads or roasting!
Broccoli: Packed with vitamin C, which has proven beneficial for fertility in both men and women! Try roasting or making a veggie-packed, hearty soup!
Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage and Cauliflower: These powerhouses contain indole-3-carbinol, a compound that helps the body manage estrogen.
Carrots: Perfect for soups, stews, and snacking, carrots add plenty of sweetness in a low-sugar bite. A serving is also packed with twice your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which benefits vision, reproduction, and immune function.
Celery: Celery is an excellent source of vitamin K and a good source of vitamin A, potassium, and folate, which is very important for fetal development.
Chard, Kale, and Spinach: Loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, folate and zinc, all key nutrients for women try to conceive. These dark leafy greens can be served raw in a salad or sautéed with garlic and a little crushed red pepper!
Figs: This fall fruit is a solid source of fiber, which may help decrease cholesterol, promote blood sugar control, prevent constipation, and keep you feeling full longer. Figs are also packed with potassium, which helps control your blood pressure.
Garlic, Onions and Shallots: Sulfur-rich foods, such as alliums like onions and garlic, can help increase your body’s level of the antioxidant glutathione, important for both male and female fertility. For men, it can improve sperm quality and health. In women, glutathione can help boost egg quality and the health of the embryo after conception.
Leeks: Leeks contain B-vitamins including folate, which is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Good levels of Folate are essential before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
Mushrooms: Full of prebiotics, that help nourish your gut’s microbiota, ultimately aiding in digestion and warding against inflammation. This fall veggie is supper versatile to cook with, try it sautéed in an egg scramble or cooked in soup!
Pomegranate: An excellent source of flavonoids and polyphenols. They also contain vitamin C, folate, and fiber! These are all essential vitamins and minerals for conception and pregnancy. Try adding to your favorite salad or into your oatmeal for an extra dose of antioxidants!
Pumpkin: A good source of fiber for hormone balance and beta carotene for egg health. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant known to protect the reproductive system from damage caused by excessive free-radicals. Remember to eat the seeds too! These are rich in zinc, which may boost sperm health.
Squash: From acorn to butternut to delicata to spaghetti, all of these fall squash varieties are a great source of the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to protect egg and sperm DNA from damage by harmful free radicals, which can affect the quality of both the egg and sperm.
Sweet Potatoes: Rich in carotenoids, pigments that have great antioxidant power. Research shows carotenoids can help with sperm health and motility in men, as well as aiding in hormone regulation and ovarian function in women.
To learn more about foods that can boost your fertility and overall nutrition, join us for the FREE webinar on October 21st at 6pm CST, “Yoga and Nutrition for PCOS and Beyond” or schedule a nutrition consult today!
Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM
The value of your practitioner
Why do I need to come in to the office?
One of the beautiful aspects of acupuncture is that your body is seen and understood as the complete instrument that it is. Your acupuncture point system is endlessly evolving. If you have graduated out of weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, or have fallen out of the habit of coming in to the office, this post if for you. It is also for those who are at the end of their fertility focus, may be on a break, or are wondering if they can use acupuncture for different reasons.
What is important about coming to see your acupuncturist is that they will assess the current state of your health and choose point combinations that will tune your instrument, or all out repair it. It needs to be done in the office every now and then, even though we send you home more educated, with homework, or with goals accomplished.
There are ways to make this easier and less stressful. Pull out your calendar! As you assess your healthcare plan for the next year, look at the entire year ahead. Break it down into quarters, seasons, and peak stress times. Book a sequence of appointments for at least 2 weeks before an event like a holiday, a change in season, or as the quarter winds down. Book 2 appointments the week before tax season or school starts. It is great to touch base with your wellness team to be reminded of how to stay on track. This will help you be at your best.
Women have the opportunity to use their menstrual cycle, also, for scheduling structure. The frequency of office visits depends on what is going on for you, and what your cycle or the year is like. Talk to your acupuncturist to find out what fits best for you. For some, it could be coming during your period, to help keeps things moving. For others, it could be better to come in before you ovulate. Reach out and ask us how we can help recharge your wellness routine.
Come in and see us then have a great Fall! Book and save in October with our BOO-GO special that includes a FREE follow-up session ($95 value)!
by Christine Davis, LAc MSOM
With each passing year, things seem to get busier. More appointments, more work requirements, more life events, more things to do. Then there’s the well meaning family members and friends: why aren’t you pregnant yet? My friend tried This Thing and it worked for her, so you you should try it, too! Then there’s social media and the internet: EVERYONE seems to be happier and more successful than you – here’s what you SHOULD be doing to do to be happy ALL THE TIME. It’s all a never ending stream of NOISE. Where does it stop? How can you simmer down and quiet the stream of mental debris that constantly stimulates worry, fear, anxiety, and frustration?
Here are my suggestions. They aren’t a complete list, but these are the important ones. It may take time to incorporate them all:
- Say it with me: “No.” “I’m sorry, I’m not available.” It’s ok to put yourself first and say “no” when what is being asked of you will compromise your wellness. Clear a path for your ability to think clearly, breathe, and do the things you need to do to feel balanced. Much like Marie Kondo’s method for clearing physical clutter, you need to decide what’s important in your life mentally and emotionally. Say YES to the things that create the life you want (even though they may be difficult, too, sometimes) and NO to the things that are holding you back from that life.
- Disconnect. Social media has been fun over the past couple of decades, right? There are some good and some (really) bad parts, but study after study emerges showing the negative impact that it can have on your mental and emotional state. If you are having trouble completely disconnecting – especially if work or other interests require you to connect with SM – limit your interactions with these apps/websites. Give yourself a specific time frame in which you allow yourself to use them in a positive, uplifting manner.
- Get help. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional if you need help with mental wellness. This could be a mental health professional, a religious guide, etc. Someone who you trust, who is impartial, who has training in helping to guide you is ideal. This doesn’t mean you are signing up forever – sometimes a few sessions can really help to clarify and ground you. I feel like the best therapists are the ones who hold a “mirror” up, so to speak, so that you can see things as they are, then help you to appreciate the beauty that you see.
- Center yourself. This could be with meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling, long walks by the lake – whatever helps you to focus on one, two, or ten things–instead of the thousands of thoughts that are constantly flooding in otherwise. I like to think of Georgia O’Keefe’s “Sky Above Clouds” painting – the thoughts are just clouds floating past. Try not to hang on to them and instead just observe them and let them float past. There are some amazing smartphone apps: FertiCalm and FertiStrong, Insight Timer, MindfulIVF, Headspace, etc. that have tons of guided meditations for everything from general anxiety to trouble sleeping to going through an IVF cycle.
- Find gratitude. Keeping a Gratitude Journal helps with this. Write just a line or two each day about something you are grateful for. It could be the delicious muffin you had for breakfast, the painless phlebotomist experience, your favorite song coming on the radio, the friend who went out of her way to give you the support you needed. Many studies have shown that focusing on the positive aspects of life actively literally rewires the brain to feel happier and more positive.
- Try Acupuncture. A modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a therapy for the mind, body, and spirit. With regular (once or twice per week, usually) treatment, you will see many aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional self come into balance. Acupuncture is known to be helpful for everything from pain to allergies to digestive stuff to fertility, but it can also be helpful for balancing the mental state and emotions.
Firstly, an acupuncture visit is usually very relaxing! Most who haven’t tried it don’t believe me when I say that, but when else do you take 30 min to just lie still, no phone, not going to sleep (although it’s ok if you do!), not talking or listening (except to quiet music)? This is a deeply restorative time to be quiet, soft, grounded.
Acupuncture has mounting scientific evidence showing that regular treatment can help with reducing anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM, there is a strong connection between the physical state and the emotional state. By creating a state of harmony throughout the physical body, balanced mental/emotional wellness is the natural outcome.
In TCM, fertility is associated with the element of Water. When water is too abundant or too scarce, the earth and all forms of life suffer, including our own bodies. The element of Water shows its emotional imbalance in the form of Fear/Anxiety. When we are in a constant state of stress (life, work, family, infertility, etc), we put ourselves into a constant state of “fight or flight.” This creates a situation in which our bodies focus only on staying alive for the moment rather than long cycles like those required for fertility. By using acupuncture, we are able to break that constant loop of stress, find grounding, and reconnect with our natural cycles which can lead to improved fertility.
Choosing to find serenity in this life takes effort. Just think about when someone says, “Calm down!” or “Relax!” Has anyone ever calmed down or relaxed just by hearing that? I don’t think so. By regularly making the choice to build the space for quiet, for reflection, for balance, you are creating a foundation for the life you are searching for.
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Many women thinking of getting pregnant have heard of folic acid or folate, as we know that adequate amounts help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida when taken in early pregnancy. Folate is vital for DNA synthesis and for DNA methylation. Folic acid generally refers to a synthetic form of folate that is found in many prenatal vitamins and supplements and fortified foods. Folate refers to the natural form found in food. Some supplements include folate instead of or in addition to folic acid.
While the impact of folate on pregnancy in women gets a lot of press, the impact of folate on male fertility doesn’t get much attention. Ensuring adequate folate intake in men may have a beneficial impact on sperm quality and pregnancy. Folate is thought to be vital for sperm production due to its role in DNA synthesis and methylation. For example, in one study, men with the highest folate intake from both food and supplements had lower frequencies of aneuploidy (DNA abnormalities) in their sperm compared to men with lower folate intake.
An additional factor that may impact folate status in men is MTHFR polymorphisms. A MTHFR polymorphism is a change to the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme rendering it less effective at producing the active form of folate called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). In men with MTHFR polymorphisms, supplying 5-MTHF directly may be more effective for improving sperm parameters and pregnancy rates based on some interesting new case series.
The impact of 5-MTHF is demonstrated in a case series of 30 couples each with a 4-year history of fertility issues with at least one partner in the couple having a MTHFR polymorphism. Most of the women were treated with high dose folic acid without success. The couples were then treated for 4 months with 600 mcg 5-MTHF, and 13 couples were able to conceive spontaneously without IUI or IVF.
In another case report, a couple had a history of 6 failed IVF cycles. The woman was found to have an MTHFR polymorphism, and the couple underwent egg donation and had a successful pregnancy and birth. In trying to conceive a 2nd child, she started a series of failed donor egg cycles. She was then started on 5-MTHF (400 mcg) and did another donor egg cycle, which ended in miscarriage at 8.5 weeks. Her husband had normal sperm parameters, but tested positive for 2 copies of the MTHFR polymorphism and was started on 400 mcg 5-MTHF. The couple conceived spontaneously 8 weeks later and gave birth to a baby girl at 38 weeks. The authors conclude that his really underscores the importance of methylation in egg development and sperm production, and that when either the male or female has a MTHFR polymorphism, 5-MTHF if required as high dose folic acid will not allow the embryo to develop properly.
It is often the case that men don’t know if they have a MTHFR polymorphism, and if testing is unavailable, it makes sense to take a 5-MTHF supplement to ensure adequate folate in the active form is available for DNA synthesis and methylation to promote conception and a healthy pregnancy. Learn more about how nutrition and supplements can support male fertility by meeting with our Nutrition Team and book your consult today!
- Young SS, et al. The association of folate, zinc, and antioxidant intake with sperm aneuploidy in healthy non-smoking men. Human Reproduction. 2008;23(5): 1014-1022.
- Servy EJ, et al. MTHFR isoform carriers. 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) vs folic acid: a key to pregnancy outcome: a case series. J Assist Reprod Genetic. 2018;35(8): 1431-1435.
- Jacquesson-Fournols L, et al. A paternal effect of MTHFR SNPs on gametes and embryos should not be overlook: case reports. J Assist Reprod Genetic. 2019;36(7):1351-1353.
by Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director LAc MSOM
According to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory, the world is composed of 5 elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Because the ancient authors wanted everything to be neat and tidy with the theory, they divided everything up that way – flavors, colors, senses, and even the seasons. So, while in Western culture, we only embrace 4 seasons, TCM has added a 5th season: Late Summer, usually a shorter time between August to early September. It’s the time when its just plain hot and extra dry/humid depending on your location. The plants have peaked and are beginning to ripen their fruits. The ads for back-to-school are in full swing and no one even cares about their swimsuit body anymore. Nature is experiencing one last burst of transformation before we settle into the retreat and contraction of Fall and Winter.
In TCM, Late Summer is the domain of the element of Earth. Its color is yellow, its flavor is sweet, its internal organs are the Spleen and Stomach, the organs of digestion, which transform the food we take in into our flesh and blood. The Spleen and the Stomach are associated with nurturing, grounding energy.
The Earth element’s direction is the Center. In Chinese, the country of China is called Zhong Guo中国 , or “Central Country,” meaning that to them, they are the center of the world. In fact, the name of the emperor who is credited as being the father of Traditional Chinese Medical theory, Huang Di 黄帝 (2711-2598 BCE), can be translated as Yellow Emperor, thus demonstrating his connection to central, Earth energy.
Late Summer is a time when people who have imbalances in their metabolism & digestion often experience increased symptoms: allergies, nausea, loose stools, low energy, weight gain, blood sugar instability, and other digestive and metabolic issues.
Here are a few ways you can help yourself stay in balance during the Late Summer season:
- Eat in moderation, especially when it comes to sweets. I find that writing down what you eat – whether in a simple journal style or with an app like Lose It or Weight Watchers – helps to keep you accountable for everything that goes through your lips.
- Avoid sweets, excessive simple carbohydrates (breads, pastas, baked goods, etc), excessive dairy, and greasy/fried foods. All of these are enemies of the Spleen (digestive function) and can “gum up the works” so to speak, especially at this time of year. Cold foods are also very tempting on a hot day, but can also slow digestion. Try keeping cold drinks separate from meals to aid in proper digestion.
- Reduce worries! Ok, that sounds much easier than it actually is sometimes, but the emotional manifestation of an imbalanced Spleen is WORRY. So, find the things that really bring you peace – it could be meditation, yoga, acupuncture, but it could also be hanging out with friends/family, taking a walk, sitting by the lake, listening to your favorite tunes. Do what works for YOU to find your center, your happy place to release (even if can only be temporarily) worry.
- Nurture yourself! Along the same line, take the time to give yourself your basic needs: sleep, good nutrition, exercise, relaxation. If you don’t have those things consistently, it is difficult for your body to remain in balance.
Happy Late Summer! Visit Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director at Pulling Down the Moon, in Highland Park on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays! New hours available in Chicago on Mondays and Thursdays starting on Thursday, September 5th! Try something NEW and save with one of our monthly specials today!
Many experience needing a break from their fertility journey, and choose to take one after consulting with their doctor. Summer travel, the holidays, too many personal life transitions, or even just needing a mental health break are all valid reasons some choose to postpone their next fertility cycle for a month or two. But a break from A.R.T. doesn’t need to mean a break from your body, or a break from your overall health.
I was shocked when I first learned that the lifespan of an egg is actually around 90 days, and the lifespan of sperm is 60-70. Previously I had assumed whatever you did prior to the month of conception really didn’t affect an embryo’s viability all that much…likewise the common notion that age is the only factor affecting egg quality is incomplete. Though age is a factor, the environment of the egg plays a profound role in it’s health and development.
Several months before ovulation, many different factors are either adding to or subtracting from an egg’s health: the nutrients present in the body, stress and inflammation, hormone balance, pelvic blood flow and ovarian oxygenation. In fact, researcher Jonathan Van Blerkom of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder concluded that “Findings from several studies indicate that embryos with the highest implantation potential originate from follicles that are well-vascularized and oxygenated.” Likewise, sperm travels for 6-8 weeks through the body from the time of birth – and the overall health of the body impacts it at every step along the way.
Though taking a break (for whatever reason) can cause impatience and stress, having one may actually be an opportunity in disguise! Whether a month or two or even three, being proactive during this time can have a profound impact on your health, your mood, and your fertility. So schedule in some relaxation time, good foods and supplements, acupuncture, and a detoxifying or blood-building massage.
Join us for the FREE Webinar “Should I Take a Break from Treatment” on Tuesday, September 24th at 6pm CST! Learn how the Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol ™, or ‘The FEM Protocol ™ can help you prep for the next cycle!
By Robin Miller RDN
The fertility journey can be an exciting time for many couples…until it’s not. After many months or even years of trying to conceive and often times deemed “fertility-challenged,” baby-making can become a stressful task for many couples. Newsflash! 1 in 8 couples struggles with infertility, you are not alone!
Conventional wisdom suggests that infertility is primarily a female issue, however research shows that approximately 40% of infertility cases are due to male-factor. The good news is there is much research that highlights how certain changes in a male’s lifestyle, including diet, weight loss and intake of herbs and supplements have proven to enhance male fertility.
Here are some things men can do to improve their fertility:
- Lose weight. It is recommended that men maintain a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9 according to the CDC). Research suggests obesity may lower sperm parameters and testosterone. However, these effects may be reversible with gradual weight loss through diet and exercise, but not with bariatric surgery. Bring on the fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy and get moving!
- Throw out the tobacco. Smoking tobacco has been linked with lower sperm concentration and impaired sperm motility and morphology. Use of chewing tobacco is dose-dependent, presenting a negative effect on sperm count, motility, morphology and viability.
- Cut back on alcohol consumption. Studies suggest that heavy alcohol consumption can negatively impact many male fertility factors. However, moderate consumption of alcohol appears to have a limited effect on male fertility factors. Instead of drinking alcohol, try sparkling water or club soda with a slice of lemon or lime.
- Start taking supplements and trying holistic therapies. Many supplements have been studied and show positive effects on male fertility, including: coenzyme Q10, L-carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and a combination of zinc and folate. Be sure to speak with a registered dietitian and your physician about your individual needs as it relates to supplements. It can also help to add Acupuncture, TCM herbal medications, and Mind Body practice to your routine!
1 Al-Ali BM, Gutsxhi T, Pummer K, Zigeuner R, Brookman-May S, et al. Body mass index has no impact on sperm quality but on reproductive hormones levels. Andrologia 2014; 46: 106–11. by caffeine. Fertil Steril 1975; 26: 158–61. 30 Aitken RJ, Best F, Richardson DW, Schats R, Simm G. Influence of caffeine on movement characteristics, fertilizing capacity and ability to penetrate cervical mucus of human spermatozoa. J Reprod Fertil 1983; 67: 19–27. 31 Barkay J, Zuckerman H, Sklan D, Gordon S. Effect of caffeine on increasing the motility of frozen human sperm. Fertil Steril 1977; 28: 175–7. 32 Hammitt DG, Bedja E, Rogers PR, Syrop CH, Donovan JF, et al. Comparison of motility stimulants for cryopreserved human semen. Fertil Steril 1989; 52: 495–502.
By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM
I often get the question, “Why do I need a probiotic?” It is easy to take a probiotic and start to develop valuable high quality and diverse forms of gut bacteria. All too often, that diversity in bacteria is lacking. Probiotics can help adjust that.
Study after study shows correlations between gut health and vital system health throughout the body. Just recently, I read an article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that illuminates a relationship between PCOS and gut bacteria. In “Gut Microbial Diversity in Women With PCOS Correlates With Hyperandrogenism” the study revealed links between PCOS and a reduction in microbiome diversity. It also showed a possible correlation between elevated testosterone in women and decreased microbiome diversity. In a follow-up study, one of the same researchers, Varykina Thackray, Ph.D., stated, “Our new results suggest that altering the gut microbiome via prebiotic or probiotic therapies may be a potential treatment option for PCOS.” (Links to studies at end of blog.)
What does the gut have to do with hormone balance? Glad you asked. Hormones are metabolized in stages as they trek through the body. They travel to the liver, and then they go to the gut, where hopefully and ultimately, they are eliminated out of your system. At various points along the way, hormones can get tripped up in their metabolic process. If hormones get to the gut, and there is an unhealthy microbiome balance, they can easily get stuck there. This is one way that hormones accumulate and mess with digestion, disrupt biofeedback signaling, and slow down healthy hormone production.
I think about what probiotics have to do with Chinese Medicine a lot. Traditional diets across cultures use daily fermented foods to assist digestion. Ancient Chinese texts describe the digestive system as the earth element and the center. “The Earth permits sowing, growing, and reaping.” This is a very important passage from the Shang Shu, translated by our beloved late teacher Giovanni Maciocia. You hear your acupuncturist talk often about “reducing damp” and “reducing sugary foods that cause damp accumulation.” As the stomach and spleen are the origin of qi and blood, this makes sense.
If you are trying to get a certain amount of highly nourished blood moving, without hesitation, to the uterus, you need the digestive system to be on it. You need the Earth element. You need the Spleen and Stomach channels to not be overworked and bogged down.
If you are trying to metabolize hormones, whether in a natural cycle, a medicated cycle, postpartum, menarche, perimenopause, or menopause, you need your digestive tract working optimally.
Unfortunately, most of us were not raised to have a diverse palate that intuitively steers us to foods, herbs, and spices that are bitter, sour, pungent, salty, AND sweet. We mostly enjoyed sweet and salty diets. This creates an environment that appeals to certain microorganisms in the gut and discourages microbiome diversity. Did you know that there are taste receptors in the lower GI tract? So, we need to balance the flavors we eat, if we want our bodies to outmaneuver the impact of our less than healthy choices.
What does a sour food do for us? Technically, it increases saliva, digestive enzyme secretion, stimulates metabolism, and encourages proper liver function. (By the way, the sour flavor falls into a TCM category with the liver and spring, so when you feel like heavy wintery foods are not working for you anymore, try adding sour foods into your menu with greens to aid in the digestive transition). Apple cider vinegar? Yes, add a splash to your lemon water in the morning, with your probiotic. It will help prep your system to start digesting. Add it to your greens, too, at lunch!
What about the taste of bitter? Bitters increase saliva and digestive enzyme production. They enhance the movement of blood in the digestive system after meals. If you have been in our offices, you know HOW IMPORTANT it is to keep blood moving in the abdominal cavity. Bitters encourage more complete absorption of nutrients. This can protect the body from having to deal with stray food particles leaving the intestines through the bloodstream, otherwise known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Guess what that does? It reduces damp and clears heat. Where there is inflammation, there is fluid accumulation, and vice versa. Next time you go to buy your chocolate bar, go as dark as you can and think about how beneficial that bitter is!
Pungent flavors are amazing. These are the wildcard friends that open you up and make you laugh your eyes out! They literally open up the orifices, again, when the tendency is to contract. These are things like onion, garlic, ginger, scallions, horseradish, mustard, mint. All of these plants are known across cultures as medicine. Mint needs no introduction to my clients. It is cooling, vents pathogens, soothes the liver, motivates blood flow, and is uplifting. It is part of an essential formula in Chinese Medicine called Xiao Yao San, or Free and Easy Wanderer. Pungent flavors are medicine. Use them in your meals. A little goes a very long way.
Empty nutrition is robbing us of systemic health. Non-functional food is fueling the growth of harmful bacteria that degrades gut health, leaves cells weakened, and entire body systems undernourished and in distress. And there is a lot that you can do. If you are on a mission to balance hormones, regulate a cycle, reduce bloating and promote healthy metabolism of hormones from a medicated cycle, or reduce anxiety, and you haven’t aimed your attention at your gut, start now! Take a breath, get in warrior pose, and start helping your gut be as strong as it can be. Come in and talk to us. Let us help you through it.
Exciting stories often start in very tiny packages. Microorganisms are an example of this. Our entire body is understood as an ecosystem in Chinese Medicine. I remember reading an article about salmon shortages affecting old growth trees. It said that more than 75% of the nitrogen the trees needed to thrive was provided by the remains of salmon dragged into the forest by animals. It reminded me of the human digestive system, and how reliant it is on tiny, often understudied components.
If you are not taking a probiotic, or eating fermented foods daily, consider it. If you are bloated, constipated, or experiencing brain fog and signs of hormone imbalance, come in and discuss what to do with your practitioner. Probiotics, prebiotics, functional and balancing foods, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, exercise, working with a nutritionist, and supplements can help create a healthy structure for you to take your next step forward.
Try acupuncture, nutrition, massage, and yoga during these summer months with passport savings! Pick-up a probiotic on your visit, too!
Pawelczyk L, Duleba AJ, Kelley ST, Thackray VG. 2018. Gut Microbial Diversity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome correlates with hyperandrogenism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 103:1502-1511. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-02153 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6276580/
The Endocrine Society. “Improved PCOS symptoms correlate with gut bacterial composition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2019. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190323145201.htm
By Meredith Nathan LMT
When we discuss fertility massage, it’s often assumed this practice is designed only for women. It’s true that the benefits for women are vast, but men shouldn’t feel left out! The male reproductive system completely mirrors the female reproductive system (in function if not in location). The Fallopian tubes are comparable to the vas deferens, as both are systems of transportation in the body. The ovaries are comparable to the testes, both producing the carrier’s ‘seed’. The uterus and the penis both allow the safe passage of that ‘seed’. And though the hormones dominating men and women are different, both can be negatively impacted by stress.
Abdominal and sacral massage can positively impact circulation, lymphatic flow, and digestive congestion in both men and women. Keeping in mind that restricted blood flow can impact nerve function (including the nerves of the reproductive organs), lymph movement helps the body’s systems of detoxification (and toxicity can impact sperm quality) and digestive stagnation can actually affect hormonal balance, the connection between massage and fertility for men becomes clear. And since the sperm live for 60-70 days, receiving fertility massage while making positive lifestyle choices for several months is ideal!
Lastly, who can argue with the benefits of a stress-reducing massage during a highly stressful time? Lowering cortisol levels, the stress hormone, can boost libido, increase energy, and help promote hormone balance. And perhaps most importantly, it can increase your sense of well-being during an often tense and emotional time. Our culture doesn’t often celebrate or create space for men’s emotions, or their need for self-care…but during a fertility journey, both are vital to creating the endurance that will go the distance.
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