• Nutrition, Hormones, and Microbiome Diversity

    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!

    Research Links:

    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

     

  • How to Support Healthy Estrogen Metabolism

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Do you struggle with conditions associated with estrogen excess, such as irregular cycles, fibroids, endometriosis or PCOS? Luckily there are some diet and lifestyle factors and supplements that can help you manage.

    Eat your fiber. Excess estrogen is detoxified by your liver and is excreted in your urine and stool. Eating plenty of fiber as staying well-hydrated helps ensure regular bowel movements, to remove estrogen from your body. Fiber also feeds your beneficial gut bacteria. Especially high fiber foods include legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and peas; berries especially raspberries and blackberries; fibrous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts; nuts and seeds like chia seeds, and almonds; and whole grains like barley, quinoa, and oats. Try something new at a local farmer’s market this season!

    Reduce exposure to environmental estrogens. Certain environmental toxins such like Bisphenol A (BPA), pesticides, and phthalates in personal care products are hormone disruptors acting like estrogen in our bodies. These chemicals are hormone disruptors that may alter hormone balance and reduce fertility. To limit exposure, use only BPA-free plastics. Better yet minimize use of plastic and use glass and stainless steel for food storage, eating, and drinking. Choose organic whenever possible, and choose phthalate and paraben free personal care products.  Check your products on the Environmental Working Group page!

    Try Female Balance. This vitamin and mineral fortified rice protein powder supplement contains fiber to support healthy digestion and removal of estrogen in the stool. It also contains phytoestrogens from flax and kudzu to help support healthy estrogen metabolism. Female balance also contains antioxidant nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, and zinc to help reduce oxidative stress. We usually recommend taking Female Balance for a 2-3 week period after a miscarriage or unsuccessful ART cycle or while taking a break from fertility treatments. Female Balance should not be used while taking birth control or fertility medications.  Ask about this supplement option for you while in-center (Chicago, Highland Park) or schedule a nutrition consult today!

     

  • Pride and Community

    by Cassie Harrison, Yoga Team Leader RYT

    June is pride month and festivities are already underway in Chicago and its suburbs. We were lucky enough to have our own Pride parade near us in Buffalo Grove, IL. Regardless of how you identify, you will need support through your journey.  Finding community early in the process will help make it more manageable and maybe even enjoyable. What’s often forgotten, at least in the beginning and not until after one faces setbacks, is to take care of oneself. Often I get students in my Yoga for Fertility class who are yoga novices and come to me with an attitude of “well it can’t hurt to try yoga.” Darn right, you should’ve been here from the start! If you’re going to carry a baby, are you (or your partner) preparing your body to support a pregnancy? Whoever is involved in the process to create a family will need community/emotional support, nutrition, exercise, and self-care.  

    Community is priceless. I felt very alone during my fertility struggle and it wasn’t until I found a community that I realized how much I needed it. One’s path to parenthood is a personal journey, with or without problems. With problems, it just makes it harder to keep it personal and/or private. Schedules getting disrupted by always needing to go appointments, taking medications (that may or may not make one crazy), and add in the emotional roller coaster … well you get the idea. Go. Now. Find your community.

    Here are a few resources to get you started:

    Additionally, below are a few LGBQT+ resources available to those in the Chicago area:

    And what I thought was an nice article from a lesbian couple struggling with infertility:

    Enjoy some food and yoga tips today at:

    • Food is medicine, eat better. Period. EWG.org has a list of fruits and vegetables high in pesticides to stay away from, called the dirty dozen. They also test consumer products and rate them, most important to stay away from are endocrine disruptors. Start there to help decide when to go Organic and identify  products in your home that could hurt your fertility.

     

    • Hello Yoga. It’s both exercise and self care wrapped up in one beautiful package. Yoga connects the mind and body, a moving meditation. It supports the physical body by promoting hormonal balance, improving blood flow, and helping support tissue detoxification. Not to mention self-massage (drink plenty of water after a practice!). A few of my favorite yoga postures (that anyone can do, yes that includes you!).  These poses require focus, which settles the mind. Find a quiet space inside or out, and practice Eagle, Reclined Figure Four, Warrior (I, II, III) and Camel.

    Eagle 

    Reclined Figure Four 

    Warrior I 

    Camel 

    Have a great summer. Make time for yourself, the kind that fills your bucket! Find your community, eat well, and practice (key word here) yoga.

    Namaste. 

  • Staying Hydrated this Summer

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    We all know the importance of staying hydrated, but some of struggle more than others with this task. In the summer, it’s much easier to become dehydrated as we spend more time outside in the sun and heat. The Institute of Medicine recommends 91 oz (2.7 liters) fluids daily, and this requirement goes up to 100 oz (3 liters) during pregnancy. Of course, there are some variations in fluid needs based on body size with smaller bodies needing less fluid than larger bodies. These fluid requirements may seem high, but they include fluids from beverages and from food. About 80% of our fluid intake comes from beverages, so that means you should aim for about 72 oz fluid beverage when not pregnant and about 80 oz while pregnant. Monitoring the color of your urine and aiming for pale yellow urine is a good way to ensure you’re staying hydrated.  During the summer heat, we need to replace the fluids lost through sweating, so this further increases fluid needs.

    While trying to conceive or pregnant, our choices of fluids become somewhat more limited, as it’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine. Of course, water is always a great choice, but understandably sometimes we want other options. Try these tips to stay hydrated this summer:

    • Focus on naturally caffeine-free beverages like water or water infused with fresh mint, cucumber, or fresh fruit.
    • Unsweetened coconut water is a great source of electrolytes and can be helpful for making mocktails.
    • Eat more soups and fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally provide water.
    • As a substitute for alcohol, try drinking club soda or sparkling water with a splash of 100% fruit juice and a lemon or lime slice.
    • Instead of coffee or caffeinated tea, try unsweetened non-dairy milk like almond milk or flax milk with a little vanilla and/or cinnamon and/or cocoa powder. Add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup for a little bit of sweetness.
    • Peppermint and ginger tea (and our ARTeas in-center!) are safe herbal tea choices for trying to conceive and during pregnancy.  Drink them hot or iced.
    • If you have trouble drinking enough fluids, try using a straw and take small sips throughout the day.
    • If you’re having trouble getting in enough fluids, it can also be helpful to track your fluid intake with an app, or simply by using a water bottle of known size. For example, if you have a 16 oz water bottle, if you drink 4.5 water bottles, then you’ll meet your 72 oz from beverages.
    • It can also be helpful to divide the day into 2 sections. For example, try getting in half of your water needs before 2 pm. If you haven’t met your first half of the day goal by 1:30 pm, it’s time to drink up. This can help you be more consistent with spreading your fluids out throughout the day.

    Book a Nutrition Consultation to learn more!  Try a Passport this summer and save!

  • Summer Lovin’

    by Stephanie Marynus LAc

    Summer Solstice is just around the corner! YAY! Street festivals, concerts, grilling and vacation – the last thing you want to think about is health. Summer is one of the times of year that most people fall off track with their routines the most, aside from the winter holidays. However, I believe in giving yourself some leeway here and there so you can enjoy life. As an acupuncturist, we believe it’s all about balance.

    You don’t have to deprive yourself, especially if you tend to be more active during the summer months. There are simple things  you can do to keep yourself from going overboard during summer. These things will help you stay on track this summer, so that you don’t have to start over at square one when September rolls around.

    1. Stay Hydrated

    If you have seen me for acupuncture you know I am a stickler for water. Being hydrated cleanses the body and gets it ‘moving’, so to speak. This is a simple method to reduce the side effects of fertility drugs that, energetically speaking, “dry” you out.  It improves your mood, reduce aches and pains, prevents constipation and bloating, and increases your energy.  Click Here to see what happens after drinking 1 gallon of H20 everyday for a month! The general guidelines for water intake state that you should drink at least half an ounce for every pound you weigh. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds you should be drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day. Strategically set water bottles around the house and at work to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day.

    1. Get Moving

    It’s time to get moving and release that energy that you built up during winter. Not only will workouts counteract any of your splurges over the summer holidays but they can also improve your happiness.  According to the international best seller, The Happiness Equation, by Neil Pasricha, “Pennsylvania State researchers reported in the Journal of Sports & Exercise Psychology the more physically active people are the greater their general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm.” It doesn’t take much: Half an hour of brisk walking three times a week improves mood. That is great news for a woman who can not exercise while undergoing stimulation. Something as simple as a daily stroll to check out the neighborhood’s new hip restaurants can keep you on track.

    80/20 Rule

    I am not going to tell you that you should skip every ice cream outing that you are invited too. Life is all about balance and eating right a majority of the time. The key is knowing when to allow yourself a treat and when you should make healthy choices. Simple things like swapping out unhealthy choices for healthier ones can make a huge difference. When grilling out, instead of choosing that bacon cheeseburger, swap it out for grilled chicken. Instead of potato chips choose carrots and celery. In choosing healthy alternatives you won’t feel so bad about having that ice cream snack later on. Food was made to fuel our bodies, but treating yourself every now and then is not a crime.

    Ferris Bueller, a Chicago favorite, once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Let your hair down and enjoy yourself this summer. After all, you have been waiting for this time all year. Keep your goals in the forefront so when fall comes around you won’t be regretting 3 months of slacking. Just remember the 80/20 rule, and keep your body moving. If you follow these easy tips, you will not have a problem staying on track with your health.

    Try our Summer Passports this season to make the most of the season and save!

  • To Grill or Not to Grill?

    by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD

    It’s finally (almost!) summer time, so you know what that means! Backyard BBQs with family and friends, picnics, and this dietitian’s favorite way to eat, alfresco! Many of us will turn to not only dining outside, but do cook our meals outside too, which means it’s time to fire up the grill. But before we do, let’s take a step back and make sure we’re still on the path to our optimal fertility.

    While we all know that certain foods may affect our fertility outcomes, one to definitely keep in mind, especially with our guys out there, is that of the correlation between some of the more commonly grilled foods, and that of semen quality. In a recent study published in 2017 processed red meat was negatively associated total sperm count in young healthy men. Organ meat (liver from beef, calf, pork, chicken, and turkey) consumers were reported as having more normal sperm.  Chicken however, did not relate to any sperm parameter in young men. So what does this all mean? The more processed meats, the worse off they are for our guys, chicken however, can have either no effect, while those organ meats can actually have a positive effect!

    Now let’s get to the more important question, how are we cooking that meat? Most commonly, especially in the nicer weather nights, you’ll find the guys all huddled around the grill and this is where is can get tricky. Research has shown that the consumption of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals considered to be “genotoxic” or highly damaging to our genetic material. Studies have shown that higher levels of PAHs in the urine are associated with poor sperm quality and cancer in men, and sadly, grilling is one of those cooking methods that can create them. This is formed from the combination of not only the amino acids from the meat, but the addition of sugars and an extremely high temperature (think open fire!)

    So does this mean I’m done with our Weber forever? No, no, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet.

    • While we don’t recommend grilling on a daily basis, once or twice a week is a much better option.
    • Consider adding a healthy vegetable, filled with those great antioxidants that can work to protect our cells and combat those nasty PAHs.
    • Discard the charred! When meat becomes charred, increased PAHs are found.
    • Control your temps while cooking. Many times, a drip of sauce or fat from the meat can cause a flare up of flame, this only raises the likelihood that PAHs will be formed.
    • Avoid smoking meats, which prolongs the cooking process and adds to the PAHs found in the prepared meats.

     

    Enjoy your summers, All! Try to keep those alfresco dinners healthy and fertility-friendly! 

    Want to learn more?  Meet with a nutritionist today! (Elizabeth is available Tuesday evenings and every other Saturday, while Robin is available on Wednesday evenings.) Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004!

    Dietary habits and semen parameters: a systematic narrative review

    1. Ricci-S. Al-Beitawi-S. Cipriani-A. Alteri-F. Chiaffarino-M. Candiani-S. Gerli-P. Viganó-F. Parazzini – Andrology – 2017

    Photo by Skitterphoto 

  • Guest Blog: Cleaning Out My Closet

    by Rickie Kostiner RYT, Clinical Intern 

    I took a good hard look one morning at the piles of stuff that had accumulated between my jeans and sweaters. It was a misshapen pile that had peculiar characteristics including big dark spots and glimpses of shimmer, it was hard and jagged around the edges but soft and mushy inside. No, it wasn’t loose socks, empty boxes, or unopened mail, it was me. I wasn’t dreaming, but I swore that I could see myself in physical and metaphysical form in my closet that day. My heart sank and slouched to the ground. Knees to chin I rocked back and forth for what seemed like an entire day wondering how I got there. How did I end up on that shelf and how could I find my way back into my own body. My body, I shrieked. What. Is. A. Body and why can’t I feel any part of mine? I touched my toes, not painted calloused soles. I licked my lips, cracked, and broken. I ran my fingers through my hair, rough and thin. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe but every breath stopped short in my chest. What was happening? How did I get this way? I somehow managed to pull myself off the dirty carpet that day and I continued to move through the rest of my day. That’s all I did, I moved through places, interactions, workouts, meals. There were no feelings, because I wasn’t there. I was still on that shelf.

    How do I get off the shelf? Am I ever going to feel anything ever again. I walked past a yoga studio everyday to get on the train. One day a sign out front of the studio read, “come inside and feel your body! Baby, it’s cold outside.” Okay, I thought, this is it, I’ll try it. That first yoga class was weird, I couldn’t explain how it made me feel but I went back. I went back three more times and then five more times after that and pretty soon I was practicing six times a week, but I still couldn’t tell you why. I practiced for two years, completed my first 200 hour teacher training, and had started teaching and I still couldn’t tell you why.

    It was a Sunday, I had been teaching yoga for about four months. A dear friend and fellow yoga instructor told me she was going to take my class. Immediately, I felt shocks of nerves zooming through my body. “I’m nervous!” I said to her. She replied, “Rickie, I am here for whatever you have to give.” Wow. Right?  Think about it, I am here for whatever you have to give. That level of flexibility is something I could only dream about achieving. For the first time since I started practicing yoga I felt something other than those adjectives that I was “supposed” to be feeling (tired, strong, healthy etc.) I felt safe. I went home that day and opened my closet to see that the pile of stuff was smaller. The parts that were black began to fade and the parts that were shimmering glistened a little more. As I continued to take in what my friend had said, ideas began to click in my head. In teacher training our leaders told us that yoga was much more than the physical practice, it is a much deeper and broader philosophy that encourages and encompasses a way to live, a way to treat one another, and most importantly, a way to treat the self.

    I started to listen, and I started to observe. I took a step back from the rigid expectations I had of myself as a teacher and student and allowed the philosophy to manifest within. The true intention behind the practice and philosophy of yoga is to find stillness, both in the mind and body. The physical, asana, practice of yoga is done in order to help the body sit still. Handstand means nothing if the body cannot rest. Slowly, yoga finally began to make sense. The reason I came to yoga each day was because I was allowed simply to be.

    Everyone has their unique reasons for finding and pursuing yoga. If you approach your practice with intention that is truth and that is real. Yoga changed my life by giving me a safe space to uncover layers of myself and were buried beneath many years of neglect. Today, as I continue my studies and research further into the dimensions of counseling and psychology, I am reminded every time I step on my mat that I have everything I already need within to heal. A perspective that took me a long time to actualize, but once I did, other pieces of my life fell into place. The piles of stuff in my closet slowly transformed into significant pieces of my life that I began to recognize as relationship, family, self. I was there all along, buried beneath the layers of stuff, patiently waiting to be uncovered. As you begin to uncover layers of self that have been buried remember to trust in the process that the practice of yoga can bring. Now, I practice both on and off my mat with the intention of, I am just a voice, the yoga does the work.

    During Mental Health Awareness, we encourage finding support in whatever format works best for you-whether yoga, acupuncture, visiting a support group specific to your needs for infertility support, trying again after loss, or single parenthood), meditation, and/or speaking with your doctor.  Resources, such as, Resolve (866-NOT-ALONE), Star Legacy Foundation, and the Women’s Professional Health Networking Group of clinicians supporting patients going through fertility treatments, pregnancy after loss, struggling in their relationships on the journey, perinatal anxiety, depression, and more (consult with your practitioner at PDtM for more information about these trusted contacts including Alison Lautz below). 

    Join Pulling Down the Moon for the FREE Webinar Hope & Healing: Simple, Practical Techniques for Coping with Disappointment & Loss on June 3rd at 6pm CST.

    Author: Rickie Kostiner RYT, Clinical Intern 
    Supervisor: Alison Lautz, LCSW
    Therapist & Life Coach
    www.alisonlautz.com
    815-341-9244
    info@alisonlautz.com
    

  • Thin Lining? Silver Lining!

    by Meredith Nathan LMT

    A common setback to a successful fertility cycle is a thin endometrium, or uterine lining.  In the case of IVF, some cycles never make it to transfer because the endometrium is too thin.  Reproductive Endocrinologists usually like to see the lining at least 7-8mm by the time of transfer, with a ‘trilaminar’, or three-layered appearance on an ultrasound.  Why does the uterine lining sometimes not grow and thicken throughout the follicular phase as it should?  

    A few common causes include:

    • – poor pelvic blood flow
    • – pelvic blood stagnation
    • – low BMI
    • – estrogen deficiency
    • – uterine fibroid(s)
    • – adhesions or scar tissue in the uterus
    • – endometritis (infection of the endometrial cells) or adenomyosis (a condition whereby the uterine lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus)

    Pelvic blood flow and blood stagnation are two sides of a coin: closely related in some ways, and in other ways complete opposites. For example, someone who never exercises and works a desk job may suffer from blood stagnation; her sedentary lifestyle keeps the pelvic cavity ‘swampy’ in it’s consistency.  On the other side of the ditch, the high-intensity, cross-fit, marathon-running athlete is sending much of her blood flow to her extremities (not to mention flooding her body with adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones that may interrupt her hormone balance). Both of these women might end up with a thin uterine lining, for the exact opposite reason.

    In other cases blood stagnation can actually CAUSE poor blood flow.  Adhesions in the uterus can be the result of trauma or internal infection, but can also be the result of a sedentary lifestyle and blood stagnation.  These adhesions can result in lowered circulation, and a thin uterine lining.

    Other causes of thin lining can also be related, where one causes the other or several cluster together in a constellation of symptoms.  For instance, uterine fibroids are more common in an environment with poor circulation. But, the scar tissue that can result from uterine fibroids can create more blood stagnation and circulatory challenges, resulting in: poor circulation.  Likewise, low BMI may cause estrogen deficiency and other hormonal imbalances. Low estrogen may also create other body weight challenges.

    Mind boggled?  I don’t blame you.  But if any of these scenarios sound familiar, take heart.  First of all, you do not need to have the ‘perfect uterus’ (if such a thing exists) to get pregnant.  I’ve personally had clients with a lining as thin as 4mm achieve a successful implantation and pregnancy (and who now have healthy babies).  

    And the silver lining is that there are a number of positive, holistic choices you can make to give your endometrium a boost:  

    • – if you’re concerned about a low BMI, consider gaining weight.  Fat cells produce estrogen, and estrogen helps build the lining! That’s not an invitation to gorge yourself on milkshakes and cheetos (wouldn’t that be nice?) – see a nutritionist to help guide you to a healthy BMI, using a anti-inflammatory diet filled with healthy fats.
    • – while you’re at it, ask that nutritionist about things to avoid, and also supplements that can support your lining.  Some research suggests Vitamin E (included in a good prenatal vitamin) and L-arginine may support a thick uterine lining, while substances such as caffeine and nicotine are known to restrict blood flow, possibly thinning it.
    • – choose low-intensity, moderate exercise options, such as gentle (non-heated) yoga, swimming, walking, or the elliptical machine.
    • – thermal therapy, hip stretches/openers (including some fertility yoga poses you can use now!), femoral massage, and other self care techniques can help improve pelvic blood flow
    • – receive a manual therapy, such as, Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM), or Mercier Therapy (available at PDtM from Meredith Nathan), to reduce adhesion in the abdomen and increase pelvic blood flow.  Your FEM Practitioner, exclusively at Pulling Down the Moon, can also teach you further self care techniques to help boost your blood everyday! Try a sample of these self-care fertility massage techniques today!
    (Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric)

  • Celebrating the Arrival of Spring Produce

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Spring is finally here in the Midwest, and things are starting to get greener. Crocuses and daffodils are blooming, and it seems people are starting to have a little more of a spring in their step as the promise of summer and warmer weather approaches. That also means that soon we will have local fruits and vegetables once again.

    Focusing on increasing fruits and vegetables, especially from local sources is a great way to focus on improving your overall health and fertility. Certain fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, avocados, and oranges are rich in folate, which is important for preventing neural tube defects. In general, fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and potential anti-inflammatory compounds. These may be supportive of both female and male fertility. Did you know that women going through ART have higher levels of oxidative stress that may be offset with antioxidants? Loading up on the fruits and vegetables is a great way to do this. Increasing fruits and vegetables also increases your fiber intake, which feeds your beneficial gut bacteria (fertility nutrition starts in the gut!). Try to choose organic when possible, as eating higher pesticide fruits and vegetables has been linked to longer time to pregnancy.

    Farmer’s markets are great way to work eating more fruits and vegetables, as the freshness and quality is often superior to the produce found in grocery stores, where it may have been shipped many miles. At the farmer’s market, your produce may have been picked just that morning or the previous day! Another great option is gardening if you have the space. Studies on gardening show that it may help combat stress, boost your mood, and it’s good exercise! Live in an apartment or condo and don’t have outside space? Seek a community garden, or try growing some herbs in your window or in a pot on your balcony. Other options for a deck or balcony could be salad mix in a pot.

    Eating more vegetables is a great way to boost your overall health and fertility, by increasing fiber and nutrient density of your diet.

    Try these tips to increase the amount of vegetables you’re eating:

    1. Add vegetables to your eggs at breakfast (or any time of day).
    2. Add cauliflower rice to chili, curry, or stir-fry.
    3. Add greens like kale to soups, chili, taco meat, or stir-fry toward the end of the cooking time.
    4. Have a big meal salad with protein.
    5. Add sautéed onions, mushrooms, and greens (like spinach, kale, or chard) to tomato sauce.
    6. Use spaghetti squash or oodles instead of pasta.
    7. Add cucumber, celery, and/or greens to a smoothie.
    8. Use cauliflower, spaghetti squash, or zucchini to make pizza crust.
    9. Use zucchini or eggplant instead of noodles in lasagna.
    10. Roast carrots, beets, broccoli, or cauliflower with olive oil.

    Check out some seasonal nutrition recipes! Learn more by consulting with a nutritionist!  Book today!  Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.

     

  • The 4 Pillars of Health: How to Be & Stay Healthy

    By Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director

    Everyone has advice for you: Do this, do more of this, don’t do that, do less of that. This is the only thing that works. Everyone is different, so nothing works for everyone. Eat more of this. Eat less of that. Exercise more. Exercise less. Weigh more. Weigh less.

    I think that, particularly because of the internet, you can find information to support every theory out there on literally everything. It’s hard to know what to trust, what is actually true. While it can take some time to find the things that work for us to stay healthy or find balance, I do think there are a few things that we can universally take as truth.

    Here’s what I’ve found:

    • Slow Down. I started with this one because it helps to make all the rest possible. We hear this a lot, right? Take time for yourself, relax, find ways to unwind. But how do YOU do that? I think it’s necessary to take some time every single day to be quiet and listen to what your body, your mind, and your heart are telling you. Some days, you might have more time, some days, it’s only 2 minutes. But this has to be a priority like any other. When you take time to be still, whether in meditation, taking a walk, listening to quiet music, doing yoga, or even in an acupuncture session, this is time to hear yourself: your thoughts, how your body feels, where your mind is. What works for one person may not work for another. Remember there’s a reason that we call meditation a “practice.” It’s a process, not a destination. It recharges you, helps you find yourself and your goals, and strengthens your ability to cope with the challenges that life throws your way.

     

    • Eat Well. There are so many theories out there about how to eat, what to eat, where to eat. It can all get very confusing! But I think we all know what things don’t feel right – whether it’s refined sugars/carbs, greasy/fried foods, too much salt, portions that are too large, etc, so staying clear of those as much as possible is critical. The more I go through life and doing the work I do, the more I realize just how important these things are. A study that came out last month showed that unhealthy diets are responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide. Even if our diets are only “kind of” unhealthy, those foods could be contributing at the very least to inflammation, endocrine dysfunction, and thereby problems with fertility. If you are feeling lost in the woods about where to start, make an appointment for Nutritional Counseling with one of our amazing Dietitians.

     

    • Sleep. Oh this is a hard one. We all think we can get away with sleep deficiency, but it always catches up to us in the end! The key is to try to stay consistent, even if you can’t be perfect every night. Aim for 7-8 hours, as close as possible to the same time to bed every night and wake up every morning. Of course, you will have special events, travel, and other things that try to throw a wrench in the works, but the more you condition yourself to stay consistent, the more your body will be prepared to sleep well when it’s time. Other things to try:
      1. Stop drinking anything caffeinated after 10am if you plan to go to bed by 10pm. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 16(!!!) hours, so plan accordingly.
      2. Try a simple chamomile tea about 30-45 min before bedtime – steep in 4oz or less of water so you won’t have to get up to use the restroom during the night.
      3. Stay away from devices 45-60 min before bed. It’s tempting to try to catch up on emails, surf Instagram or space out to some Netflix, but trust me on this, sleep is way more important!
      4. Clear clutter from your house in general, but definitely from around your sleeping area. There should be nothing that reminds you of stressful situations or work. Keep your sleeping area as simple and comfortable as possible to invite relaxation and rest.
      5. If you are still struggling to fall and stay asleep, try acupuncture to help regulate your diurnal cycle.

     

    • Exercise. This is another one that gets pretty complicated, but the bottom line is that you need to move your body on the regular. Medicated IVF cycles notwithstanding (when walking and gentle yoga are safe, as well as, recommended), getting your heart rate up and doing some resistance (free weights, muscular isolation, etc) exercise are necessary for us as humans. Our driving, sitting lifestyle has caused us to not have to do these things for basic needs, so we have to go out of our way to find them. If you love going to the gym, then do it! If you hate going to the gym, then find what works for you – yoga, martial arts, ballroom dancing… If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stay with it. I had a personal trainer as a patient one time. I remember asking him what the best kind of exercise was. Do you know what he said? He said, “The best kind? That’s the one that you DO.” 100% accurate. If you are someone who has strayed away from exercise or maybe never had a regular practice, it’s time to make friends with the feeling of moving your body to make it strong and healthy. Find what works for YOU.
      • >I want to make one side note here to say that you may be someone who exercises TOO much which can also have adverse effects on your body. It can be difficult to let go of an ideal of weight, shape, or status. If you are dealing with a BMI that is below optimum, consider discussing what’s going on with your MD, Dietitian, and acupuncturist.

    That’s it. That’s all I know. None of this is new. But this stuff does work – tried and true. Some of it takes real willpower, but setting the wheels in motion now can help you find your healthiest self for life.

    Try Acupuncture for only $75 in May!  Learn more about holistic health options for the journey for you and your partner at the Shine Together In Person Meet-up with Pulling Down the Moon’s very own Christine Davis presenting on Tuesday, June 11th at 6:00-7:30pm at our Chicago office. Register to save your spot today!