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)
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:
- Add vegetables to your eggs at breakfast (or any time of day).
- Add cauliflower rice to chili, curry, or stir-fry.
- Add greens like kale to soups, chili, taco meat, or stir-fry toward the end of the cooking time.
- Have a big meal salad with protein.
- Add sautéed onions, mushrooms, and greens (like spinach, kale, or chard) to tomato sauce.
- Use spaghetti squash or oodles instead of pasta.
- Add cucumber, celery, and/or greens to a smoothie.
- Use cauliflower, spaghetti squash, or zucchini to make pizza crust.
- Use zucchini or eggplant instead of noodles in lasagna.
- Roast carrots, beets, broccoli, or cauliflower with olive oil.
Fertility massage is a cutting edge field, with far-reaching benefits that are still being explored. At Pulling Down the Moon, we’ve developed specific techniques for working with the body after seeing thousands of fertility clients for nearly two decades. We’ve striven to be pioneers of this emerging healing art, blending the best of ancient modalities with cutting edge massage techniques. Our programs have reached thousands of women across the Chicagoland and the DC area, have been purchased by Shady Grove Fertility, the largest Reproductive Endocrinology Center in the United States, and Pulling Down the Moon has been recognized by the NCBTMB as a provider of continuing education in the field of fertility massage. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) also recognized our Massage Director, Meredith Nathan, with the 2018 Pioneer Award for the development of this protocol.
After struggling with our inability to support people struggling with infertility who lived outside of Chicagoland and the DC area for years, PDM is proud to be launching Continuing Education in Fertility Massage for the first time since it’s inception. Now Massage Therapists across the country with a passion for women’s health and fertility can receive training in our exclusive techniques, and as a result, couples hoping to be parents around the U.S. can receive the benefits.
Moon Massage Level 1 consists of 3 online modules, each ranging 90 minutes to 2 hours in length, a hands-on techniques review video, and a final exam. It will include an overview of reproductive anatomy, both natural and assisted fertility cycles, contraindications for fertility clients, common fertility challenges and ways massage can support these issues, specific fertility massage techniques, and a 30-minute basic fertility massage protocol that can be used with all fertility clients, both male and female (at the appropriate time in their cycle).
This webinar will lay the foundation for a series of hands on courses, ultimately leading to training in our exclusive Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol™, a training formerly available only to PDtM staff. This level 1 training is your first step toward certification in the FEM Protocol.
“I believe wholeheartedly the FEM Protocol will complement the therapies I treat my patients with and enhance their success, while hopefully decreasing the stress level they are facing as they undergo the difficult and arduous treatments we prescribe.” – Dr. Melissa Ann Esposito MD FACOG
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Moon Massage level 1 Module training series. Meredith is an amazing instructor with an infectious personality. Her enthusiasm for the subject matter, her vast knowledge, and the way she expresses the concepts so clearly make it highly enjoyable to watch as you learn. It is filled with so much practical information, and though it is highly technical, it is presented clearly and with a review section in each segment. All aspects of fertility and IVF are well covered, and the hands on portions really illustrate the techniques clearly. It was one of the best presented and well designed continuing education classes I’ve taken. Thank you so much.” – Deana Burrows, LMT
by Amie Shimmel Handa, D.C., Dipl. Ac., L.Ac
People talk about stress all the time, and we all know that it is bad for us, but most of us don’t realize the long term consequences of chronic stress. It can impact our fertility, our nervous and immune system and even our gut. But what does that really mean to us?!
I am going to break down what happens during a stress response and hopefully the next time you start to feel stressed you can take some action before the stress starts to control you,When you experience any kind of stress, physical, emotional , or mental, your body processes it the same- through the adrenal glands. When you encounter a perceived threat, (could be a work deadline, something going wrong with your body or life, or even something your body ate that was detrimental, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system (fertility) and growth processes. Did you know that 70 % of your immune system is in your gut so when cortisol affects the gut it’s also impacting the immune system? Cortisol, long term is highly inflammatory. When inflammation is chronic and it’s been around for a while, it can even trigger an autoimmune disease. As a result of this chronic stress your body continuously cycles through periods of high inflammation, which can damage the gut lining and make vulnerable to pathogens like bacteria, yeast, and parasites and a suppressed immune system.
When the digestive system is compromised and harmful bacteria or yeast multiply and grows, the neurotransmitter “Serotonin “production is lowered and it is your “feel good, well being” hormones so your mood and happiness is reduced from this stress response. We know in holistic medicine the connection between cortisol (stress) and fertility. “We know now that stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signaling between the brain and the ovaries, which can trip up ovulation,” says Sarah Berga, MD, an infertility specialist and vice chair of women’s health at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The good news is you don’t have to live with chronic stress. There are numerous actions you can start today to reduce your stress. One of the best ways is through regular acupuncture treatments. Each time you receive acupuncture, especially ear acupuncture, you are stimulating the parasympathetic system the “rest and relaxation” system. Other great action steps are massage, yoga and meditation. My best piece of advice for stress is being kind to yourself and knows you are doing a great job!
Try an Initial Acupuncture Consultation in April and get a follow-up session for FREE ($95 value)! Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 or book online today with the promo code BOGO19!
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Are you getting enough choline in your diet? Most women are not, and most women may not have even heard of choline. Choline plays an important role in fetal development, including brain development. Most people have heard they need to get enough folic acid (or folate) before and during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, but did you know that choline may also play a role in preventing neural tube defects, like spina bifida? Research has produced conflicting results in this area, but ensuring adequate choline intake makes sense while the research sorts itself out, especially given choline’s other benefits.
In addition to a potential role in preventing neural tube defects, choline deficiency may also play a role in the development of fatty liver. Choline is also a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in muscle control and memory. In addition, choline is converted to betaine in your body, which assists in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, thus preventing homocysteine levels from becoming elevated. Elevated homocysteine is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and miscarriage.
Choline is not technically considered a vitamin, since our bodies make small amounts, but our bodies don’t make enough to meet our daily choline needs. Therefore, we need to get choline in our diet. Non-pregnant women need 425 mg choline daily, and this goes up to 450 mg during pregnancy, and 550 mg while breastfeeding. In the US, average choline intake is well below this recommended level with women on average only taking in 260 mg choline per day!
The best food sources of choline include liver, eggs, meat, seafood, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. One egg provides almost 150 mg choline, which underscores how helpful eggs are in meeting your choline needs. Not only are eggs rich in choline, but they are also just a very nutrient dense food to support your overall health, fertility, and pregnancy. Because choline is most concentrated in animal foods, vegans or vegetarians who eat limited eggs and dairy products are at highest risk for choline deficiency. Since so many US women struggle with getting enough choline, it’s a good idea to take a prenatal vitamin that contains choline, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian with limited intake of eggs.
Looking for more information about nutrition for fertility and pregnancy? Book a nutrition consult today!
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Choline
- Caudill, et al. Pre- and Postnatal Health: Evidence of Increased Choline Needs. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2010; 110:1198-1206
By Elizabeth DeAvilla RD
Now that that warmer weather is starting to roll in, (thankfully!) many of us will get the itch to start that good ‘ole spring cleaning! Here at Pulling Down the Moon’s nutrition department, we always suggest a great pantry clean out to help everyone with their nutrition goals for the year.
Up to date?
One of the first things I find myself looking for at the start of any clean out is that of expiration dates. May people still think that spices and other dry ingredients can last forever… not true! As a safety precaution, ensure that all your ingredients are not expired. Spices can tend to lose potency after as little as 6 months!
Ditch the processed stuff
You’ll hear this time and time again, the less processed the better, especially during the journey of fertility. The more processed the food is, the more likely it is to contain ingredients that may not be to enticing, especially to our bodies. Additives and preservatives can commonly cause negative effects like inflammation, as well as some intolerances within our systems, and best strategy to avoid? Ditch the processed stuff! This can commonly include things like canned meals, meats, and dried foods as well.
Get it organized
I’m not sure about you but I don’t always have hours upon hours to prepare meals. If I have to spend a large amount of time in the pantry looking for something, I’m almost more likely to run out and replace the item, thus why I always end up with multiple staples! Taking the time to organize, take things out of the boxes if possible, and creating a system can be so beneficial from not only a time perspective, but a food safety aspect as well. Storing whole grain cereals in Tupperware (BPA free of course!) or rice in glass jars not only looks appealing, but is helpful for inventory!
Restock your shelves with the essentials.
If you were to go into your pantry today, could you put together a healthy meal that people would enjoy? This was always a struggle for me in my own pantry, until I started stocking the essentials. Things like dried beans, sauces, spices/seasoning, healthy rice, and usually have the potential to save the day when I just don’t have it in me to venture out to the store…. one more time! Keeping things such as heart healthy (and fertility friendly!) oils such as olive and avocado oil, whole grains such as wild rice and whole grain bread, as well as beans such as Lentils are not only meal staples, but are all supportive to our fertility journey.
The staples to keep/include:
Grains/breads: Whole grains! We can’t stress this enough, adequate fiber is so beneficial to both men and women in health, especially in fertility. Complex carbohydrates will always take more time to digest and won’t spike your blood sugar. Whole grains have also been shown to curb hunger and balance some hormones. Choosing whole grain pastas, breads, cereals, and flour whenever possible is really the goal!
Oils: Healthy fats are your friend, and cooking oils are a great place to start when adding them into your diet. Heart healthy oils such as olive, avocado, as well as coconut oils are great sources of omega 3’s. These oils will have great anti-inflammatory effects, as well as work as absorb all those important nutrients. Decreasing the amount of hydrogenated oils such as canola or palm, will always be beneficial, as they can have the reverse effect, causing inflammation, as well as containing high amounts of saturated fat.
Canned goods: Overall, fresh or frozen foods are always my go-to grabs when it comes to vegetables, however especially during the winter months, I like to have a few cans of vegetables just in case. Always look for reduced sodium, as well as, single ingredients. Many have added preservatives to increase shelf life, avoid those!
Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrial tissue that normally makes up the uterine lining, is displaced and found outside the uterus. This can present with an array of symptoms which includes painful periods, ovarian cysts, heavy periods, spotting before the period, and/or even infertility. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very effective in treating it.According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) endometriosis is a condition that is termed as “blood stagnation”, and your acupuncture practitioner will determine the cause of it after your initial consultation. It can arise from the body’s inability to properly absorb the old stuck blood that is lingering in body. There are a myriad of acupuncture points and herbs which help break up this stagnant blood as well as strengthen the body so that it can deal effectively with the problem. The general recommendation is to come in for weekly acupuncture for at least 3 menstrual cycles. Herbs help accent the acupuncture’s therapeutic effect and treat on another level. The most notable changes that are observed, is a reduction or elimination of painful periods, regulate cycles so that there is no spotting before the onset of the period, shrink ovarian cysts, reduce the excessive flow of blood during the period, and helps increase the odds of pregnancy in those trying to conceive.In addition to acupuncture and herbs, it is highly recommended that the patient seek a nutrition consultation with us. In TCM we advise patients with endometriosis to have an anti-inflammatory diet, which means avoiding foods that are spicy, deep-fried, dairy, ice-cold foods/drinks, beef, grapefruits, raw foods, and do not over-eat. Include foods like dark leafy greens, chicken, pork, mint or jasmine tea, beets, seaweed, zucchini, asparagus, berries, apples, eat until you feel 80% full, to name a few helpful tips. Please feel free to email me with any questions in regards to acupuncture and the treatment of endometriosis at email@example.com. I am available Tuesdays and Fridays at the Chicago location, but our office is open everyday of the week in the city for acupuncture appointments. We have Acupuncture, Massage, Nutrition, Yoga available in Chicago, Highland Park, and Buffalo Grove. Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 today!Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM
by Cassie Harrison RYT RYPT
February. Romance is in the air…or is it? Students in my Yoga for Fertility class audibly groan at the mere mention of sex. Especially if I suggest they have more of it. I get it. When trying to conceive, more often than not, sex becomes a chore. A root canal, really anything, is preferred over seeking passion in the bedroom. Mind you, this suggestion isn’t just about sex, it’s more than that. It’s about regaining an intimate connection with each other. Reminding each other that we are not just pawns in the bedroom, but two people (who are both struggling and who need each other more than ever) to regain trust, love, and compassion. Join me on on a journey to find more quality time in the bedroom.
Let’s go down that rabbit hole to open your minds to the thought of sex. The folks over at SexLoveYoga said “We don’t leave room in our mind for sex. It’s filled with other thoughts, but none devoted to sex, not sexy sex anyway.” This begs the question, what kind of thought comes to mind when you think about sex with your partner? Wait, am I being presumptive? Have you even thought about it, that is, outside the window of time to reproduce? Let’s start there. Now that you thought about it, what came to mind? Still having trouble, maybe this webinar, Sex Kitten from Tami Quinn, Co-Founder of Pulling Down the Moon, and Dr Shameless of Vibrant will help remind you what sexy sex is, and no it’s not what you’ve been doing!
Now that you’re thinking about sexy sex again, let’s tap into desire. It’s there, but it’s buried under all the other stuff that’s entered your life recently. Doctor appointments, medications, shots, ultrasounds, you have literally placed your sex life in a petri dish, not sexy! In order to get back on each other, what I mean is, no I meant that! Desire will not happen on it’s own, you must create it. Kissing. Touching. Snuggling. Spooning (my personal favorite). Effort will need to be made by both of you to receive the other. It’s easy to take each others role for granted during the fertility process. If your sex talk resembles “It’s time, hurry get in here, now perform!” Add pressure to that and then…nothing, mood killed by pressure, followed by disappointment, because it feels like an opportunity missed. This doesn’t have to be your story. Repeat, this doesn’t have to be your story. Hold each other, then write or name out loud a sexy sex bucket list. Should that fail to get your desire flowing, there’s always partner yoga. You can do it anytime, anywhere according to https://www.badyogi.com/.
Conceiving, sex and love making, what do these three have in common? Intimacy! According to Google, sex is an intimate act (convenient!). You can also show intimacy through closeness, rapport, and companionship just to name a few. These literal textbook definitions form the foundation of your relationship, deep stuff… my point is you might not be ready to have sexy sex, but by opening yourself to intimacy, the kind that starts by touching in the kitchen, a kiss before running out the door, and sharing your feelings (open book is my philosophy!). This just might allow for a deeper connection between you and your partner, something I imagine is needed now more than ever.
If you can do anything for each other this Valentines day, more important than giving a box of chocolates (I can’t believe I said that…) is giving your time to each other. Try a free couples massage, acupuncture, essential oil, and aphrodisiac snack included Date Night event at Pulling Down the Moon! Try this fertility-friendly Dinner for Two at home! In all seriousness, remember to make time for each other, give each other a break (you are a team after all) and get back to your sexual roots and reconnect. Start, by thinking about sex again…now make it sexier.
*Visit Cassie in Buffalo Grove on Feb 28th at 6pm for the FREE “Yoga for Fertility Intro Workshop“! Learn breathing and relaxation techniques featuring Q&A with Dr Alison K Rodgers of Fertility Centers of Illinois!
by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD
When it comes to setting goals for the new year, especially nutrition goals, there’s some tricks of the trade to keep in mind to help ensure success.
Making Positive Goals
When I set out to make goals for myself, I always get excited. it’s a new opportunity to take steps in health, education, fitness, emotional health, all for the better. One thing that I do try to keep in the back of my mind is what can I add to my life. I find that positive goals work best, not deprivation goals. Think of the feelings that you have when you make the goal of exercising for 20 minutes/3 days a week. I get excited about new workout clothes, about positive body image. Now think of the goal of giving up pizza. Not the same warm fuzzy feelings! Even as a registered dietitian, that “goal” sounds awful. Know that while we’re all trying to move in a positive direction, when we talk about giving up things that are commonly staples, even if just weekly staples, this can have a negative impact on our views, especially when it comes to food. If it’s something that weighing on you, maybe change that goal to incorporating more vegetables as pizza toppings, and everyone wins.
Making Smart Goals
We’ve all asked ourselves what can I do to give myself the best chance of achieving what I’m setting out to do? Start with changing the goal you’re setting. When our goals are ones that are commonly called Smart Goals, this can provide us with the structure to make even the most difficult tasks, a bit easier.
Specific: What is the exact goal that you’re looking to accomplish? When people come to me with the end goal of “being healthy” I have to take a step back. As a practitioner, my ultimate goal for patients is always health, but that is such a broad term. Is it achieving a healthy BMI? Is it lowering a certain laboratory value? Is it to finish a 5k? by setting a specific goal, this will help you and your team of experts devise the best game plan for success.
Measurable: Lets go back to the goal of “being healthy.” What does that even mean? Is it fitting into the pants we wore in high school? Bringing our blood pressure down to a healthy number? Take what you would like to achieve and put a number to it, a time line, give yourself some accountability. By this February 28th, I will have incorporated breakfast into my daily meals at least 5 days a week. Small supportive actions such as purchasing a calendar to track all the successes would make your successes even more visible.
Attainable: I once had asked a small child what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said a unicorn. Now in her head, as a 6 year old, this was totally attainable–in my current lifetime, not so much. When setting goals, we need to make sure that what is desired is actually something that we can accomplish, and do so in a healthy manner. Is it obtainable for me to grow 5 inches and become the next big super model, probably not, but achieving a healthy weight loss goal of 10lbs over the next 3 months? Totally do-able in my case.
Time Bound: Sometime in the next year, I’m going to run a 5K. We all remember how long a year is, right? 365 days to make a change, and lets be honest, “Tomorrow” is a pretty common date when we’re trying to make some changes. By changing that date to April 30th, this then allows for us to make that plan, and take the steps necessary with respect to time to allow for success.
Making Permanent Goals
They say it takes 2 weeks to make a habit, right? Well… sort of, first we have to get to where we want to be. In terms of that breakfast goal, yes, after a few weeks of incorporating that first meal of the day, your body will adjust, and you’ll being to feel those hunger cues bright and early. That “being healthy” goal? We’re going to have to establish a new baseline first. By taking the small steps that we outlined earlier, this will have the best chance of becoming a success. Lets start with incorporating more vegetables on our pizza, then maybe adding in those workouts a few times a week, then voila, we ran that 5k in April, and by May, we’re proud of our success! But it doesn’t end there! We need to keep up with our new health(ier) lifestyle, and this means maintenance. Maybe this would be continuing with the workouts (try a FREE Yoga for Fertility community class!) as we would with any other appointment that we make, by adding more vegetables to our grocery list every time we shop. Pretty soon these are all going to be more habitual and for that we all deserve a pat on the back.
By Christine Davis LAcMy first exposure to the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) happened after I had been hit by a car on my bicycle. It was a bad accident, could have been worse. As I was healing, I was introduced to a practitioner of reflexology who told me about the connections of his work to TCM. I picked up a book about reflexology, then another, then a third. I started practicing on myself, my family, and my friends. I was able to get rid of headaches, reduce allergies, aid digestion, relieve pain … all by touching someone’s feet! I was hooked. If you’ve ever seen or perhaps experienced reflexology, you know that there are zones, like a map, on the hands and feet (I later learned that the ears and even the whole body can be used similarly) that are a microcosm or imaging of the whole body. You can treat these zones with massage, acupuncture, and many other techniques to affect other areas in or functions of the body to achieve relief from symptoms and whole body wellness. Like a reflex, by stimulating one area, you get results in another.The reflex area that is most closely related to the reproductive organs in men and women is the inner ankle and around the inner heel of the foot. But let’s back up a second …. If you’ve experienced acupuncture before, you know that there are tiny needles inserted into specific points on the body to allow healing and wellness to be achieved. Did you know that those points are on pathways (we call them channels or meridians) that flow like a network throughout the body? The points themselves are known as access or entry points into the channel (the word for acupoint in Chinese is xuéwèi 穴位 which literally means “tiny hole.” So, when we stimulate these points, we are accessing that pathway that flows throughout the body to get blood and qi (pron “chee” – meaning function and energy) to move and regulate any problem that might be occurring on that pathway and it’s connections. The pathways/meridians are named for the primary organ that they connect with in the torso, that performs specific activities and functions in the body. The one that goes to the heart is called the Heart Meridian; the one that goes to the Lungs is called the Lung Meridian, etc.In TCM, the ability to reproduce is determined to by the health of the Kidney organ. Notice that I use a capital ‘K’ because in TCM, the Kidney is responsible for much more that detoxification and maintaining fluid balance as it is in Western-style physiology. In TCM, Kidney is kind of like your batteries. It contains your genetic material (not referring to DNA – this is TCM terminology, not Western), your fire. It’s what was received by you from your parents and what you pass on to your offspring. It is also your foundation energy source. When the Kidney is depleted, you might feel fatigue, difficulty sleeping, lethargy, low libido and might experience things like extreme weight loss or weight gain. When Kidney is not working correctly, you might have trouble with the emotions of fear or an overactive flight/fight response. Because the Kidney is your foundation/fire/most primal energy source, struggles with fertility are not uncommon when it is out of balance.Like a battery, you cannot get more material once it has been depleted and you were only given a certain amount to begin with. In TCM, we describe the process of aging by how the Kidney is functioning. How you live – getting enough rest, eating well, reducing stress, not abusing drugs/alcohol, having sex (but not too much!) etc – will impact how you preserve this material. However, TCM is an excellent way to help protect and preserve this material and to help it to be best expressed, particularly during the time while you are trying to conceive.So, this brings me to my favorite acupuncture point for fertility: Kidney 3. In the West, we use a numerical demarcation for each acupuncture point, but in China (and other Asian countries), there is a poetic name for each point. In Chinese, Kidney 3 is called Tai Xi 太谿 which means Great Ravine. It’s called that because it is in a depression between the medial malleolus (your ankle bone on the inside) and your Achilles tendon. Kidney 3 is located in the inner ankle, the reflex area for the organs of reproductive function and fertility. This point is known as the Yuán 源 or source point on the channel. Yuán points are critical for accessing the power of the organ for which the channel is named, addressing the root cause of the problem. While it is misleading to say that certain points are “good for” specific ailments or disease, we can say that the yuán point on the Kidney channel, Kidney 3, is very effective for all things Kidney – including fertility.I use Kidney 3 in almost every acupuncture treatment that I do for fertility. It’s that important! So, what can you do between treatments to help benefit this point and the Kidney channel / organ? It’s easy! Just gently massage the point each day. You can grab around to the other side of the ankle and get it from both sides if that’s easier. Use the pad of your thumb to perform gentle, rhythmic circles on the point. You can use a little bit of pressure, but not too hard. If you come for acupuncture treatment, you may also receive treatment with moxa on this point, an herb that has been charcoal-ized and is burned and held over the acupoint to warm it up.So, for trying to conceive or just wanting to get a boost of energy and help to promote longevity, make sure to include stimulating Kidney 3 a little bit each day! Learn more about the benefits of Acupuncture or schedule an appointment today!
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